There’s Plenty of Winter Fun for Everyone

When the snow flies and the mercury goes sub-zero, it’s tempting to stay indoors until the days get warmer. But our region is filled with fun activities to fill a blustery winter’s day.

Instead of just sitting around to see what’s on TV, try bundling up the family and checking out a few of these wonderful winter adventures.

Take a Hike
A winter walk through the woods can be an invigorating experience, and there are plenty of parks and nature preserves where you can get your winter walk on.

Severson Dells Nature Center, 8786 Montague Road in Rockford, is a year-round destination for nature lovers. In addition to its invigorating walking trails, there’s also a nature center that hosts regular family-friendly events like Science Saturdays, held on the first Saturday of each month. It encourages young visitors to join science-based activities, view exhibits and create fun crafts.

It’s All Downhill from Here
Families who feel the need for speed have several places to go if they want to experience the thrill of sledding and tobogganing.

Alpine Hills Adventure Park, at 4402 Larson Ave. in Rockford, is a mountain biking, hiking and running spot in the warmer months. Once the snow falls, it’s all about winter fun. The 5-acre snow park is carved into separate sections to allow for tubing and snowboarding. Its hills are perfectly suitable for sledders and boarders of all abilities. Operated by the Rockford Park District, Alpine Hills hosts snowboard lessons and rents snowboarding equipment.

Build a Sculpture
Building a snowman is a time-honored winter tradition. More seriously minded snow artists put down the carrot and coal and try their hand at competitive snow and ice sculpting.

For almost four decades, the annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition at Rockford’s Sinnissippi Park has showcased some of the state’s finest sculptors in a battle for snow-premicy. Hosted by the Rockford Park District, the contest also includes a high school division.

Competitive teams are assigned blocks of snow measuring 6 feet high and 10 feet wide, which they’re then tasked with transforming into an original work of art – without power tools, sculpting wire or colorants. As many as 50,000 visitors view these frozen works of art in Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. Second St., and then vote for their favorites to win the People’s Choice Award. This year’s competition is scheduled for Jan. 24-27.

On Feb. 17, the city of Waupun, Wis., becomes the City of Sculptures during the annual Waupun IceFest. Visitors can walk amongst beautiful snow sculptures while watching ice carving demonstrations, building a snowman, warming up at the fire or enjoying a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride.

Hit the Rink
At some point in human history, someone strapped blades to their feet and traveled on the ice.

This hero, whose name has been lost to the annals of time, would be pleased to know their invention is now a major winter activity.

The Riverside Ice Arena at Doty Park, 365 W. Locust St. in Belvidere, is a popular stop for skaters of all ages. Open since 2015, the outdoor rink is open for public skating, open hockey, skating and hockey tournaments. The A.J. Johnson Warming House is on hand for skaters who need a chance to thaw. Anyone who didn’t bring their skates or equipment can rent what they need from Ozzie’s Skate Shop on site.

In Rockford, ice skaters should head to Eclipse Lagoon on the campus of Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, 1354 N. Second St. Admission is free when the lagoon is covered in 4 to 5 inches of ice. Hockey is available at the lagoon’s north end, and there are heated washrooms available at the conservatory’s outdoor pavilion.

Just Get Outside
Winter doesn’t have to be an indoor season. Head outside and build some fond snow-filled memories on a winter adventure. Just make sure to dress appropriately and avoid licking any metal poles. ❚