Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Celebrate the wintery wonderland with your family, by traveling with the kids to experience some of these bucket list adventures – from meeting Santa in the Arctic circle, to dog-sledding through the Canadian wild, spotting hungry polar bears in Manitoba to braving the polar plunge in the icy Atlantic waters. Here is a list of adventurous, bad-ass, epic things to do this winter with your kids:
Meet Santa in Rovaniemi, Finland:
For a festive spin on the typical ho ho holiday, go beyond the mall to visit Santa Claus Village in Finland’s Arctic Circle. While many of us believe Santa resides in the North Pole, the Finns believe he lives in the small Nordic town of Rovaniemi, a short flight from the capital of Helsinki. Open year round, there is an absolutely charming tourist village dedicated to everything Santa, complete with elves workshop and a working post office where Santa receives some 1 million letters from children and adults all over the world. The majority of letters were from European countries but there was a good representation of countries from all over the world, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe.
From the post office, guests can visiting the man himself…Santa. But before sitting on his knobby knee, visitors must walk through a haunted-house like hallway with decorated walls and strange contraptions. Like something out of a HG Wells novel, a giant wheel and pendulum dangles from the ceiling. This is how Santa slows down the earth’s rotation, so he can deliver all the presents in one night. A giant telescope-like device is used so Santa can tell who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Elaborate gadgets and legends explain some of the pesky logistical mysteries.
A few years back (before I had kids), I traveled to Rovaniemi to meet Santa himself. Nice guy. Given the chance, I confronted him about why he never brought me a dog for Christmas despite me asking for one every year when I was a kid. He paused, and explained to me that livestock was very difficult to transport, “Lots of logistics my dear.” Very clever santa. Very clever 🙂 After you’ve snapped your Santa pic, check out Santa Claus’ secret command centre. It’s a bunker in the woods where all the administrative action takes place. I was greeted by a friendly young elf, with cinnamon freckles and a pointy nose. She took me on a tour, from where the elves construct the toys, to Santa’s very own la-z-boy. Passing my hand over some sort of magical magnetic detector, I was informed that I was, in fact, 90% elf. Elated, my guide invited me to join their elf union. Sadly it only paid in porridge so I had to decline. If you’re crazy about Christmas or just want to experience the all day sunlight of the Arctic’s midnight sun, you’ll enjoy a visit to Rovaniemi, a winter wonderland in Finland’s arctic circle.www.santaclausvillage.info
Take the Kids Dog Sledding in Yukon:
If you’re looking to escape the city and explore the hardcore wilderness, look no further than the Yukon. Located in the North Western most part of Canada, on the border of Alaska, the Yukon offers stunning scenery and pristene nature – perfect for an untamed winter wonderland. You can ski, snowmobile, ice-fish but one of it’s most unique activities is dogsledding. Muktuk Adventures is one of the many companies that offers day-long dog sledding expeditions with a team of experienced Huskies. Embrace your inner musher and drive a dog team of your own across the ice. The kids will love the experience of crossing the country by dog sled! A good time to visit this part of the Canadian wilderness is during Yukon Quest. It’s an annual 1000 mile dog sled race run in February between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska. The trail follows historic Gold Rush and Mail Delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. After a day of dogsledding, keep your eyes open for the aurora borealis, colorful natural light display often seen on cold and clear nights of winter. Yukon – a snowy playground for a winter adventure. Dress warm!
Cross-Country Ski, the Gunflint Trail:
If your family is big into the cross-country skiing scene, the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota offers over 120 miles of marked, groomed and tracked cross-country ski trails. Ski season lasts from Nov-April, with some 100 inches of annual snowfall. It boasts great conditions and terrain that will appear to both the expert and the novice alike. While there are resorts and lodges along the way, a less traditional choice for accomodations is the Yurt. Part tent, part cabin, these round, canvas-covered huts were used for centuries by the nomadic people of the Mongolian plateau. Today, they come fully equipped with a wood-fired stove, kitchen, a dining area, bunk beds and sometimes an authentic a Finnish sauna! Yurks are a perfect lodging choice for your cross-country adventure. Companies like Boundary Country Trekking offer Yurt to Yurt Ski Adventure Trips along the Banadad trial, a 28km groomed ski trail once network of old trails and logging roads. Or if you want to fly solo, you can organize your own multi-day trips. Tall Pines Yurt accomodations average at around $100 a night and include sleeping bags, towels, your gear and food transfer to and from the yurt. You provide your own meals. Wind your way through over 50 miles of beautiful boreal forests, past glacial lakes, meandering from the shores of Lake Superior.
