It’s that time of year again. You’re feeling lethargic and would much rather sit on the couch and stuff your face through another movie marathon than do something active in that frigid air. But that’s no attitude to have. We in the Midwest are lucky (yes, lucky) to be able to experience all four seasons. Cincinnati is filled with wintery fun that Floridians only dream of. So lace up your boots and get out there. Embrace the cold and you might find yourself with a few new wintertime traditions.
Think ice-skating is only for frozen lakes and ponds? Think again. You can skate right in the heart of downtown in Cincinnati’s own version of the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The Fountain Square Ice Rink, a relatively new Cincinnati tradition, has more than 7,000 square feet of ice, so there’s plenty of room for you and your crew. And if we should experience an unseasonably warm stretch of days this month, you won’t have to cancel your skating party: The rink’s 2006 renovations made it possible to maintain a frozen surface in 60-degree weather. The rink is open daily, weather permitting, through February 19th. For just three bucks you can enjoy a day of gliding (or falling) on the ice. Don’t have your own skates? No problem. Another three bucks and you can rent them, and there are plenty of sizes—toddler to adult—available. Looking for a warmup after a long day on ice? Tazza Mia and Starbucks are nearby for a warming cup of joe or cocoa.
If ice skating isn’t enough of a chilly thrill, you might consider a weekend jaunt to Mad River Mountain in Zanesfield (near Bellefontaine). The ski resort, which is celebrating its 50th
anniversary this year, is just a two-hour drive from Cincinnati. The 24
slopes and trails make Mad River Ohio’s largest ski resort—which means they also have the state’s largest snow-making system. And there’s something here for everyone, no matter what your skill level. And if you’re not a ski stud or ski bunny, don’t worry. Sign up for the “Never Ever Ski Package.” You’ll get ski or snowboard rental, a group lesson, and an all-access lift ticket. Just stay away from those black diamonds, OK? For those of us with absolutely no coordination, Mad River Mountain offers something impossible to fail at: tubing. The Avalanche Tubing Park has nine 900-foot long chutes that send riders on a downhill run that’s just as thrilling as being on skis but without all the falling. One lift ticket is good all day; weekdays (Monday through Friday) it’s $35, and on weekends it’s $45. The higher price comes with a few perks. While the resort’s bar and restaurant are open all week long, on some weekends, there’s live music at The Loft.
Not enough time to get out of town? Not a problem. The city of seven hills has plenty of local spots that are ideal for sledding. Some of the hottest spots include Stanbery Park in the heart of Mt. Washington, French Park in Amberley Village, and Mt. Storm in Clifton. Considering its great views and hills, the Ault Park sledding scene is surprisingly not as crowded as you might expect. It’s a large area, so bring sleds of all sizes; their slight slopes are best suited for smaller conveyances—and people. Whether you’re taking your kids on their first sledding adventure or reliving your own childhood, grab your toboggan and enjoy the ride. Just be careful at the bottom!
If you have a soft spot for these tuxedoed waddlers, this is the perfect time of year to watch them enjoying cold weather. Through February 29th—what the zoo calls “Penguin Days”—admission is half price, and you can embrace the brisk air right alongside the animals. Literally. Penguins step out of their man-made habitats twice a day to march around the zoo in penguin parades. On top of the lowered admission price, every weekend there are more than 10 different animal encounters ranging from snow monkeys to elephants. We’re curious to see the polar bears with their very own “fish-cicles.” If that’s too much for your goosebumps, the zoo’s 12 heated indoor animal exhibits will also be open for visitors.
So you’re sick of all this cold? Think we’re crazy for suggesting you head out into it? OK, we hear you. Even in the dead of winter, CoCo Key Water Resort keeps its indoor water park at a comfortable 80 degrees. When you step inside this water-world paradise, snow, ice, and freezing rain melt from your mind in your own indoor summer sanctuary. CoCo Key gives you the option of coming in to play for the day without having to book a stay at the attached hotel. Of course, if you want to stay, The Crowne Plaza offers water park packages, which include four two-day passes to the water park with one night’s stay. With four-story water slides, an indoor spa, and plenty of interactive activities, CoCo Key is your reminder that summer isn’t so far away.
Fountain Square Ice Rink, myfountainsquare.comMad River Mountain, 1000 Snow Valley Rd., Zanesfield, Ohio, skimadriver.comSledding
Stanbery Park, French Park, and Ault Park, cincyparks.comCincinnati Zoo Penguin Days, cincinnatizoo.orgCoco Key Water Resort, cocokeycincinnati.com
Photograph courtesy Mad River MountainOriginally published in the January 2012 issue.
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