I have always been a fan of ice skating. While I admit that I'm not the most spectacular ice skater, I can at least get around on some ice skates, once I remember how to use them.
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to go indoor ice skating in Northern Virginia, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, and the Fairfax Ice Arena, in Fairfax.
Starting with the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the practice rinks for the Washington Capitals, getting there was actually not too bad. It is located right on top of the Ballston Mall. Therefore, it is close to the metro and getting there when it isn't rush hour, isn't too bad. It was confusing navigating the parking garage to get to the eighth floor where the Iceplex is. However, after making a lot of circles, finally got there. The parking situation was not bad at all, either right by the Iceplex or inside the mall's parking garage. Upon walking in, you can definitely tell the Iceplex is newish and definitely well kept. I went during their Wednesday evening adult public skate (7:45pm to 9pm). I was a little relieved that I did have to work extra to avoid skating into little kids (and a friend was glad that she could say cuss words with abandon as she struggled along). The skates available looked as if they were new and were very nice in comparison to any other place I've seen. Tickets for adults at $7, with $3 for the skate rental, but I would suggest if you could get a group of ten people, and just pay $6 each to get in and to get a skate rental, too! Plus, it is best to go in a group anyway, especially if you are not doing it for practice or a workout. Your ticket will need to be worn as a sticker, which isn't too bad. They had a raffle for a pizza depending on your ticket number on that Wednesday. The public ice rink (not the one used as practice for the Caps) was in my opinion pretty big, in comparison to most public ice rinks you find. My guess is that it probably about the regulation size for NHL. And the number of people there that evening was a good number, not too many make it too navigate or too little to make it look barren. The music choice was pretty standard fare for ice rinks (similar to that for swimming pools, mostly just pop music from the 90's). Also, I have no complaints in regards to how often they did the zamboni. The wear on the ice was kept fairly even. I did wish they had more lockers. They had a few that were hidden. Luckily leaving my stuff in the general area was not too dangerous. Nothing stolen. Speaking of the general area, it was nice, but there could have been a little more seating and there were these tables and seats that are a good bit higher than normal seats and tables. Those just took up room. Regardless, the Iceplex was a great place to go.
For those that are in the hinterlands of Fairfax outside of the beltway (no bias here obviously...), the Fairfax Ice Arena is a quick place to get to, by going off onto Pickett St. south from Rt.50, Arlington Blvd. (that intersection is just to the east of Fairfax Circle). The Arena has a lighted sign so you can easily find it off of Pickett. There is plenty of parking behind the building. There is no easy transportation by metro, so driving is the way to go. The Arena charges for an adult on weekends $7.25, or weekday $6.75, with figure skates at $2.50, and hockey skates at $3.50. The group rate here is for seven people, at lowers the admission cost to $5.75 ($5.00 for weekdays). There is no adult skate like the Iceplex, so you will find people of all ages there all the time. The rink is a normal size to what I have seen, you can sense it is smaller than the Iceplex. The wear on the rink was noticable in certain spots after some time. The zamboni was able to clean it up, but it quickly got worn down again in those same spots. Maybe I didn't remember that from the Iceplex. The music was similar, with no general complaints from me. The nice advantage here was that there were more lockers here for putting your stuff away, and plenty of seating for taking ice skates on or off. Overall, a nice place to go.
In comparison, I think I prefer the Iceplex due to the metro access, how new the ice skates were (the ones at the Arena were very good, but still there is a difference), and how big the rink and how they took care of it. Just add some more storage and easier to use seating and we are good. For those in Fairfax, the Ice Arena is a great place to go, if you don't want to go too far inside the beltway, and it is a great place especially as a high school hangout.