40 fun things to do this winter

Cool ideas for indoor and outdoor family fun in New Hampshire in January and February

  1. On your next visit to Portsmouth, go for a glide around picturesque Puddle Dock Pond, Strawbery Banke’s outdoor ice skating rink.
  2. Too cold to lace up outside? Take a spin around one of New Hampshire’s many indoor ice rinks. Plentiful public skating hours can be found at the Dover Ice Arena and Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett.
  3. Check out the Living Shores Aquarium, which recently opened at Story Land in Glen. It’s an indoor walk-through adventure that allows the whole family to discover the wonders of the ocean year round. The aquarium includes over 32,000 square feet of interactive tide pools, exhibits and immersive activities.
  4. All you need are a few sleds and a hill and voila — instant fun for kids that can last for hours or at least until everyone’s toes and fingers get too cold. Favorite Granite State sledding spots include Roby Park in Nashua and Wagon Hill in Durham. For more spots near you, check out our list of sledding spots.
  5. Jackson’s 20th annual Snow Sculpting Competition in January is an amazing display of snow-sculpting artistry. Bonfires, marshmallow roasting and a scavenger hunt make this a fun event for all ages.
  6. Break out the bathing suits and go for a family swim at virtually any local YMCA branch in New Hampshire. Look for special family “open swim” times.
  7. In New Hampshire, winter means one thing for many families: skiing. If you’re new to the slopes, McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester offers family lessons to learn how to downhill ski or snowboard together (for families with kids ages 4 and older).
  8. Ring in 2020 with outdoor adventure by going on a First Day Hike organized by the NH State Parks system. Locations for this year’s First Day Hikes on Jan. 1 include Odiorne State Park and Monadnock State Park. For more locations, go here.
  9. If you prefer cross-country skiing, Jackson XC in Jackson offers family group lessons to teach you how to kick and glide through the beautiful White Mountains landscape.
  10. Snowshoeing is a fun and active way to get kids out exploring the winter landscape. On Saturdays, check out the guided snowshoe tours at Purity Springs Resort in Madison. Rentals are available.
  11. Nashua’s Gate City Striders’ annual Freeze Your Buns Off 5K is a winter running series for families that will get you all off the couch. There’s even a special race division for kids.
  12. Ready to be amazed? Visit Ice Castles in North Woodstock, a dazzling seasonal attraction created from thousands of icicles lit with LED lights. Explore the frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, and fountains — and don’t forget your camera.
  13. Get artsy with a trip to the Currier Museum in Manchester. Marvel at the collection’s masterpieces then unleash your own creativity in the family art studio.
  14. Watch hockey the way it used to be played — outdoors and on a frozen pond or lake — at the 2020 New England Pond Hockey Classic, held in Meredith from January 31-Feb. 2.
  15. Later this winter your kids may be literally ready to climb the walls, so harness that energy and take them to an indoor rock climbing gym. Evo Rock + Fitness in Concord and Vertical Dreams in Manchester and Nashua are two family-friendly picks.
  16. What’s growing in New Hampshire in winter? Find out at area indoor winter farmers markets. The Seacoast Growers Market, alternating between Wentworth Greenhouse in Dover and Exeter High School, offers kid-friendly activities and live music. Find a winter farmers market near you here.
  17. There’s nothing quite like the cheery, playful (and educational!) atmosphere of a children’s museum. Be sure to schedule a trip to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, the Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum in North Conway or the Cheshire’s Children Museum in Keene.
  18. If there’s an official drink of winter, it’s hot chocolate. For a delicious mug of hot cocoa goodness, head to L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates in Walpole.
  19. Travel up Mount Washington aboard the SnowCoach, a van that uses special rotating tracks — not tires — to travel along the mountain’s snow-encased auto road. Tours take you past the tree line to experience Mount Washington’s wild weather.
  20. Find out what happens when you say, “Mush!” Muddy Kennel Dog Sledding in Jefferson offers 1.5-hour dog sled rides through the snowy terrain. Rides include a personal meet-and-greet (and pet) with the sled dogs.
