Is the Olympia Icebear the Cadillac of Zambonis? Everything else about the new Lakeside skating rink seems to be top of the line. The long-awaited new complex finally opened last year...which is to say, about two weeks ago, and on a suitably gray and wintry Monday before New Year's Eve we got our first look.
...but with enough free space to get up some speed. (When did kids start wearing crash helmets on the ice? Not that it's a bad idea...one grown-up actually spun out and bonked her head as we watched.)
Those first few rounds on the ice can be pretty scary. At least the rental skates are brand spanking new; the ones at the old, Robert-Moses era rink were squishy, battered and grubby. The music was pleasant and unobtrusive; at the old rink, the selections ranged from classic to downright bizarre.
Lots of smiles, lots of tumbles. To plan a visit, go here. Public skating will go on til 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; what a cool way to spend the evening. Admission is still affordable, at $6 weekdays and $8 weekends; skate rental is $5, as is small locker rental or bag check.
Lakeside preserves the one great feature of its shabby predecessor: the chance to skate in fresh air, under open sky, with a wooded horizon wrapped around you. And a nifty "ice bridge" unites the outdoor rink to the one sheltered by a deep blue overhanging roof.
The cafe hadn't opened yet, so we exited the park at Lincoln Road and had peppermint-rum hot chocolate at nearby Tip of the Tongue, the coffee shop that has replaced the much-loved K-Dog and Dunebuggy. The crowd was still churning happily as we passed on our return. It's lovely to be able to turn away from the whirl to the wintry quiet of the restored lakeside itself, where skaters zoomed and flirted and face-planted more than 100 years ago. Now the domain of swans, coots, and geese, the lake was already forming a barely perceptible film of ice.