Top Ten Winter Activities in the Midwest

Linda, aka “minnemom,” writes about family travel at Travels with Children, where she highlights fun things to do in the Midwest and beyond. With four young children, she has a unique perspective on what makes a place family-friendly. She delights in finding fun that is inexpensive and off the beaten path.  She also blogs for our friends at Uptake.

Mall of America by Aine D on Flickr

When the snow and cold hit, Midwesterners can find themselves looking for ways to avoid the tedium of long days in the house. These are some great activities that can alleviate winter boredom.

1.Talk to the animals. Yes, even in the winter months, most zoos are still open. During the holiday season, check out a Zoolights display like that at the Columbus Zoo, but even on those cold January days, the indoor areas of the zoo can be a haven from the frigid air. The Tropics Trail at the Minnesota Zoo can almost make you forget about below-zero temperatures outside.

2.Get wet. When summer’s lazy days are a distant memory, a visit to an indoor waterpark can put a splash back into your life. Minnesota’s Waterpark of America is billed as the largest indoor waterpark in the U.S., or for more variety, head to Wisconsin Dells where there are plenty of indoor parks to choose from.

3.Learn something. A field trip to a science museum can be both educational and fun.Try Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, Columbus’ COSI, or the Kirby Science Discovery Center in Sioux Falls, where you can easily spend an entire day playing and learning.

4.Go skating. On nicer days, an outdoor rink seems to fit the season, but when it’s absolutely frigid, skating on an indoor rink like Minneapolis’ The Depot or Iowa City’s Coral Ridge Mall allows for enjoying the ice without getting too cold.

Nickelodeon Universe by Minnemom on Flickr

5.Find thrills. While most Midwestern amusement parks have long been closed before the snow flies, Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, is open year-round. Its indoor roller coasters and flume ride are perfect for keeping the cold at bay for a day.

6.Play. Take the kids to a children’s museum, where they can play to their heart’s content, and you just might have some fun as well. Some of our favorites: DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, IL, and Northwoods Children’s Museum in Eagle River, WI. (If you go to Eagle River, you might also want to check out the annual snowmobile races.)

7.Hit the slopes. Even the Midwest has some decent ski areas. Popular in northern Minnesota are Lutsen and Giant’s Ridge, or try Ski Brule on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

8.Ride the rails. Take some time out for the Santa Express at Iowa’s Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, or ride the Holly Trolley on Minneapolis’ Como-Harriet streetcar line.

9.Go ice fishing. Some Midwesterners are out trying to catch a big one almost every weekend. Find a good piece of ice, drill a hole, and try your hand at this popular northern sport.

10.Rekindle the romance. Enjoy a quiet stay at a bed & breakfast or a beautiful hotel like the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. Snuggling up under the covers may just make you forget that a blizzard is raging outside.

The winters may be long in the Midwest, but there’s still plenty to do to help chase the winter blues away.What’s your favorite winter activity?


  1. Pingback: Travels with Children by minnemom » Winter Activities in the Midwest

  2. Now ice fishing, that’s one I’d love to read some elaboration on – especially if it’s ice fishing with kids! Great post.

  3. There is one spot that I didn’t see on your list that is definately worth the trip to the Midwest — The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis — known to be the largest children’s museum in the world it is full of discovery, education and just plain fun!!

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