Cure Cabin Fever with this list of Top 10 Winter Outdoor Activities for Families. Don’t spend the winter in hibernation; stay active with these outdoor activities for kids and adults. This guide outlines our favorite cold-weather activities, along with suggestions and advice for making your winter adventure a great experience.
In winter, spending an entire day outside may not be an option – especially with little kids. Instead, plan multiple short-duration activities. Go inside to warm up and fuel up between activities. Don’t underestimate the importance of eating well and drinking plenty of fluids before and during winter activities. In cold temperatures you are carrying more weight in clothes and gear, your body has to work harder to maintain heat, and the terrain is more difficult to navigate. Therefore winter activities are often more physically demanding than summer activities.
Dress Appropriately & Stay Warm
See our guide: How To Keep Kids Warm on Cold Adventures for instructions on how to dress right for cold temperatures along with some great Tips & Tricks for how to stay warm.
Top 10 Activities
Select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous, and that has some fun features, like a frozen waterfall or frozen lake. Look for discoveries along the way. Let the kids take turns being the leader. Bring snacks, hot chocolate, and a foam pad or camp chair to sit on during breaks to avoid getting cold. Keep breaks short and keep moving to avoid getting cold. See our Guide: Hiking with Kids 101 for more info, strategies, and Tips & Tricks. (Cost $0)
Snowshoeing is possibly the most family friendly and most forgiving of winter sports. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Most outdoor outfitters and State Parks rent snowshoes, and they will help you determine which type of snowshoe is most appropriate for your adventure. Snowshoeing is more physically demanding than hiking, but still an activity suitable for kids. If you have a baby or small child with you, consider pulling them in a sled or carrying them in a baby carrier. Poles make snowshoeing easier and help with balance and when climbing hills. (Snowshoe rental, $10-15/person)
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Most popular winter activities – and most expensive. Skiing and snowboarding are not activities like snowshoeing, that anyone can learn and master in a matter of minutes. Learning how to ski takes effort and dedication, so have realistic expectations if it’s your first time; don’t expect to conquer the slopes on day one. Instead, sign up for beginner lessons. After a lesson or two you should be able to make it down Beginner (Green) and Intermediate (Blue) trails. Generally, it is easier teaching younger kids skiing than older kids – the earlier you get them started, the better. Once you have a handle on skiing, it is one of the most rewarding winter outdoor sports. (Ski rental, $50, day pass, $50-70)
Not as difficult as downhill skiing, but still requires some practice and coordination. Many State Parks offer groomed trails and ski rentals. If you have a baby or small child with you, consider pulling them in a sled behind you. Some outfitters and state parks rent “pulk sleds” for this purpose. (Ski rental, $15-20/person)
Not just for kids. Adult size sleds can be found at any Walmart or Target for $15-$25.
Great family activity. If you have skates, skating a frozen lake before first snowfall is an incredible experience. Bring hot chocolate. If you don’t have skates; most ice skating rinks offer rentals at $10-$15.
Why not? Making s’mores and sipping hot chocolate around a winter bonfire is a great family activity. Bring hotdogs and make it a picnic after hiking. The fire will keep you warm and toasty. Same old rules apply for making a fire in winter: How to Build a Campfire like a Pro. (Firewood, $5/bundle)
Build an Igloo
Building a “real” igloo requires densely packed snow, usually only formed in arctic conditions. However, you can still build a “fake” igloo in your backyard by shoveling snow into a large pile. Then clear out a cave inside the pile. Beware of ceiling collapsing, and don’t leave little kids unattended inside the igloo. (Cost $0)
Build a Snow Maze
You obviously need snow to make this fun activity work. The more snow the better. Use a shovel or snow blower to make swirling trenches around the backyard. You can either make a maze or use the trenches in a snowball fight. You’ll be the most popular dad in the neighborhood. (Cost: $0)
Do an inside project
Organize your gear, refill supplies, update your 10 Essentials, restock your First Aid Kit, teach your kids some useful rope knots, put together an itinerary for a backpacking trip.
What is your favorite winter family outdoor activity? Tell us about it!