Green Activities to Enjoy All Winter Long

By Catherine Bryan

GreenEriePA Writer

Go Ice Skating

Family Ice Skating


Min Time: 2 hours
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Intermediate

Ice skating is a fun and relatively inexpensive sport. Whether you buy yourself a pair of ice-skates or rent them, they will be the only equipment you'll need, other than a warm winter outfit. With your own skates, or separate rentals, you can skate for free at any state park on water where skating is allowed. Alternatively, you can find relatively cheap admission to many ice-skating rinks. Rental costs are sometimes even included! With a little practice, anyone can get the hang of and enjoy a fun ice-skating outing.

Where to Do It:
Find an ice-skating rink near you.
Search for more ice-skating locations nearby.
Ice-skate on Presque Isle's bay or at the Waterworks ponds.
Or choose another Pennsylvania State Park where skating is allowed.

Take a Snowshoeing Trek

Snowshoe


Min Time: 30 minutes
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy

Nature takes on an entirely new beauty when there's lots of snow on the ground, but hiking through it can be more of a chilly chore than a pleasurable time. Walking over the top of the snow makes getting out and enjoying the winter landscape both easy and fun. As with most other winter equipment, you can buy your own snowshoes for use every year, or rent them from places like Asbury Woods. You can even make your own using things around your house and yard!

Where to Do It:
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park
...or anywhere where there is snow!

Go Winter Camping or Rent a Cabin

Winter Cabin


Min Time: 2 days
Cost: Moderate - Expensive
Difficulty:
Intermediate - Easy

While winter camping out in the woods requires special camping gear meant to keep supplies and campers safe and warm, renting a winter cabin or cottage can provide many of the amenities of home while saving on gas and time for extended nature outings.

Where to Do It:
Pennsylvania State Park Campgrounds
Other Campgrounds in the Erie area
Cabin Rentals in the Erie area

Take a Scenic Winter Walk

Winter Bench


Min Time: 30 minutes
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy

The Erie area is a treasure trove of natural gems all year long, but not many get out to see them outside of the spring and summer seasons. Fortunately, all it takes is a warm outfit and a good winter coat to get out and enjoy the new sights that the winter season brings every year. Also, try visiting the Tom Ridge Environmental Center's 75 foot fall enclosed observation tower to enjoy the view!

Where to Do It:
Your own yard or neighborhood
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another State Park

Go Cross-Country Skiing

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Min Time: 2 hours
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Intermediate – Difficult

Where to Do It:
Snowy Hiking Trails
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another State Park
Ski Resorts (See Below)
Other Cross-Country Skiing Locations

Other Resources:
Cross-Country Ski PA
Pennsylvania Cross-Country Skier's Association (PACCSA)

Downhill Ski/Snowboard

Ski Lift


Min Time: 2 hours
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy-Difficult

Avid skiers waits all year long for the chill and the fluffy white stuff. While skiing takes a little time to learn, most ski resorts offer classes with talented instructors to have you and your friends or family on the slopes in no time!

Where to Do It:
At a Ski Resort Near You
PA DCNR's List of Ski Resorts
Let's Move Outside's List of Sledding/Tubing Locations
Mountain View (Mount Pleasant) in Edinboro, PA
Erie Pennsylvania Attractions List – Ski Resorts

Go Sledding/ Snowtubing

Sledding



Min Time: 1 hour
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy

Sledding and tubing are winter classics for all ages. Experience the rush of flying downhill the soft snow and laugh along with friends and family when you take a spill.

Where to Do It:
Frontier Park
Many good hills throughout Pennsylvania's State Parks
Gravel Pit Park in Northeast off of Route 20
The hills of Penn State Behrend
Near Ohio Hall and the soccer field
The hills behind North East High School
Lighting for night sledding
Other Sledding Locations

Watch Wildlife

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Min Time: Any
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Take time out from your busy schedule and enjoy the beauty of nature. Relax and enjoy as wildlife passes right in front of you. The Erie area has many different species of wildlife for the community to observe. So, grab a pair of binoculars and enjoy the best nature has to offer.

Where to Do It:
Your own backyard
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park


Other Resources:
Our Birding Article
Most Common Winter Birds in PA

Have a Winter Picnic

Winter Picnic


Min Time: 1 hour
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy

Who says you can't have a picnic in the winter time. Even on a chilly day if the skies are clear and the sun is out, it's the perfect time to spend some time together. Just Don't forget a thermos of hot soup or cocoa!

