Best Things to Do With Kids in Winter | New England Family Fun
Don’t fret over the snow season – there are plenty of ways to have family fun (both indoors and out) during a long New England winter. Get our picks for the best things to do with kids when the temperature drops.
From ski slopes to winter festivals to ice skating rinks, there are so many ways to make the most of a New England winter with kids. In fact, tons of places throughout the region offer great activities for families throughout the colder months. Whether you’re enjoying refreshments at the lodge bar while your tikes learn to ski, or you’re snow-tubing down the mountain right next to them, you’ll find that New England is a place that caters to all ages in winter – even when bad weather requires staying indoors. For all the best ways to get through the snow season sans temper tantrums and pouty faces, scroll down for our family guide to winter fun.
From a kids’ buffet on select nights and holidays to live entertainment like magicians and bubble masters, Sunday River is all about fun for the whole family. Eddy the Yeti is the resort’s huggable ambassador who can be found greeting visitors at the base area, and skiers and boarders can even visit Eddy’s “special home” on the Enchanted Forest Trail on North Peak. During the Children’s Festival in January, kids get to ski free and stay free, and they’ll receive free lessons and rental equipment. And with eight different peaks and 135 trails, there’s skiable terrain for all levels.
Smugglers’ Notch is a self-described “family vacation paradise.” For ages 3 to 20, there are numerous ski-instruction programs that cater to different age groups and ability levels, ensuring that each pupil feels comfortable and confident while learning to stay upright on skis. For the tikes not ready to hit the slopes, child care is available, allowing parents to enjoy the snow. And on bad-weather days, hit the FunZone 2.0 Family Fun Complex, which features activities like ping-pong, mini golf, a giant slide, a pirate ship, an obstacle course, and a climbing wall.
Gunstock Mountain is a small, family-friendly mountain within 90 minutes of Boston with 227 skiable acres, 48 trails, snow tubing, a mountain coaster, a children’s center, and a lesson and learning center. Far less intimidating than what you’ll find at bigger resorts, the mountain has plenty of easy trails to choose from – perfect for a child learning to ski. And once everyone’s ready, the whole family can ride the lift to the summit and make their way down the mountain while taking in magical views of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
SEE MORE: Unique Ski Mountain Experiences in New England
Set in the southern Vermont town of Ludlow, Okemo Mountain was born as a community-run ski hill that eventually morphed into a top-tier four-season resort known for its family-friendliness. Okemo boasts a whopping 667 acres of skiable terrain, plenty of slopeside condos, snow tubing, a mountain coaster, a skating rink, a pool, and a fitness center, plus group and private ski and snowboard lessons for kids.
Experience family-friendly luxury at New Hampshire’s largest ski resort, where the views of the Northeast’s highest peak and the iconic Omni Mount Washington Hotel are unbeatable. The mountain has 464 acres of skiable terrain and some of the best grooming in the region, providing great conditions for beginners and experts alike. There are private ski lessons, a designated Learning Center lift and trails, and every other imaginable winter activity, from Nordic skiing and canopy tours to sleigh rides, snowshoeing, and tubing. Plus, there’s a new gondola to get you on the trails, and a new mountain-top lodge to take a break and enjoy a bite or beverage.
With 78 ski trails (and, historically, the most snow in the Northeast), Jay Peak is the Vermont destination for serious ski families. It’s got downright-fun skiing and riding, plus a full ski school for lessons, slopeside lodging, and an ice arena. And when the kids are tired of the cold, check out the new recreation center or head to the incredible 60,000-square-foot waterpark, complete with a 65-foot waterslide, stand-up surfing, a big river for lazy floating, a kids’ play area, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs.
SEE MORE: 6 Family-Friendly New England Destinations in the Winter
The college town of Hanover hosts what may be the best known of all New England winter celebrations: the venerable Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Since 1911, the Ivy Leaguers of Dartmouth College have invited the community to join in on a weekend of winter activities, including polar bear swims, ice sculpting contests, races, and skiing for 99 cents at the nearby skiway.
This western Massachusetts festival has been serving up family fun for all ages for 100 years. Activities include ice sculpting contests, fireworks, fire dancers, breakfast with Disney’s Olaf the Snowman, a cardboard sled race, a sleigh bell run, sledding, and skating.
This popular Green Mountain State event has so many activities scheduled, it takes place over an entire week. Look for concerts and shows, the Queen’s Pageant, cook-offs, a pancake breakfast, sporting competitions, skiing, skating, snowmobile rides, sleigh rides, family games, bowling, movies, and more.
SEE MORE: Best New England Festivals for Winter Fun
From the top of the tubing hill, the view of the stark, snow-sprinkled Presidential and Moat Mountain Ranges will wow you even before your first run. Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park has a giant swing, zip line, and mountain coaster, too, but 10 snow tubing lanes attract the most winter riders. Even tiny tots can tube: Kids less than 42 inches tall ride for just $5, but must be paired with an adult. The trip back uphill via either a handle-tow lift or magic carpet gives you time to decide whether to ask a staffer to set your tube spinning for a dizzying descent.
Nashoba Valley Ski Area happens to have New England’s largest snow tubing complex: a 15-acre site with its own entrance, parking, and lodge, plus four lifts and up to 18 lanes. The groomers at Nashoba have mastered the art of sculpting tubing terrain, so no two descents are the same. It’s the perfect spot for families with kids 6 years old and up (per mountain policy).
SEE MORE: Best 5 New England Snow Tubing Parks
You don’t have to miss out on cold-weather fun just because you’re in the city. At Frog Pond on Boston Common, one of the region’s most recognizable outdoor ice skating rinks, rental skates are available as well as lockers, skate-sharpening services, and skating seals (helpful for kids and newbies).
Open seven days a week, the rink at the Alex and Ani City Center in Providence offers private skate lessons throughout the season for individuals as well as groups, and rentals are available. Or try the “bumper cars on ice,” where participants can do full 360-degree turns and bump opponents out of the way.
Located on the grounds of the Strawbery Bank Museum in Portsmouth, this quaint outdoor rink is open daily (in season) for skating. Rentals are available — plus it’s close to downtown Portsmouth, so you can make a day of it with skating, shopping, and café-hopping.
SEE MORE: Guide to New England Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks
Best Winter Indoor Destinations & Activities for Kids
If you’re just wanting to enjoy a day at home, this is the perfect activity to keep the kids entertained as they try out a classic New England treat.
Where’s your favorite family-friendly place in New England in winter? Let us know!