Here’s How to Avoid Going Stir Crazy This Winter

Winter doesn’t need to be dark, dull, and dreary. There are still plenty of ways to make the coldest season your most memorable yet. From dogsledding to helicopter rides to glamping in a snow globe, 41 adventures to try before you freeze your *** off.

Photo via Boston Globe/Getty Images

Wave a Nova Scotian flag at the tree lighting on Boston Common.

This year, the Canadians are gifting our beautiful spruce from the most fitting of locations: Christmas Island. Here are a few other important stats to remember as the lights flick on December 1.

Height, in feet, of the 2022 tree in all its glory:


Number of multicolored light bulbs draped around its branches:


Amount of time, in hours, it takes arborists to trim the tree to fit its stand:


Height, in feet, of the LED star placed on top by crane:


Time, in minutes, it takes border control to check the tree for invasive species:

30 to 60

Number of trees lining the perimeter of the Common:


Glamp in an oversize snow globe in Vermont.

Plop a geodesic dome—one of those translucent half-shell structures invented by Buckminster Fuller—in snowy Vermont, and what do you get? A life-size snow globe you can live in, if only for a weekend. At Quarry Brook, a working farm and homestead in Putney, the insulated structure offers every creature comfort you could need: a queen bed and a wood stove for cozy nights inside, and a fire pit, miles of trails, a picnic area, and an outhouse (pack your long johns!) outside. The best part of it all? You don’t have to shake this snow globe to get the full effect.

See a snowy Boston from the clouds.

If you’re afraid of heights, you should probably stop reading. For everyone else: Flying thousands of feet off the ground in a chopper is worth trying at least once in your life—and if you’re going to go for it, make it in the wintertime, when the scenery below really sparkles. See for yourself on a Helicopter Tour Boston flight that zooms everywhere from Nantasket Beach to downtown, showcasing the shining Harbor Islands in between. You’ll glimpse a bird’s-eye view of Boston Light surrounded by white, not to mention the Prudential building, the Common, and more.

Photo via Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Snowshoe by moonlight.

Snowshoeing in the bright winter sun is all well and good, but by moon, you’ll see the forest (and the plants and woodland creatures that live there) in a whole new light. Tours across New England, which come with snowshoes, headlamps, and hot drinks, parade you around easy terrain while guides point out wildlife, constellations, and more. Your step counter will thank you.

Edson Hill
Stowe, Vermont

One-hour tours at this country inn start at sunset, then march under the moonlight, concluding with s’mores at the property’s Nordic Center.

Great Glen Trails
Gorham, New Hampshire

A naturalist from the Appalachian Mountain Club leads these 90-minute tours in the White Mountains, where you’ll listen for owls.

Trapp Family Lodge
Stowe, Vermont

Strap on a headlamp and traipse from the lodge to the Bierhall for a well-deserved pint.

L.L.Bean’s Fogg Farm
Freeport, Maine

After getting the lowdown on Maine’s winter wildlife, L.L.Bean snowshoers refuel with hot cocoa and snacks.

Edson Hill / Photo by Luv Lens

Edson Hill / Photo by Luv Lens

Edson Hill / Photo by Luv Lens

Take in a hot, hot, hot show in the cold.

What makes nighttime in ski country even more fire? Pyrotechnics, of course. The Thursday-night Cat Trax Express tour at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont involves hopping aboard the resort’s 12-passenger snowcat to learn about the area’s natural history while fireworks illuminate the crystal-white snow. And you didn’t think you’d starve, did you? Once you reach the top of the mountain, warm up with wine, chocolate, and other goodies from local makers.

Photo by Alexandre DesLongChamps/Getty Images / Photo by Luv Lens

Do a DIY photography tour through a real-life Christmas village.

Ever take a good look at the streetscapes inside snow globes, or peek into the tiny windows of those mini Christmas villages on windowsills? Those idyllic winter scenes share a few common attributes, and you can find them all in one of Boston’s most famous neighborhoods. See if you can spot all of these Christmas village ingredients on your next stroll through Beacon Hill for your Instagram followers.

Functioning gas lamps
Evergreen trees dusted with snowflakes
A brick chimney emitting curls of smoke
A sweet local chocolate shop
A snow-topped church steeple

Check out a one-of-a-kind view on Mount Washington.

Bad news for daredevils: The conditions atop Mount Washington are so perilous in the wintertime that no vehicles are allowed to drive to the top. But you can still drink in those gorgeous views from the treeline along the Mount Washington Auto Road by hopping aboard the SnowCoach. Captained by Great Glen Trails employees, the 15-person vans are custom-made for the mountain—meaning you won’t find another excursion like it in New England. “You get out and experience the Alpine Zone, which is where the mountain and the trees fade away, and you get these amazing vistas,” explains Lisa McCoy, events and marketing director at Mount Washington. “And you get to experience some of the weather that Mount Washington is so well known for.” That weather, in a word? Cold.

