Winter starts off jolly enough, there’s festive cheer and a whole host of fun to be had when the cold weather strikes, but as January sets in the reality that there’s still at least two if not four months of winter to go hits and we have to try a little harder to find some joy in these colder months. The kids and I have put together a winter bucket list to keep us busy and spirits buoyed.
First of all, apologies that it’s been so long! Initially we were off travelling, visiting the motherland. Then it was back to school chaos with some major after school changes to boot. The final blow was winter starting in truth with a mound of snow and a polar vortex bringing wind chills like those of Antarctica. However, this does mean I’m now home and with time to write up our ideas for some cold weather fun.
We started writing our winter bucket list back in the crazy whirl that was December. We hadn’t had time for as many festivities as normal and knew most of the organized events would be over by the time we were ready for some outings. So we’ve thought really hard and come up with activities that run after December, that we should be able to do as a family and that should help stop the first few months of the year being too miserable.
Many of the ideas are local to us but maybe you have similar things in your area or perhaps they’ll inspire you to put together your own winter bucket lists. Let us know if you have any other great ideas for us to add.
The Post Holiday Winter Bucket List:
1. Ice-skating – indoor, outdoor or even without ice! One of our local shopping malls had opened an indoor ice rink where you skate without ice when I visited back in November. It has a sort of smooth plastic floor. I’ve previously procrastinated taking both kids skating on my own even though the area is full of indoor rinks and opens free outdoor park district facilities once temperatures drop low enough. I just couldn’t see how I’d manage helping both boys at once. The warmer, smaller and less crowded environment felt a lot more relaxed and suddenly made me think I might give it a go!
In the end all four of us actually went at a pop up ice rink in the UK. It was challenging but a ton of fun. A great way to enjoy a wintery activity without being reliant on the weather and to tick off the first item on our list!
2. Tour the Lights – Lots of families love to go for a drive around the festive lights in the neighborhood before Christmas but if you missed out don’t fret. Not so driven by the idea of Twelfth Night, in Illinois the winter lights often stay up to illuminate and brighten winter long into the New Year. Downtown Naperville still has it’s display up as do many of the residential homes. You can still get a driving tour in.
Winter lights might be harder to find in the UK but it might be worth keeping an eye out at local tourist attractions and in towns to see what’s on offer.
3. Fondue Fun – Last summer, in the spirit of trying new cuisine, I took the boys on my own to a fondue restaurant. What was I thinking? Two of them, one of me, sharp sticks and a heat source in the middle of the table! Surely this could only spell disaster? As it turned out we actually really enjoyed it. We shared basic cheese fondue and then a chocolate dessert fondue and both Big and Little Brother often ask to go back.
For a more frugal fix I might try making it at home but The Melting Pot offers family night on Sundays; children eat for free with the purchase of an adult entrée. We’re hoping all four of us can go and try something even more adventurous and cockle warming this time!
4. Indoor Adventures and Old School Fun – Bowling, the occasional arcade and some serious karting have all made it onto our winter indulgences in the past. For some reason not last year though and so far not this year either. Both children have asked to go back to our old haunts but having driven past the new GlowZone on many a recent occasion the enticement of neon shine on top of the indoor rope courses, karts, mini golf, soft play and more is just too strong. This place is now seriously at the top of their agenda!
5. Build a Snowman – Now this probably sounds easy and something I should have done with the kids a dozen times over each winter but surprisingly not. For some reason the snow rarely seems to stick or mold even into balls here. Making a snowman is an effort but with the local park district running a ‘best snowman competition’ it really is time that we got out there and worked on an extra special entry…
6. Try a Local Legend – There’s a German Pub near us that we’ve been talking about for the last five years. The grapevine says it’s great and good for families too. It’s about time this local favorite made it to the top of our going out list. Are there any places of local renowned that you should finally make time to try?
7. Popcorn and a Movie – Again, easy for some but not in this household! Big Brother is a nervous viewer although he is growing more adventurous, Little Brother likes a wider range of things but has the attention span of a goldfish and with a five year age gap it is hard to please both at the same time. However, I know there’s lots of great family movies out there with the incentive of a popcorn treat maybe we can make it a success. Movie suggestions gladly taken!
8. Saturday Evening Games Night – Big Brother has always been a huge board games fan but the arrival of Little Brother rather cramped our style. This year we resolved to make Saturday evenings, after Little Brother is safely in bed, game night. So far the Harry Potter Deck Building Game has been super popular but old favorites such as Jurassic World Monopoly and Ticket to Ride have also been requested.
9. A Flying Start on Extreme Sports! We got our first big sledding session in before December even arrived this year and will no doubt cram in a few more yet. However, Big Brother seems to have a taste for big drops at the moment. He’s angling at going back to some indoor rock climbing this winter (Lifestyle Gym has the most amazing indoor wall I’ve ever seen and Funtopia is great for getting little ones started) but the big prize in his eyes has to be a chance to get to ifly! I’m not sure if I’m prepared to join him for his first flight at the indoor skydiving venue but I could certainly hold his coat and watch him jump…
10. A Spot of Seasonal Swimming! Nope, I’m not suggesting a dip in Lake Michigan with the New Year’s Day swimmers but simply taking advantage of the great indoor facilities around. Many of the local park districts and gyms have toasty warm pools that offer a great chance to escape the cabin fever. If you really feel like splashing out the water park hotels are fantastic winter getaways. The big Wisconsin Dells names regularly have offers on Groupon and, closer for some, Great Wolf Lodge at Gurnee, IL is lovely and new still and Timber Ridge Lodge at Lake Geneva, IL is a perfect smaller venue for young families. We’ve enjoyed both in previous winters.
There’s a host of other lovely winter events near us that I’d love to get to: Ice Castles at Lake Geneva, Huskey Heroes at the Morton Arboretum, winter festivals, ice carving and night hikes. I hesitate to add them to our list because I know we won’t make it if the weather is too extreme. One year we will though! What’s on your winter bucket list this year?