winter activities for kids

The words “skiing” and “free” don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But there are actually a lot of free deals for kids out there. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

You may be trying to tell yourself that spring is just around the corner, but winter doesn’t officially end until late March. Instead of letting the rest of the season slip by in a haze, grab the kids and get outside. These fun and free suggestions will have you wishing for snow even after the tulips start coming up.

Ski or ride free

Skiing is not the first sport that comes to mind when you're looking for free things to do outdoors, but parents should take note that most ski resorts offer a free lift ticket for kids under 6. Borrow some gear from friends, or use our handy packing list, and take your kids to the mountain for a memorable day in the snow.

For those families with kids older than 6, check out the multiple free ticket options available through Learn to Ski and Snowboard. If they get hooked, check out our guide to cheap skiing with kids.


Don’t worry about the distance when you’re hiking; just get the kids outside and into nature on those long winter days. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Go for a hike

Just like in summer, nothing beats the winter doldrums like some fresh air and a hike in the woods. Sure, winter can make a hike a little more daunting and require a few more clothing layers, but snowpack levels across much of the U.S. are low this season, making it easy to get on the trail. Find a good trail, pack some tasty snacks, and don't plan to cover very many miles. If you need extra motivation, try a group hike like one of the treks offered by Hike It Baby. The group runs volunteer-led hikes in 70 cities across the U.S. all year long.

hot springs

A warm soak on a winter day will refresh anyone—even your kids. Photo of Travertine Hot Springs courtesy of Shutterstock

Go for a soak

Swimming in the winter seems wrong, which is what makes it so right. Kids love soaking in a warm pool or hot spring no matter the season, but if there is snow on the ground nearby it'll make it that much more exciting. Sure, a hot tub at the local resort is a possibility, but a good Google search of "free hot springs" in your area should bring up a few more natural options. Or, try this more complete list of geothermal areas in the U.S. The key in this category is going to be finding hot springs that are easily accessible, and a swimsuit-required place may be more comfortable than the clothing-optional ones.

snow castle

A snow castle can cure your kids’ cabin fever right quick. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Build a castle

When the snow gets really deep and the kids are fighting over who stole whose Bubble Guppy for the thousandth time, grab the sand toys and walk out the front door. Build an igloo, a castle, or even a fort with big walls and then have a snowball fight. Kids will blow off steam and get a healthy workout lifting all those bricks. However, please resist the urge to dig tunnels or build forts with roofs on them—snow caves can collapse very easily and can even be deadly.


S’mores are even more tasty if you use a winter campfire. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Roast some s'mores

Graham crackers, chocolate, roasted marshmallows, and a roaring outdoor fire may be more commonly associated with summer camping trips, but cold winter days make s’mores all the better. If you don't have easy access to a fire ring, try one of your local parks or camping spots. Or, if you happen to live near a ski resort, many offer free s'mores by the fire every afternoon. Check out our list of unique s’mores recipes for ideas.

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