Winter is as much a part of Wisconsin as cheese and brats. No need to hunker down and wait for spring though, bundle and get outside for some winter recreation.
In The Backyard
Children, and those of us who are young at heart, can’t wait for the first snow of the season. Seeing the first flakes is always an exciting moment for me. Even it we only get a dusting of snow, I can’t wait to make my first snow angle of the season. Building snowmen and snowwomen is endless backyard fun, but no need to limit the winter tradition to people. Encourage you kids to create snow sculptures of other shapes too. Why not a snow dog or a snow dinosaur?
Backyard winter fun should include plenty of sledding. If your backyard doesn’t have a hill, there are tons of popular destinations around town. Local favorites include hills at Washington Park, off Menomonee Parkway, and for a real adrenalin rush with a Lake Michigan view, try water tower hill near Saint Mary’s Hospital. Check out Patch's expanded list of area sledding hills.
Milwaukee County Parks has numerous sledding areas, but Whitnall Park includes concessions, and when conditions allow, a toboggan run.
In The Neighborhood
On Jan. 27, you can experience winter fun at Winterfest held at the Wehr Nature Center. Learn about tracking animals in the snow, paint the snow with squirt bottles, or cozy up by the warm fire inside the center.
I love winter sports, because you can only do them in the winter. You’d have a hard time ice-skating in the summer. Milwaukee’s downtown ice skating rink is worth a visit every winter, and plenty of area parks offer outdoor skating when ice conditions are safe.
Patch has an extended list of ice skating spots.
Many summer hiking trails provide groomed cross-country skiing trails and snowshoeing paths during the winter months. Both activities are great fun for families. The kids can burn off some pent-up energy, and you’ll be happy to have some winter exercise to help keep away those holiday pounds we are all susceptible to. The Urban Ecology Center even has an equipment rental program for members.
If your kids like Harry Potter, why not show them a real Snowy Owl this winter. Snowy Owls spend the summer on the tundra of the north. Each winter a few move south into Wisconsin in an effort to find food. They can sometimes be seen perched up on the rocks along the Lake Michigan shoreline, but they could show up anywhere in the state.
On The Road
An easy day trip for nature recreation is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Both the northern and southern units offer an extensive network of trails that can be used year-round for hiking or skiing. The northern unit is holding a special Winter Solstice Hike on December 21. Families, including children at least 6 years old, can celebrate the longest night of the year. Meet at the Zillmer Trail Shelter, near New Prospect, from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm for this guided nighttime hike.
Last winter was a mild one, but learning to embrace the most rugged of winters will help you survive the season. There are limited daylight hours to enjoy, so don’t hesitate to get outside and have some fun. You can always reward yourself with a cup of hot chocolate when you’re done.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit, Winter Solstice Hike, Dec. 21
- Manfred Olson Planetarium, Northern Lights Presentation, Fridays until Dec. 14
- Milwaukee County, Ice Skating & Sledding
- Schlitz Audubon Center, Fun In the Winter Sun, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28
- Urban Ecology Center, Outdoor Equipment Rentals
- Wehr Nature Center, Winterfest, Jan. 27
- Wisconsin Humane Society, Kids Night Out, Dec. 14
- Wisconsin Society of Ornithology, Bird Reports