Looking to burn off the calories from all those holiday cookies while having some fun with your kids? Bundle up and head outdoors! I have tried my best to adopt my kids' attitude about winter. They're oblivious to the cold and waking up to Chicago covered with snow fills them with pure joy. As long as I'm dressed properly, being outdoors is a joy, even in the dead of winter.
Here are four fun ways to enjoy the winter in Chicago.
Grab a pair of ice skates (or rent them onsite) and glide across one of the many Chicago Park District outdoor ice skating rinks. Located all around the city, these family-friendly ice rinks welcome both beginning and advanced ice skaters. Skating season runs through Feb. 23 at most outdoor rinks, weather permitting. This year most ice rinks offer programs that include pick-up hockey games and learn-to-skate classes!
Even though I feel the chills just thinking about it, I know my kids would love to try their hand at ice fishing. If you think your kids would enjoy it, the DuPage Forest Preserve District has you covered. Its Ice Fishing 101 workshops - offered at lakes throughout the county - will teach you everything you need to know about safety, equipment and techniques and tips for ice fishing on forest preserve lakes. Equipment and bait are provided. Families with kids ages 6 and up are welcome. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Best of all, workshops are free. Registration begins two weeks prior. Call (630) 933-7248 to save a spot!
If you're bundled up well against the cold, snowshoeing on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan is magical. Rent some snowshoes at the Northerly Island Visitor's Center (just $5 for a two-hour snowshoe rental!), bring along a thermos of hot cocoa and set off to explore the snowy banks. Call ahead at (312) 745-2910 to check that the weather conditions are suitable for snow trekking (there must be at least 3 inches of snow).
There are plenty of great sledding hills within Chicago. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has a great guide for sledding in the city. Our family's favorite sledding hill is at Caldwell Woods, located near the corner of Devon and Milwaukee. The large indoor fireplace at the activity center is perfect for warm-up breaks and the trails in the nearby woods are wonderful for exploring on an easy hike (be on the lookout for deer!). Afterwards, head on over to Superdawg - home of Chicago's best hot dogs - located just around the corner. Since it offers old-fashioned window service, you can keep your winter gear on and enjoy a delicious dog from the comfort of your car.
On Jan. 23, 25, 26 and 30; 1-4 p.m., Kline Creek Farm, a restored 1890s farmstead in suburban West Chicago, will offer families the chance to see the tools and techniques farm families used to cut and store ice before the invention of refrigerators. Families can help cut and transport ice from Timber Lake to the icehouse. There's no need to register for this free program and families with kids of all ages are welcome. For more information, call (630) 876-5900.
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.