Winter activities for your whole family

Skating Photo by Pavel Ilyukhin/Shutterstock

Canadians love to complain about winter. The cold. The ice. The slush. The general misery that goes along with cold noses, frozen fingertips, and wet feet. We’re a nation united by a common enemy. Considering winter generally lasts from November until March (or longer), we might all be happier if we all bundled up, invested in a good pair of waterproof boots, and simply enjoyed winter together. Try one of these activities for a start.

Go tubing

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Like tobogganing, only faster and bouncier, tubing involves hurling yourself down an icy slope seated on an inner tube. While you can go tubing anywhere there’s a toboggan hill, checking out your local tubing park can take the experience to a whole other level. Many have tow lines or conveyor belts to help you get to the top of the hill without breaking too much of a sweat — but, of course, if it’s a chilly day then you may want to boost the body heat. If you’re in Ontario and want to try tubing, check out Chicopee Tube Park in Kitchener.

Check out a skating trail

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Skating rinks are fine, but if you’re tired of simply skating in a circle, try a skating trail. The Lake Windermere Whiteway in southeastern BC — the longest skating trail in the world — is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and has trails cleared in the lake for skating, skate skiing, and Nordic skiing. Arrowhead Provincial Park in Ontario has a 1.3-kilometre trail through the forest, which is periodically open at night and lit with flaming tiki torches.      

Go hiking

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If the last couple of winters are anything to go by, parts of the country may not have much snow for much of the winter, which make skiing and snowshoeing kind of difficult. Never fear: lace up your hiking boots, and set out for a cold-weather tromp through the woods. If you’re used to hiking in the summer, go check out your favourite trails. You’ll find they’re completely different places once the leaves have fallen. Take along a pair of binoculars as well — with no leaves, wildlife and birds are a lot easier to spot.


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On a clear winter’s night, you can see forever — or, at least that’s how it feels. Because cold air holds less moisture than warm air, our view of the stars on crisp winter nights isn’t affected by hazy humidity. Bundle up well (don’t forget thick socks and mitts), pour some hot chocolate in a thermos, and head out of town where the city lights won’t interfere with checking out the constellations. If you’re lucky (or further north), you may see the northern lights, but even if all you do is gaze at the stars, you’ll have a ball. Of course, if you’re close to one of the country’s dark sky preserves, where light pollution is restricted, your view will be even better.

Build a winter campfire

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Why save campfires for the summer? (If you think about it, building a fire when you’re already warm is kind of counter-intuitive.) If you’re in an area where backyard fires are legal, go ahead and grab your coats, chairs, blankets, and marshmallows for a unique campfire experience. We’d also suggest something warm to drink: hot chocolate, mulled apple cider, or hot toddies for the adults for an extra-special treat. Not sure how the snow’s going to affect your fire-building skills? Follow our handy steps for creating the perfect winter fire.

Play summer sports

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Winter doesn’t have to be all about hockey and skiing. Who says you can’t kick around a soccer ball in the snow? Or play baseball on a drifty diamond? Even if you can’t play a really good game, you’ll have a ball trying to run the bases through the snow. And diving to save a goal is much easier when you have a cushion of white stuff. Break out the croquet set!

Make a bird feeder

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This can be an outdoor or indoor activity, depending on how much you need to get out of the house. Using recycled materials, create a spot for your feathered friends to gather and refuel, then spend the winter watching and recording your visitors. Backyard birds to watch for include chickadees, blue jays, juncos, and cardinals. For best results, offer a variety of seeds, as well as suet for energy and, if possible, water to drink.

Make snow sculptures

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Sure, you can build snowmen, but why stop there? Create sculptures of any size or shape with these handy tips. The secret? Don’t roll the snow. Pack it into blocks, then chisel away the snow you don’t want. If you want to get colourful, spray your finished sculptures with food colouring in water.


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