We’re still a month away from the first official day of spring. That might feel like a long time when you gaze out the window and see all of the snow and ice still on the ground, but winter is what you make it. So instead of staying inside every day, griping about the weather, and wishing your life away, why not pull out some warm winter gear, bundle up, and learn to enjoy all of the little things the season has to offer? An even better tactic for helping pass the time? A winter bucket list. Because once you write down all of the fun things that you can only accomplish this time of year, you’ll be scrambling to fit everything in—and may even end up wishing you had more time to cross off items before the snow melts.
1. Skate on a frozen lake
There’s nothing quite like skating on a frozen lake, just before dusk, with the sun setting over the horizon—especially when it’s been expertly cleared off and flooded. To get perfect conditions like these, all you need is a simple shovel, hose and bucket—just be sure to do the deed at night, when the air is still, and use a very thin layer of water. Before you start, don’t forget to test the ice thickness to ensure it’s safe.
2. Go on an overnight adventure
Camping might seem like a summer activity, but there’s no need to wait until July to get your dose of nature therapy or even to sleep in a tent. In fact, there are actually tents you can buy that can accommodate a wood stove, and we have a ton of a hacks for how to stay comfy while winter camping. But if the idea of wiggling into a sleeping bag in the middle of the woods in below-zero temperatures is still too much to bear, you can rent a cozy winter cabin like one of these instead.
3. Spot some wildlife (or at least their tracks)
With the right gear, hiking can be just as enjoyable in the winter as it is in the summer. Of course safety is especially important this time of year, but if you dress properly and find well-travelled trails, it’s the perfect opportunity to spot winter birds like cardinals, woodpeckers, and hawks. Keep your eyes peeled and there’s a good chance you’ll spot the tracks of some mammals, too.
4. Amp up your hot chocolate
A classic hot chocolate is the perfect way to warm up after taking the dog for a long walk or shovelling the driveway. But because we only drink the stuff for a few months of the year, we recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to indulge—and we’re not just talking marshmallows, whip cream, and chocolate sauce. We’re referring to excessive ingredients and toppings like cherry, vanilla, bourbon, coconut, and even cake batter.
5. Spend a weekend cooking comfort foods
Who craves a salad in the dead of winter? Certainly not us. Especially when it’s the one time of year you can get away with putting cheese and bread crumbs in just about everything. But don’t just stick to the same old tuna casserole or hot potato salad you’ve made a million times before. Instead, try one of these over-the-top comfort foods, like bacon-wrapped mini meatloaf or lasagna grilled cheese.
6. Gather ’round a campfire with friends
It might seem hard to believe that there’s anything better than a campfire on a warm summer’s night, but consider this: in the winter there’s no mosquitos and, often, an even clearer night sky. Plus, the warmth of the fire is that much more inviting when it’s cold enough to see your breath.
7. Break out your old board games
Sometimes, during the coldest and greyest days of winter, the best thing to do is stay inside. Those are the perfect days to break out old boards games that have been collecting dust since that rainy week at the cottage last summer. If you’re looking for something beyond Monopoly, Risk or even Scrabble, check out one of these five new board games every cottager should have on hand.
8. Learn something new
Learning something new is the perfect way to pass the time and lift yourself up in a sometimes dreary season. Sure, you could learn crafty skills, like knitting, but why not take advantage of the season and learn how to do something winter-specific, like building an igloo or quinzee. If you’re an adrenaline-seeker, and you already know how to ski or snowboard, consider something like ice climbing. It might sound like a sport that’s reserved for serious outdoor adventurers, but there are outdoor companies across the country that are willing to show just about anyone the ropes.
9. Do something that makes you feel like a kid again
One of the best parts of the season is its ability to transport you back to being a child again. In the dead of winter, when you haven’t seen the sun in days, things can start to feel a little bleak. One of the easiest ways to get through this feeling is to get in touch with your inner child—fall back into the snow to make a snow angel, go tobogganing, or build a snowman.
10. Experience the magic of a winter festival
We’re living in a country known for our harsh, cold winters, so it should come as no surprise that Canada is home to some pretty spectacular winter festivals. In fact, if you do your research, you’re bound to find something nearly every weekend of the season, and there may be no better way to kick the winter blues than to skate alongside hundreds of other people, learn how to carve a massive block of ice, or witness a beard-growing competition, like the one at Winnipeg’s Festival Du Voyageur, which has taken over the city’s French quarter and transformed it into a winter paradise. If you’ve already missed the biggest winter festival in your area, that’s all the more reason to look forward to next winter!