Is our long, frozen nightmare over yet? Temperatures seem to be warming up, and that means you can get your little ones outside for some winter fun! Here are 25 ideas to inspire you:
1. Dog sled rides
Dog sled rides with Door County Dog Sleds will be offered again this year, weather permitting, on Sundays beginning in January and running through mid-February 2018. The rides will take paces from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in Whitnall Park or McKinley Marina on beautiful Lake Michigan. The cost is $15 for children and $20 for adults. This non-profit organization is run entirely by volunteers, and their sled team is made up of lovable rescued dogs. They race for charities and offer dog sled rides in Whitnall Park. Rides are usually offered January through February, but they are weather dependent. You’ll get to visit with the dogs, ask questions of their humans, take pictures, and enjoy a dog sled ride on the trail. There is a warming house with concessions and a sledding hill nearby. Check the website or call the Sled Dog Hotline for the most updated details. Door County Sled Dogs(414) 967-9677doorcountysleddogs.com
2. Go sledding in Whitnall Park
5879 S. 92nd St., Franklin, WI 53132
Located near the Boerner Botanical Gardens, this 400 foot sledding hill is free to the public, lit up at night, and features a toboggan run. There is also a smaller hill for the little ones north of the main hill. There is ample parking in the large lot off of 92nd street, and you can enjoy warm concessions in the Whitnall Clubhouse.
3. Ride the Lowell Park Toboggan Run
Lowell Park Warming Shelter
2201 Michigan Ave., Waukesha, WI 53188
For updated conditions and hours, call (262) 522-9356
Located near Lowell Elementary School, the park offers great sledding and a 350 foot lighted toboggan run (for a small fee). Sleds are also available to rent. You must sign a waiver, which are available at the shelter, and all riders must by 48 inches or taller. Children under 11 must ride with an adult.
4. Go tubing at Rock Snow Park
If you can sit, you can tube. Take the conveyor lift to the top and slide down one of ten lanes of tubing.
5. Learn to ski within one hour of Milwaukee
See our list of places within one hour of Milwaukee where you can ski and snowboard.
6. Ice Skate in Red Arrow Park
(Free skating! Rentals available)
920 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Did you know that the 128 by 95 foot ice rink in Red Arrow Park is actually bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center? You can visit this downtown landmark January through March for free ice skating (with skate rentals available at a small cost). Remodeled in 1999, the ice rink can fit around 100 people at a time and is conveniently located right next to a Starbucks, so you can enjoy a hot chocolate. Helpful hint: Ice sleds are available for people with mobility limitations.
7. Urban Candlelight Hike (Free!)
Saturday, Feb 3, 2018
Three Bridges Park (610 S 35th St, Milwaukee, WI 53215)
The candlelit park trails and campfires at this unique event are totally free. Purchase a Fun Pass for extras ($10 for adults and includes children). Hike or snowshoe on two miles of the candlelit Hank Aaron State Trail, and enjoy roaring campfires and marshmallows, e-bike and fat tire bike demos, hot chocolate, and pastries.
8. Candlelit Snowshoe at Hawthorn Glen
Saturday, January 13
6:00pm – 8:00pm
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. After snowshoeing on the trails lit by candle luminaries, you can enjoy either hot chocolate or hot spiced apple cider. TTo register, or for more information, please call 414-647-6050.
9. Ice skate indoors at the Pettit National Ice Center
500 S. 84th St., Milwaukee, WI 53214(414) 266-0100thepettit.com
The Pettit National Ice Center is a 200,000 square foot indoor ice skating facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, featuring two international-size ice rinks and a 400-meter speed skating oval. Public skating times, rental skate fees, and occasional promotions are listed on their website. They also offer ice skating classes for all ages throughout the year. (Don’t forget to bring a coat! It may be an indoor facility, but it is still chilly.)
10. Friday Night Tales for Tots at Hawthorn Glen
Friday, January 19
6:00pm – 7:30pm
Enjoy the story "Snowballs" by Lois Ehlert, plus a craft & nature hike, or trip to our Little Nature Museum. To register, or for more information, please call 414-647-6050.
