winter activities

No, this isn’t Frozen come to life. Caving in Iceland is as fairytale-like as you’d expect. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

What’s Cooler than Cool? These Incredible Experiences You Can Only Have in Winter

Don’t assume winter is for hibernating. There are many chilly-weather thrills that are best experienced — or in some cases, only experienced — during winter.

Whether you’re heading out for some local exploration or dreaming of a future cold-weather adventure, remember to always check for any local restrictions or closures prior to your trip.

Ice caving in Iceland

Vatnajökull Glacier is one of Iceland’s most popular sights, but plugged-in travelers know the real beauty is what lies beneath. Namely, the ethereal blue ice caves—tiny fortresses of solitude formed by rivers of meltwater dating back thousands of years.

Tours book out months in advance to see these translucent shelters of endless blue, white, and black hues set aglow as sunlight filters through from above. The country’s true winter—November through March—is the only time you can experience the ice cave season and finding them is a challenge in itself.

The formations move year to year with the shifting ice, or disappear altogether—so going with a guide like Extreme Iceland is essential.

Ice skating in Central Park at Wollman Rink

winter activities
Lace up your skates in Central Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

First opened in 1949, Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park has become an iconic attraction during the New York City holiday season, making wintery cameos in such films as Serendipity and Home Alone 2.

The romance factor is obvious: beginner and novice skaters alike take turns swirling around the ice from day to night, with the park’s tall trees and sparkling Manhattan skyline beyond as their backdrop. The rink remains open from late October to early April, weather-permitting.

Ice fishing in Alaska

Alaskan ice fishing is not a sport for the faint of heart: safety concerns necessitate you fish through no less than 4-6 inches of clear, solid, freshwater ice—which, even in southern Alaska, may not form until December (if at all). After drilling a large hole, you then widen it by hand-held chisel before dropping your line through.

Whether or not the fish bite is all a matter of luck as you sit, sometimes for hours, in the cold. But for those to whom the “tug is the drug” (as they call it in the biz), there’s nothing quite like it. If you’re looking to skip the hard labor, the Jewel Lake Ice Fishing Jamboree, in Anchorage, does the drilling work for you, so all you have to do is hold the pole between sips of hot chocolate.

Run a marathon in Antarctica

For all you runners out there, try this race of a lifetime on for size. During the annual Antarctic Ice Marathon, held in November or December in the heart of the continent’s arctic tundra, you’ll contend with ice, snow, and an average wind chill of -4F as you follow markers cross the continent.

You’ll have to fork out a cool 15,000 Euros (roughly $17,822) to participate in the four-day event, but the all-inclusive cost covers your roundtrip flight from Chile, accommodations, food, and the entry fee along with professional photos, t-shirts, and medals for all participants. Not quite ready to clock in a full 26.2 miles? The Frozen Continent Half Marathon (13.1 miles) is held at the same time.

Whale watching in Hawaii

winter activities
Who says winter doesn’t come to the islands? (Photo: Getty Images)

Who said all winter-season specials have to be in the cold? For travelers with “aloha” on the brain, there’s really no bad time to visit Hawaii, but let us make a case for going just after the holidays.

Why? January through March spells peak whale-watching season off the Hawaiian Islands, when, during their annual migration through the North Pacific, pods of humpback whales travel all the way from Alaska to frolic and mate in the islands’ subtropical waters. Tours with Pacific Whale feature sunrise and sunset sails as well as workshops with a wildlife photographer.

Ice-climbing in the Adirondacks

“I want to climb that” may not be the first thought to enter your mind upon encountering a waterfall, but come wintertime, it’s the exercise of choice for many an adventure-seeker and rock climber looking to stay in shape during the off-season.

No experience is necessary to take a seminar with trusted outfitters like Eastern Mountain Sports and Earth Treks, whose classes in the Adirondacks provide you with everything you need—crampons, boots, helmets, ice climbing tools, and expert guides to help you step-by-step—as you learn, and put into action, the basic techniques of scaling an icefall.

This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine. Read the original story: Incredible Experiences Around the World You Can Only Have During Winter Months by Lindsey Olander, a regular contributor to Jetsetter.

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