Don’t Let the Cold Stop You: Get Outside With These Winter Family Activities

Staying active in the winter months can be tough; from an individual standpoint is one thing, but throw some kids and a couple of pooches in the mix and it can seem downright impossible. We all have our “excuses”: It’s too cold! There’s too much snow! I have so much to do! But maybe it’s time to change our perspectives.

Whether it’s the bitterly cold temperatures or dumping snow that once deterred your outdoor activity, the gloomy, grey skies and uninspiring lack of sunshine, or the business of the season – we get it, there’s holiday shopping, holiday office parties, kids’ holiday concerts…holiday burnout – we have a few winter activities for kids and the whole family that’ll keep you moving all season long. 

Plan ahead

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We know it’s cold out there, so planning ahead is a great way to set yourself (and kids) up for success. In our family, it’s easy to get the kids outside. The bigger challenge at times is keeping them outside. For us, layers are the answer! 

Go for a base layer (natural fibers like hemp will help wick away any sweat or moisture), a zip-up or half-zip like Toad’s Telluride Sherpa Pullover (to easily dump extra heat), and then a jacket (to keep them dry). 

Then, accessorize. Little fingers and noses can get cold! So find the gloves, hats and scarves/neck tubes your child is willing to keep on – and keep them in a designated location (so they don’t get lost!). We have dedicated “winter accessories” basket in our kids’ bedroom for easy access. To add a little more fun to the mix, consider letting the little one(s) pick the accessories they want to wear for that outing – having the opportunity to choose their favorite hat can help inspire them to get outside!

Remember to keep yourself cozy, too. If you’re cold and uncomfortable, it will be significantly more difficult to keep the kids happy. Layering and fun accessorizing isn’t just for kids!

Just keep moving

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The prep to get outside might take you 45 minutes or more (no shame here), but once that’s done, the hard part is over! 

If you live in town, walk or bike around the neighborhood to check out the holiday lights and decorations. If you live in a rural area, explore your own property or the side roads on foot (we also love using a wagon and each kid shares pulling the others!). And if you’re lucky enough to have trails right outside your door – use those!

If you need to keep the kids engaged, challenge them to fun games or have enticing destinations in mind. Playing “I spy” along the walk/ride is a great way to heighten their awareness (and distract them from saying “are we there yet?” ten thousand times). We also enjoy spotting and counting birds or other critters. And if the locale fits, plan a mid-walk break at a cafe (did someone say hot chocolate?) or the library to pick out a new book. 

And remember, even a short walk will do your body and mind some good. Staying active is a big part of staying healthy during the colder months!

Make snowpeople

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You’d be surprised just how much work it takes to build a snowman. Seriously, if you don’t break a sweat rolling snowballs, I’m impressed! Whether there’s 2 inches or 2 feet on the ground, take advantage of the fresh snow and get in it! 

This is also a great time to play in-snow games like tracking critter prints, and make other snow creations like snow angels.

Get crafty

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While arts and crafts are usually sedentary activities, it’s easy to shake them up a bit by taking them outside! In fact, many of our favorite craft days are nature-inspired.

Whether we’re making pine cone bird feeders, driftwood/tree branch picture frames or rock “art”, each craft starts with a hike to gather our supplies (cones, sticks, rocks). 

It’s also fun to bring along a warm snack or beverage to share with the kiddos. Cracking open our insulated thermos and pouring hot (warm) chocolate or sharing a tasty soup into trail-ready mugs is never a bad thing!

Tweak old & start new traditions

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From the foods we make during the holiday season to the way we share gifts, traditions are important to so many of us. But how can we take these family-honored traditions outside to help us stay more active? For us, it is a no-brainer. Our family goes Christmas tree “hunting” every year, but rather than driving the truck up to a tree, we choose to bike it out of the woods! 

If you have access to national forest lands (or state lands in some places), you can do it too! Or, if you live in the city, grocery stores, corner lots and hardware stores all carry cut trees this time of year. Grab your bike and a trailer (or borrow one from a friend), plan ahead and make a family adventure of it! 

Get the gear

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And finally, while you don’t need all the gear, adding a few pieces to your winter kit can help boost activity levels. From skiing to biking to hiking, our family has gathered gear from second hand shops, borrowed from friends and bought new over the course of the years, and it has definitely helped us diversify our winter activities. The gear you pick depends on the activities you really want to pursue. And when you’re looking for things to do with kids in winter, the gear can definitely help. 

For us, there are three must-haves in winter: adventure-ready stroller, bike accessories, and a trail-ready sled.

First, using an enclosed stroller helps get everyone in our family outside (and keeps our crawler cozy). We chose one with ski and bike attachments so our youngest could come along no matter the activity. 

