4 fun COVID-friendly winter activities
“Do you wanna build a snowmaaan?” If life in the winter were like Disney’s Frozen, with its fluffy packing snow and sunshine, we could play outside all day. Of course, winter activities like snowball fights and building snow forts and snowmen can be fun for anyone – with the right conditions.
It’s mid-December and staying inside all the time is making us a little stir crazy (if not unhealthy)! However, winter is such a beautiful season and there are lots of fun winter activities to get you outside and keep you moving so you’ll stay warm while doing them. Read on for our top four COVID-friendly winter activities to get you out of the house. We promise, you’ll have snow much fun!
*Packing snow not required.
1. Go for a wintery stroll
We know, we know – going for a walk in these temperatures doesn’t exactly sound thrilling. But what’s better than grabbing a loved one (furry or human), bundling up in your winter best (and warmest), going for a stroll through neighbourhoods or parks near your house? Especially right after it snows, the trees are covered and glistening and the air is fresh. Even better, go early evening and check out all the holiday lights. Plus, there are a ton of health benefits, physically and mentally, to getting out and going for a walk.
Here are a few ways to make a winter walk more fun and less cold:
• Bundle up! Layer up long john’s or sweatpants, thick socks, sweaters on sweaters, and grab your scarf, beanie and pair of mitts for an outdoor adventure.
• Take the kids. This time of year, we’re not the only ones that need to get outside. The little ones do, too. You can only put on so many movies before they get restless and start climbing on the furniture. The solution? Get the snow pants out and go to the park. Bring a toboggan too – even the slightest bump or hill can add up to hours of fun.
• Bring a warm drink. Whether you make it at home or stop at your favourite local café as a reward for getting outside, there’s nothing like a hot beverage to accompany you on a winter walk. Plus, it keeps your hands warm through your mitts. Win, win.
• Grab your camera. There’s a good chance you’ll see a beautiful tree covered in snow that you’ll want to take a photo of. Winter selfie anyone? We can’t think of any reason not to!
• Exercise your furry friend. Are you guilty of taking your fur baby outside and just throwing the ball to give them exercise because it’s too cold for a walk? One of the best parts about a winter walk is that you can bring your dog(s) and make both of your days that much happier.
• Go somewhere new. Have you had walking or hiking trails on your mind for a while, but haven’t had the time to explore them? Here’s your chance! You’ll be a lot less focused on the cold if you’re hiking a new trail or walking along a street with beautiful houses to look at and dream about. FaceTime a friend while you walk (or bring them along) and the time will fly by.
• Run errands at the same time. Here’s an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air while running your errands. If your grocery store is close by, why not walk to it? You’ll feel better knowing you saved gas, got some exercise, and slightly reduced your carbon footprint for the day.
The best part? When you get home, you can kick off your boots, hang your socks to dry, put the kettle on, grab a snack, and bundle up on the couch to binge-watch your favourite TV show – guilt free.
2. How's your triple axel these days?
Okay, so most of us are not Tessa Virtue and probably can’t perform a triple axel on command. If you figure skated as a kid, get yourself to the ice and show off your skills. No matter your skill level, ice skating is fun, fantastic exercise and a fairly inexpensive activity that anyone can enjoy.
Here’s a roundup of the best outdoor public skating rinks across major cities in Canada. All you need are warm clothes, a mask, a couple of dollars (in case you need to rent skates), and some time, and you’ve got yourself a fun afternoon. Don’t forget a helmet if you’re a little shaky on your skates.
• Toronto: City of Toronto provides just the list you need to get your ice skating on in the GTA. Between outdoor rinks and natural ice rinks, they’ve got you covered. Check out their expansive lists and one key tip as you search is that outdoor rink public skating is free! PS. due to current circumstances, change rooms at outdoor rinks are closed and lockers are not available, so make sure to plan accordingly!
• London: Check out the City of London’s official website for a list of outdoor rinks, information on ice skating at Victoria Park, and more. You can even find skate sharpening places on this website – it’s all there.
• Ottawa: While there are a ton of different places across Ottawa to go for ice skating, be sure to check out the Rideau Canal Skateway (the world’s longest skating rink), Sens Rinks of Dreams, or Lansdowne Skating Court for a truly Canadian outdoor skating experience.
• Calgary: The City of Calgary’s website has a great of public outdoor skating parks that are currently open for the season. They also provide great tips on how to stay safe while outdoor skating.
