Winter activities to get the kids outdoors
Winter presents many fewer opportunities to get the kids outside to run around, leaving them all too often restless and cranky. It’s a shame. This is already a generation in which outdoor time for kids has decreased by as much as nearly 90 percent in recent decades, while time spent in front of a screen has surged. Enough. Forget the weather. Grab the kids, pull on your coats, and check out these family-friendly activities around the region.
TAKE AN ARTSY ROMP
After the white stuff begins to fall, head to Lincoln and join a guided snowshoe hike to get a playful look at some of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum's most beloved sculptures. On the 90-minute tour with an Eastern Mountain Sports instructor, who offers tips on how to snowshoe, and a museum guide, you'll see "Lincoln" by DeWitt Godfrey, the rubber-band-like steel sculpture that seems to creep across the landscape; the vibrantly colored "Buzzing It Down" aluminum tower by Gary Webb; and "Five Brushstrokes" by Roy Lichtenstein, the boldly painted, 20-foot-tall aluminum stack of three flowing brushstrokes with two smaller ones. Along the way, feel free to make snow angels and toss snowballs. 781-259-8355, www.decordova
.org/sculpture-park-snowshoe-tours, adults $20, children ages 8-18 $14, includes equipment, instruction, museum admission.
CLIMB A FROZEN WATERFALL
Who says it's unsafe to jump off a cliff? Not if you're tackling a Via Ferrata course with Peak Expeditions. No experience is necessary; each course is tailored to participants, and the guides love to take families. On the introductory course, you'll learn to rappel, climb a fixed line up frozen waterfalls and snowy hillsides, and zip-line across the icy Millers River, about 80 miles west of Boston. Programs run, reservations only, out of the company's boathouse in Orange, near North Quabbin. 413-336-6416, www.peakexpeditions
.com, intro course $49 per person.
FIND A CACHE
What kid doesn't like a scavenger hunt? Join the geocaching craze this winter, using GPS to find hidden caches. It's easy: Go to geocaching.com to find listings of cache locations with GPS coordinates, along with difficulty ratings and clues to help you find them, like cache size, type and color of container, and distance from trails or well-known landmarks. For your first adventure, start with an easy cache in a familiar neighborhood or local park. When you decide on a cache — there are more than 10,000 within a 50-mile radius of Boston — enter its coordinates on your GPS and use clues to arrive at the spot. Once you've located the cache, be sure to sign the logbook and put the cache back exactly where you found it.
MAKE IT AN OUTDOOR WEEKEND
Check into the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center Lodge, located in Crawford Notch, N.H. The mountain lodge features family rooms and private baths, buffet breakfasts, and hearty, home-style dinners. But the real fun is outdoors: Take advantage of free use of L.L. Bean equipment and join complimentary "walk-on" activities such as animal tracking, snowshoe and cross-country ski tours, map-and-compass and night hikes. Self-guided tours are also available; consider an easy hike on the 1.2-mile loop trail around Ammonoosuc Lake, or 1.8 miles with a spur path to see views of Mount Washington and the southern Presidential Range. Rates, including lodging, breakfast and dinner, and equipment and activities start at $106 per person for nonmember adults, $47 for ages 3-12. AMC also guides family-friendly starlight snowshoe walks on the Great Glen Trails network once monthly this winter (free under 12) and free cross-country skiing or tubing with a special package that includes meals and accommodations at the Joe Dodge Lodge, starting at $89 per person adults, $40 ages 3-12. 603-466-2727, www.outdoors.org
RIDE A TOBOGGAN
Take an old-fashioned, rip-roaring ride on the 400-foot, ice-covered Jack Williams Toboggan Chute in Camden, Maine, one of the last of its kind in the nation. Slip into the wooden toboggan, give the ready sign and hang on! You'll plunge down a 70-foot drop through the woods, before sliding and stopping in the middle of frozen Hosmer Pond. Warning: The kids will want to do it again and again. 207-236-3438, www.camdensnowbowl
.com, open weekends, holidays and
February school vacation break, $5 per person, per hour.
TAKE A WALK IN THE WOODS
Naturalists at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield offer monthly winter walks through the woodlands of the preserve, open to families with children 3 and older. The sanctuary also hosts a variety of scheduled events, including winter bird hikes, a stroll along the boardwalks at Waterfowl Pond to see what critters are still around in the winter, a hike to Rockery Pond to observe a beaver lodge and late winter maple sugaring tours. 978-887-9264, www.mass
sanctuaries/ipswich-river, $8-$10 nonmembers.
JOIN THE PARTY
Winter festivals are a fun way to play outdoors and to meet other families. The Vermont Waterbury Winterfest (Feb. 6-14, 802-244-7174, www.waterbury
recreation.com), is a weeklong series of events that includes bonfires, broomball, ice skating, snowshoeing, sledding, and other activities. Winter Trails Day (Feb. 7) will be held in conjunction with the festival, with guided hikes leaving from the Green Mountain Club headquarters. Learn an old tradition as you cut, float, and stack ice from a farm pond at the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm Ice Harvest and Winter Carnival in Tamworth, N.H. (Feb. 7, 800-686-6117, www.remickmuseum.org). Other activities include kids' crafts, animal tracking, and Frisbee golf. If your kids think they have it hard, have them check out how people in the old days coped with winter at Old Sturbridge Village. During their annual Winter Work & Play weekend (Jan. 24-25, 508-347-3362, www.osv.org) kids can zip down a hill on vintage 1830s sleds, harvest ice, and take a sleigh ride.
BE A NATURALIST
Learn about owls, raccoons, and bears on monthly outdoor walks at the North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield. The guided tours include songs, stories, and crafts to introduce young naturalists (ages 3-5) to winter fun. The whole family can join in on two other favorite outings: a moonlight owl hunt (Jan. 16) that includes a fireside reading of Jane Yolen's classic story, "Owl Moon,'' and a short hike along the Woodland Trail; and a Maple Sugaring Celebration (March 7; 781-837-9400, www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/north-river for more information and registration). Other excursions include winter seal-watching tours in Newport, R.I. (401-324-6020, www.savethebay.org), and eagle-watching boat tours out of Haddam, Conn. (860-662-0577, www.ctriverquest
.com, minimum age 10).
CATCH AND EAT
Budding anglers get a thrill out of landing a fish through the ice in the northern Maine woods. It's not as rugged as it may seem. A Maine Guide takes families — no experience necessary — to an ice-fishing house on Moosehead Lake; there's a warming hut, food, and hot chocolate available. There's plenty of fishing, and guides are happy to cook your catch for lunch. You can also snowshoe or cross-country ski, look for moose tracks, and hop on a snowmobile to zip around the lake and on trails through the woods. 866-223-1380, www.maineoutfitter.com, $300 up to four people, $30 additional person.
BRING YOUR DOG
Don't leave Fido out of the fun. Try skijoring; it's athletic, outdoorsy, and a great way to bond with your furry friend. Basically, you strap on a pair of skis, harness yourself to the dog, and yell "go!" (It helps if you have a little bit of skiing experience, and your dog is big and strong enough to haul you.) First-timers (owners and dogs) can get lessons at Gunstock Nordic Center and head out on the nearly 10 miles of trails dedicated for dog use. 603-293-4341, www.gunstock.com, $40.