Skiing may be the most popular winter sport, but there are plenty of reasons why families aren’t willing to plan elaborate ski-slope vacations. Ski resorts are expensive and crowded, and skiing itself can be a little frightening if you’re new to the sport. I have a friend who spent thousands on a family ski trip – their very first time on the slopes. Two of his three kids only made it down the mountain once, which resulted in grumpy parents and expensive daycare. I can tell you, they never made that mistake again!
As much as my own kids love to ski, I have never gotten the hang of it. I will blame my father for stealing me away from my Vermont home when I was young so that I could grow up among palm trees and an ocean breeze. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that you can still travel to the world’s most wintery locations and have a blast without skiing. That’s because winter is long and folks have been really creative about making it awesome. Some of these adventures aren’t cheap, but others are entirely free! Here are our top picks for winter fun for families who don’t want to deal with the expense or crowds of a ski resort vacation.
Winter Fun for Families who don’t Ski
Snow tubing offers kids and adults the thrill of flying down a mountain without the inherent dangers of skiing and snowboarding, or the hefty price tag. It is true that most snow tubing adventures take place at ski resorts, but snow tube rentals are just a fraction of the cost of a full-day lift ticket, and you can also skip the expensive equipment necessary for skiing and snowboarding.
Young children are especially drawn to snow tubing because it’s like sledding on steroids. Snow tubing adventure centers have been springing up all over the northern United States, and as far south as Georgia. Whether your looking for a exhilarating way to spend the day, or planning a full-fledged winter vacation, snow tubing might be just the winter adventure you’re looking for.
Give a kids a bit of snow and a sled and you’ve got the potential for hours of winter fun. Make your outing successful with a thermos of hot cocoa, warm, woolly socks, waterproof boots and snow clothes, and a cozy hat. The last time we packed up and went to our local sledding hill, someone had set up a table and a Coleman stove and was busy cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for all of the kids. Parents and adults had a blast.
When the snow piles up everywhere, you are all-of-a-sudden very limited as to where you can travel on foot. You can either stick to slushy, dirty roads and sidewalks, or you can strap on snowshoes and hit the trails for winter fun that never ends. Snowshoeing is a bit more strenuous than walking, or even hiking, but it allows you to experience the quiet and solitude of a peaceful winter day. Try your hand at animal tracking, spread out for a winter picnic, and explore places that are inaccessible in the lush summer growth. Ready to give it a try? Check out this guide to snowshoeing with kids before you head out.
Frozen lakes open up all kinds of opportunities for adventure, and many lakeside resorts offer enticing packages to help them (and you) make the most of a winter by the shore. Sweden, Finland, and other Norwegian countries offer adventure ice skating tours, covering miles and miles on long-distance tracks. For a more casual day on skates, check out some of the world’s most awesome skating rinks.
While not exactly a budget-friendly option, you can find dog sled tours all over the far north. Winter destination spots will usually have a resident dog-sledding team, ready to take you out for an hour, a day, or even longer. Multi-day trips often involve cozy accommodations, full meals, and hands-on training with the canines. While a dog sledding vacation isn’t for everyone, it just might be for you. Here’s a look at some top dog-sledding destinations around the world.
Whether or not you love winter, you might as well make the best of it while it’s here. Bundle up and enjoy the snow without strapping on skis or spending a fortune. What do you do to enjoy winter as a family? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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