Zipline over snow-topped trees.

Even in the summer, ziplining in the White Mountains is not for the faint of heart. But flying over snow-topped trees and canyons? That’s a next-level adventure. At Bretton Woods, you can glide over Rosebrook Canyon and the surrounding forest, all while they’re blanketed in white. With the help of a guide who’ll be cruising at 30 miles an hour alongside you, explorers hang from a total of nine ziplines—some of which are 1,000 feet long and up to 165 feet high off the ground. Need a break from flying? You’ll be able to use your legs to cross two sky bridges. Santa’s sleigh could never.

Photo by Digital Vision

Belt your heart out with the Boston Caroling Mob.

It’s a shame nobody got to hear your rousing rendition of “White Christmas” last year. This season, make sure that doesn’t happen again by joining the more than 100 singers who descend upon Jamaica Plain on the Sunday before Christmas Eve. Take part in a procession of merry songs, going from door to door around the neighborhood. Better start practicing now.

Turn up the heat with these spicy food challenges.

Wasabi Roulette

You’re playing with fire if you agree to a game of wasabi roulette at Hojoko in the Fenway. Here, an innocent-looking plate of hamachi-and-shiso rolls is served to a group—but one of those rolls is concealing a giant bite of extra-hot “super” wasabi inside. Everybody in your party eats their piece at the same time, and the person whose face flushes immediately outs themself as the loser. Not to worry, though—there’s a baby bottle of horchata on the platter to ease the pain.

The Spicy BBQ Ribs Challenge

You’ll need that hour on the Pike to work up the courage for this challenge at the Boynton Restaurant in Worcester: a full rack of baby back ribs that have been brined in ghost pepper, smoked, deep-fried, and tossed in the restaurant’s house-made “devil’s BBQ sauce.” Polish off all 12, and you’ll get a T-shirt—and likely some outrageous photos.

Xtreme Vindaloo Spicy Challenge

Jebin Tuladhar, the manager of Shanti, likes to hold an annual “Xtreme Vindaloo Spicy Challenge” in the fall. But when the singular event isn’t happening, he dares customers to order the vindaloo “extra hot” any day of the week—and finish it. It’s on the menu in Dorchester, Roslindale, and Shanti’s newest outpost in Kendall Square.

Photo via Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Sled like a champ.

Think sledding in the Common is a treat? Just wait until you try zooming down a 400-foot-long wooden chute in Midcoast Maine. During February’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl, racers fly down the icy channel in the hopes of nabbing the gold. When the championships aren’t taking place, though, you can get a taste of this winter thrill yourself by sledding down the chute onto the frozen shores of Hosmer Pond. A pro tip from the owners? Wear non-bulky clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. When the toboggan is in motion, items can be damaged if they touch the side of the chute. Your sled could be speeding as fast as a car, after all.

Photo via Image Source

Shock your senses at P-town’s Polar Bear Plunge.

Take it from veteran swimmer Meghan O’Connor: There’s no better way to ring in the new year.

“You pull up on New Year’s Day, and everyone’s in their winter gear. A lot of people are standing on the sidelines to cheer you on. Everyone’s super-cheerful and really excited, even amidst this freezing-cold weather. When they call it, everyone strips down to their bathing suits or whatever they feel comfortable in. Some people wear wetsuits; others have shorts and T-shirts—really, anything goes. I ended up doing it solo because my friend wimped out the first year I did it. Then, of course, you dive in and get that burst of cold water. It feels super-energizing. It’s a fun way to start the new year. You’re refreshed and recharged and ready for what’s next. You stay in for as long as you can tolerate it, and then when you come out, folks are saying they’re proud of you and handing you a warm blanket and hot drink. I think it’s something that really brings a sense of community in the off-season. It’s a time when things are usually quite desolate, so seeing that type of animation is really sweet.”

Smooch under a mistletoe archway in the Seaport.

There’s a place in town to live out your Hallmark Christmas movie dreams: The Seaport’s Holiday Market at Snowport. The European-style market, which moved to 85 Northern Avenue this year, will boast an expanded food and drink area and double the small businesses. But what you’ll really want to make the trip for is its newest place to smooch. A grand 10-foot archway will be draped in holiday greenery, garland, and, of course, mistletoe. Steal a kiss before browsing vintage apparel from Vico Style or warming up with jerk chicken from ZaZ Restaurant.

