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The clocks have gone back and it's getting dark impossibly early. Yup, the short and coated days of winter are upon us. But here at the Museum, the onset of dreary winter is kept firmly at bay by our magical outdoor Ice Rink which opened today, 4 November, on the front lawn for the season.

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Opening event: Children from Docklands' Cyril Jackson primary school with The Snowman from the Sadler's Wells show adaptation recreate the famous character's gliding pose on the ice (it's the actual stage costume).

At dusk it becomes even more dazzling out there when the 76,000 Christmas lights twinkle out from the lofty plane trees framing the rink, pictured below.

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76,000 lights provide the twinkling canopy for the Ice Rink that opened on 4 November for its winter season on the Museum front lawn.

This year's Ice Rink is even more bedazzling with the addition of an olde worlde Sweet Shop (every parent's nightmare) by the main 950-square-metre skating rink and the sparkling vintage carousel returns again for rides. There is also the adjoining children's rink for little skaters and even more penguin skate aids and skating marshals than last year to help learners small and large.

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Kids rush! The Sweet Shop, new to this year's Ice Rink, overflows with sticky delights and below, the vintage carousel returns with its sparkly horse rides and there are more penguin skate aids for learners.

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The Ice Rink isn't just about skating, however. It's a wonderful place to socialise and soak up the ambience of this historical seasonal setting, or just watch the action from the viewing platform of the Café Bar. The bar serves a festive choice of hot and cold drinks including gluhwein and delicious hot chocolate, with the promise an extensive food menu and music nights.

 

At the launch party on Thursday 3 November, guests and excited children from the Docklands' Cyril Jackson primary school (above) were greeted by The Snowman character from the current Sadler's Wells stage adaptation of Raymond Briggs' classic.

 

Later on at the evening event, various celebrities showed off their skating skills including Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies and top alpine ski racer Chemmy Alcott - both initiating incredibly brave young family members to the rink.

 

The Ice Rink and Café Bar stays open until 22.00 weekdays and weekends and you can book tickets online, prices start from £8.


Read more about the Ice Rink in the latest news story

 

Find out all about the Ice Rink on the website

Enjoy some of the photos from the launch party below. Select images to enlarge.
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A lucky schoolgirl gliding on ice with The Snowman

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Chemmy Alcott, current British no. 1 alpine ski racer, with family and The Snowman

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Sharron Davies, Olympic swimmer, with one of her kids - who was seen dashing over the ice later on

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Tupele Dorgu, Coronation Street's Kelly Crabtree

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The Only Way is Essex star Lydia Rose Bright with little sister, and below hugging The Snowman

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Laura Hamilton, who finished 2nd place in Dancing on Ice 2011

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TV presenter Lizzie Cundy and Hayley Tamaddon, actress and winner of Dancing on Ice 2010

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Antony Costa of boy band Blue

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Ben Adams of A1 with friend

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Stars get together for final photos

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The sun shone on the first day the Ice Rink opened to the public on 4 November

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Snow on snow - an extra bit of magic this year

One of my favourite recollections of the Ice Rink this year was our snowy return to work in the first week of January and seeing our outdoor Ice Rink piled up with snow. The ice marshals were working furiously to, well, remove the ice and snow, on top of the ice and snow. Seemed ironic somehow.


But at the weekend, on 17 January, the Ice Rink closed, as it usually does in mid January. No more will we see skaters gliding by on our way in and out of the Museum. Bye bye festive season.

 

So what happens to the Ice Rink ice (all 150,000 litres of it)? Well it gets steamed.

 

ice-rink-dismantle2-500.jpgThe event's project manager, Sherri-Louise Rowe, explained the process: "The glycol - a syrupy kind of concoction used in anti-freeze - that usually goes through the chillers to freeze the ice on the rink, is redirected through the boiler truck, heating the pipes and therefore melting the ice. The melted ice then flows away in the drains under the gardens."

 

And lots of steam is produced as a result.


Three days after the meltdown, all you can see in this recent picture (left) is a little patch of stubborn ice.

 

The chillers were turned off yesterday. Today the pipe work under the rink was packed up.

 

Dismantling continues and the interior of the cafe bar is almost stripped. The outside chalets and catering huts have been taken down.

 

This year's Ice Rink was a really successful one and we had about 110,000 skaters who visited. It was made especially magical thanks to the exciting snow storms we experienced over the Christmas holidays.

 

Now it's time to replenish the Museum's front lawns for spring and to welcome the next outdoor exhibition.

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It’s snowing in London as I write this, and we’re all wondering if it’s going to be a white Christmas for a change...

