Merry Sprogmas Advent Calendar Day 4 is all about our trip to the outdoor ice skating rink at Woodhorn Museum in Ashington. I'd visited the museum last year when it was hosting the poppy exhibition, and I often feature Woodhorn in the fortnightly 'What's On' newsletters that I write for Bubele parenting app, as they have some brilliant family events and trails. This was the first time that I'd visited in the winter, whilst their Christmas festivities were on.
Now when you think ice skating, you don't immediately think toddler friendly activity, but Woodhorn have the super-cute penguin skating aids, and their website stated that the minimum age to skate was 2, so I thought we would try it out. I've seen that episode of Peppa Pig, my toddler is the same age as George Pig and he was a natural, so I had faith my toddler could give it a good go. As often happens my toddler had other ideas, so he wasn't on the ice all that long, but thankfully I'd gone with my sister, nephews and niece so at least some of us enjoyed the skating.
Woodhorn Museum is in Ashington, and it's well signposted so easy to find. There are loads of parking spaces, but parking is £3.50 for the day so make sure you have some cash with you if you are heading there. The skating rink is in the Pityard, and we passed Woodhorn's Santa's grotto on the way in, which looked really sweet. We didn't have long to stay at Woodhorn, as we had plans for the afternoon, but if you are going skating then Woodhorn have a couple of lovely Christmas events which you could incorporate to make a day of it. A visit to Santa has to be booked in advance, and costs £8.50, but you can take part in the crafts they have on over the weekend for free, their Winter Market is on the weekend of 10th and 11th December, and you can take part in the Frost of Forgetfulness Winter Quest during the Christmas holidays.
You can just pay on the day and go ice skating without booking, but as it gets closer to Christmas I imagine that it will get busier, so if you have your heart set on letting loose your family's inner Torville and Dean then it is recommended to book on their website via this link.
The ice rink is right next to the coffee shop, which had outdoor seating which would give a perfect view for any spectators to have a coffee and watch what was going on. Christmas music was playing over the loud speakers which gave it all a lovely festive feel. When we arrived at the rink we gave our names to the staff on the desk and went to get our skates. My toddler is quite big for his age,and has inherited his dad's clown-sized feet, so we swapped his shoes for sized 10 skates. I saw other little ones skating with blades which were attached to their own shoes, so I guess they must get these if they have titchy feet. After struggling to get my toddler's skates on, we were helped by a member of staff who had much more skills and expertise than me, so got them secure without breaking his foot or losing a finger, which I'm not sure I could have managed without his help. My toddler had been pretty amenable up until this point, but as he attempted to walk to the rink, bambi-legs giving way beneath him, he was starting to look less happy about our trip out.
The rink isn't made of traditional ice, it is synthetic. So made up of tiles of ice like material. It didn't feel exactly the same as skating on real ice, as to me you moved a lot slower on this synthetic stuff, but me and my sister agreed that we thought the synthetic ice made it much easier for the kids to skate on. My toddler was the most unsteady, but he was able to keep himself up well when he was holding onto the penguin skating aid. My niece who is almost five, and her 9 and 10 year old brothers took to it really well. My niece fell over once, but that was all. I feel like if we'd been on real ice the older kids would have had much more falls.
The fact that it wasn't real ice, meant that it wasn't cold either. Well no colder than we would have been just walking around. The 'ice' was slightly wet, but this was because it had been raining just before we arrived, normally it would be dry, so it means any kids who are prone to falling shouldn't end up soaking and freezing.
My toddler enjoyed being on the rink for a short while, and his cousins were a good distractions to the fact that his legs weren't working in the same way that they had done for the previous two years, but despite everyone's best efforts after about 10 minutes he was done. He spied Woodhorn's brilliant new play park just next to the ice rink and was firmly set on heading there. Thankfully Daddy Sprog was waiting by the side of the rink, so was able to take him over to the park, whilst we could stay on the rink a bit longer. With him gone I thought this would be my time to shine. I did a bit of Roller Derby last year, and had got quite confident on roller skates, so had images of speeding around the ice, maybe throwing a couple of jumps in there, but this was not how it panned out. The synthetic ice seemed to have too much of a pull to it for me to get any speed (although in the interests of honesty I must say I noted a few pre-teens who were able to go considerably faster than me). I was more than happy to blame the synthetic ice for my distinctly unimpressive form, but my sister and husband were dead-set on it just being that i'm not a great skater!
Whilst we were there the ice didn't ever feel too busy. The rink wasn't huge, so if you are your kids are decent skaters looking to get up a bit of speed then this probably isn't the best rink for you, but it never felt too crowded and I think I spotted at least 4 penguin skating aids. After a bit longer on the ice we were all ready to hang up our skates for the day. Your entry fee gets you 30 minutes on the rink and that felt about right to us.
We really enjoyed the ice skating at Woodhorn Museum. We all wished that we had a bit more time to look around though. The kids were eyeing up the little train rides as we headed back to the car and I know they would have enjoyed the crafts on offer too, so we'll make sure that we have more time to spend next time we head back.
From my online research I think that the Woodhorn ice rink is one of the best ones for toddlers, small children and unconfident skaters, as they have the penguin skating aids, and I'm pretty sure the synthetic ice made it easier to stay on our feet too.
Skating available every weekend up until Christmas and then from 17th - 23rd December. Adults are £6.50 and children up until age 12 are £5.50. Full details can be found here.
Have you been skating at Woodhorn? Any of the other outdoor rinks across the North East? Which one do you think is best?
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Disclosure Policy - We received a free admission to Woodhorn Ice Rink in return for an honest review. Unsurprising all of the random blabber and chuntering on in this post is my own. See the about us section of this website for the full corporate speak disclosure policy.