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As a new season approaches, it’s about the time that my family and I begin to compile our outdoor winter activities bucket list! If I may be so bold as to generalize, winter seems to be the least liked of all the seasons. And as someone who resides in a northern climate, I get it.
But living in a place where winter is basically half the year, I’ve decided to do my best to embrace it because half a year is way too long to be miserable. So just like we do for every other season, we brainstorm a bucket list of outdoor activities that we are excited about!
Rather than remaining cooped up inside and going stir crazy, we do our best to go outside and take advantage of all the snow activities. It’s so refreshing to get out and feel the fresh (and yes, frigid) air on your face! We also make sure to come up with some outdoor winter activities that don’t require snow as that’s not always a guarantee.
So if you struggle to get through winter in a good mindset, first of all, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. But if you’re looking for some activities to help you get through (and maybe even enjoy) the winter season, here are 30 must-do outdoor winter activities for kids!
Adventure Outdoor Winter Activities
1. Go dog sledding.
This is one I’m super excited to do someday once our kids are a little older! Dog sledding would be such a unique and memorable experience to have and share with your kids. If you live in a region with snow, search around a little bit and see what options exist in your area. If not, it could potentially be an activity you plan for a winter-specific vacation (more about that on #4).
For those in Michigan, I hear good things about this place.
2. Hike to a frozen waterfall.
I’m a big advocate for hiking year-round because there’s something unique to see in each season! One thing in particular that’s amazing to see in the winter is a frozen waterfall. Waterfalls are obviously fun in the summer, but they are also so intriguing to explore in the winter with all the different ice formations. Insert safety reminders here 🙂
3. Stay in a yurt.
One thing that makes winter much more tolerable is a change of scenery. Why not try out something different as a family and stay in a yurt? It would be a fun new experience with nature at your doorstep! Not to mention a small, cozy space to come back to where you can light a fire in the stove after the day’s adventures.
Yurts and other unique housing are becoming more and more popular, so you should get lots of options if you Google yurts near me.
4. Go on a winter vacation.
It’s pretty typical to take a vacation in the wintertime, but the idea for most people is generally to escape and go somewhere warm. Instead, we like to head to a northern destination and embrace winter!
The goal of this is to find a warm, cozy place to stay that also has access to all the best things winter has to offer, like ice skating, sledding, skiing, or, perhaps, dog sledding!
5. Go snowmobiling.
For people who live in places with abundant snowfall, snowmobiling is a necessity for getting places. For the rest of us, it can be a fun one to add to our bucket list of outdoor winter activities. Think jet skis, only the winter version!
Read here for some tips on snowmobiling with kids!
6. Go on a night hike.
The days are already short on hours with sunlight, so why not embrace the dark? Make sure to bring along headlights or lanterns, then head out for a nighttime hike as a family!
It’s amazing how switching things up like this can create such memorable experiences for everyone! Check out your local parks and nature preserves to see if they have winter night hike events you could attend.
Snow Play Outdoor Winter Activities
7. Build a snowman.
An obvious but necessary outdoor winter activity for kids! 😄 Make this extra fun by providing plenty of clothes and accessories for dressing up the snowman after. Or see what you can find in nature to use!
My little guy and I had fun with this one year and used sticks, leaves, rocks, and acorns to adorn our snowman!
8. Have a snowball fight.
Snowball fights seem to be a lost art form these days. I mean, how often do you see these spontaneously happening? If my dad’s stories tell me anything, it’s that seventies kids had this all figured out…
9. Go sledding.
Another classic but necessary choice for an outdoor winter activities bucket list. Mix it up by trying out different hills, getting a sled that can fit several people so you can share rides, and building snow jumps!
10. Build a snow fort or igloo.
I remember having a blast building huge snow forts with the neighborhood kids! After the snowplow truck would come through and pile up all the snow from our street in one spot, we’d be out for hours digging tunnels and caves.
If you’ve got good packing snow, building an igloo is another option for a classic snow fort! My little guy and I did this last winter, and he thought it was the coolest thing! He even added some PVC pipes and built a seat out of snow on the inside. Building snow forts is something that we add to our outdoor winter activity list every year.
Use these snow block molds or just about any block-like plastic container you have around the house. Pack it in real nice and start building!
11. Go cross country skiing.
Cross country skiing is a great way to get outside and stay active during the winter months! If your kids are a little older, this is a wonderful family activity to do together.
Upon moving to Michigan after living down south, my grandma took me cross country skiing for the first time. I remember being surprised at how challenging it was, but if my grandma could do it, I figured there was no way I could let myself fall behind!
If you’re like us and want to be able to ski occasionally without actually purchasing all the equipment, you can always check a local ski resort or lodge for rentals.
12. Go ice skating.
This is one of my all-time favorite outdoor winter activities! There’s just something so whimsical about gliding around on the ice, especially when you’re outside on an actual lake or pond or surrounded by trees on a man-made rink. I could stay out and skate for hours on end!
Last year I got to bring my then 3-year-old out on the ice for the first time, and we both had a blast! He couldn’t quite balance on his own, but he held onto one of the skate helpers and I pulled him all around the rink. He continued to talk about it for months afterward, and I know it will always be one of my favorite memories.
For those curious, we like going here.
13. Play ice hockey.
Along the same lines as ice skating, but if you have kids that are a little older, this is a super fun addition to your outdoor winter activities bucket list. It’s something the whole family can get into depending on how competitive you want to be!
