Top 10 Indoor & Outdoor Winter Activities for Bozeman Families
Just because there is a little (or let’s be honest A LOT) of snow on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t still get out for some winter hikes with the kids. The awesome part about living in Bozeman is I’m pretty sure 95% of the population still hikes in the winter. This means that a good portion of trails, especially those short ones close to town, get packed down and you can usually hike them easily without snowshoes etc. Be careful though, sometimes trails get icy if they are too packed down. Those strap-on, ice traction cleats work great to help you from slipping; just be sure not to get the ones with actual spikes if you are going to put them on really little kids. When our kids were super little, we would pull them in the sled, but now they love hiking in the snow. Some of our favorite winter hikes with our kids include: Grotto Falls, Palisade Falls and Ousel Falls…(there may be a theme here, we love frozen waterfalls)!
Ok, so this one is obvious, but for good reason. What child (or even adult for that matter) doesn’t enjoy a little sledding action? The look on my kids’ faces of sheer joy when they are sledding is priceless. We are big fans of warming up with hot chocolate or apple cider afterwards and laughing about our sledding adventures. There are quite a few good sledding hills in town like Peets Hill, Lindley Park, Gallatin Valley Regional Park etc, but we usually like to head up Hyalite to find our own hill for a less crowded (and less icy) sledding experience. Ending a sledding day by soaking at a hot springs is the best, which brings me to…
After an hour or two in the pool, my kids are usually exhausted and sleep so great at night. So, we love to go splash around at the local hot springs when we can. The hot springs in Bozeman is the closest, but Chico (48 mi), Fairmont (99 mi) and Yellowstone Hot Springs (77 mi) aren’t too far a drive, and they are well worth it. These all have shallow swimming areas for young children and fun areas for older children and adults too. My Favorite: When we go to Chico in the winter, we usually combine it with sledding at Mill Creek first.
Bozeman is known for it’s world class skiing – so of course you can hit the slopes at Bridger or Big Sky with the kiddos. But if you’ve got little ones, you really don’t have to go far. If your kids are just learning to ski, any piece of ground that remotely resembles a hill will be just fine. Our kids first skied down our driveway, which is probably about 25 feet long and barely qualifies as a “hill”, but it was perfect for their first couple of skiing experiences. If you are finding your own hill, be ready to be your kids’ ski lift back to the top! Ski gear is expensive and kids usually grow out of theirs each season, but once again, Bozeman has plenty of options. Several ski shops offer season rentals for gear, and we have also had great luck buying skis at the consignment shops in town.
Yellowstone National Park
We are big fans of Yellowstone in the winter! Sure, the entire park isn’t open to vehicles, but it is less crowded, the thermal areas look beautiful with the steam rising in the cold air, and we sometimes see more wildlife in the winter than we do when we visit in the summer. It is fun to see the bison staying warm near the thermal areas. If you go through the Gardiner entrance, be sure to check out Boiling River for another fun hot springs. This hot springs isn’t a resort, the parking area has a pit toilet where people sometimes change and then you walk about a half-mile to the part of the river where the hot water mixes with the cold water of the Gardner River. Bring water shoes and a towel or robe, and pack out all your trash! The river is fairly shallow in the winter, but the current can be strong, so I wouldn’t recommend it for very little kids unless you carry them.
My kids LOVE camping, and we go all the time in the spring, summer and fall. But we are tent campers, and call me chicken if you want, but I haven’t been brave enough to take my kids tent camping in the winter…yet. My solution? Indoor camping! I set up a tent or two in the living room, and put up Christmas lights in the tents and around the room. We put out our pretend play campfire, as well as a magnet fishing game. If you don’t have these toys, Pinterest has lots of DIY options! We turn off all the lights and use flashlights. I cook my kids their favorite camping food, and we roast marshmallows over a candle (pine scented is the best!). Then we tell bear stories around our pretend campfire and the kids will sometimes sleep in the tent while I get to sneak off to my own bed! ;) Something I’m looking to add to our indoor camping experience this year is a constellation projector because my kids like trying to find constellations in the night sky, and they love hearing stories about the stars. So, if you have any good recommendations for realistic star projectors – message me please!
When we go on our outdoor adventures throughout the year, my kids always collect treasures – sticks, pretty rocks, dead bugs, you name it. We have a drawer of all their “treasures” (yes, even the bugs) and a fun activity in the winter is setting up a Scavenger Hunt with all these items. Again, see Pinterest for Scavenger Hunt templates. I have my kids stay in a different room for a few minutes while I hide their treasures around the house, sometimes with clues, but sometimes just like an egg hunt. Either way, they usually enjoy finding these rocks and sticks on the Scavenger Hunt just as much as when they found them the first time.
Ok, so this won’t burn a lot of energy; in fact, it probably does the opposite. But one of our morning traditions on fresh snow days is orange juice slushies. I give the kids a cup and have them go fill it with snow. Then I pour orange juice over it and give them a spoon. It’s one of their favorite things about waking up to fresh snow! My Mom used to do this for my brothers and I on fresh snow days too, but with maple syrup…which is equally delicious, but we stick with OJ over here.
Like a sand box, but with grass and for use indoors! My. Kids. Love. These. They will play with them quietly for an hour, and they really like “mowing” their own little lawn with scissors! Your grass box can be as simple or as complicated as you like. My kids use them to set up their little dinosaurs, animals, and army men battles, but they’d also be good fairy gardens etc.
Here’s the bare minimum of what you will need:
A plastic box or tuboware that’s at least 5-6” deep. This can be as big or as small as you want.
Dirt or potting soil
Grass seed (get seeds that say they grow in full shade as well as sun, because let’s be real, your trying to grow grass indoors… in the winter)
A sunny spot in front of a window or door where your grass box can stay when it is not being played with
And if you want to take your grass box up a notch, here’s what we did this time around:
In the larger tuboware, I put a smaller plastic container that will be filled with water as a “pond”
We put sand from our sandbox around the pond
Before we sprinkled the grass seed, we buried a huge rock in the dirt to make a hill, so that the grass would (theoretically) grow on a hill
We also staged medium sized rocks here and there for dinosaurs and army men to hide behind or stand on
Lastly, we planted a few other plants that are supposed to be “trees.” We’ll see how these work, but if you have any succulents you are willing to donate to your kid’s “grass box,” those would work perfect too
**It’s best to start growing these in the fall, but seeing as this article will come out in December, just start your grass boxes now! ☺
I’m a big believer in the saying “No bad weather, just bad clothes”… But that being said, there are times when we want to get out of the house to burn some energy, but also want to stay indoors. Fortunately, for us (and you!) Bozeman has quite a few, really fun options. These are some of our favorites: Museum of the Rockies, Jump Time, the indoor playground at Montana Indoor Sports and the Montana Science Center.