6 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities to Enjoy in Cold Weather

Updated: Jan. 26, 2024

It's never too cold to have fun! These family-friendly winter outdoor activities guarantee the warmest of smiles, even when it's chilly.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Get Creative With Pots and Wreaths

If you’re looking for winter activities, it’s easy to spruce up your space with pots and wreaths. In a pot, arrange by height branches of red twig dogwood, spruce, arborvitae, winterberry holly or other noninvasive plants you happen to have growing in your backyard. The best part about a winter container? No need to worry about water or light needs. Or attach small bundles of evergreen branches and other harvested materials to a wreath form. Try weaving in some bird-friendly favorites such as seedpods, winter berries and dried apple slices (with the seeds removed).

Try these winter garden ideas to keep growing while it’s snowing.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Light up the Night and Find New Warmth

Give your snowy landscape a true glow-up by incorporating stylish lighting into the scenery. You can keep it classic with multicolored string lights around windows, porches and rooflines or go for coziness with large lanterns and vintage bulb lights in bushes. For an eco-friendly option, try solar-powered lights to save on the electric bill. Or wrap twinkling lights around interestingly shaped objects such as tomato cages.

Add some extra light and comfort on your patio, deck or porch with the help of a heater or fire pit. From electric patio heaters and wood-burning fire pits to chimeneas and fire pit tables, an option is available that will suit your space. Once you find the one that’s right for you, sit back with your morning coffee or an evening mulled wine and enjoy the warmth.

Grow flowers in winter by forcing bulbs indoors.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Decorate With Treats Birds Love — and Add a Heated Birdbath 

Deck the yard with garland and seed ornaments to see more birds! Thread together bird favorites such as cranberries, air-popped popcorn and fresh orange slices, and drape the colorful garland on a shrub or tree. For more bird-friendly decor, heat ½ cup water, 3 teaspoons gelatin and 3 tablespoons corn syrup. Mix ¾ cup flour, 4 cups birdseed and the gelatin mixture. Spray cookie cutters with cooking spray; press in the mixture. Use a straw or toothpick to poke a hole in each for hanging. Remove and let dry, then hang with holiday ribbon. Your birds will love this birdseed wreath, too.

You might also give your feathered friends a source of fresh water on chilly days with a heated birdbath. Finding fresh available water can be tough in winter, and even birds that may not stop by feeders will be tempted by a heated birdbath. As another option, you can add an electric de-icer to your favorite preexisting birdbath. But avoid ceramic and concrete baths, which can crack if the water freezes.

Also have fun with these whimsical winter bird feeders.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Hunt for Animal Tracks 

Some of the most exciting sights after a fresh snowfall are the mysterious tracks furry critters leave in your backyard or neighborhood. For one of your winter activities, keep a list of the animal tracks you find and see how many you can identify. If you’re new to animal track ID, two things to observe first are the shape (including size and any claw marks) and the gait (did the animal hop like a bunny or walk in a perfect line like a fox?).

Do birds get cold? Learn the truth behind winter bird myths.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Act Like a Kid Again 

Remember, snow days used to mean more than shoveling the driveway—and they still can! Celebrate the season by going back to the basic winter activities you loved as a kid. Build a snowman (or a whole snow family!) or try some snowball target practice. Even something as simple as making a snow angel is a great way to embrace a little of the silliness that can make winter so fun.

Grow these 20 pretty winter plants for more backyard cheer.

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Illustrations by Linda Bleck

Write in a Journal or Do a Backyard Photo Shoot

Go all out with fun decorations (think washi tape and stickers) or stick to the basics: a notebook and a pen or pencil. Start with what you notice. These should be simple observations, such as the temperature, what bird species are visiting or what sounds you hear. Jot down anything you are curious about or reminded of. Don’t forget to date each entry so you can look back for winters to come. Journaling can be helpful for gardeners in winter, too.

You can also try capturing the beauty of the season with your smartphone and a few tips for professional-looking shots. Fresh snow can really transform your backyard; help it look its best by turning off the flash. The white backdrop may cause your camera to reduce the exposure, making the snow appear gray, so use the exposure slider (tap your screen while in camera mode to make it appear) to manually adjust it.