4 Socially Distant Activities and Sports to Try This Winter When You’re Bored of Staying Inside

Downhill skiing and ice skating aren’t the only options around these parts.

winter activities

From horseback riding to snowshoeing, there are plenty of winter activities to keep you busy. Photograph by Sitikka/iStock/Getty Images

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

Pretty much anywhere with snow and walking space is a good spot to try these winterized takes on low-intensity hiking, so head to your favorite park and proceed accordingly. Cross-country skiing works best on groomed paths or wide-open fields, while snowshoes will help you tackle more uneven terrain. (Valley Forge National Historical Park, Tyler Arboretum, Fort Washington State Park, and, when the powder hits a few inches, Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon are good for either.) For minimal-commitment equipment, all seven area Buckman’s Ski & Snowboard shops rent cross-country skis and snowshoes by the weekend, week and season.

Ice Fishing

Extreme Philly Fishing YouTuber Leo Sheng loves ice fishing for urban dwellers because you can access deeper parts of open water without a boat. To minimize risks, you’ll need a fishing license, a working knowledge of ice safety, an auger (ice should be at least four inches thick when you drill), traction cleats, and, in case you fall in, a set of emergency ice picks worn around your neck. To make the experience enjoyable, you’ll need the right pole — ice-fishing rods are more compact, but you can also use an old-school tip-up — a pop-up tent to block the wind (but only to be used on ice more than six inches thick), and a solid destination. Sheng’s faves: Lake Luxembourg and Levittown Lake in Bucks County, Marsh Creek State Park, and New Jersey’s Round Valley Reservoir. (Be sure to consult park guidelines before venturing onto the ice.)

Horseback Riding

Ninety minutes north of Philly, Daisy Field Farm leads guided rides for both beginning and experienced equestrians through 40 acres of private Poconos forest. In the winter, the hour-long weekend excursions are a chance to spot deer, turkeys and pheasant in their element. (Hunting isn’t allowed on the property, which means wild critters roam free. Per stable owner Judy Mertz, booking the first or last excursion of the day offers your best chance to see them.) When snow hits, full-blown horse-drawn sleigh rides — great for young kids! — are also an option.

Forest Bathing

Think of this Japanese-born therapeutic technique as an emotionally augmented nature walk. When you book a session with Wild Philadelphia, a certified guide will lead you through a series of prompts meant to deepen connections to the world around you. Weekly winter excursions, which Wild Philadelphia founder Jess Isaacs-Blundin says can feel even more reflective thanks to the serene nature of the landscape, typically last one and a half to three hours and are held throughout Fairmount Park, the Wissahickon and the Woodlands. Low costs ($10 to $35 per session) and small groups (no more than 10) keep things accessible, intimate and COVID-compliant.

Published as “We Try New Sports” in “The Big Chill” guide in the January/February 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.