• Edmonton: For a daily schedule of public skating across Edmonton, visit the City of Edmonton’s move.learn.play website.
• Montreal: Tourism Montreal’s website has a list of where to go ice skating in Montreal, complete with an interactive map that shows where each spot is. Check it out if you’re in the area, and feel free to bring your inner figure skater!
Remember to double check all outdoor skating websites to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 restrictions that are currently in place, as well as tips on safety at all outdoor rinks.
3. 'Tis the ski-son!
They call it “the best winter workout”. Cross-country skiing in Canada is widely available and is great for your mind and body. You’ll stay warm because of the amount you move, and it’s a great chance to connect with nature and enjoy the snow, no matter where you live. Here’s our round-up of the best cross-country skiing trails in a major Canadian city near you:
• If you’re in Toronto:
o High Park, Toronto Island Park, Tommy Thomspon Park, Don Valley Ravine Trails and the Beltline Trail all offer kilometres of cross-country skiing trails for beginners, families, and experienced skiers. These trails are open to the public and free, but don’t have rental equipment.
o There are places in Toronto to rent equipment for free trails, like Exclusive Sport Rentals, or you could check out SavvyMom’s list of cross-country skiing trails in the GTA at places that also offer equipment. Either way, this can be fun solo, with the family, just remember to dress warmly!
• What about London?
o Kilally Meadows has 11 kilometres of trail, but be sure to bring your own equipment.
o Circle Ranch (about 20 minutes outside of London, in Delaware, Ontario) offers 13 kilometres of groomed and tracked trails, an indoor ski waxing area, a lunch room, and ski rentals for adults and children.
o Just an hour outside London, Pinery Provincial Park has 38 kilometres of easy and intermediate cross-country skiing trails. They also have parking, a chalet, change rooms, trail maps, gear rentals and more fun activities like toboggan hills and winter camping yurts! Trail access is $13 for adults and $6 for youth. Check out their website here and ski trail map and information here.
• For those in the Capital:
o Ottawa Citizen has done the work for us by putting together this handy guide on cross-country skiing in Ottawa. This list includes addresses, costs, and all the important details about six cross-country skiing locations that you don’t need to have a car to get to – they’re all accessible by public transit or within walking distance in Ottawa. How perfect is that?
• If you live in Calgary:
o Calgary Ski Club has pulled together an informative list that includes where to cross-country ski in Calgary (and in the mountains), where to rent equipment, an equipment checklist, tips and ways to improve your skills. Add in the City of Calgary’s list of groomed and ungroomed cross-country ski trails in and outside of Calgary, and you’ve got yourself a solid list of ski spots.
• Cross-country skiing in Edmonton:
o Winter City Edmonton provides a solid list of groomed cross-country ski trails in Edmonton, click here to find out where they are and what the conditions are like.
o Tri Region Tourism shared a great list of 5 cross-country skiing spots just west of Edmonton, including Parkland County, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
4. Grab your mom's vintage snowshoes
Last but not least on list – snowshoeing! One thing we can promise is that this fun activity takes almost no skill, aside from walking.
This is a fun winter activity that’s simple, can easily be done while social distancing, and involves getting exercise in! The best part is, whether or not you live near any official or public snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails, you can pretty much snowshoe anywhere provided you have enough snow. So whether you’re a seasoned snowshoe-r who has a fancy new pair or you need to phone your mom and ask to borrow her vintage wooden ones, it’s not super difficult to get out on snowshoes.
See our quick list of snowshoeing trails in the major Canadian cities below. For more ideas, look above at the cross-country skiing trail list (usually, you can do either at those types of locations). The only thing you’ll need are snowshoes, which can be rented at almost any winter gear rental place (some mentioned above), or you can buy used or new ones online or at a sports store near you.
• London, Ontario: AllTrails and commenters provide a great list of snowshoe trails in London here.
• Calgary, Alberta: Daily Hive has you covered again, check out their list of Calgary snowshoe trails here.
• Edmonton, Alberta: The City of Edmonton’s website has a list of snowshoeing trails in and around Edmonton on their website.
• Montreal, Quebec: TripSavvy posted a list of the 12 best snowshoeing spots in Montreal, check it out!
Now get out there, embrace the white stuff and get active! Don’t let the cold stop you from experiencing Canada’s beautiful winter season.