While the holiday season can be full of fun, the freezing temperatures have many people, young and old, going a bit stir crazy. If this sounds familiar, check out this list of things to do. There is something for everyone, for those who want to stay warm in the house and ideas for families who want to get out and explore the region. It may be chilly outside, but there are oodles of ways to enjoy that crisp winter air!
Plan a photo expedition
Gather your team and head out to take pictures of the winter landscape. Use a phone or a camera, whatever your family is most comfortable carrying around the neighborhood. Before bundling up, make a list of things to document before returning home. Has there been a lot of snow? Look for snowmen, shovels and paw prints. No precipitation? Document holiday lights, icicles and pine cones.
Build a snow fort
When the snow piles up, scour the kitchen for plastic storage containers and loaf pans. These basic kitchen items are ideal for forming bricks for a snow fort. Once assembled, stack the bricks, row by row, and fill in the spaces between the bricks with more snow. If the temperature is below freezing, pour water over the walls after they are built. Then the water freezes, creating a protective layer of ice. This is a great activity to build teamwork skills.
Go ice skating
Winter sports are a great way to welcome wintry weather. Ice skating takes some skill, but everyone can learn with a little practice. There are skate times at local parks and at private ice centers. Red Arrow Park’s Slice of Ice is centrally located in downtown Milwaukee, and skating is free if you bring your own skates. Many rinks offer lessons, too, if you and your little ones want to build up some confidence before whirling around the rink.
Proclaim a game night
Choose an evening and keep it clear of activities, it’s game night! This is a time to bond with the kids and make memories over Candyland, Bananagrams, Monopoly or Clue, depending on the age of your kids. Don’t have a closet full of games? Try a round of charades, or grab paper and pencils and create a story as a family. Everyone can illustrate one of the characters imagined.
Host a movie festival
Invite friends and family over or create a movie marathon for your immediate clan. Think of a theme, pop up some popcorn, and queue up the flicks. Winter lovers can take in the snow and ice from the comfort of their couch with movies like “Frozen” and “Happy Feet.” Is your family dreaming of summertime? “Lilo & Stitch” or “Rio” might be in order.
Yes, it’s cold, but if you have the right equipment, winter camping can be an entertaining way to be outside and warm up near a fire. Not that ambitious? No problem, there are plenty of cabin and yurt rentals around. For example, Camp Edwards YMCA Camp in East Troy offers a New Year’s Family Camp, featuring activities for kids, cocoa around the fireplace, and cabins for rent.
Enjoy the lights
It is getting darker earlier, which means there is more time to enjoy holiday lights. Head downtown to take in the shimmer at Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival free of charge. Or drive through Candy Cane Lane, from South 96th St. to South 92nd St., and take in a neighborhood tradition. Donations are encouraged at Candy Cane Lane; money raised is donated to the MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) Fund. Another option is the Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha, which hosts an annual drive-through light display; this one does carry an admission fee.
Try ice fishing
Curious about fishing underneath the lake ice? Try an ice fishing clinic, an opportunity to try your hand at the sport alongside an experienced instructor. Participants learn ice-fishing basics and safety guidelines. There is one offered in Oconomowoc on January 28. Bonus: this clinic is held on the same day as Chili-Fest in downtown Oconomowoc, a day of ice carving, chili tasting and more.
It’s a fantastic cardio workout and a way to soak in some winter sun. There are oodles of trails through Wisconsin’s state parks and forests. Whitnall Park in Franklin offers ski and snowshoe rentals. If you pick up your own skis (there are affordable pairs at sporting stores that sell used equipment), you can visit Minooka County Park or Nashotah County Park, both of which offer 6 miles of trails. Visitors must have or purchase a Waukesha County park sticker.
Unlike ice skating, sledding comes pretty easy. Is there snow? Do you have a sled? Then you are ready to go sledding! There are sledding hills at many local parks. Ask a neighbor with kids and they are likely to know which hills are within close proximity. Whitnall Park and Pulaski Park are a couple of the hills that have lights, allowing for longer sledding times.
Set up an obstacle course
This can be done indoors or out, depending on how much space is available and weather conditions. Either way, consider making the course simple at first, as more challenges can always be added. Some indoor stations could include crawling under a row of chairs, tossing a ball into a laundry basket, and doing jumping jacks. If you are outdoors, try walking along a path made of branches, running across a yard, and then skipping back to start.
Make a snow painting
If there is snow on the ground, see the yard as a blank canvas…simply add food coloring to water and put in a spray bottle, then go out and paint your yard. The family can work together on one big snow paint landscape. Or, if you’ve already built a snow fort, add color to the structure. Try giving a different color to each member of the family, then you can work together on your snow display.
Create your own snow
Want to stay inside and create decorative snow? Combine 1 part school glue with 2 parts shaving cream. Mix well and paint the mixture onto blue, black, or other dark colored construction paper. The mixture dries white, fluffy, and dimensional. This can be a great way to stay warm indoors and celebrate a snowfall. You can decorate the house with snow scenes you’ve created.
Relax on the porch
Just because it’s nippy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any outdoor area you may have. Put on your hat and gloves, grab a comforter, and snuggle in on your front porch swing. Your neighbors might think you're odd at first, but once your family is huddled in and smiling with cups of hot chocolate, you may find them cozied up on their porches too!
Mali Anderson spent last winter trying to perfect a frozen watercolor paint technique. She never got the results she wanted, but she and her daughter had fun trying.