One Friday evening last spring my son’s school had a fundraiser at the local ice rink. My son desperately wanted to attend with one small problem – he did not know how to skate. Therefore we picked up our rental skates and I held his hand throughout the night as he tried to figure out how to stay on his feet.
About every five minutes his friends would skate by and yell “hi” and then skate away. After that night he decided he wanted to learn to skate so that he could skate with his friends (and not his Mom). Our journey began at SkateQuest in Reston.
SkateQuest is a private twin sheet (two rinks) year-round rink with a pro shop, cafe and party rooms. We have had four different types of experiences at SkateQuest as well as a few things we’ve yet to try — all will be mentioned in this review.
The first thing my son tried after deciding to learn how to skate was SkateQuest’s spring break camp. Camp occurred during the week of Fairfax County’s spring break. I dropped him off at 9am and picked him up at 3pm, except on Friday when we came early to watch the kids perform in an ice show (bring your video camera). Each day the kids had a half hour group lesson and a half hour show lesson. They also had hours of additional practice time.
The cafe at the rink provided lunch for a small fee (you are welcome to pack as well). The kids are allowed to choose figure skating or ice hockey each day. My son went into camp a non-skater and came out able to skate around the rink on his own! He also had a great time! Similar camps are offered during winter break and throughout the summer.
After the great success at camp we signed my son up for the next session of group lessons. Sessions are typically 8 weeks long. Lessons are a half hour each and each child gets a booklet of free passes for practice sessions. On the first day of class children pick up rental skates at the counter and then look up their teachers and location on sheets posted around the rink (there can be as many as eight different groups having lessons at once).
There are sets of bleachers around the rink that allow for easy viewing. There is also a game room, bathrooms and lockers nearby. The first thing the kids learn is the best way to fall down and get back up. Be prepared for beginners to fall a lot. On the last day of a session the teachers evaluate each child and let you know what level they should sign up for next. The teachers are excellent at SkateQuest. They are kind and encouraging and most are available for private lessons.
Public Skating Sessions
SkateQuest offers a couple of public skate sessions during the week (check the calendar on their website) and one on each weekend day. The weekend sessions are quite crowded, but are great fun if you can skate independently. There are staff members on the ice in case of a bad fall or other incident. There is unfortunately very little policing of dangerous skating or insisting that all skate in the same direction. I definitely advise going to a weekday public skate session if you are looking for a quieter, calmer experience. We checked out a weekday session this summer and we nearly had the rink to ourselves.
On Friday nights SkateQuest turns off the main lights and turns on the music and disco ball for what it calls Club Sk8. The night is a lot of fun for kids who can skate well on their own. The general age range appears to be about 7 to 14. The cafe is very crowded during the break when they clean the ice, therefore it is a good idea to get off the ice a few minutes early if you want a snack. I do not recommend Friday nights for small children or total beginners.
SkateQuest offers many other programs and activities. Birthday parties are reasonably priced and designed to fit around public skating sessions. Preschool activities are skate-free and are offered all weekdays except Thursday. There are many hockey programs based at SkateQuest through a company called Hardcore Hockey as well as the Reston Raiders hockey team. SkateQuest is also currently taking registrations for the December performance of The Nutcracker (all levels).
- Group lessons including practice passbook and rentals are currently $144. The next session begins October 20th.
- Admission to Public skate sessions is $7 and rental skates are $3.
- The pro shop and cafe are open during all group lessons and public skating sessions.
- Make sure to bring gloves and an extra layer (no need for full winter coats, but a fleece or sweatshirt is a good idea).
- Make sure to check rental skate blades for sharpness. Most are great, but you will occasionally find a dull pair. Just return them and ask for another set – the staff is super nice.
- Small children and beginners should bring a helmet – a bike helmet is fine.
- Skates can be worn everywhere inside the rink and lobby (watch your toes).
- The cafe has everything from popcorn to salads to whole pizzas.
I highly recommend SkateQuest for lessons and camps. Parties look great, but we haven’t tried one yet. SkateQuest is a clean, modern facility with excellent instructors and nice, helpful staff. Public skate sessions including Club sk8 are fun if your child can skate independently with good control, but crowded sessions lack rules and can be a bit chaotic for beginners.