Snowball fights. Sledding. Sipping hot beverages next to an open fire. There are many reasons to embrace Jack Frost and the colder months.
For those who want to go beyond typical winter experiences and add some offbeat flavor to the season, don’t miss the following six quirky winter experiences.
1. Do SUP Yoga … in a Geothermal Crater
Park City, Utah
Offered by Park City Yoga Adventures, attendees climb down a ladder into Homestead Crater, a natural formation that appears from the outside to be a giant mound of limestone with a volcano-like hole at its top.
It’s quite a sight, though the real treasure is what sits more than 55 feet below: a pool of 95-degree mineral-enriched waters. If that isn’t unique enough, during your yoga class you’ll float — and downward dog — atop the curative pools protected from the elements outside.
You can also pair the stand-up paddleboard fusion experience with an evening snowshoe hike for the best of both worlds (literally!).
2. Explore North American Ice Castles
Utah, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Alberta (Canada), Manitoba (Canada)
Starting in late December, you’ll be able to visit acre-sized ice castles crafted by ice artisans around North America.
Unlike ice sculptures — which are carved smooth — the castles are crafted by spraying water onto icicles that have been hand-placed onto other ice formations. This gives the structures a raw aesthetic.
You can visit the castles — which stand at 40-feet high and feature 25 million pounds of ice — and wander through the archways and tunnels, admire the fountains, zoom down the slides and even watch fire performers within.
One of the most impressive areas of these castles are the chandelier rooms, each featuring icicles weaved together to form an organic chandelier. On weekends families can bring their little ones to the castles to take photos with a fairy-tale princess inside (just trade the stroller for a sled). In addition, in the evening the castles feature embedded LED lights that dance to music.
Bonus: Here’s a tip: Buy tickets in advance, as they sell out quickly at the door. And dress warm and wear flat boots, as you’ll be strolling over packed snow.
3. Go Surfing (Even in the Snow!)
For those wanting to surf where the locals go, head to The Zoo. The beach is named after an old zoo once located near downtown Marquette. Despite images of adorable animals coming to mind, the truth is that in winter, this surf spot is not for the faint of heart. Strong gusts of wind allow for a steady rythm of smooth six-to-twelve-foot waves in a truly beautiful setting.
Advises local Marquette-based outfitter, Down Wind Sports, “When standing on the beach and looking out into Middle Bay, you will want to surf the area along the rocky shore. For the best rides, surf the rocky shore to 100 feet parallel with the shore. After each ride simply walk the shore back to get into position again. This is the cleanest break in around Marquette.”
4. Get Crazy with Galactic Snowtubing
This quirky Camelback Mountain activity occurs at night, with 42 lanes of the Pocono peak lit up by LED lights at the largest snow-tubing park in the United States. Lights dance to the beat of electronic and techno music, giving you a surge of energy as you fly done the slopes aboard a snowtube.
Love a deal? Weeknights are less crowded and less expensive — with $10-off tickets per person.
Bonus: Reach new heights on Camelback’s 1,000-foot dual zip lines, which offer views of the slopes and the indoor water park. There’s also a 4,500-foot Appalachian Express Mountain Coaster and a 2800-foot Pocono Pipeline slide with dual tracks, perfect for racing a friend.
5. Try Your Luck at Skijoring
With this winter sport, adventurers don skis while being pulled by a horse, a dog(s) or a vehicle. The name comes from the Norwegian word “skikjøring,” which means “ski driving.”
Numerous parks around Minneapolis offer Skijoring, though one not-to-miss experience is the annual City of Lakes Loppet, a cross-country skiing and winter sports festival that’s also a part of the Great Northern Festival.
Bonus: While kite flying is often thought of as a summer sport, in Minneapolis it’s a cold-weather favorite. Each January the city hosts the Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival, where people come to fly loads of colorful kites over the frozen lake.
6. Bring a Christmas Classic to Life
Is there any holiday movie more classic than “A Christmas Story”? If you’re heading to Cleveland you can visit the actual family home from the film — purchased on eBay and turned into a museum by a fan.
Channel your inner Randy and climb under the sink, or get a photo taken while holding Ralphie’s original Red Rider BB gun. If you’re lucky, you may even meet one of the movie stars in person, as they regularly visit to sign autographs.
Bonus: Every year Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company hosts a fun Holiday Hop. During the event you’ll ride a trolley to four different local spots in nearby Ohio City for holiday shopping, caroling, food, beer and cheer! Fill your mug with the brewery’s famous mulled Christmas Ale for some added happiness.