Photo via Zero Creatives/Getty Images

Whiz through the cold on a dogsled.

Dashing through the snow takes on new meaning on a trip with Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, New Hampshire. But before a musher and a team of speedy huskies and hounds whisk you through the snowy expanses and tree-lined paths of the White Mountains region, you’ll want to get to know your tour guides (a.k.a. the dogs).

Teddy: Hoping to play with an energetic pup in the yard before heading out on your dogsledding adventure? Ask for Teddy, who’ll jump up to give you hugs and kisses. “He loves to take hats,” admits Kasey Halliday, kennel manager and senior musher.

Bubbles: If you think you might get overwhelmed by all the canine energy, say hello to Bubbles, one of the calmest dogs in the yard, according to Halliday.

Hobo: You’ve gotta give some good pats before you start sledding. Lucky for you, this guy has the softest coat in the kennel. “It’s almost like velvet,” Halliday says.

Snow White: This canine princess can be very shy, but she has the most heart on the team when pulling, Halliday says, and is an all-around rock star.

Live out your Frozen fantasies.

You haven’t ruled the New Hampshire wilderness until you’ve ascended the throne of the Ice Castles in North Woodstock hand-built by professional ice artists. Thousands of icicles—some 20 million pounds of ice, to be more specific—come together to form the palace, which is best explored when the sculptures, thrones, and fountains are backlit by colorful LED lights at night. While you’re there, push off down one of the ice slides or crawl through one of the castle’s many tunnels. And afterward, take a quarter-mile stroll through an icy forest backlit by even more colorful lights, or try tubing down the property’s hill. Just don’t lose your crown.

Photo via BackLitCoyote/Getty Images

Try your hand at falconry.

Winter bird-watching is always fun, but sometimes you want to do more than just watch. As creator and director of New England Falconry in Hadley, Chris Davis will help you slip on a glove and lead a Harris’s hawk to perch on your hand. Here’s what he wants you to know before touching down in his neck of the woods.

It’s even better with a dusting of white.

“The experience can be lovely with snow on the ground,” Davis says of winter falconry (sessions run through this month and pick back up in March). It’s also easier to locate birds of prey when you can see the tracks of critters they’re interested in on the ground.

Bare trees work in your favor.

When most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, it makes a much simpler time of admiring birds in the branches above you. Plus, high visibility translates to an easier time getting a winged visitor to sit on your glove.

There are no fuzzy feelings between you and the hawk.

The thing people often get wrong about falconry, Davis says, is that they think the birds will act like pets—or at least seem pleased to meet you. But “the birds have no affection for us whatsoever,” he explains. “It is a business relationship, with food being the exchange.”

Photo courtesy of Newbury Hotel

Let someone else build a fire.

The holidays may have you pining for the singular warmth and good cheer of a wood-burning fireplace—a rarity in the city. But at the newly opened Newbury Boston, you can gaze at yule logs to your heart’s content in one of 42 fireplace suites. Guests can choose from a selection of woods to burn, including birch, the warm scent of cherry, a lightly fragrant oak, or classic maple. Once you’ve made your choice, an in-house fireplace butler will arrive to lay the fire for you.

Relish the raclette dinner at Tops’l Farm.

Nothing cures cold bones quite like a bowl of hot, melty cheese. But if Switzerland is too far to travel for a traditional raclette dinner, you can always venture up to Tops’l Farm in Waldoboro, Maine, for an even cozier (and cheesier) experience. Before entering the farm’s hygge-filled barn, diners unwind outside with oysters, drinks, and a game of hammerschlagen. Inside, dinner follows with house-made pickles, cured meats, locally made bread, and veggies grown nearby, all to be enjoyed with plenty of glorious cheese.

Enjoy après-ski champagne in a gondola.

Who says gondolas are just for going up a mountain? At the newly renovated Hermitage Inn in West Dover, Vermont, you can sip and graze inside a repurposed lift after a day on the slopes. Groups of six can sip champagne inside the snug pods and, afterward, stroll beneath the property’s very own covered bridge—or opt for a private dinner in the inn’s wine cellar, where a seasonal tasting menu is paired with wines from the collection.

The Holiday Ship Lighting in Martin’s Park / Courtesy photo

Feast your eyes on these twinkling lights displays.

Night Lights at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill

What You’ll See: Fifteen acres of magical gardens festooned with glowing lights, including an Instagram-worthy photo opp at the rainbow-colored tunnel.

Don’t Miss: Snagging s’mores supplies at the garden’s café and roasting marshmallows outside over the fire pit.

Lights in the Necklace
The Emerald Necklace

What You’ll See: Green-glowing trees and footbridges from Charlesgate Park in the Fenway all the way to Franklin Park.

