Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of snow tuber © Mary Langenfeld-Courtesy of WI Dept. of Tourism

Snow tubes offer softer trips on your downhill slides.
© Mary Langenfeld-Courtesy of WI Dept. of Tourism

December 2009

Wisconsin Traveler

Winter wanders

Traveler challenges you to get kids of all ages to stop Twittering and start talking face-to-face again during these frosty family adventures.

Just when you were getting worried about the high costs of the holidays, the Milwaukee County Zoo comes to the rescue with a free family day on Saturday, December 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free but the $10 parking fee remains in effect. What better time of year to share the cold air with a polar bear or Humboldt penguin and then warm up in the aviary or the reptile center? Visit Milwaukee County Zoo or call (414) 256-5466 for more information.

Use the Wright-side of your brain to celebrate the wonders of flight on Saturday, December 12 at Havenwoods State Forest, 6141 N. Hopkins St., on Milwaukee's north side, (414) 527-0232. During Discovery Saturday: Flight Experiments, families can make paper airplanes and film canister parachutes then see how well different designs fly. Drop in anytime between 9 a.m. and noon to participate in the aerial antics.

Take a break from the bustle at this busy time of year and join other astronomy aficionados as the sun rises over the Tropic of Capricorn on Monday, December 21 at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville, (262) 878-5600. Celebrate the winter solstice and learn how others have celebrated the slow return to more daylight then hike and do some of your own celebrating. Dress to be outside and meet at the amphitheater at 6:30 p.m. Richard Bong State Recreation Area is located on State Highway 142 about 47 miles from Milwaukee.

Wisconsin averages 45 inches of snow a year, so it's not surprising that the Wisconsin Department of Tourism reports an inflating number of snowtubing facilities in the state.

Tourism's website suggests the following slippery stops. In central Wisconsin, Powers Bluff County Park in Arpin (715) 421-8422 offers the longest tubing runs (1,200 ft.) in the state. For those in the Northwoods, Christie Mountain (715) 868-7800 and Perkinstown Winter Sports Area (715) 785-7722 are great weekend family destinations. In west central Wisconsin, slide into Hudson's Badlands Sno-Park Recreation Inc. (715) 381-1541. Snow lovers in northeastern Wisconsin can tackle the Triangle Sports Area (920) 448-3365. The Wisconsin Dells area boasts two great tubing hills. Cascade Mountain in Portage)(800) 992-2754 has more than 900 ft. of speed and snow, while Christmas Mountain Village in Wisconsin Dells (608) 254-3971 offers four snowtubing chutes. For tubers in southeastern Wisconsin, Sunburst Ski Area in Kewaskum (262) 626-8404 offers the second-longest run (1,000 ft.) and more snowtubing chutes (11) than anywhere else in the state.

Another slippery silent sport, ice skating, takes center stage at several winter festivals. On December 5 and 6, the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee hosts a holiday classic ice skating event. The public also is invited to skate daily for fun or fitness. Public skating fees: $5 – children (12 and under); $7 – adults; $5 – seniors (62 and over); $3 – skate rental. A lesser-known attraction at the facility is Pettit's indoor 450-meter run/walk track, which is open daily and is the only track in Wisconsin with a Zamboni Crossing sign! The track is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call (414) 266-0100, ext. 108 for track schedule updates. Admission is $4 or 10 visits for $36. The Pettit National Ice Center is located at 500 South 84th Street in Milwaukee (next to State Fair Park). Visit Pettit National Ice Center or call (414) 266-0100.

On December 19, Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County hosts holiday music, bright lights and colorful costumes during the IcePlex Learn to Skate Fest. Freestyle, synchronized and guest skaters will entertain you. The IcePlex is located at 9900 Terwall Terrace at State Hwy 165 and County Road H in Pleasant Prairie.

From December 26 to 31 Manitowish Waters counts down to the New Year with low/no cost, family-fun activities held regardless of snow conditions. Library story hour and craft projects, dog sledding demos, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, live jazz, wolf program, Marvel in Manitowish ice skating, snow sculpting, skiing and more are on the program. Visit Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce or call toll free (888) 626-9877.

Then usher in 2010, the Year of the Tiger, and celebrate the start of National Skating Month on January 2 during Boulder Junction's Winter Celebration, which includes a chili dump, bonfire, music, ice skating, cross country skiing, fireworks and more. Events are located at Boulder Junction Winter Park, Old Hwy K, Boulder Junction. For more information call (715) 385-2400 or visit Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce.