While wintertime and snow cause many people to go into hibernation, in Massachusetts, we proudly venture outside in chilly weather. Winter is a time to dust off our snowboards and skis, don wool caps and mittens, and brave the cold. The art of building snowmen and snow forts is passed from generation to generation, and schoolyards are filled with snowball fights. Adults sip hot coffee while kids run up any snow-covered land that has even the slightest incline, just to experience even a few seconds of exhilarating sledding.
Ice Skating on Boston's Frog Pond
In addition to traditional winter fun, Massachusetts has lots of exciting activities to help wile away the winter months. These are four of my favorites.
Ice Skating on the Frog Pond in Boston
Almost every Bay-skater can ice-skate, and there are many rinks open to the public during the winter. They charge a nominal fee, and usually rent skates to those who do not own their own. A free alternative is a frozen pond, which can be a great spot for a pick-up hockey game. Though both of these options are fun, the Frog Pond is an even more exciting place to skate in Massachusetts!
Located on the Boston Common, the Frog Pond is an outdoor rink popular with tourists and locals alike. Open roughly from mid-November to mid-March, the Frog Pond offers rentals and skating lessons.
I love taking my high school students here – there is nothing quite like seeing teenagers embrace their inner-child while having old-fashioned fun gliding around the rink.
The price of admission is $5, but kids 13 and under skate free! Skate Rentals are $9 for adults and $5 for kids. You can also rent a locker for $2, and have your skates sharpened for $8.
Winterfest in Lowell
The folks in Lowell, Massachusetts, have come up with a great way to celebrate winter. Held every February, Winterfest is a fun-filled weekend packed with activities for all ages. There is a wide selection of free events for kids, including ice skating, face painting, music, magic shows, an animal tracking program, sleigh rides, art and crafts, and movies. Saturday afternoon features a winter fireworks display.
While these activities tend to be a hit for the younger crowd, teens are drawn to the Human Dogsled competition. Unique to Lowell, the National Human Dogsled Competition attracts competitors vying for the titles of fastest team and best costumes. The winners bring home cash prizes. The event has become so popular, it was even featured on the Discovery Channel’s Wreckreation Nation with Dave Mordalby.
There is a high school division of the Human Dogsled Competition that is run on one Saturday of Winterfest each year. My students are always eager to participate, and love competing in front of the cheering crowd. For a better idea of what the event entails, check out some of my athletes competing in the high school competition two years ago:
The Winterfest fun continues even after kids are tucked in bed for the night. You can take an after hours museum and gallery walk, vote for your favorite soup in the North Bowl Soup Competition, listen to live music, sample local microbrews, or attend spoken word performances. Many of the local downtown restaurants have specials that run just for Winterfest. It is a great opportunity to try new foods, ranging from Greek and Italian to Iraqi and Japanese.
Many of the events, including the children’s activities, are free.
The Montague Bookmill and Lady Killigrew Café in Montague
One of western Massachusetts’ best-kept secrets is The Montague Bookmill, a used bookstore housed in an old gristmill building. Hidden among the trees along the Sawmill River, it is virtually impossible to find. Forget the GPS – it always leads us to the wrong place. Your best bet is to use the driving directions on their website.
Despite the difficulty of finding the Bookmill, it’s well worth the trip. The selection of books is massive, and includes a great children’s section. Comfy couches, chairs, and tiny nooks make it the perfect place to spend a few hours discovering new authors and quietly reading to the sounds of creaking wood and rushing water.
If you get hungry from all your calorie-burning reading, you can walk through the French door to the Lady Killigrew Café, which shares space with the Bookmill. Grab a table and dine on the incredible healthy and locally-grown food that appeals to all ages. The breadboard with apple slices and cheddar cheese is delightful, especially when you add mustard and summer sausage. For the kids, don’t forget the hot chocolate. Served in a big mug, it’s topped with a dollop of rich whipped cream – not the stuff from a can, but the real thing!
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst
While you are in western MA, drop in to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Located in the bustling college town of Amherst, the museum is more than just a gallery of children’s book art. It also offers workshops for kids, music programs, and story time. The last time we visited, we met children’s author Mo Willems, who graciously signed a copy of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” for us.
Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for youths (under 18), student, teachers, and seniors. There is also a family rate (2 adults and 2 youth) of $22.50.
These activities are just a taste of the winter fun Massachusetts has to offer. Our many national and state parks offer countless opportunities for snowshoeing, snow-tubing, winter hiking, ice fishing and myriad outdoor activities. If you prefer the indoors, check out one of the great museums in Boston, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, or the Boston Children’s Museum. If you are in the mood for history, take the kids to The Salem With Museum, and visit Salem, the historic town that was the heart of the 17th century witch trials in Massachusetts.
Whatever you end up doing, make sure to try some clam chowder and don’t forget to bundle up warm – jackets, hats, gloves, scarves and warm shoes are a must for winter fun in Massachusetts!
Jennifer Bauer is a photography/film/visual art teacher, and most recently – mom! With a major passion for hiking, camping, traveling, writing, and taking photos, I am often pursuing new adventures with my wife, Kendra, and our daughter, Addison. My blog, Adventurous Moms, chronicles our travels, experiences, and thoughts about being adventurous moms!
What's your favorite family activity in Massachusetts? Let us know in the comments!
Photo by Denis Tagney Jr. (purchased from istockphoto.com)