The sound of skate blades scraping to a stop constantly fills the air at The Marietta Ice Center, known as the MIC. Aspiring skaters gain confidence on the ice during learn-to-skate classes that teach basic skills, such as how to glide and how to stop without going into a belly flop. Hockey hopefuls learn similar basics during learn-to-play sessions that prepare them for joining one of the rinks leagues or pickup games during sticktime. Patrons regain their ice legs during public-skate sessions, with rental skates available for those who need them.
Roller skating often evokes images of ‘50s-era teens clad in poodle skirts and the black-and-white makeup that was customary at the time. But at both freshly renovated Sparkles Family Fun Centers, roller-skating proves itself as a 21st-century pastime by incorporating contemporary technology. From a DJ who spins family-friendly beats at both locations to the laser-tag zone and black lights that set the Gwinnett rink aglow, modern-day touches pervade each space. The arcades are stuffed with extra helpings of bells and whistles; skee-ball and electronically scored basketball compete for attention with racing video games that re-create famous auto duels or the 1954 Drake Relays. At nearby multistory indoor playgrounds, kids get back to physical recreation, scurrying across bridges and whipping down slick slides.
Sparkles Family Fun Centers' Hiram and Kennesaw locations both follow a simple recipe: take as many kid-pleasing activities as humanly possible and blend them all together. Black-light, 2 story, 3D laser tag, a spacious skate-floor dotted with brightly colored lights and an arcade stocked with the latest games attract kids and kids-at-heart alike. Meanwhile, free WiFi engages parents and tech-savvy little ones while other revelers bound through a multi-level playground with swings, slides and obstacle course. The nearby toddler play-zone–staffed with playground attendants who play along and chat with kids–also lets pint-sized patrons work off some energy. At the Couey cafe, guests sate appetites worked up by having so much fun.
The doors of IceForum at Town Center open 365 days a year, offering all manner of ice enthusiasts access to NHL-regulation-sized ice surfaces. Children as young as three learn to skate in lessons offered year-round, based on curriculum developed by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Other youths can enroll in the youth-hockey program, helmed by former NHL player Yan Kaminsky, which aims to develop budding players' talent so they'll catch the eyes of scouts for college hockey. Adult hockey leagues give grown-ups the chance to compete at beginner, intermediate and competitive levels, while public-skating session let them practice leisurely glides or signing checks using only their skates. On weekends, public skaters dance to the sounds of a live DJ or waltz to the rink's muffled sobs as one more pair of sharp skate blades turns its ice into tears.
A place where the whole family can get to gliding across the ice, The Cooler not only hosts frequent open skate sessions, but also offers lessons and leagues for all ages. Hockey leagues separated by age allow even kids younger than seven to participate, while summer hockey camps get kids out of the heat to hone their ice skills during the season's off months. Those who haven't yet learned the how to skate can sign up for beginner classes, open to kids as young as 4 all the way up to adults. Figure skating lessons are also available, instilling US Figure Skating fundamentals for students who hope to compete or throw in a toe loop while they walk the halls at school.
Families fly around Slapshot’s 14,000-square-foot roller rink inside its 30,000-square-foot facility atop rented inline or quad skates. DJs fill the air with skater-selected beats punctuated by the electronic trills of arcade games, as wheels spin across polished hardwood floors that gleam beneath overhead lights or the cosmic glow of black lights, glow sticks, and skate left-turn signals. The Rollin’ Café refuels stomachs for return trips around the rink with hot dogs, popcorn, and other snacks, while nine-person parties can insulate themselves from the rambunctious revelry within one of six private party rooms to enjoy pitchers of soft drinks and any food they choose to order. Click here for public skate hours, which include Friday teen nights, Sunday family days, and the occasional manatees-only matinee.