Mother and child standing in the forest looking up at a frozen waterfall

6 budget-friendly winter activities for families

Have you ever gone skiing with your family only to realize you blew your entire activity budget in one afternoon? Yep. Been there. Skiing in the mountains (or travelling to sunny destinations in the winter) sounds nice in theory, but those aren’t always accessible options. Here’s how to stay active together (in a COVID-friendly way) without breaking the bank.

1. Go skating somewhere unique

You’ve probably seen the Instagram pictures of families enjoying a winter skate through the woods. This looks so magical that it seems like it would be expensive, but there are so many free outdoor skating rinks and trails in provincial parks and city centres across the country. It makes it easy to take a family adventure that will only cost you the price of gas (and maybe parking). Whether it’s a skating rink that’s local to you, or something more iconic like the Rideau Canal or Ontario’s Arrowhead Provincial Park, it’s guaranteed fresh air, connection, movement, and family time. To find skates for a steal, check out local buy-nothing groups, mom-to-mom Facebook groups, Kijiji, or ask friends with older kids to pass them down. Play it Again Sports is another great option. Don’t forget your helmets (a trip to the emergency room not only derails the fun, but it’s definitely not COVID-friendly!).

2. Get a thrill with snow tubing

If you wish you were a ski-resort family, but can’t stomach the huge price tag for a few hours of wintery fun, you’ll love taking advantage of the tubing hills at local sites instead. It’s such a joyful, thrilling activity and most members of your family can participate (just check the age restrictions at your local spot). The hike up the hill to drag your snow tube back to the top will help the whole family burn all that energy from winter hibernating. Especially during COVID times, make sure to book your tickets in advance. They average around $20-$30 depending on the hill, when you go, and how many people are in your family.

3. Hike to see some frozen waterfalls

Winter hiking may not sound especially exciting on its own, but add in a kid-friendly (and stroller-friendly) trail and a cool natural element to seek out and everyone can feel like they’re on a daring adventure through the wilderness. It’s so magical to see the landscape change, and waterfalls standing still. Not sure where to go? Here’s a guide to the best winter walking trails across Canada.

4. Shovel for people in need around your neighbourhood

This is the type of memorable activity that will give your kiddos the feel-good endorphins that only come from helping others. If you know your elderly neighbour, a busy single mom, or friend would struggle to tackle the huge pile of snow on their driveway, surprise them with an anonymous snow-shovelling service. Teamwork makes it speed by, and you can incentivize this activity with some post-good-deed hot chocolate by the fire. Just ask Carter Trozzolo!

5. Go adventure sledding

Sledding is an obvious option, but we often get stuck going to the same hill again and again. If you find your kids getting bored or less engaged at your usual sledding spots, it’s time to switch gears. Do a little research on your local forests and green spaces to see if there’s an extra-special hill nearby that will renew everyone’s excitement for sledding. 

6. Cook outside over the fire

If you’ve got your own fire pit (and your town or city bylaws allow it), bundle up properly and gather around the fire. Make sure you bring s’more or hot chocolate supplies and maybe even make your whole dinner outside. If you don’t have access to your own personal fire pit, check your local and provincial parks to see if there are rentals available and head out for a winter picnic.

What are some of your favourite inexpensive family winter activities? Let us know in the comments!

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