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7 Fresh Ways to Get Outside This Winter

A woman hiking in the snow.
Anastasia Klevakova/Shutterstock.com

Between snow days and holiday breaks, there’s no shortage of chances for kids to get outside and play during the wintertime. Adults, on the other hand, often find themselves trapped inside, trying to meet end-of-year deadlines or finish online holiday shopping.

However, getting outside during winter is still important. In fact, your mind and body need sunlight, stimulation, and stress-free activities that time of year more than ever. And you don’t have to book a fancy ski trip or cabin getaway to get that outside time (although, those can be great, too!).

Try one of these fun, laid-back outdoor winter activities next time you have a few hours free.

Plan a Winter Hike

If you only hike in the summer, you’re missing out on all the cold-weather beauty nature has to offer. Find a state or national park near you, and plan a simple winter hike to get some fresh air.

Not a serious hiker? No worries—you can still hike in the winter without a lot of fancy gear. Just choose a short hike, over relatively flat ground, so you won’t be battling steep, icy hills or spending hours in the cold.

Make sure you bundle up in lots of waterproof layers, and pack some water and snacks. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the sunscreen—yes, even in winter.

To make your hike even more fun, try looking for pinecones or evergreen boughs you can bring home and use as Christmas decor. Or, download the Seek app. to your phone. It lets you scan plants and animals to learn more about them.

Get it on Google Play
Download on the Apple App Store

Check Out the Christmas Lights on Foot

A house decked out with Christmas lights and decorations.

Looking at Christmas decorations from the car is a classic holiday tradition. But to get even more out of the experience, try checking things out on foot instead. You’ll be able to take a closer look at all the festive details, while getting in some low-impact exercise at the same time.

Make the most of your holiday walk by picking a neighborhood known for its extravagant decorations. Then, bundle up, pack a hot beverage in your thermos and check out all the gorgeous lights, rooftop Santas, and nativity scenes. This activity is lots of fun with friends and family, but a solo winter walk can be just as nice, or even meditative.

Visit an Open-Air Mall

If you’re brave enough to handle the holiday shopping crowds, an open-air mall is a great way to get outside this winter.

While online holiday shopping offers countless perks, it doesn’t offer the chance to people-watch, take in all the pretty lights, or stop for a hot, tasty beverage before going home. Outdoor malls have all of that, plus the chance to do some holiday shopping minus the stress of shipping delays and online returns.

For a more low-key version of the same vibe, look for a year-round farmers’ market in your city. They can be a great place to find handmade gifts and your holiday cheer.

Find Some Outdoor Seating

A woman warming her hands by a fire in an outdoor seating area.

Feeling hungry, but want to stay outside? Find a restaurant or bar with an outdoor fireplace, and snag a cozy seat right next to it.

You’ll still want to wear layers, but a firepit can turn the outdoors from frigid to downright pleasant. With a plate of hot food or a drink to warm you up, you’ll soon forget how cold it is just steps away from the fire.

Visit a Tree Farm

No room for a real Christmas tree? No problem! You can still have lots of fun visiting a tree farm and just looking around.

Take a walk through the maze of living trees, and pretend you’re picking one out for your dream home. If you’re with friends or family, you can compete to find the biggest, smallest, prettiest, or ugliest tree.

Many Christmas tree farms also sell cider, snacks, and holiday gifts, so take a moment to check out the wares before heading home.

Have a Winter Photo Shoot

Two women and a man outside in the snow taking a photo.

Another great thing about the holidays is the snow can make a beautiful background for family photos. You’ll likely be seeing more of your family and friends this time of year, anyway, so you might as well make the most of it by snapping some photos!

In fact, winter is one of the best times of year for getting outside and taking photos. Even without snow, the silhouette of bare branches against the sky can be striking. And all the holiday lights make for some picture-perfect views.

Recruit a few friends and spend an afternoon snapping new pics of each other so you’ll have something fun to post on social media. Or, pick up a photography book for beginners and spend the day capturing your own creative shots of landscapes, decorations, and anything else that catches your eye.

Tip: Bring a pair of fingerless gloves to keep your hands warm while you get the perfect shot.

Pick Up Some Volunteer Hours

Finally, the holidays are all about giving. While volunteers are needed year-round, the holiday season is a great time to get started with a new organization or project.

You can volunteer outdoors in countless ways, from serving food to the homeless to pruning trees along the sidewalk. A quick Google search should unveil loads of opportunities near you, so you can choose what will work best for your schedule.

Struggling to find the time for an organized volunteer opportunity? Head to a local park or neighborhood and pick up trash, or recruit a few friends and have your own personal volunteer day.

As hard as it can be to leave the comfort of your couch when it’s cold outside, wintertime offers tons of activities that can provide hours of fun with minimal planning and effort. Try to work a few of these activities into your busy schedule this year and create some winter memories you’re sure to cherish.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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