 

Of course, the Museum in winter is always a festive place, whether there’s snow or not. So I thought it was a good idea to recommend a few especially festive reasons why it’s a great time to visit. You can also find more details about these suggestions on our Festive season web pages.

 

Twinkle, twinkle Look up at the canopy of twinkling Christmas lights in the tall palm trees as you come out of the underground subway tunnel exit towards the Museum, from South Kensington tube station. There are about 76,000 lights I read somewhere, and it really is an unmissable sight.

 

Skate on Join the skating fun, graceful or not, on the Ice Rink outside the Museum. If you’re not up for the action, there’s always the overlooking Café Bar and viewing platform, or you can just wonder around and grab a burger or ride the vintage carousel.

 

Dinosaur roar Once inside, the obvious place to head for with the kids is the Dinosaurs gallery and our moving T.rex (although one of my favourite bits are the film posters display featuring dinosaurs and the dino toys exhibit).

 

Scary and Spacey If the queue for Dinosaurs is mental, then I suggest heading off to Creepy Crawlies or the Earth galleries. The Earth galleries escalator leading up into a giant Earth globe (and higher earthy galleries) is another exciting experience with its huge inter-galactic wall on your left and  spacey Hendrix soundtrack (bet you didn't know it was Hendrix!)


Diamonds are forever The Vault gallery at the end of the historic Minerals gallery on the floor above the Central Hall is dazzling, and it's rather hidden.


Science fiction Go up in the glass lift to Cocoon in our new Darwin Centre and you'll embark on a futuristic trip into science and high-tech exploration. Play with the touch screens throughout to tour to have fun as explorers and scientists. Look out for the Planning a trip interactive game.


Polar chill out  Pop into the Attenborough Studio and watch the beautifully calming Wildscapes short film as you get immersed in arctic scenes and African plains.

 

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/resources-www/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/swpy/2009/popup/14.jpgWild world Don’t miss the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – it is full of gorgeous photos from the winers of the 2009 competition. And some that really capture the seasonal spirit, like the Ice Fox pictured here.

 

Reindeer story Take the kids to a storytelling puppet workshop like the one about Rudolph the reindeer on 30 December.

 

Become a scientist Drop in to our Investigate centre in the Museum basement to examine animal, plant and geological treasures like scientists do.

 

Festive talk Open the mind a bit and join the debate at one of our daytime Nature Live talks. There's a a good wintry one coming on New Year's eve about hunting meteorites on ice.

 

We've also got some ideas for things you can do online and in your area on our Wildlife in winter web pages.

 

And of course you can join in or start your own discussions on NaturePlus as well as reading our blogs.

 

Happy holidays and I'll catch up with you in the new year.
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Ice Age comes to the Museum, once again

In just one day’s time, on 5 November to be precise, we open our popular Ice Rink to visitors. Now in its fifth year, it has become a regular winter attraction at the Museum and in London.

 

Over the past weeks we’ve been noticing how things have changed outside on the East lawn where our Butterfly Jungle exhibition stood earlier in the summer. The changes seemed to speed up suddenly when the clocks went back.

 

We can now admire the twinkle of Christmas lights in the tall London plane trees lining the Ice Rink and Museum grounds in the evening on the way home after work.

 

Last week, the 25-foot Christmas tree was delivered and its lights and decorations were being put up on Friday afternoon. The outdoor catering units have arrived on site and are being set up.

 

Most importanty, on Friday, 150,000 litres (150 cubic metres) of water was poured into both the main 1,050-square-metre Ice Rink and the smaller 100-square-metre junior rink for younger skaters. This is about half the amount of water it takes to fill a standard swimming pool (10x25m). The water has now completely frozen over and the ice is receiving its final polish today.

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This year, the Ice Rink has a friendly new café bar which offers refreshments all through the day and stays open late for drinks at night. The fairground carousel returns for those who fancy a spin and if you just want to watch the action, there’s a great atmosphere on the viewing platform. Students can also take advantage of a special discount on Tuesdays which includes a free drink at the bar.

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'Even better than skating in Central Park' said the Evening Standard

If you need skating tips or want to see what's on offer at the Museum's Ice Rink, have a look at our Essential skating information pages on the website. We have a brilliant new video which shows you some highlights. So no excuses, everyone can be a dancing-on-ice star.

 

Rain, shine or snow, 'tis a magical sight to see the skaters gliding around the Ice Rink outdoors, against the backdrop of our historic Waterhouse building and gardens. I'm sure this year will be as successful and merry as the last.