When it’s bitter, frigid cold in Minnesota, it’s tough to think beyond wrapping yourself up in a quilt and hiding in the house. Let me pose an alternative, if you’re willing to brave the plummeting temperatures. Venture to a place where the glow of the pinball machine illuminates the bold colored walls. The metal lockers, with their bright orange keys protruding, create a backdrop for the double patterned carpeted seating. Rows of roller skates expertly organized fill each passerby with a nostalgic embrace. Memories of your childhood have your heart bursting and yearning with sentimentality. I give you the Cheap Skate Roller Center in Coon Rapids.
I grew up coming here. Birthday parties and massive cakes, all-nighters and sleeping on the air hockey tables, Saturdays out for family fun days – any chance I could put on my rollerblades that didn’t include a trek around my own neighborhood, I took it. Cheap Skate was a palace, filled with strobe and flashing lights, popular music, giant pizzas, fog machines and more than anything, all of my friends. The archetypal roller rink is still everything it was when I was little; inviting, inexpensive, fun, family-focused, kid-friendly, full of games like Wheel of Fortune, Foosball, Snapshot Dome Hockey and Skee ball, concession-style food, and a roller rink the size of a hockey rink. While my childhood is forever tied to this place, it is perfect for kids but really it’s for anyone. Out of the ordinary, sure. Worth the trip, absolutely.