It’s been a pretty mild winter so far, here in Atlantic Canada, but the snow and cold have finally arrived. We can’t ignore it, so we have two choices: embrace it or hide away in your house with the heat on high until summer. For those of you who want to embrace winter I’ve come up with a top 10 list of fun winter activities to try in Atlantic Canada. How many have you tried?
1) Skiing: Who guessed that this would be first? Downhill and Cross Country Skiing has been a favourite winter past-time since the mid 19th century in the Atlantic Provinces. Wentworth Mountain was the first ski hill to have a chair lift and Martock was the first to install a half-pipe. Most mountains have amazing ski school programs for first time skiers. Did you also know that children in grade 4 & 5 can get a snow pass from the Canadian Ski Council? It only costs $30 and gives them 3 lift tickets each for almost every ski hill in Canada!
Here is a great list of the ski hills/parks/mountains in Atlantic Canada:
2) Winter Festivals: Go all out and head to one of Atlantic Canada’s winter festivals for family activities, concerts, art shows, snowmobiling, ski races, tubing, snow mazes, amazing food and more! Snow West happens in Western Newfoundland from January 30th to February 8th, FROSTival happens in Fredericton, NB over four weekends from January 23rd to February 15th , Corner Brook Winter Carnival happens in Corner Brook, NFLD from February 20th to March 1st, Jack Frost Children’s Winterfest happens in Charlottetown, PEI from February 27th to March 1st and the Nova Scotia Winter Icewine Festival happens in multiple locations from February 3-13th.
3) Dogsledding: Our children tried dogsledding at FROSTival in Fredericton last year. We would love to get out and try it again as a family in the woods! Some locations you can try dog sledding are Snowpak Kennels in Riversdale, NS; Maryland Sled Dog Adventures in Edmundston, NB; and Northwoods Survival in Glassville, NB.
4) Outdoor Skating: It’s not really winter skating, in my mind, unless you’ve done it outdoors on a man-made rink or lake. Here in Halifax we love the Oval for winter skating. They have events on all the time, warming huts, free skate rentals and beavertales! Fredericton has 8 outdoor man-made rinks and Moncton has a number as well. Halifax Trails has made a list of outdoor rinks in the HRM and Valley Family Fun has a great list of rinks in the Annapolis Valley. One rink you must get to someday if you can is the Reason for the Rink in Portugal Cove, NFLD! One father built a 95′ x 46′ rink in his back yard to raise funds for charity! Amazing! If you want to go skating on a lake, make sure you check to see if it’s properly frozen first. You can usually check with your city to see if they measure the ice thickness of lakes in your area. Ice should be at least 15 inches thick, for skating or walking alone, and you should stay away from areas with moving water. The red cross has a great article on ice safety!
5) Snowshoeing: If you enjoy hiking or long walks, you’ll love snowshoeing. On the new metal snowshoes, it’s so easy, anyone can do it. You can rent snowshoes at many locations, including most local recreation departments, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and some ski hills. Where do you go? Anywhere, your back yard or check out your local hiking club for ideas. Hike Nova Scotia also plans guided winter snowshoe hikes!
6) Sleigh Rides:Perhaps you would like to do something outdoors, but can’t do any physical activity or just want to take it easy after a full day of activity. Whatever your reason, sleigh rides are enjoyable for everyone, and romantic! You can enjoy a sleigh ride at Hatfield Farms in Halifax, NS, at Fletcher’s Sleigh Rides in Miramichi, NB, at Mactaquac Provincial Park in Fredericton, NB, at Potts Sleigh Rides in Charlottetown, PEI, and at Lester’s Family Farm in St. John’s, NFLD.
7) Ice Fishing: I went ice fishing once, when I was a little girl. I thought it was pretty cool. It can get pretty warm inside a hut if you have one! It could be a really fun hobby for the winter! You usually need a license to ice fish, however you can try it in Nova Scotia, without a license, during the Sportfishing Weekend from February 15-16th. There are also dates for the season, which are different in each area. Check out this great article by Outdoor Canada Magazine on where you can get a fishing license in each province.
8) Winter Surfing: This activity is not for the faint of heart. but there are those who love getting in the water to catch the perfect wave, in the winter! If you’re interested in winter surfing, make sure you talk to experienced surfers or surf shops about what gear to wear, before you head out. In February and March the temperature of the ocean hovers around zero degrees. You’ll need a thick wetsuit, boots, gloves and a hood! Check out the Nova Scotia Tourism page on surfing for links to local surf shops/schools.
9) Sledding: Sledding is getting a bad rap lately with the talk of towns banning it and people worried about safety. I still think it’s one of the best parts of winter for children and should be allowed, however, parents should get out there with their kids! If you want them to have fun in a safe way then get out there with them, show them how to do it and well…hopefully you won’t get hurt from showing off! You can really go sledding anywhere there is a nice big (but not too big) hill and a safe spot at the bottom to slow down and stop. So don’t go sledding anywhere that there is a street at the bottom of the hill. Some of the most well-known sledding hills in the Atlantic Provinces are Citadel Hill in Halifax, , Mactaquac Park in Fredericton, Centennial Park in Moncton, Brookvale Winter Activity Park and Mill River Provincial Park in PEI, and Bowring Park in St. John’s.
10) Snow Art: This fun activity you can do in your own backyard with a spray bottle filled with coloured water, but, if you really want to see some amazing winter art, you could take in an ice carving show/festival. The Ice Carnival in Shippigan, NB looks amazing! You can usually find ice carving at the festivals I mentioned above as well.