Second, for our skiing-loving, bikeaholic child, we picked up a pair of ski attachments for a balance-style bike. Biking is an easy-access activity for us; in our family, if we’re not walking, we’re pedaling. With the “bike skis”, he can push and slide along when we take the fat bikes or cross country skis on snowy trails! 

Third, when all else fails, attach a sled! We use our pulk/sled while fat biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s a great option because its fun, both of our kids (and lunch/extra gear) fit in it, and it’s lightweight!

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A Pennsylvania native and Colorado transplant, Ryan is a proud mountain mama to two wild outdoors-loving kiddos and a couple of equally wild cattle dogs. She’s also a photographer, writer and outdoorswoman. When she and her husband aren’t wrangling the pack – and more often, when they are – you’ll find them fly fishing, skiing or biking somewhere around their home in southern Colorado. 

Photography by Ryan Scavo and Sam Scavo.

Summer To-Do: Shakespeare in the Park

A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.

New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.

Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.

Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.

Boston, MA –  The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.

Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…

Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th  when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)

Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”

San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.

Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.

Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.

But what will you wear?! 

Why We Need Bugs

Fun fact: humans cannot survive without bugs. Yep, those things that creep into your sleeping bags and go splat on your windshield are vital to the health and survival of our ecosystem. The honey bee is a simple example of why bugs are critical to human life: They pollinate plants that produce crops. Without bees, there’s no pollination, without pollination there’s no crop… you get the idea. Bees are just one of thousands of insects that are pulling more than their tiny weight. That’s why we love bugs (from a distance). Here are some of the reasons why:

Bugs add an estimated $57 billion to the US economy.

According to the Cornell Chronicle, insects are a primary food source for fish, birds, and mammals, and they do a heck of a job at keeping things clean. The study found that “native insects are food for the wildlife supporting a $50 billion recreation industry and provide more than $4.5 billion worth in pest control. They also provide crop pollination valued at $3 billion and clean up grazing lands, saving ranchers some $380 million a year.” Well, that sure puts our yearly savings to shame!

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Bugs make great models.

When engineers need to create a spacesuit for Mars, or create a damage resistant car, they look to nature. In this TedTalk, Robert Full explains how examining cockroaches can inform how robots learn to stabilize on rough terrain, walk upside down, do gymnastic maneuvers in air, and run into walls without harming themselves. Way cool.

 

Bugs are highly civilized.

In a human world that can seem increasing more separatist, some insect societies are a shining example of teamwork. Take ants. Ants live in colonies that will grow and flourish for decades. In this TedTalk, Deborah Gordon explores how ants successfully collaborate, delegate, and even multitask – all without language, memory or visible leadership. Understanding these complex systems can help humans better understand our own complex systems from the human brain to high speed computer networks.

 

Bugs are delicious and nutritious.

In Mexico, you can buy a bag full of fried grasshoppers. In Japanese cuisine, bamboo caterpillars are a celebrated appetizer. And in Sardinia and Corsica, Casu Marzu is cheese that’s inhabited by live maggots, and (apparently) it’s divine. Listen to this TedTalk by Marcel Dicke on why insect delicacies are nutritional and eco-friendly additions to our daily diets. Mmmm.

 

Bugs are beautiful.

There’s inspiration all around, but sometimes it’s the little things that can be the most delightful – seeing the twilight dance of fireflies, watching a spider make its masterpiece, listening to the flight of the bumblebee… Bugs just bein’ bugs are some of Mother Nature’s finest works of art. Whether you capture the magic with your fancy human contraptions or just soak in the moment, pause for a moment to witness the beauty of bugs.

 

Bugs are buddies.

Like even our best friends, bugs can really be a pain in the neck sometimes. When ants invade your hammock or gnats keep you awake (and don’t even get us started on mosquitos), bugs can be a real buzz kill. Luckily, we’ve found a way to coexist: Our Toad&Co Debug styles featuring Insect Shield® Technology. Our Debug styles have a bug deterring fiber woven into the fabric, creating an odorless, non-lethal repellent that’s safe for humans and furry friends alike (and a billion times more pleasant than DEET or Citronella). Now we can appreciate bugs without being their lunch.

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The Ultimate Trail to Tavern 3-Day Weekend in Seattle

 

It’s hard to say what Seattleites love more: getting outside or drinking locally crafted beer. Luckily, in this Trail to Tavern® city, you don’t have to choose just one. With more than 40 breweries and tons of ways to get outside (hiking, trail running, cycling, and paddle boarding, to name a few), Seattle certainly has plenty of opportunities to squeeze in visits to both trails and taverns. Here’s our guide for how to make the most of your three-day weekend in the Emerald City.

Day One

Discovery Park is the largest public park in the city. Samantha LarsonDiscovery Park is the largest public park in the city. Samantha Larson.