Where to Do It:
Your backyard or other favorite picnic spot
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park

Go on a Winter Photo Expedition

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Min Time: Any
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy

We spend so much of our time in the winter complaining and avoiding the weather that we forget just how beautiful Erie in winter can be. Take some time to really savor the beauty of the Winter season. Then, pull out your camera or phone and take a picture to take back with you out of the cold!

Where to Do It:
Your Backyard or Neighborhood
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park

Look for Animal Prints

Animal Tracks in Snow


Min Time: 30 minutes
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Moderate

Where to Do It:
In your backyard or neighborhood
Asbury Woods
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park

How to Do It
How-To Identify Pennsylvania Animal Tracks
Ohio's Guide to Tracking Winter Prints
Reading the Winter Landscape: A Guide to Tracking

Go Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing


Min Time: 2 hours
Cost: Moderate
Difficulty: Easy

"Ice fishing has an allure all its own. Some say it's peaceful. Some say it's relaxing. Some say it's invigorating. Most say it's crazy. But there is nothing like walking on a frozen lake, carving a hole and pulling up elusive fish from the mysterious depths below. Pennsylvania state parks have many lakes for you to find the ice fishing hole for you."
--Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Where to Do It:
Presque Isle or another Pennsylvania State Park

How to Do It:
Be sure to follow all rules set forth by the park in which you fish and the Fish and Boating commission.

The PA DCNR website also lists important safety rules for keeping you and your loved ones safe out on the ice.


Go/Watch Ice Boating

Ice boats


Min Time: Any
Cost: Expensive to own, Free to watch
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

With wind in the sail, boating on the ice is Fun both to do and to watch! Cold temperatures and smooth ice free of snow make for ideal ice boating conditions. So, a windy, chilly winter day is the perfect day to get out of the house and onto the lake.

Where to Do It:
On the Bayfront

How to Do It:
You can learn more about ice boat theory, design, and history through the Erie Yacht Club website.

Stargaze

Stargazing


Min Time: You Decide!
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Easy

Pack a warm blanket and find a nice dark spot to lay out and gaze up at the stars. Check the weather before you head out and make sure your location is as free of ambient light and fog as possible. Take a night for yourself or get together with friends to admire our beautiful twinkling curtain. Find shapes, look for constellations, and maybe even catch a shooting star!

Where to do it:
Anywhere that's free of ambient light and fog, maybe even your backyard.

If your backyard is too bright, try a park or campground!
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources: Website contains a helpful list of all the nearby state parks and what each one offers visitors.
Presque Isle: has many great park sites, pavilions, and beaches where you can get together with family and friends.
The Yellow Pages: list of campgrounds can be a great starting place for finding and contacting a campsite near you. Find out more about offerings and make reservations for you and your loved ones.

Have a Winter Scavenger Hunt

Colored Ice


Time: You Decide!
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy-Advanced

Scavenger hunts are a fantastic way to get out and explore the beauty of nature. Bundle up and set out looking for pine cones, beach glass, sea shells, feathers, pebbles, and other frozen treasures. For a fun twist, color ice cubes from your freezer using Kool-aid or food coloring. Then hide them outdoors like snowy festive Easter eggs.

Where to do it:
In your own backyard or local park. Just be sure to observe the park's rules for visitors.

Play Snow Golf

Picture


Time: You Decide!
Cost: Inexpensive
Difficulty: Easy-Advanced

Golf requires a smooth, steady surface on which to swing and land your shots. Sure, mowed summer grass works well for this purpose, but why now crisp white snow? Gather some friends, dress warmly, and defy the winter chill with this new take on a warm weather game.

Where to do it:
In your backyard or check with your local area golf course. Find one near you with this helpful listing.

How to do it:
Follow traditional golf rules by digging holes in crisp snow, compete for the longest drive, or make up your own seasonal rules. Just be sure to use colored golf balls so that you can find them in the snow.

Build a Snowman

Snowman on the steps


Time: You Decide!
Cost: Free
Difficulty: Easy

Snowmen are the mascots of winter. With a little packing snow, a warm pair of mittens, and some creative extras you can make fun and friendly snowmen. Enjoy playing in the snow alone or with groups of any age.


Where to do it:
Anywhere!


Other Fun Winter Activities You Can Do Without Leaving Home

  • Make snow angels
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Make paths in the snow

Make sure to check the Winter Report for information on current ice and snow depths before setting out on your outing!

Creative commons photos by Cindy Who, Bob Aubuchon, Alexa Clark, Ken Lord, Tom Gill, Cathy Stanley-Erickson, John Morris, Silviya Rankova, OldOnliner, Edward Chan, Jeremy Bronson, Susie Blackmon, 8 Eyes Photography, and Jonathon Colman. Other photos courtesy of Karen Coughlin and www.visiterie.com.