11. Learn to Ski and Snowshow
12. Visit the Zoo for free
The first Saturday in January, February, and March are free admission days at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Parking and concession rates still apply.
13. Ice Skate for free at Burnham Playfield
1755 S. 32nd St.
Open skating will take place every Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and weekends from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at this free community ice rink. Call their hotline (475-8192) for weather/ice conditions. A limited number of skates will be available for adults and 3rd-8th grade students to borrow for free on-site. For younger children, the department will have five pairs of skates that can be attached to children’s boots or shoes (youth sizes 6-13). The Burnham fieldhouse will be used as a warming house. Refreshments, including hot chocolate, will be sold inside for a nominal fee.
The rink is also open every Thursday night from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for pond hockey. This drop-in program will be free and open to all ages and ability levels; no experience is necessary. Participants are asked to bring their own hockey gear. A limited number of sticks will be available to borrow on-site. Weather and ice conditions permitting, the rink is accessible to the public outside of the supervised operating hours listed above. However, the warming house will be closed and skates will not be available to borrow.
14. Winterfest at the Urban Ecology Center
Saturday, January 27th
12:00 - 4:00
Get outside at Winterfest! If we're lucky enough to get the weather we want we'll have great winter activities like sledding and ice skating on the Washington Park lagoon. If the snow's a no-show, we won't let the weather ruin our fun! We'll still be outdoors. Also enjoy arts, crafts, homemade pie and science activities. For everyone | FREE - donations appreciated
Younger kids can enjoy Winterfest for Afternoon Nappers from 10:30 - 12:00. (Not free!)
Don’t let your little one miss the Winterfest fun just because they nap in the afternoon! Come to the morning version of Winterfest exclusively for children ages 5 and under accompanied by an adult. Enjoy a craft, hike and puppet show, and still get home in time for their afternoon nap. Registration required. Please register all children. Space is limited.
Photo: Chris Von Briesen
15. Winterfest at Boerner Botanical Gardens
Sunday, January 21st
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Boerner Botanical Gardens Visitor Center (9400 Boerner Dr., Hales Corners, WI 53130)
The Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens invite you to conquer your cabin fever with winter nature walks (rain, snow or shine), indoor & outdoor games & activities, hot drinks and family fun! Free admission; $5 suggested donation for winter nature walks Concessions available from Zilli Hospitality.
16. Waukesha Janboree (Free!)
January 26, 27 & 28, 2018
Get it? “January” and “Jamboree” are combined to create “Janboree”! This epic event opens with a special ceremony that includes a dance, live music, and fireworks outside on the Fox River. Activities throughout the weekend include ice sculpting demonstrations, a pancake breakfast, trolley rides, ice bocce ball, indoor ice skating at Eble Arena, ice fishing clinics, horse-drawn wagon rides, stargazing planetarium shows, nature activities, and more!
17. Winter Carnival at the Lynden Sculpture Garden
Saturday, January 27th, 2018 from 10:00 - 4:00
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
The Lynden Sculpture Garden's annual Winter Carnival features outdoor art-making, studio activities, scavenger hunts, hikes, parades, ice skating, painting the pond, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and local artists who showcase projects and performances for all to enjoy.
18. Family Snow Day at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Sunday, January 28th from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
Bring the whole family for an afternoon of winter fun at Schlitz Audubon! Join us for guided nature hikes, Raptors, S’mores, snow shoeing – and more! Check out snowshoes to explore the trails.Make your own s’mores at Mystery Lake. Bring your snowpants and boot skate around on Mystery Lake. Warm up inside the building around the fireplace. Free with membership or admission. Parking is at Schlitz Audubon.
19. Winter Frolic at the Mequon Nature Preserve (Free!)
February 3rd, 2018
8200 W. County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097
Head to the Mequon Nature Preserve for a free festival that typically includes dog sled demonstrations, tractor rides, live music, a petting zoo, sleigh rides, kids crafts, ice fishing, bonfires, snowman building, and more.