Start your first day with a lap around one of Seattle’s most popular spots: Discovery Park. Whether you are driving up I-5 or coming in from the airport, take a detour to stop at Cherry Street Coffee House. There are 10 locations around Seattle, and each one has a unique store design. Grab a coffee or tea and a bagel (or housemade quiche!) and continue to the largest park in the city, covering more than 500 acres on a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound.

The 2.8-mile Discovery Park Loop (there’s also a four-mile option) weaves through forests and meadows, past sea cliffs and sandy beaches, while offering stellar views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound. With steep hills that are sure to get your heart pumping, running through Discovery Park is an equally delicious way to wake up as sipping on a handcrafted latte—and here in Seattle, that’s saying something.

If you’ve got some energy left, stop by for a quick session at Vertical World, America’s first climbing gym, which is about a mile to the east. Bring a towel, and you’ll be able to take a hot shower here before getting on with your day, too.

Grab a flight at the Pike Brewing Company.Grab a flight at the Pike Brewing Company. +Russ

From here, make your way downtown for lunch at another classic Seattle site: Pike’s Place Market. Jump in the long line to get a frappuccino from the original Starbucks and grab a sandwich, falafel, or hom bow from one of the outdoor food vendors. Don’t miss the famous fish throwing spectacle, then head over to the Pike Brewing Company for the 3 pm tour and tasting, where you’ll learn about the art of brewing and try out some samples. This family-owned establishment was founded in 1989 by Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, who dedicated themselves to brewing after falling in love with beer while traveling in Europe. From Belgian lambics to English ales, they wanted to bring these flavors back to the Pacific Northwest. The brewery really took off when they concocted the Pike IPA in 1990, which is still one of their most popular drinks.

After a tasting at Pike, spend some time exploring the market, the waterfront, and maybe take a ride or two on Seattle’s Great Wheel for picturesque views of the city and the Puget Sound.

Finish the night with dinner back at Pike’s Place Market at one of Seattle’s newest breweries, the Old Stove Brewing Co. Just because the brewery is the new kid in town, don’t think that Scott Barron, the head brewer, is a greenhorn: he came to Old Stove after stints at three other local breweries. If you like a bold tasting beer, try the Touch Too Much IPA (though we think it’s just the right amount of hops), or the Streaker Citra Ale for something a little lighter and brighter. Pair either option with a Fresh Dip sandwich and you’ll be set.

** Where to Stay**

Get some sleep in a uniquely Seattle abode by renting a houseboat or a sailboat on Airbnb. If you would rather stay on dry land, Hotel Max is a solid alternative—and they offer free craft beer during happy hour (what more could you ask for?).

Day Two

The route to Colchuck Lake makes for a wonderful day hike.The route to Colchuck Lake makes for a wonderful day hike. laffertyryan

For day two, get out of the city and into the wilderness by taking a trip to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed village nestled in the Central Cascades. But don’t be fooled by this quirky tourist town—it’s the gateway to some of Washington’s best outdoor adventures. At 2.5 hours away, it’s a bit of a drive from Seattle, but well worth it. Get an early start and book it to Pioneer Coffee Roasting Company along I-90 in North Bend for breakfast and cup of joe before continuing on.

Since you’ll likely want to eat lunch on-the-go, swing by family-owned Good Mood Food once you get to Leavenworth for snacks and a sandwich, and then let the adventure begin.

The Enchantments have been called an alpine paradise, and as soon as you find yourself surrounded by granite boulders and blue alpine lakes (maybe even mountain goats!), you’ll understand why. You could spend a lifetime exploring the area, but the eight-mile out-and-back hike to Colchuck Lake is a great option if you only have a day. You’ll hike through the forest and across several streams before tackling a series of switchbacks. After more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak, and the Colchuck Glacier.

Leavenworth is also home to one of the best climbing areas in the state, with a high concentration of sweet boulder problems, trad routes, and sport climbs. The Washington Climbers Coalition is an excellent resource for information on the climbing here.

After a day filled with adventure, stop by Leavenworth’s Icicle Brewing Company for a bite to eat and a drink before hitting the road. Try their Colchuck Raspberry Wheat, fermented with Willamette Valley raspberries, with a turkey sandwich or salad.

Once you get back to Seattle, celebrate the day with a cold one (or two!) from Two Beers Brewing Company in Seattle’s Industrial District. After spending several years perfecting the art of homebrewing from his kitchen, Joel VandenBrink decided to take the craft even further and founded the company in 2007. The brewery now produces almost 6,000 barrels every year. The Day Hike, a light and crisp lemony summer session ale, is the perfect way to top off the day’s activities.

