There’s no denying that old man winter has kicked things up a notch this year. Between the polar vortex, an ungodly amount of snow days and the endless play-repeat cycle of the “Frozen” Soundtrack, things are just a bit more more wintry than usual around here. And in the middle of it all we have the Winter Olympics–the graceful ice dancing, the insane bobsled runs and the gravity defying skiing. There’s just one more week of the Olympics, but about five more weeks until spring, so what’s left to do but embrace this year’s extra-icy ambiance and enjoy some winter sports.
The good news ? Baltimore has its share of indoor rinks, making ice skating a reasonable choice if you’re looking for a break from the bitter cold.
We took our first local skating trip to north Baltimore’s Mt. Pleasant Arena, near Northern Parkway and Hillen Road. This no-frills ice skating arena has its place in figure skating history as the former training home to world Champion Kimmie Meissner and skating legend Dorothy Hamill, who according to the website, still practices here. But the public sessions reminded me of the open skates of my 1980s childhood, except with Katy Perry and One Direction tunes playing instead of Madonna and Duran Duran. A mix of skaters of various ages and abilities shared the rink easily, with the outside rails reserved for the timid new skaters while daredevils and graceful skaters alike practiced twists and turns in the center of the rink.
Tips for Ice Skating with Kids at Mt. Pleasant Arena
Here are some suggestions to make the most of an ice skating session at Mt Pleasant Arena:
Bring cash. The 2-hour public sessions are affordable (just $4 to skate and $2 for skate rentals) and you can pay for them by cash or credit; however, the snack bar is cash-only. If you think you’ll need to can recharge with a sugar rush, you’ll want the green stuff in your back pocket. Literally.
Travel lightly. There are no lockers to store your stuff, so leave your valuables at home. We stashed a backpack with some water bottles and extra gloves under a bench, which was fine, but I wouldn’t have wanted to leave my camera bag or purse.
Wear layers. The beauty of the indoor rink is that you don’t need to go overboard bundling up. It was refreshing to partake in a winter activity that didn’t involve snow pants, neck warmers and soaking wet socks at the end of the day. Leave the leotard and spangly skirt at home and go with practical layers and mittens or gloves. Good socks are a must–ones that cover at least the ankle so they don’t keep sliding down.
Protect little noggins. Helmets are not mandatory at the rink for public sessions (though they are required during lessons for kids between 4 and 6), however, the CPSC recommends that children wear a bike, skateboarding or ski helmet while ice skating. As first-timers, my girls wore their bike helmets for extra security. If you’re so inclined, bring your own as these are not available for rent.
Tighten those skates….and then tighten them some more to keep your ankles supported and wobble-free. And while you’re at it, ask for the newer skates if possible when you rent and not those that look like the ones Laura Ingalls Wilder might have worn in Little House on the Prairie. I’m no pro, but the newer, sportier style seemed to offer more ankle support.
Skate with a friend. Even better if said friend is a better skater than you, which was my lucky break on our outing with friends. The more adults, the more hands to help lace up skates, hold hands on the rink and even make bathroom runs.
Be prepared to fall. And fall again. And fall again. That’s what the mittens are for. And the promise of hot cocoa (or a ginormous bag of cotton candy, if that’s your thing) at the end of the session.
I wouldn’t think of doling out any advice about the mechanics for the actual skating part of things. I was happy to make it 2 hours with all bones intact and minimal bumps and bruises having not laced up a pair of skates in over 10 years. The rink has a Learn to Skate program for all ages, and I’ve heard only great things about the classes. We’re already tossing around the idea of signing up for a session this summer, when all of this snow and ice is a distant memory — even if we are still listening to Do You Want to Build a Snowman? 42 times a day.
Where to Ice Skate in Baltimore
Mt Pleasant Ice Arena
6101 Hillen Road
Baltimore, MD 21239
Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro Family Skating Center
200 S. Linwood Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224
401 Mitchell Drive
Reisterstown, MD 21136