Looking for some great family activities during the cold winter weather? AskPatty has gathered a selection of great winter escapes for the family.
Winter can be a magical time to travel. Most of the warm-weather touristy crowds have vanished from popular destinations and have been replaced by local snow and ice festivals, Christmas villages, and unforgettable New Years celebrations.
National parks and vast wilderness areas can even seem more beautiful when covered by blankets of thick snow. They also offer lots of fun winter activities, like skiing, sledding, and hiking. In some parks, the chances of spotting some wild animals might even improve with cold weather: For instance, bison are known to congregate near geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park to warm up during the season.
On the other hand, if you'd rather just have a winter staycation with your family, we've also gathered a selection of ideas that don't take any more planning than setting aside some time for a cozy evening inside.
1. Go Skiing Or Snowboarding
Whether the kids are bunny-slope-bound or ready for snowboard tricks in the terrain park, you'll want to find ski resorts that are perfect for families to enjoy.
The Travel Channel has carefully evaluated these destinations to be especially family friendly for their easy access from the airport to the quality of their ski schools to how well a mountain is suited for little skiers.
2. Go Snowmobiling
If you’re looking for high-speed thrills and don’t want to spend your whole vacation on a mountain resort (and half of it in a chairlift), go snowmobiling.
This fun sport can be a great way to explore new places, but with the added bonus of an engine. Here are 10 great snowmobile destinations, courtesy of Snowmobile.com.
If you're new to snowmobiling, be properly prepared for your ride: The Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program has an entire "Safe Rider" website, where you can learn the importance of proper riding apparel starting with under layers, eye protection, and headgear along with boots and outer layers; gear to pack including personal items, safety equipment, tools, and emergency kits; good trip planning practices; a pre-ride checklist; and much more.
3. Go Sledding
A winter tradition for both young and old to enjoy.
If you'd like something with the same amount of speed but without the noise of the snowmobile engine, then consider these great sledding locations suggested by USAToday that offer specially groomed courses with ramps and hills for urban sledding, snowboarding, and tubing.
Sledding can be great fun, but it can also lead to serious injuries. Research shows over 20,000 emergency room visits per year were a direct result of sledding injuries in patients 19 and younger, so don't let injuries get in the way of your family's winter fun. Make sure you all wear helmets and proper sledding gear. And NEVER sled head first!
4. Go Ice Fishing
Ice fishing has long been a favorite winter sport.
Though some might think the idea of sitting over a hole in the ice waiting to catch a fish might seem a bit crazy, the activity can be quite a bit of fun -- from the planning to the party atmosphere your family can have once there -- making it a favorite winter sport all across the northern reaches of this country.
Drive The Nation has gathered a few of the top spots in the U.S. to get out and try ice fishing, so check them out here.
5. Go Ice Sculpture Viewing
Pay a visit to an ice and snow festival to experience the frozen magic of ice carving.
Originally a skill taught in culinary schools, the art of ice carving has moved out of the kitchen to the great outdoors where teams of ice and snow sculpture artists from around the world come together to compete in sculpting events with the resulting artworks put on display for the rest of us to enjoy.
These frozen displays are carved from solid blocks of ice and snow by a variety of tools including chisels, handsaws, and even chainsaws. Whether you want to visit gorgeous sculpture displays, walk through entire castles built of ice, visit a music festival where all the instruments are made from ice just hours before each concert, or play on a playground constructed entirely from ice with slides, rides, and mazes, these ice and snow festivals elevate ice carving into magnificent works of art.
Learn about some of the top 10 ice and snow festivals around the world, gathered by CheapFlights.com.
6. Have a Family Night
Invite some neighbors over to join in the fun!
Do you ever find yourself running out of ideas for fun family activities? Whether you want to spend the evening playing games, vegging out with Netflix and a warm drink, go out to a local destination like a museum or zoo, or even spend a day volunteering, here is a list of 20 ideas for a fun family night, courtesy of iMom.com.
7. Build a Snowman
Winter means snow, and snow means snowmen (and snow women too).
If you live where it snows, don't let winter pass you by without building a fun snowman (or woman) in your yard! If you’re heading outside for winter’s play, brush up on your snowman building skills here at Momtastic.com to ensure that this will be a fun family activity for all of you.
Guess what? You don't need snow to build a snowman, you can also do it with sand! Building a snowman out of sand is both easier and harder than you might think; learn how by following these easy steps at SandCastleCentral.com.
8. Go Ice skating
You can go winter ice skating outdoors, even if it's 90 degrees outside!
Outdoor ice skating rinks are the perfect place to hang out with friends and family, enjoy a first date, or sign up for skate lessons. Many even have private cabanas where you can hold a special event. Maybe you're lucky enough to live near a frozen lake for ice skating, but if you don't, just do a google search for outdoor ice skating rinks to find one near you.
How do outdoor ice skating rinks stay frozen in the warm weather?
It has to do with a substance called propylene glycol, says Willy Bietak, president of Bietak Productions. His company has installed outdoor rinks at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, California, and by the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
According to an interview at SCPR.org, the propylene glycol is chilled to anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees below freezing using a large refrigeration system. Then, Bietak says, it's run through pipes housed in aluminum panels that sit directly under the ice itself. The glycol cools these panels to very cold temperatures and the panels in turn cool the ice above them. Bietak says these warmer daytime temperatures create a "soft, smooth, soapy surface where you have a good edge."
9. Enjoy the Fireplace And A Warm Drink
Kids and grown-ups alike love a warm beverage in front of a crackling fire.
From traditional favorites like eggnog, cocoa, cider, and spicy chai tea to adult beverages like zesty mulled wine or yummy hot toddies, there's a broad assortment of delicious drinks that will also warm your heart.
Cozy up with these delicious cold-weather beverages from RealSimple.com,
10. Take a Winter Cruise
Whether you want to travel to warm or cold weather, you can find a cruise line to take you there.
Once the temperature starts dropping, some people want to escape to sun and sand in popular destinations such as the Caribbean and Bahamas. Others sail on exotic adventures to the Southern Hemisphere (including Australia, New Zealand, southern parts of Africa, and most of South America), where our winter is their summer. Find your warm weather cruise destination here at USAToday.
On the other hand, if you want to trade sand for snow, these cold-weather cruises suggested by Conde Nast Traveler can take you to places like Antarctica and Alaska, and will have you seeking out penguins, fjords, and even the Northern Lights.
11. Take a Warm Weather Vacation
Consider the beaches of Florida to Puerto Rico to Hawaii -- not to mention tropical islands that stay warm all year.
Want something to keep you warm this winter? The Travel Channel has found some great places to warm up during winter. Check them out here.
12. Take a Cold Weather Vacation
Frolic in the snow on your winter vacation!
Maybe you live in one of those more temperate climates -- like Hawaii, Arizona, Florida, or California -- where the weather doesn't actually get cold enough for snowy fun. Whether you want to participate in the annual running of the reindeer in Anchorage, sleep in Sweden's famous Ice Hotel, or go skiing in Aspen, Weather.com has gathered up some of the best “snow-cations” you can take this winter.
Before you head out to your winter destination, be sure to prep your car for safe travels. Whether you're taking off for a fun vacation in the snow, or just to visit loved ones and friends near and far, if your family is hitting the road, getting your vehicle ready for a safe trip needs to be on your list of things to do.
Arrive safely at your destination by taking a little prep time before you leave and some extra caution on the road along the way.
Before you hit the road, be sure you've prepared yourself, your car, and your family for the adventure ahead. And when you're on the road, make sure everybody in the car is properly restrained by their seatbelt or child safety seat!