The icy tunnel entrance leads the way into the main courtyard.
Photo Credit : Carol Connare
For “An Eye For Beauty,” (season 5, episode 5) Weekends with Yankee co-host Richard Wiese heads to Woodstock New Hampshire, to take in the award-winning interactive family-friendly art experience known as Ice Castles. The impressive LED-lit sculptures, 30-foot-tall towers, and intricate connection of crevices and tunnels are all carved from ice. Inspired by his visit, here are fifteen more ways for the whole family to love another cold New England winter.
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. 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 kids 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.
Gunstock Mountain is a small, family-friendly mountain within 90 minutes of Boston with 227 skiable acres, 55 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.
There’s snow tubing, and then there’s cosmic snow tubing. The Granite Gorge ski area in western New Hampshire offers some of the state’s best snow tubing, with the unique added fun of neon lights, disco balls, glow-bead necklaces, and a DJ on Saturday nights – perfect wintertime fun for all ages.
Magic Mountain is committed to family-friendly policies like affordable all-day tubing rates for a trio of 400-foot lanes served by a tow-handle lift, plus tubing under the lights on Fridays and weekends. The tube park is located directly uphill from the base lodge, meaning parents can enjoy après-ski music and drinks at a windowside table in the Black Line Tavern while keeping an eye on the kids.
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 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).
A winter family visit to the Berkshires must include a stop at Ski Butternut, where you’ll find up to 11 tubing lanes and a Magic Carpet Lift that makes getting back to the top of the tubing hill a snap.
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.
If you’re in the Woodstock area and are up for a chilling but delightful experience, Ice Castles is a magical place where you can wander through towering ice structures or play on ice slides. Since all the attractions here are carved from approximately 25,000 pounds of ice, the start and end dates each year are weather-dependent, but recent seasons have run from mid-January until early March.
If you like going along for the ride, consider zipping up to 165 feet above the ground at speeds of up to 30 mph in the heart of the White Mountains. The three-hour guided tour offers a little bit of excitement, a little bit of education, some pretty incredible views, and a whole lot of fun.
Hurtle through snowy scenes of the White Mountains behind a team of rescue dogs at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson. There’s a variety of tour options, and guests are given the opportunity to harness and hitch the team — and maybe even help drive the sled.
This western Massachusetts festival has been serving up family fun for all ages for almost 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.
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.