Hike Snow caves and Ice Caves of Lake Superior (Bayfield):
For elaborate ice sculptures created and carved by Mother Nature, take a trip to the Lake Superior Ice Caves in Bayfield, in the Northernmost part of Wisconsin. An icy sheet covers red standstone walls, now frozen waterfalls and huge icicles shaped like light-sabers rise from the roofs of sea caves. Dubbed the “Jewels of Lake Superior,” the Apostle Islands has become a popular spot for winter travelers and an awesome opportunity for some great photo ops. Wintertime magically transforms the shoreline of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore into a frozen fairyland. When conditions are right and the ice is thick enough, family travelers can walk, snowshoe or ski a mile along the lakeshore right up to the entrance of the sea caves. Don’t forget that ice conditions can change quickly so be sure to call their ‘Ice Line’ hotline to check current ice conditions to see if it’s safe before you take the kids.
Go Snow Tubing in Colorado:
photo provided by: Keystone Resorts
It’s well-known that Colorado, with it’s many resorts and impressive peaks, is a haven for skiiers, but when in The Centennial State why not try something a little different…Snow tubing requires little skill and it’s fun for all ages. Tubing is like riding an icy roller coaster. You can’t help but squeel in delight when you slip and slide down a chute at full speed, bumping against rails and jump over hills. You can ride these inflatable inner tubes solo down lanes of packed snow or in a ‘train’ where a group of tubes that are linked together. Slide downhill, before the “magic carpet” converyor-belt lift whisks riders back up. From Brekenridge to Steamboat Springs, Telluride to Vail, there are a huge selection of resorts offering tubing. Keystone, for example, has a robust tubing setup with several lanes that vary from the gentle to the steep. Tubing is open during night skiing, so there’s plenty of time to play! Rerservations are recommended but tubing typically runs around $34 a person, which includes a ride up the conveyor life, so you can get back to the top of the hill after each run.
See Polar Bears in Manitoba:
They call it the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Canada’s Churchill, Manitoba is one of the world’s best places to spot and observe polar bears. There are several tours and ‘tundra safaris’ offering the chance to see polar bears in their natural habitat. Plan to come to Churchill in October or November, when the bears congregate along the coast, anticipating the winter freeze-up of Hudson Bay before they travel on in search of food. If your kids are wildlife enthusiasts, here’s your chance to see these magestic creatures up close and personal – all from the comfort and safety of an enclosed buggy. Hop aboard a specially designed tundra buggy – an enclosed tractor of sorts – created to take tourist out onto the tundra, to safely observe these seemingly cuddly yet dangerous bears. You may spot a polar bear with her cubs or a massive male snacking on an unlucky seal. If the current warming trends continue, scientists predict that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population could disappear by 2050. Take the kids to see the illusive, critically endangered polar bear before it disappears. Embrace the winter weather by honoring one its icons – the magestic polar bear.
Take The Polar Plunge in New York City:
Encourage the kids to cheer for you as YOU take on one of the ‘coolest’ winter activities. Be it for charity, health or just something fun to do, The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club was founded by Bernarr Macfadden in 1903. He believed that a dip in the ocean during the winter could boost stamina, virility and immunity. The tradition continues today. Every Sunday from November to April, people flock to swim in the Atlantic Ocean near Coney Island. It’s not unusual for the water temperature to dip down to about 33° degrees, and that’s not including the wind chill. If the idea of dipping your body into freezing cold water appeals to you, you can join them. Just grab a bathing suit, a pair of surf boots to keep the toes warm and take the polar plunge. Certainly an energetic way to celebrate the winter spirit.