Get Out and Get Walking All Winter Long

From Better Homes & Gardens

When winter rolls around, some of us retreat to the comfortable indoors. Challenge the natural urge to hibernate with an invigorating walk in the great outdoors. If it’s cold where you live, bundle up and go for a walk in the midday sun. If the ground is blanketed in white, do it in snowshoes. You’ll discover that winter’s a wonderful season in which to be active.

Enjoy a change of scenery on a winter walk.

Nature never disappoints. Maybe you’re in the mood for critter-watching—or listening. If so, winter in the woods, or somewhere safe and away from development, holds plenty of activity for the observant eye. Get your ears attuned to the quiet, and suddenly you’ll discover a lot to listen to. Depending on where you live, you might see and/or hear birds, deer and squirrels on their daily quest for food and water. Conifers are still green; take a tree-identification book and find out what kind of evergreens you’re looking at. City, county, state and national parks often have marked walking/nature trails. Even if the trails are snow-covered, passing through woods on a winter’s day rejuvenates the spirit.

Try snowshoeing.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Many outdoor-gear and sporting goods stores carry snowshoes and might even rent you a pair if you’re not sure you want to invest yet. Snowshoes distribute your weight over a wide area of ribbing so that you don’t sink into the snow; some people also use ski poles for support. With a pole in either hand, you can get a real stride going and cover ground where you’d otherwise be up to your knees in powder or slush. If it’s safe to do so, try snowshoeing under a full moon. There’s nothing like quietly clomping your way across a snow-covered field lit up by a shining moon. Always check in at a trailhead or otherwise let someone know when you’re venturing out.

Take a historical walk.

Your walks don’t always have to be nature-centered. Taking a walk around a historic site gets your legs and your mind going. To find a registered historic landmark, check out the National Historic Landmarks website. You’ll be able to search a database of 2,500 gems to find sites in your state or any town you desire. If you live in a history-rich area, make a treasure-hunt day of finding as many historical landmarks as you can. Or just choose one that has great walking potential and spend time luxuriating there in the feeling of the past. Whether it’s a battlefield, original settlement or old graveyard, historic areas take on meaning when you find out what happened on that spot and tread the same ground. Graveyards can be especially fascinating and evocative. Walk around reading the inscriptions on old gravestones, and imagine the lives led by early settlers who lived and died in your area. This is also a lovely way to teach kids to be respectful of cemeteries and the lives of the many buried there.

Main Street is a main attraction. 

Somewhere not too far away is an old town with a timeless Main Street. You might discover a soda fountain where you can sit on stools at an old-fashioned counter and connect as a family over malted milkshakes. Maybe there’s a hardware store where you can show your kids things you won’t find in the aisles of the local home center warehouse. Old-time department stores and dime stores have toy and candy aisles that boast interesting things off the beaten retail path. You might also find the diner where the locals eat and have something you’ve never tried. Find a Main Street near you via the National Main Street Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of Main Streets across the country.

Take advantage of blooming sculpture gardens.

Even in the dead of winter, a sculpture garden is in full flower. A big Henry Moore bronze or monumental Claes Oldenburg installation looks fabulous in a new snowfall or in the barren landscape of winter. Find out what nearby galleries or art museums have outdoor sculpture gardens that are open to the public year-round. The International Sculpture Center’s website has a global directory of sculpture parks and gardens—search it for a lifetime’s worth of three-dimensional-art joy.

Enjoy window-shopping while people-watching. 

The holiday season brings out festive window dressing, twinkling lights and crowds. Dawdle in front of clever displays, stop in toy stores, enjoy the friendly crush of humanity around you. Your mission is to wander creatively through the crowds. A leisurely pace on foot lets you appreciate the color and bustle of the season. Stop in somewhere for hot chocolate and doughnuts. Once you’re all warmed up, get back out on the streets and have a contest to see how many returned smiles you can each get from passersby.

Outfit yourself for a winter walk.

Wear clothing that suits the weather—and the possibility of a change in the weather. Layers are always a good idea, and so is water-repellent gear. Hats and gloves or mittens are must-haves for winter walking. Here are some other things you might consider bringing along.

  • Binoculars
  • Journal
  • Camera
  • Sketch pad
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Cell phone 
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