5 things to do outside this winter that aren’t sledding

Sledding is fun and all, but living in the flattest swath of the country means a lot of dragging kids around, and, well, our legs get tired fast. So try these non-sledding ideas for a romp in the snow.

Sledding is fun and all, but living in the flattest swath of the country means a lot of dragging kids around, and, well, our legs get tired fast.

Beat the slush with a mush! You’re not going to be running the Iditarod anytime soon, but the rush you’ll get flying across the snow beats a trip down what passes for a Midwestern “hill” any day. Sit back for a ride or learn to drive a team of dogs yourself (kids are allowed to learn at most places, too) and set off on your own course. For a taste of Alaska right here in Chicago, swing by Polar Adventure Days at Northerly Island, on Jan. 23 and Feb. 23.

Check out:

Dog sledding

City dwellers don’t have far to go to leave the urban hustle and bustle behind while gliding along on cross-country skis in the forest. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont rents out cross-country skis for visitors to use on their trails through some of the most pristine natural areas in the Chicago area. Skis and instruction are available at the new Learning Center, which also includes a Great Lodge room, complete with fireplace and comfy chairs for post-ski warm up. Equipment can be checked out 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for use on Sagawau trails only.

Check out:

Cross Country Skiing

Hit the slopes tucked into an inner tube and get ready for
the ride of your life as you bounce down the hill. Mount Hoy, at
Blackwell Forest Preserve (on Butterfield Road, a half-mile west of
Winfield Road), offers tubing when three or more inches of snow
cover the hill. Rent inner tubes on weekends and school holidays
for per tube per day (cash only) from December through February
at the base of the hill. Only rented tubes are allowed on the

Check out:

  • Call the Outdoor Report at (630) 871-6422 for hours of
    operation and snow conditions.
  • Blackwell Forest Preserve,
    Butterfield and Main Drive, Warrenville. (630) 933-7248


For an urban oasis in the heart of the city, head to Northerly Island on the Museum Campus off Lake Shore Drive. Not actually an island, this park juts out into Lake Michigan. During weekends in January, when there’s three or more inches of snow, check out free snow shoes and cross-country skis for the whole family and get some cold-weather exercise. Equipment can be checked out 10 a.m.-4 p.m., while supplies last. Snowshoeing is recommended for kids 6 and up, says Marta Juaniza, spokesperson for the Chicago Park District, which oversees the island.

Check out:

  • On Jan. 22, Northerly Island hosts Polar Adventure Days For more information, call (312) 742-2910.


If you’d rather spend the day in sight of home (and with frequent hot chocolate breaks), consider a snow castle. Start by placing larger snow blocks at the bottom, making them smaller as you build. This makes the towers sturdy and helps prevent your castle from collapsing. If you’re a more advanced builder, you can experiment with placing larger shapes on top of smaller ones to create overhangs. Check out thesestep-by-step tips

Build a snow castle

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