Bundle Up and Head Outside for Some of the Best Playgrounds to Visit During Winter
Fuzzy socks, hot cocoa, oversized hoodies, a good book or two – the cold winter months seem almost custom-built to encourage all of us to stay indoors. However, it also never seems to take all that long before even the most comfortable confines begin to impart a feeling of claustrophobia. Sometimes, no matter the amount of snow on the ground, and perhaps even because of it, you just have to get outside and have some fun. With that spirit in mind, here are five of the best winter playgrounds to visit.
1. Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, IL
Boasting a quarter-mile ice skating ribbon, Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago is a winter playground that attracts residents and tourists alike. With the city’s iconic lakefront skyline as its backdrop, this unique ribbon of ice offers a fun experience unlike any other municipal ice rink. The 20-acre plot also features a variety of whimsical climbing structures and different landscapes (the upside down trees of the Enchanted Forest captivates all ages at any time of the year), along with a number of scheduled events put on by the Chicago Park District throughout the year. From special outings to regular visits, Maggie Daley Park provides a wonderful winter escape.
2. International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, China
Ranked second on this list only because it is an annual event and not a permanent winter playground, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is the world’s biggest winter festival, attracting 10 to 15 million visitors annually. Approximately 10,000 workers cut and haul blocks of ice to build an entire village full of fun surprises. They use a highly sophisticated system of computer controlled LED lights to bring the structures alive with stunning displays of color and designs. With over 600,000 square meter dedicated to ice sculptures, there is more than enough to engage the attention of anyone. Admittedly a more difficult trek to make than the park just down the street, the festival should be on the bucket list of anyone who enjoys outdoor winter fun.
3. Kidtopia Snow Fort, Keystone, CO
Billed as the world’s largest snowfort, Kidtopia in Keystone, CO is a winter playground that features slides, mazes, ice skating, kids tubing, along with arts, crafts, and other daily kid-friendly activities sure to keep all ages engaged. Most activities remain free and open to the public, requiring only a lift ticket or foot passenger ticket to the top of Dercum Mountain. It is well worth the trip for a full day of outdoor fun. The world’s largest snow fort takes two weeks to build and is open for as long as the snow and ski season lasts.
4. Discovery Park’s Full Moon Trek
Though more of an experience than a winter playground, the Full Moon Trek through Discovery Park is a special treat during the winter months. Trained naturalists guide groups through the quiet woods, offering the chance to experience a different world of nocturnal animals. The views throughout Discovery Park are well known to residents and visitors alike, and become especially vibrant beneath a bright moon light. The Full Moon Trek(pdf) costs $5 per person and is designed for ages 8 and older. It goes without saying that trekkers should come well-prepared for the very cold.
5. Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse in Philadelphia, PA
Yes, this one is cheating a bit. However, it is also true that sometimes you need to provide play opportunities that don’t involve multiple layers of warm clothing and snow suits. It can be fun to have a small taste of summer in the middle of winter, and the Smith Memorial Playhouse provides exactly that. The absolutely beautiful 16,000 square foot playhouse was designed solely as a play space for children and has provided generations of children a unique and fun play experience since first opening in 1899. Situated on top of 6 1/2 acres of open fields, wooded terrain, and sloped hills, the playhouse has a companion playground that is open in the warmer months as well. No matter the time of the year, the Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse offers a wealth of fun activities for children of all ages.
The Winter Fun Near You
From annual festivals, to indoor playgrounds, to play activities like ice skating that can only really be enjoyed in winter, there is likely a play opportunity near you now. Even just visiting your local park during winter can offer a vastly different experience. Thought the winter months are often seen as time to relax and stay warm, the hot cocoa always tastes better after a long day of active fun.