Take a hint from the groundhog: It's time to emerge from the burrow and see the sun again. Looking for ways to shake them from their seasonal slumber? It's best to have some ideas to tempt them outdoors. For a well-deserved day-ending treat, try our Hot Chocolate with Homemade Marshmallow Topping recipe.
Hit the slopes tucked into an inner tube and get ready for the ride of your life as you bounce down the hill. Mount Hoy, at Blackwell Forest Preserve (on Butterfield Road, a half-mile west of Winfield Road), offers tubing when three or more inches of snow cover the hill. Rent inner tubes on weekends and school holidays for $4 per tube per day (cash only) from December through February at the base of the hill. Only rented tubes are allowed on the slopes.
City dwellers don't have far to go to leave the urban hustle and bustle behind while gliding along on cross-country skis in the forest. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont rents out cross-country skis for visitors to use on their trails through some of the most pristine natural areas in the Chicago area. Skis and instruction are available at the new Learning Center, which also includes a Great Lodge room, complete with fireplace and comfy chairs for post-ski warm up. Equipment can be checked out 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for use on Sagawau trails only. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, 12545 W. 111th St., Lemont. (630) 257-2045.
For an urban oasis in the heart of the city, head to Northerly Island on the Museum Campus off Lake Shore Drive. Not actually an island, this park juts out into Lake Michigan. During weekends in January, when there's three or more inches of snow, check out free snow shoes and cross-country skis for the whole family and get some cold-weather exercise. Equipment can be checked out 10 a.m.-4 p.m., while supplies last. Snowshoeing is recommended for kids 6 and up, says Marta Juaniza, spokesperson for the Chicago Park District, which oversees the island. On Jan. 22, Northerly Island hosts Polar Adventure Days, a day filled with winter fun. For more information, call (312) 742-2910. Equipment rental isn't available during Chicago Bears home games.
While we don't have any towering mountains nearby, we still have slopes, and your kids will love the chance to hit them with just a short drive to Four Lakes in Lisle. The resort has five runs, a beginner's hill and a terrain park, along with lessons for everyone 4 and up. Lift tickets $25, ski rental $16, snowboard rental $38, plus deposit. Lessons run $45 private and $30 semi-private per person. Four Lakes, 5790 Lakeside Drive, Lisle. (630) 964-2551 (reservations), (630) 964-2550 (snow hotline), skifourlakes.com.