No Snow Required Outdoor Winter Activities
14. Go for a hike.
Obviously, hikes are great any time of year, and winter is no different. It may not seem like the landscape is as interesting, but keep an eye out for the small details as you hike and you might be pleasantly surprised! Or kick it up a notch and do some winter trail running!
15. Winter picnic.
I’m a fan of picnics in general, so one of the outdoor winter activities that always goes on our bucket list is a picnic! I enjoy them in every season because each one has something special to offer. Here are some of our tips for a simple winter picnic with kids!
16. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
If winter hiking seems a little dull, try adding a scavenger hunt to your winter bucket list! Give each of your kids a mesh collection bag or plastic storage container and have them gather whatever interests them. We’ve found berries, lichens, and dried out seed pods, just to name a few. To see more of our winter scavenger hunt, check it out here!
17. Make and hang bird feeders.
This is another great winter bucket list item that doesn’t require any snow! We also love it because this one is basically three activities in one: a craft, outdoor time spent hanging the feeders up in the tree, and bird watching after! Here’s how we made our bird feeders.
18. Build a fort.
While snow forts are fun, it’s possible to build any kind of shelter during the winter months! Make a simple teepee with tree branches in the woods, or try your hand at some different survival shelters.
Have you seen these fort building kits? They look fun and engaging, so we bought one to give to our little dude this Christmas. We plan to use it inside and outside.
Nature Craft Outdoor Winter Activities
19. Ice globes
This is a really cool idea that I stumbled upon and definitely wanted to add to our bucket list. My little guy already loves freezing bowls full of ice in our freezer, so I think he would really enjoy making these colorful ice globes to play and decorate with!
I may opt for this highly rated ice globe kit that comes with everything you need – it just looks so pretty!
20. Make stick crowns.
Since twigs are available year-round, stick crowns make a great winter bucket list craft! No snow is required for this one, and the lack of white stuff on the ground would actually make it easier to collect the sticks you need. Head outside and have your kids collect a bunch of twigs, then follow these simple instructions for your crown!
21. Ice suncatchers
These suncatchers are a fun craft to add to your list of outdoor winter activities, and they look beautiful hanging up outside afterward! These also don’t require snow, although freezing temperatures are necessary if you want them to actually last a while.
Did I mention my four-year-old is obsessed with putting bowls of water in the freezer? This kind of thing is right up his alley!
22. Make snow paint.
Painting is an activity that, a least for me, never gets old. But painting in the snow puts an exciting new twist on it that kids will love! It’s also a creative way to add some color to the landscape once you start getting tired of the dreary winter whites and grays.
Get Cozy Outdoor Winter Activities
23. Sit in a hot tub while it’s snowing.
Sitting in a hot tub when it’s cold outside is one of my favorite outdoor winter activities! Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a hot tub. If you’re like me and don’t have one of your own, this might mean scheduling a vacation in a spot that can accommodate.
In general, I don’t particularly enjoy hot tubs that much, to be honest. It’s specifically the idea of soaking outside in warm, cozy water while feeling the chill winter air on my face and perhaps gazing up at the stars.
24. Make Swedish snow lanterns.
One essential aspect to geting through winter is creating a cozy atmosphere, and a huge part of this is light. The lack of sunlight during the colder months is a huge contributor to the winter blues. One way to create a warm glow is with these Swedish snow lanterns!
Next time you have some packing snow, build a few of these around the yard. Then stay out after dark and play games in the warm light or stargaze together. If you don’t have snow, you can still use cozy lanterns for light outdoors! Try this project instead.
25. Have a fire.
Fires are obviously one of the absolute best ways to get cozy, which is why they deserve a spot on our winter bucket list every year! Make sure to have a spot prepared and some dry wood stashed away so that you can get one going any time without much prep.
Once you have a big flame going, get some chairs, cozy blankets, and hot chocolate to sip while you sit around and warm up! Here are 5 ideas for the best campfire ever!
26. Sip hot chocolate on a hike.
A great way to add incentive during a hike, especially one in the winter, is to bring along a treat. So before you head out, fill up some thermoses with the hot beverage of your choice. Then, when you need a bit of a rest or some warming up, stop by the side of the trail and bring out the good stuff!
Educational Outdoor Winter Activities
27. Evergreen identification hike.
In a season when the majority of trees lose their leaves, I always love seeing evergreen trees. And evergreen identification is a great learning opportunity for a winter bucket list. Grab a field guide and head out with your kids to see what trees you can find!
28. Go star gazing.
Stargazing has appeal year-round because there are different constellations and astrological events occurring with each season. Winter is no exception, so make sure to get out there and see what the sky has to offer this time of year! Pick up this stargazing explorer field guide for kids if you think yours might need some convincing.
If we didn’t already have access to a nice telescope, I’d buy this one or something similar.
29. Identify animal tracks.
Animal tracking is another fun learning opportunity for a winter bucket list. Fresh snow is the perfect way to see the tracks of animals scattered all around. Grab an animal track field guide like this one and head outside!
30. Learn about tree rings.
Learning about tree rings is something you can do year-round! If you’re looking for a science activity to do outside in the winter, try this one out. To grab a free printable and see how we did it, check it out here!
Winter can be long, cold, and dreary, but let’s do our best to embrace it. For those of us in the northern climates, there’s no use in being miserable for half the year! One way to ensure that you make the most of the season is to create an outdoor winter activities bucket list for your family.
Hopefully, you were inspired by some of these ideas and will create a list with your family! Because whether you like it or not, winter is coming 😉. Now let’s get outside and enjoy all that winter has to offer!
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