- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

What’s a great way to escape the holiday shopping throngs, plus have fun and get exercise at the same time in the days before Christmas?

One popular choice is ice-skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink, says Stephanie Rice, who oversees the rink operations for the National Gallery.

“Two hundred people can go on the ice at the same time, and on the weekends when the weather is nice, we reach capacity all the time,” Ms. Rice says.

In the days before Christmas, the loudspeakers surrounding the ice will be pouring out lots of holiday tunes, including songs from Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas.”

Other favorites throughout the ice-skating season, which will run through March 14, weather permitting, include songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Another holiday touch are the dozens of potted miniature Christmas trees that dot the perimeter of the rink. Also around the edges of the rink are huge outdoor sculptures, including “Cheval Rouge” by Alexander Calder, a red-painted sheet-metal creation portraying a horse, and “House 1” by Roy Lichtenstein, fabricated and painted aluminum in white, yellow and red. The garden is well worth a stroll.

The rink does not impose age limits, and toddlers are among the regulars, Ms. Rice says. The rental skate sizes go as small as a child’s 6, which fits a toddler, up to an adult’s 14.

The entry fee allows admission to the rink for two hours, which in cold temperatures is probably all one can take. Skaters can use the many benches surrounding the rink to take a break throughout their two-hour sessions.

After skating, visitors can enjoy hot chocolate ($1.75) at the Sculpture Garden Pavilion Cafe, located next door to the rink. Several types of gourmet coffee ($1.50 to $2.75) also are available, and the cafe serves hot food and plenty of sweet treats.

If visitors still have some energy left in their legs after skating, a visit to the gargantuan National Gallery of Art can be a fun stop for adults and children alike.

Favorite artworks among children include the sculptures and mobiles by Mr. Calder. One of his colorful creations, “A group of Six Animobiles,” is made of painted, cut and folded sheet metal and portrays animals.

The museum also provides a 15-minute audio tour narrated by children for children and a family postcard tour that focuses on a dozen paintings. The tour asks questions about the paintings and includes a map of the museum’s floor plan.

Older children and their parents might enjoy evening skating at the rink, which is open until 11 p.m. most days. On Thursday evenings, the cafe features live jazz, which is piped out over the rink so skaters can enjoy it, too. The cafe serves a tapas-style menu and has a bar during jazz nights.

On very busy days, the rink sees more than 1,200 people — of all skill levels and ages — Ms. Rice says. But why would people flock to this particular ice-skating rink when there are bigger, if not better, ones around?

“Our rink is just so much more beautiful. At nighttime it’s so charming with the lights around the ice-skating rink,” Ms. Rice says. “The sculptures in the garden are all lighted, and you can see them while you’re skating. … It’s very pretty.”

WHEN YOU GO:

Location: The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink is located on Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets NW.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Interstate 66 toward Washington. Take the Constitution Avenue exit and stay straight on Constitution Avenue. The National Gallery of Art will be on your right.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, through March 14, weather permitting.

Admission: The fees provide admission for two hours, beginning on the hour — $6 for adults and $5 for seniors (age 50 and older), students (with valid ID) and children (age 12 and younger).

Parking: Limited street parking is available. The nearest Metro stops are Judiciary Square on the Red line, Archives on the Yellow and Green lines, and Smithsonian on the Blue and Orange lines.

Note: Skates can be rented for $2.50 (ID required), and lockers can be rented for 50 cents ($5 deposit required). Next to the rink is the Pavilion Cafe, which is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

More information: 202/289-3360 or visit www.nga.gov

Upcoming family events,National Gallery of Art:

• Jan. 11 — A 1 p.m. Family Activity Workshop titled “Voyages and Discoveries” will highlight works by Winslow Homer, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole that feature water. Meet at the West Building Rotunda. Free admission, but registration is required. Call 202/789-3030 for more information and to register. Appropriate for children ages 9 to 12.

• Jan. 25 — The 1 p.m. Family Activity Workshop titled “The Lion and the Little Red Bird” will feature storytelling and hands-on activities, including creating a lion puppet to take home. Meet at the West Building Rotunda. Free admission. Appropriate for children ages 4 to 8.

Jazz on Ice:

• Jan. 8 — Joshua Bayer will play jazz tunes from 5 to 8 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Pavilion Cafe. Skaters also can enjoy the live music, which will be piped outdoors over the skating rink and patios. Admission to the concert is free.

The event repeats every Thursday in January with the following artists:

• Jan. 15 — Rick Parker trio

• Jan. 22 — Jerry Gordon trio

• Jan. 29 — Bossalingo


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