I don’t like being cold. I would rather be near death from heat exhaustion than have even the slightest bit of a chill. It goes straight to my bones and is pure torture. So when our littles kept asking to go ice skating… I was more than reluctant. First, we must got out off a record-cold spell that gave mom chills just looking outside, so there was no way I wanted to be outside in it too. Second, two years ago I actually tore my ACL while ice skating (my own ego was to blame there) so needless to say, it was going to take some convincing to get me to try it again.
That convincing came when I saw a post on Facebook from The Yard in Bryson City. The relatively new event space was advertising ice skating — with a side of a heated igloo — say no more, I am in! So the family and I headed over to Swain County last Friday to check out The Yard.
I have been wanting to see what The Yard was about for a while. I have seen a few post on social media about it looked so fun. Outdoor music in the summer, family movie nights, yard games, food trucks, and beer — all of my favorite things.
I got the chance to talk to Jeff Helpman, one of the venue owners while there last week and learned a ton about how the venue came to be… and their plans for the future.
The Yard has been open for right at a year, opening last year with the skating rink, fire pits, and lounge area to operate during the same time as Bryson City’s annual Polar Express dates. The concept was pretty simple — create a venue where families can gather together. In what used to be a parking lot, The Yard was carved out to feature picnic tables, a snack shack serving pizza by the slice, cold drinks, hot chocolate and event Smore kits.
Much to my surprise, the skating rink wasn’t an ice rink at all… it was synthetic ice, which was better for my ultra hatred of the cold as well as good news for my already damaged knees!
Jeff told me the rink was actually polyglide synthetic ice, a product that was featured on Shark Tank. The synthetic ice has an impressive warranty and means families can wear ice skates just like real ice — or booties over their shoes to help their littles navigate the rink… something you miss out on with real ice. The synthetic ice also means the rink can stay up longer when the North Carolina weather sometimes brings 70-degree days in the middle of December! The synthetic ring also means that when the winter season is over, the rink can be packed up and stored and replaced with a turf for summer games — making the space at The Yard more versatile and accessible.
We rented an igloo, a clear dome-shaped space adjacent to the skating rink. The same was so fun to hang out in! It had coloring books, crayons, and games for the kids to play while taking a break from skating. The small space heater warmed up the area and kept us toasty while easily moving in and out to watch the movie playing on the projector and have Smores by the fire pit. The littles did the skating — for $20 a person they got to skate for an hour and it included the cost of their rental skates. One of the nice aspects was, Nick and I didn’t have to pay extra for the booties that let us help to guide them around the rink and didn’t have to pay extra to accompany them, something not a lot of other places offer.
We were there early enough to get to watch the train roll in for the Polar Express, which was really neat for the kids to see. Nick and I enjoyed a few locally brewed craft beers while the kids ran around the picnic tables.
While the ice skating is a per-person fee in the winter, the venue itself is free to access. While we were there several people skipped the ice skating and headed to the snack shack for a drink. They had a drink while waiting for their turn to load the train, which is a really neat option. In the summer months, the venue is completely free. The picnic tables and seating line a grass turf and is the perfect place to hang out. As a mom of two very feral littles, I am so excited to go back in the summer and get lunch from one of the food trucks while the kids run in the Yard. Getting to eat out is a luxury these days, so this is going to be an awesome option when it warms up. The Yard makes its money in the summer off sales from the snack shack and their beer sales. The basketball games, corn hole, hula hoops and other yard games are free. They have music throughout the year to add to the ambiance, which are also free to enjoy.
After being there, it really really is just like hanging in someone’s backyard — the coolest backyard on the block.
Jeff said that the place could be rented out for events and birthday parties… which I think would just be perfect. It is such a fun space right in the heart of downtown Bryson City.
I definitely recommend checking it out. Grab some to-go food and enjoy a unique experience! The Yard is located at 43 Depot Street, Bryson City, NC, United States, 28713.
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