Day Three

The Burke-Gilman Trail is part of 90 miles of biking trails in Seattle.The Burke-Gilman Trail is part of 90 miles of biking trails in Seattle. Seattle Parks

Ease into day three with brunch in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A good place to start is with a Belgian-style street waffle with sweet or savory toppings from Sweet Iron Waffles or a traditional Syrian breakfast at Mamnoon. Then grab a bike from a local rental shop and head north for a leisurely ride along the Burke-Gilman Trail, a paved bike path that hugs the shores of Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Ship Canal. The greenery lining the trail is, in part, thanks to the tree-planting efforts of organizations like the local conservation group Forterra.

Check out the salmon ladder at the Ballard Locks as you ride to the end of the Burke to Golden Gardens, a beach on Puget Sound with magnificent views of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day. Rent a paddleboard or kayak and take the easy, two-mile trip out to the Discovery Park Lighthouse. (Keep your eyes peeled for jellyfish below and seals frolicking in the water around you!)

The Burke also offers excellent access to some of the best breweries in town, so get ready for a little brewery hopping on the return trip as you wrap up your weekend in Seattle. Stoup Brewing is the product of a scientist and self-proclaimed beer geek, with a goal to brew the best beer scientifically possible. Just a block away is Reuben’s Brews, whose beers have won awards both nationally and internationally. If you order a pie from Zeeks or Ballard Pizza, you will not only get a discount, but you can also take it into Reuben’s with you.

The family-owned Maritime Pacific Brewing Company’s seafaring theme and traditional recipes are a hat-tip to the Ballard neighborhood’s roots as a fishing town. Try the Old Seattle Lager, made with Cascade hops, or the Flagship Red, both available year round. And just a little farther away is Hale’s Ales Brewery & Pub and the Fremont Brewing Company.

Did we mention that Seattle has a lot of breweries?

But don’t worry about hitting them all in this trip—you need a reason to start planning your next visit, right?

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

Featured image provided by David Herrera

Outdoor Afro: Making the Outdoors Inclusive

 

Heading into the outdoors feels like second nature to some of us. Rangle up a few buddies, throw your camp stove and headlamp in a backpack, and head out for the rock strewn trails you know and love. It’s that easy, except when it’s not. Geographical restrictions, lack of gear, and a general weariness of the outdoors have kept plenty of people from experiencing the wilderness. Rue Mapp and her organization, Outdoor Afro, are changing the status quo one outing at a time.

Whether talking policy change or paddling white water, Rue Mapp spreads her love of the outdoors with everyone she encounters.

Growing up in Northern California, Rue spent her formative years exploring the hills and ranches behind Oakland. She called it her “nature laboratory,” a hands-on-the-land experience where she watched the night sky rotate, rode bikes along country roads, watched fruit trees bloom and connected to nature. It was a cornerstone of her community and something she shared with the whole family – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. “We were never backcountry mountaineers, but we were an outdoor loving family” and that was enough to change her life forever.

Intent on changing the image of what the traditional “outdoor community” looked like, Rue started a blog in 2009 with the goal of getting more African Americans outside. Relying on social media, Rue built an outpost of knowledge and general understanding of all things outdoors. It became a community where people could share information and resources that might alleviate the stresses associated with actually getting outside. From first-time summits to the roasting their first s’mores over a city park grill, Outdoor Afro became a place where black people and nature meet. And as anyone who’s roasted their own s’more knows, one taste of the outdoors just leaves you hungry for more.

Engaging the whole family is a powerful step toward making the outdoors more inclusive and accessible.

In 2013, Rue rallied her first group of 13 leaders to connect African Americans to nature beyond the blogosphere. With representatives from across the country, Outdoor Afro leaders came together to train on everything from effective community engagement to tying knots. Armed with new skills and a super-duper support team, these leaders went back to their communities with the goal of getting whole families to get outside, just like Rue’s family had. Whether it was  hiking, whitewater rafting, yoga in the park or conservation efforts, every experience outdoors was a worthy and life-changing experience.

Outdoor Afro has expanded its leadership community to nearly every corner of the United States.

Rue’s efforts to establish community leaders has been an absolute smash. By 2015 her group of Outdoor Afro leaders had doubled, and 2017 has seen the group jump to nearly 70 leaders across more than 30 states. They’ve connected over 20,000 people to the outdoors, many for the first time. From conservation work to Healing Hikes, Outdoor Afro has become an outlet for people from all backgrounds to get outside in whatever capacity suits them best.

  From backcountry trips to city walks, all outdoor experiences, no matter how challenging, can be life-changing. 

If you want to get involved or join an Outdoor Afro meetup, there are tons of opportunities this Spring and Summer. If you’re looking to partner with Outdoor Afro (and trust us, you do), they’re all about connecting with like minded organizations to benefit access for all. As a brand and as individuals, we at Toad&Co find Rue and the whole Outdoor Afro vision to be totally inspiring. We believe in access for all and that all people deserve the right to explore, whether it be the local park or the tallest peak in the state. So good on ya Rue, and we can’t wait to see which mountains Outdoor Afro scales next!