Just because the temperatures are dropping doesn’t mean outdoor family fun should be put on ice until the spring. In fact, the opposite is true — winter in Northeast Ohio brings a slew of must-do seasonal activities. Whether you choose to revisit some family favorites or try something new this season, you’ll find some ideas below.
For a complete listing of winter fun destinations in the Greater Cleveland/Akron area, see Northeast Ohio Parent’s Wintertime Fun Guide.
Hiking is a great family activity year-round, as hikers can pick the distance and difficulty level most suited to their family members. Fewer crowds and varied scenery add to the wintertime hiking experience.
Hot Spots: Summit Metro Parks (summitmetroparks.org) manages more than 125 miles of trails, all of which can be enjoyed year-round. Check out Cascade Valley Metro Park for varying trail ratings and scenery, including an overlook area and views of the Cuyahoga River; or Gorge Metro Park, with the Glens Trail that transforms into a “crystal palace” of frozen icicles.
Experience an out-of-this-world hike at Geauga Park District’s Observatory Park (geaugaparkdistrict.org), which offers four hiking options and a bonus educational element. The park’s mile-long Planetary Trail features interactive pods representing each planet, while its shorter Weather Trail has interactive stations representing ways to study weather.
2. Sledding, Tubing & Tobogganing
No matter the method, soaring down a snow-covered hill is a thrilling winter experience. From countless sledding hills in area parks to well-maintained tubing and tobogganing destinations, there are many options for those seeking fast-paced fun.
The toboggan chutes at the Chalet in Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation (clevelandmetroparks.com) plunge riders down a 700-foot ice chute at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. (Because of the adrenaline-pumping experience, riders must be at least 42 inches tall.)
Polar Blast snow tubing, available at Brandywine Ski Resort (bmbw.com) and Alpine Valley Ski Resort (alpinevalleyohio.com), provides hours of entertainment. The specially-designed tubing lanes and walk-on conveyor lifts make the experience convenient and comfortable, as well.
3. Ice Skating
While Northeast Ohio is home to many indoor rinks that operate year-round, wintertime also brings seasonal outdoor rinks perfect for taking in the scenery, sipping hot cocoa and often enjoying other activities nearby. Admission prices are low — or free — and there generally is only a small fee for skate rentals.
The Rink at Wade Oval (universitycircle.org) offers lessons, music events, movie nights and more, in addition to regular skate hours. Rink wristbands also are good for discounts at nearby museums and attractions.
The rink at Lock 3 in Akron (lock3live.com) is Ohio’s largest seasonal ice skating rink. Also offered at the city’s Winterfest event are indoor putt-putt, reindeer run slides, shopping, concessions and more.
4 Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
Whether your family members are seasoned pros or beginners, area ski and snowboard resorts offer a fun day out. Each features a variety of trails that range in difficulty level, plus the options of renting equipment or taking lessons.
Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort (bmbw.com) offers two neighboring slopes that feature a total of 18 trails, including snowboarding parks. With its snow-making ability, the resort’s slopes will be covered even if there are no flurries in the cold-weather forecast.
Alpine Valley Ski Resort (alpinevalleyohio.com) offers seven trails and a terrain park. From lessons and rentals to special events and party packages, the resort offers many options for families.
5. Cross-Country Skiing
If downhill skiing is too steep for your family’s tastes, check out one of the dozens of trails in the area that allow cross-country skiing. Slide along at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery while getting in a cardio workout.
Cleveland Metroparks (clevelandmetroparks.com) permits cross-country skiing on unplowed hiking, bridle and all-purpose trails, as well as the fairways and rough areas of Big Met, Little Met, Shawnee Hills, Seneca, Mastick Woods and Sleepy Hollow golf courses with a four-inch snow base. Cross-country ski rentals are available at Big Met Golf Course in Rocky River Reservation.
Cross-country skiing is allowed in Lorain County Metro Parks’ (metroparks.cc) Forest Hills Golf Course and the formal gardens at Schoepfle Garden when there is at least three inches of packed snow. The latter location is unique, as it offers a different experience than during the summer, when its hedges, topiaries, exotic flowers and trees are in full bloom.
Lake County Metroparks (lakemetroparks.com) offers both groomed and ungroomed trails for skiers of all abilities at Chapin Forest Reservation, where ski rentals are available. Erie Shores Golf Course offers five kilometers of flat course, while hills can be found at Pine Ridge Country Club. Also, look for the terrain at the south entrance of Girdled Road Reservation.
There’s nothing like hearing the snow crunch underneath your snowshoe-clad feet as you take in the view. Whether snowshoeing through hiking terrain or across open fields, it’s a peaceful way to enjoy the season and also offers a major calorie burn.
Snowshoe rental is available at the Winter Sports Center and Boston Store Visitor Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (nps.gov/cuva) when snow depth is four inches or greater.
Learn to snowshoe at the Holden Arboretum (holdenarb.org) during special events planned for Saturdays in January and Sundays in February. While these events are for ages 10 and older, Holden also offers a snowshoeing class in the children’s discovery section.
Rent snowshoes and follow the marked trails at Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glen Reservation and Chapin Forest Reservation (lakemetroparks.com), or check out Girdled Road Reservation’s backcountry snowshoe trails and Penitentiary Glen Reservation’s nearly seven miles of trails.