Family fun and memory-making isn’t only reserved for vacations. There are plenty of opportunities for unique and unforgettable experiences right here in Albertville, the heart of Sand Mountain.
We don’t always go out for family night, but occasionally we like to make family time an experience that feels like a vacation. Luckily, we didn’t have to travel far for that when we recently visited Sand Mountain Skate inside Albertville’s Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater. The inside of the amphitheater has been transformed into a fun and festive ice skating park with the area’s largest outdoor, real ice skating rink.
The good news is the skating season was recently extended, and the rink will be here through Feb. 4! Here are three ways you can have a great family experience at Sand Mountain Skate.
1. Simply Skate
The ice rink in the middle is only part of the fun. The festive lights, music, and skaters laughing (mostly at themselves) are enough to lighten anyone’s mood. Who knew falling down could be so fun?
People of all ages and skill levels were enjoying the activities. We saw couples trying to hold each other up, children slowly making their way around the perimeter, and even a guy in a hockey jersey effortlessly gliding across the ice. Nearby, children huddled in special party “igloos” for birthday celebrations they won’t soon forget.
This was the first time our two boys, ages 6 and 8, had ever been ice skating, so we paid the $5 rental fee for each to have a skate aid for balance. I think ice skating was harder than they expected, but they are ready to go back any time!
Our youngest daughter, age 4, was just one year shy of being able to put on a pair of skates herself. The age limit during regular skate times is 5 and up. Young children can still enjoy the experience, though. We rented a cute plastic whale for her to ride on while I pushed her from behind. Once she started gliding across the ice on her whale ride, she giggled with delight. I think she pictured herself as Elsa, her favorite character from the movie Frozen. To be honest, I was thankful for something to hold onto, as well. I had not been ice skating since I was young, but it was just as fun as I remembered.
2. Toddler skate/$5 nights
We will probably make a return visit to the ice soon, since the park recently announced toddler skate nights! For the rest of the season, children under 5 can skate every Wednesday from 4-5:30 p.m. Toddlers can even skate free with the purchase of an adult ticket! To make it even better, Wednesdays are now also $5 skate nights. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable skating yourself, the park will have employees to help toddlers skate.
3. Elevate your experience with igloos
Our Sand Mountain Skate night hit a whole new level of fun with a personal igloo rental.
Perched on a grassy hill above the rink, the Igloo Garden features several cozy “igloos” overlooking the skating park. With comfy seating, festive lights, special treats, and a mini electric fireplace, these igloos really elevate the ice skating experience.
Our kids were delighted when they discovered hot chocolate and a s’mores charcuterie board with chocolates, cookies, marshmallows, and graham crackers waiting in our igloo. Oh, who am I kidding? I was as excited as the kids! Our boys squealed when the server lit the small tabletop fireplace and brought a can of whipped cream to top the hot chocolate.
While skating alone is a terrific experience, the igloo made it all the more exciting. Best of all, it made the kids feel extra special and hopefully created some great memories.
For a more adult gathering, you can opt for a meat and cheese charcuterie board and a bottle of wine or a beer bucket. This would make a great date night idea for couples. However, I could really see a group of girlfriends going in together to rent an igloo and having a blast! The igloos can hold up to 6 people, and it is yours until the park closes at 9 p.m. All rentals also come with ice skating vouchers for each person.
Top it off
After fueling up on sugar and working up our appetite skating, we decided to take a trip down the highway for dinner at Papa Dubi’s - a favorite restaurant among many locals. Papa Dubi’s is a unique experience of its own, with the delicious fare of cajun seafood and mouthwatering steaks, the modern and brightly-colored decor, and a fun outdoor space with cornhole (and live music when it’s warmer!). Eating there felt more like dinner in New Orleans or a beach somewhere - perfect for our vacation-esque family night! Sand Mountain is full of several wonderful restaurants and cuisines, but Papa Dubi’s definitely stands out.
We had planned to top it all off with homemade ice cream at La Michoacan in the downtown district, but we were too stuffed with fried pickles, steak, and seafood (I highly recommend Papa Dubi’s grouper with Imperial sauce and Cajun rice!). Don’t worry, though. We’ll just have to work ice cream into our next family outing in Albertville. I’m sure we’ll be back soon.