Starbucks Ice Rink

Even if you don’t have kids, the Starbucks Ice Rink at Seattle Center’s ongoing Winterfest (through Wednesday) is a great place for people-watching. To begin with, the rink is small, with hockey-style sideboards to contain the circling throng. (Counterclockwise, if you have to ask.) And the frozen surface, on a crowded day, is churned into white mush—it’s about as slippery as cold cornmeal, and about as dangerous for those who fall. (And believe me, plenty of people fall.) I’m not even sure you need skates to enjoy the melee (though they’re certainly required), since smaller kids just clomp-clomp-clomp their way around the track. Those in need of balance, but too proud to grab Mommy’s hand, are given sliding metal rails—like a senior citizen’s walker—they can push along the ice. The skill level for old and young is wildly variable. This is not the place for sequins, hairspray, and future Olympians to twirl. During a recent visit, most of the older kids were snapping away at one another with camera phones. Parents pecked on their BlackBerries, or ducked outside to the Starbucks van dispensing coffee. (Seattle Center is wired for wi-fi, if you insist on checking office e-mail during the holidays.) Like a school of fish, skaters array themselves as if by collective intelligence. The faster weave through the slower; collisions cause ripples sending people over to cling to the boards and pant. For some, to complete a single lap without falling into the Slurpee surface is a triumph. Sweet victory! Kimmie Meissner might do it more gracefully, but I doubt she’d be any prouder. And if the kids finally tire of skating, they can ride the carousel just outside. That is, after gorging on all the food options at Winterfest, if their overexcited tummies can stand any more spinning in circles. BRIAN MILLER

Dec. 25-31, 11 a.m., 2008

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