20. Winter Festival in Cedarburg (Free!)
February 17-18, 2018
W63 N641 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, WI 53012
Cedarburg is magical in the winter, and outdoor fun abounds at their Winter Festival. Delight in themed costumed bed races, ice carving competitions, parades, barrel rolling, sledding, ice skating, and even camel rides. Warm up inside, where you’ll smell the chili cooking and enjoy live music.
21. Family Twilight Owl Prowl
January 20, 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Wehr Nature Center, 9701 W College Ave, Franklin, WI 53132, USA (map)
Join a naturalist for an evening with the owls. An interactive program will highlight the amazing adaptations of our nocturnal neighbors. Come prepared for a walk in the woodlands of Wehr in search for the great horned owl and Eastern screech owl. Recommended for ages 6 and older.
$12 per person
$10 Milwaukee County resident
$7 Friends of Wehr members Registration is required 2 days prior to program.
22. Winter White-Out at Havenwoods State Forest (Free!)
Saturday, January 13th and January 20th
9:00am – 2:00pm
Havenwoods State Forest (6141 N Hopkins St, Milwaukee, WI 53209)
Discover some things about snow that you didn’t know, look at snow crystals close up, solve some snow mysteries, print snowflakes on a bandanna, and get ready to really enjoy the next snowstorm!
23. Horse-drawn sleigh rides
Horse-drawn Sleigh Rides at Apple Holler
5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Sturtevant, WI 53177
The old-fashioned sleigh rides at Apple Holler take you and your family through the snow-covered orchards and 100-year-old hardwoods, while you enjoy the scenery and listen to the clopping of the Amish Haflinger horses pulling you. Afterwards, you’ll enjoy s’mores around a campfire and a cup of hot cocoa or warm apple cider.
Winter 2017-2018 Cost: $80.00 for up to four people (plus tax) and $15.00 for additional person (plus tax)
Horse-drawn Sleigh Rides at Paradise Ranch
2408 Spring Hill Dr., Cedarburg, WI 53012
The sleigh rides at Paradise Ranch are pulled by majestic Percheron horses that take you through forty acres of woods decorated with twinkling Christmas lights. The sleigh holds up to 12 people. Afterwards, you can sit around the campfire with s’mores, or enjoy the heated, festive barn and a warm drink.
Cost is $42 per person or $29 for ages 11 and under.
24. Pop-Up Nature: Owls
Saturday, January 27
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Wehr Nature Center (9701 W College Ave, Franklin, WI 53132)
Want to explore nature with your children but don’t know how to get started? Stop in for a “pop-up” program with a nature expert to get your adventure on! There will be a naturalist led activity from 1-1:30, followed by self-guided activities you can enjoy with your family. This month, pop-in to learn about these amazing creatures of the night. Families can dissect one owl pellet per family, or purchase an additional pellet for $1.50. $5 per family, plus parking fee. No pre-registration is required.
25. Go ice-fishing in Milwaukee County Parks
Challenging ice-fishing opportunities await you in county park lagoons when weather conditions permit. Ice on lagoons must be 6 inches thick in order to be open for ice fishing. Pay attention to "Thin Ice" signs posted at the lagoons. Do not fish in areas designated for skating.
2018 Locations: Brown Deer, 7835 N. Green Bay Rd. Greenfield, 2028 S. 124 St. Humboldt, 3000 S. Howell Ave. McCarty, 2567 S. 79 St. McGovern, 5400 N. 51 St. Scout Lake, 5902 W. Loomis Rd. Washington, 1859 N. 40 St. Wilson, 1601 W. Howard Ave.
Keep an eye on the county parks website. Each year, Milwaukee County Parks and Waukesha County Parks offer free fishing clinics for kids 15 years and younger in parks throughout the city. In most cases, clinics are held at park lagoons. The clinics are taught by members of local fishing clubs and include fishing instruction, safety knot tying, and how to properly use equipment. Small children must be accompanied by an adult. Fishing equipment is available, but you can bring your own rod and reel if you have them.