  21. Nordic skating is like cross-country skiing on ice skates. Want to give it a try? Head to Occom Pond in Hanover where the Dartmouth Cross-County Ski Center rents out special Nordic Skates for curious newbies.
  22. Visit your local library for free fun. Winter is a great time to cozy up with a good book. Plus, public libraries offer so much more, including museum passes, DVDs, board games and story times.
  23. Find out how farm animals spend the winter by taking a self-guided tour of Stonewall Farm in Keene. Explore the farm’s grounds for free. Snowshoe rentals are available.
  24. Who says zip lining is only for summer? At Bretton Woods, a special winter zip line tour descends over 1,000 feet through gorgeous winter scenery.
  25. If you haven’t been on a bike since before the snow started flying, try fat tire biking. Wider tires offer greater stability in the snow, hence the name. Great Glen Trails offers bike rentals.
  26. Bowling, anyone? Whether you prefer candlepin or ten-pin, you are guaranteed to have a great time at one of New Hampshire’s many bowling alleys. Grab a lane with bumpers and even your youngest will have fun.
  27. Get ready for a family-friendly foot stomping good time when Recycled Percussion kicks off a special New January tour in the Granite State with stops in Manchester, Plymouth, Keene and Lebanon.
  28. Keep jingling all the way in January and February with a sleigh ride across the fields and woods of the Charmingfare Farm in Candia. Special sleigh ride “socials” take you to a bonfire where warm drinks and food await.
  29. Break out of the winter doldrums and get your minds STEM-ulated by the hands on science, technology, engineering and math-based exhibits at SEE Science Center in Manchester.
  30. If you aren’t headed on vacation to a tropical island, try the next best option — a trip to Kahuna Laguna, the tropics-themed indoor water park in North Conway. Splash all day in the park’s slides, tubes, pools, waves, buckets and tree houses and, bonus, it is only a car ride away.
  31. Snow tubing is popping up at more and more ski resorts, probably because it’s so much fun to glide and bounce down a slope in a big rubber tube. Find snow tubing at Cranmore, Loon, Bretton Woods and other ski areas.
  32. You and your kids have skied your heart out, so go ahead and saddle up at Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill (near Franconia) for a stack of pancakes, fresh and topped with local maple syrup, that you won’t soon forget. You’ll definitely be making a return trip.
  33. On the first Friday of each month, head to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord for Super Stellar Fridays. Enjoy an evening of astronomy with Discovery Center educators and special guest speakers. Each program is followed by an optional planetarium show.
  34. Ready for an adrenaline rush? Line up at the Big Swing at Cranmore Ski Resort. Four people at a time are strapped in and winched up higher and higher until the swing is released to fly through the sky.
  35. Ride a roller coaster in winter in New Hampshire? That’s exactly what you can do at Gunstock Mountain Resort. Gunstock’s winter roller coaster is a six-minute thrill ride that is just as much fun in winter as it is in the summer.
  36. Try an ‘escape room’ to escape the winter cold. Find clues and solve puzzles to figure your way out of the room in a set amount of time. Great for families and groups. Find them across New Hampshire including Concord, Manchester, Derry and Portsmouth.
  37. Fishing isn’t just a warm weather activity — extend the season by trying out ice fishing. If you aren’t sure where to start, New Hampshire Fish & Game offers free ice fishing classes across the state. Classes are geared toward first-time anglers, 8 and older. Find classes at www.wildlife.state.nh.us
  38. Sometimes it is all fun and games. Spend an afternoon at Fun World in Nashua. Fun World not only features more than 250 video games for all ages, it also has kiddie rides and an indoor playground.
  39. Celebrate winter and all things snow with your family at a carnival or festival — outdoor fun for everyone in January and Feburary. For a list of our favorites, click here.
  40. Talk a walk on the “winter” side at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. Throughout the winter, you can join a staff naturalist for a guided walk on the live animal exhibit trail to see animal ambassadors dressed in their winter coats and discuss how these native animals are well adapted for winter in New Hampshire.

Jacqueline Tourville is a long-time contributor to ParentingNH.

Categories: Winter Guide

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