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Wintertime in our Parks

As we rush headlong into a week bookended by two long holiday weekends, we might not think first of what continues to happen in our parks, whether we’re in the colder northern parts of the United States or the warmer southern reaches. Increasingly, there are more and more outdoor activities during the winter months that you can enjoy in parks across the United States. So, dress appropriately and come out to work off that eggnog and pie!


Photo courtesy of  Bryant Park

Ice Skating is a long-standing popular activity.  Close our Boston office is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. Also popular are the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Bryant Park in New York City. New on horizon, with a twist is bumper cars on ice at the ice skating rink in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.


Picture courtesy of Frog Pond, Boston Common

San Francisco is another city that combines ice skating with a variety of other activities during the holiday week at Embarcadero Plaza, a variety of free activities are offered on selected days with Tuesdays for Disc Golfing, Wednesdays: Skateboarding, Thursdays: Rock Climbing, Fridays: Skateboarding, and Saturdays for Slacklining.


Winterfest at the Arch (courtesy of Gateway Arch Park)

Not to be outdone, Gateway Arch Park in Saint Louis Winterfest at the Arch at the Kiener Plaza in downtown Saint Louis from December 21st through January 1st has a skating along with special events including food trucks, live music, and giveaways.


Skijoring in With Park (courtesy of the Loppet Foundation)

The Minneapolis Park Board partners with the Loppet Foundation to sponsor winter activities including cross-country skiing, hiking and skijoring in Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

Later this winter, Saint Paul will host their annual Winter Carnival (Jan 25-Feb 10) and they are working to raise funds to build a multi-story peoples’ ice palace. The center of activities is Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul.


There’s many, many more activities and events planned and we’d love to hear about them as we’re (the Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land) working to compile a longer report on winter activities in city parks. Please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org



More on Winter Parks

Quebec City's Winter Carnaval

With snow falling everywhere east of the Missouri River, we thought it a good time to further mention some things that make parks lighten the load of winter’s cold and ice.

Most of this actually involves embracing it. One example is the Winter Carnival or Festival. Whether it be St. Paul’s Winter Carnival, Ottawa’s Winterlude or Montreal’s pre-Lenten Winter Festival (taking place in its Parc Jean-Drapeau) or Quebec’s Winter Carnval, the idea is to provide lots of events and things to do both inside and outside. In St. Paul, the city’s European-looking Rice Park fills up with ice sculptures and residents search for a medallion worth $10,000 if found in the city’s parks.

In Minneapolis, the city recently started the only urban cross country ski marathon (called a loppet) that traverses the city’s parks and lakes. The big event includes professionals from around the world, but events occur for anyone to participate in. The Star Tribune has a video here of the “Luminary Loppet,” which involves a short ski or hiking course of lighted ice forms.

The coldest cities in the country cannot change their climates, but many of them have great park systems that are there year round. Might as well make good use of them to make living in the city during cold months a little warmer in spirit.

Snowpocalypse = Fun in Washington’s Meridian Hill Park

The major snow storm that hit Washington, D.C. this weekend may have shut everything down, but festive residents in the Columbia Heights neighborhood flocked to Meridian Hill Park to enjoy the deluge of white stuff. There seemed to be almost more people in the park than normally found on a Sunday in June.

People could be found building snowmen, sledding the snow-laden stairs, building forts, having fun with their dogs, playing football, walking around, snowball throwing and just watching all of this take place. Some pictures:

Making Use of Fountains in Winter

Fountains are great in the summer, but when they’re drained for the winter, their empty appearance can make a park feel unattractive and unwelcoming to users. But just because the fountain isn’t running doesn’t mean the park has to stop running as well. In fact, fountains can be adorned with decorations and lights to make them even more attractive than they are in the warmer months. In New York, the city has worked with private groups to dress up empty fountains:

Parks and private donors have joined to beautify public fountains during the holiday season by beautifying the features during their winter hibernation. Parks across the city have benefitted from holiday–themed displays featuring a selection of winter plants, including red dogwood, juniper, boxwood, spruce, white birch, yew trees, holly, juniper, and winter berries. In addition, school groups create ornaments that hang from the display. Fountains in the program include the historic Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain in City Hall Park, Joyce Kilmer Park’s fountain opposite the Bronx Borough Hall, the Columbus Park fountain in downtown Brooklyn, and the Court Square fountain in Long Island City, Queens.

Parks need not go into winter hibernation — and by beautifying them in winter it makes the holiday season in the city a pleasant one. (The NYC Parks Dept. website has a longer and interesting history on New York City’s parks during the holidays.)