Yes, it’s cold outside. And when you’re sitting warm and snug indoors, the last thing you want to do is brave the winter elements. But if you don’t venture outdoors this holiday season, you will be missing out on a lot that Northeast Ohio has to offer— and a chance to work off some of those excess holiday pounds.— Kyle Swenson
For many people who grew up in Northeast Ohio, the toboggan runs at the Metroparks Chalet in the Mill Stream Run Reservation were a rite of passage, marked by the first time you topped the 42" height mark and could blast out of the chute. The Chalet offers two 700-foot ice runs that go into operation just after Thanksgiving and continue through early March. There's also an indoor snack area and game room— a pocket of warmth for parents while the kids test their velocity on run after run. The Chalet is located at 16200 Valley Parkway in Strongsville; for a schedule and ticket prices, follow the links from the "Recreation" section on clemetparks.com or call 440-572-9990.
Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Contrary to popular belief, downhill isn't the only fun you can have with a pair of skis and some poles, especially in Cleveland. The popularity of golf courses in this area means plenty of open spaces blanketed in white during the winter, perfect for cross-county skiing. The Metroparks offers trails, some groomed, on four of its golf courses: Shawnee Hills at Bedford Reservation, Sleepy Hollow at Brecksville Reservation, and the Big Met and Little Met courses at Rocky River Reservation. A minimum four-inch base is required for skiing and snowshoeing, which is offered in Bedford, Brecksville and Rocky River as well. Starting Dec. 26, snowshoe rentals are available on select days at Big Met in Rocky River and Squire's Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation. For complete schedules and prices, follow the links from the "Recreation" section on clemetparks.com; for snow conditions, call 216-635-3270.
Winter Break Camp
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is offering its first-ever winter camp for kids this year. From Dec. 26 – 28, children aged 5 – 12 will meet in the Jungle Lab classroom at the RainForest every morning to start exploring a different theme for the day. The interactive, educational program is available in either half-day or full-day sessions, which include a tour of zoo exhibits, close encounters with small animals, arts and crafts, and conversation-themed games. To register, go to clemetzoo.com/education/breakcamps or call 216-635-3391.
One of the advantages of living in a climate with bone-chilling winter temperatures is ice — and we're not talking about the slippery stuff on the highways. With a good couple of inches capping a lot of lcaol bodies of water by later January, the Metroparks offers ice fishing at a number of locations: Beyer's Pond at Big Creek Reservation; Hinckley, Judges, and Ledge lakes at the Hinckley reservations; Ranger Lake at Rocky River Reservation; and Shadow Lake at the South Chagrin Reservation. A valid fishing license is necessary for people over the age of 16.
High School Hockey
Cleveland's high school sports landscape is filled with competitive play. But with football and basketball drawing most of the attention, ice hockey is often forgotten about. Which is too bad, since schools like St. Ignatius, St. Edward, and University School are perennial powerhouses and contenders for the state championship. A great way to take in the action is the Padua Holiday Tournament, which features many of the best teams in the region. It runs from Dec. 21 – 23 at the Iceland USA complex in Strongsville (15381 Royalton Rd.. 440-268-2800, icelandusa.info).