Don’t Miss: Make a special trip to the Ellicott Arch in Jamaica Plain, a grand curving bridge made from Roxbury puddingstone.

ZooLights at Stone Zoo

What You’ll See: The thousands of lights at Stone Zoo are an annual treat for humans and animals alike. Yukon Creek, which is home to black bears, reindeer, and other creatures, makes for an extra-festive stroll.

Don’t Miss: The new oversize animal lantern displays lighting up your path.

Holiday Ship Lighting in Martin’s Park
The Seaport

What You’ll See: The ship lighting in Martin’s Park bathes the playground’s wooden ship in colored lights, making it an extra-fun spot for a game of make-believe.

Don’t Miss: Santa Claus’s arrival—not by sleigh, but by boat!

The Bradley Estate in Canton, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, and Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens in North Andover

What You’ll See: Large swaths of string lights draped across century-old architectural wonders—and professionally designed gardens—at select Trustees properties across the state.

Don’t Miss: The warm white lights covering the lattice-walled gardens at the Bradley Estate.

The igloos at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club / Photo by Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club

Live the luxe life on the Cape for less-than-luxury prices.

Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club

What to do: Come winter, Ocean Edge’s mansion terrace is transformed into Frost Bar, which offers private igloos overlooking the bay. This year’s igloos are new—and taller than last year’s—so you can mix and mingle in style.

Your igloo order: Baked butternut rigatoni with hazelnut butter, sage, ricotta, and shaved parmesan.

Chatham Inn

What to do: Ensconce yourself in Chatham Inn’s luxe Room 12, which boasts vaulted ceilings, a wood-burning fireplace, a rain shower, a wet bar, and a private balcony—all for a steep discount in
the winter.

Your drink order: The “Paper Plane” cocktail, mixed with WhistlePig Roadstock rye, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon.

Pelham House Resort
Dennis Port

What to do: When you’re not kicking back in your oceanfront room, dive into the Après Sea Lounge, a ballroom turned winter wonderland where you’ll find several indoor curling lanes set amid an abundance of faux Christmas trees and plaid accents.

Your room-service order: Banana-and-chocolate-chip bread pudding.

Chatham Bars Inn

What to do: Breathe in, breathe out, and unwind with the 90-minute “Warm Winter Radiance” body scrub and facial treatment at the Chatham Bars Inn’s lauded spa. Naturopathica’s Alpine Arnica oil will soothe your whole body, while its Mighty Mint Rescue Cream is used to loosen up the neck and shoulders.

Your dessert order: Butterscotch custard with orange bourbon sauce, brown-butter shortbread, and candied orange.

Photo courtesy of Yvonne’s

Dress up for the Locke-Ober Lunch at Yvonne’s.

The legendary Brahmin haunt may be gone, but it’s certainly not forgotten—especially not at this time of year, when its successor, Yvonne’s, hosts Boston’s most glamorous holiday event: the Locke-Ober Lunch. Every Friday from December 2 through Christmas, you can don your favorite Brooks Brothers power suit and reminisce about the good old days over prime rib, lobster thermidor, and free-flowing champagne—poured by waiters in classic white dinner jackets, naturally.

Watch sailors compete in frostbite racing.

Cruising under the warm sun isn’t the only way to sail Boston Harbor. In colder temps, die-hards bundle up to speed around the icy inner harbor during Boston Sailing Center’s Frostbite Racing series, which takes place on select Saturdays through March. Bundle up and watch the action unfold from Pilot House Park on the Harborwalk (ideally with a hot chocolate from Caffé Paradiso in hand)—or, if you’re a sailor yourself but don’t belong to a team, add your name to the crew list to fill in when needed.

Photo by Anastasiya Baber/Alamy Stock Photo

Gaze in awe at a frozen waterfall.

Some moments are so special you feel like you want to stop time. At Diana’s Baths in the White Mountains, you can almost do just that. Come winter, the wildly popular swimming hole becomes an icy, sparkling jewel showcasing frozen waterfalls. While it’s a relatively short walk to this stunning scene, hikers should come equipped with proper footwear for navigating the slippery packed snow (and snapping photos that’ll make the memory truly last forever).

Courtesy photo

Admire gingerbread houses built by real architects.

The gingerbread-house kit you picked up at the supermarket was a nice idea for the kiddos, but you’ll want to swallow your pride upon entering the Boston Society for Architecture Space from December 7 to 20. Every year, professional architects craft stunning works of art from candy, cookies, frosting, and the like. Just try not to eat the displays when you visit.

First published in the print edition of the December 2022 issue, with the headline “Cold Enough For You.”