By Eileen Ogintz
Ready to strap on snowshoes? Maybe you’d rather sled, ice skate or or cross-country ski.
Maine State Parks are perfect places for outdoor winter fun for families, whatever your ages or ability at winter sports.
Take it Outside is a program or Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands and winter kicks off with First Hikes throughout the state on New Year’s Day and family events take place throughout the winter in different Maine state parks
There is great downhill skiing in the mountains of Western Maine at resorts like Sugarloaf, Maine’s biggest single ski mountain, and Sunday River, with interconnected trails that make it one of the largest ski resorts in New England—more than 870 acres!
Western Maine is also home to Mount Blue State Park which offers extensive trails and winter fun—everything from winter camping, miles of snowshoe trails, groomed and ungroomed cross-country ski trails, and snowmobile trails, as well as an ice skating rink, sliding hill, and warming hut on Center Hill.
“I love ice skating at an outdoor rink,” said Missy, 10, one of the many Maine kids I interviewed for my Kid’s Guide to Maine.
Zoey, 11, prefers a frozen pond for skating. “Smooth, slick ice under your feet as you glide around…absolutely amazing!” Zoe lives in Bar Harbor, ME and was one of the kids who offered tips for my Kid’s Guide to Acadia National Park.
Freeport, Maine is the place to go for outlet shopping and L.L. Bean’s gargantuan store that’s open 24/7, whether for the holidays or post-holiday deals. Take a free bird watching tour or visit a chocolate factory! Come for a pre-holiday getaway—there are lots of inns and fun places to eat! (Lobster chowder maybe?) and Freeport’s Sparkle Celebration (from Dec. 6-16)
And when you’ve had enough shopping, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, is just a five-minute drive from the center of town. If you want to up your skills, L.L.Bean offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing lessons in their Outdoor Discovery School at Pineland Farms in nearby New Gloucester. They have more than 5,000 acres of beautiful woodlands and fields open to the public, including 30 kilometers of professionally designed, well-kept trails cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. They also offer sledding and ice skating.
And afterward, there’s nothing better than sitting by the fire with a hot chocolate or hot toddy at one of Maine’s many inns offering special winter packages. Start planning at www.visitmaine.com