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Find nature with your family this winter

I’m all for good ol’ fashioned snuggle times when the weather is chilly, but, trust me, there are only so many forts you can build and cookies you can bake before EVERYONE needs to get out of the house this winter. While you are out exploring as a family, why not connect with nature along the way?

Snow trekking at Northerly Island

This is sure to become one of those ‘remember when we all had that awesome time?’ memories. I mean, come on, strapping on snowshoes, spotting winter birds and wildlife, plus having a family snowball brawl? If that doesn’t fight the family stir crazies, I don’t know what to tell you. You can rent snowshoe equipment for $5 per person for a two-hour trek. Or if your family is actually the living embodiment of an L.L. Bean catalog and you own snow trekking equipment, you can explore gratis. Be sure that your outing falls within 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates: Jan. 28; Feb. 4, 11, 18; and March 4. There needs to be at least three inches of the powdery stuff on the ground to get your trek on. This definitely feels like one of those phone first situations, so dial away before piling your snow bunnies into the minivan. 

1521 S. Linn White Dr., Chicago

Play date at the Morton Arboretum

From summer strolls to holiday lights, Morton Arboretum always wows with its natural beauty and a winter visit could be a great fit to get your family out of the darn house and taking in some fresh air. The Children’s Garden has a Winter Play program that runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through March. Kiddos can drop by for wintery fun such as building a fort or painting snow. The outdoor activities are held weather permitting, so calling ahead is probably the way to go. If you do have some fun connecting with nature in the Children’s Garden, be sure to warm up indoors near the Enchanted Railroad exhibit that runs until Feb. 19. The exhibit is included in general admission, but be sure to pick up tickets for a designated time slot when you arrive. Watching model trains wind through trees from around the world is sure to impress your little “Choo choo!” fans.

4100 IL-53, Lisle, IL 

Winter activities at Emily Oaks Nature Center

Emily Oaks in Skokie is my family’s go-to spot for nature! I spent many happy times snapping photos there this past fall, and I’m about due for a winter visit. The Family Play Day: Winter Fun on Jan. 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. could be a great time for your whole crew (and mine!). Armed with winter tools and play cards, families can set out on a self-guided stroll together. There are plenty of natural wonders for your explorers to discover in the winter wonderland. The expedition only costs a buck and who knows, maybe your mini trekkers will get so worn out that they’ll take a quality nap after and give you some much needed grown up time. If your family prefers connecting with nature plus a side of steamy food, visit for the Winter Chilly Fest on Feb. 10 -11. There will be a chili dinner indoors plus a campfire, snowshoeing and ice skating on the pond outdoors (weather permitting). Let the good times roll this winter! 

4650 Brummel St., Skokie

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