Having Fun in the Winter Months

Getting out of the house, exercising and spending time with friends is important for everyone. Here are a few ideas for things to do during our often chilly Minnesota winter!

Social Opportunities

There are organizations that offer a variety of activities throughout the year for individuals with disabilities. Valley Friendship Club provides safe, accessible social opportunities for both grade school and teen and up age groups. Contact your Washington County social worker for details on joining an outing with Girls Night Out (or check our Events page for upcoming events).  Bridging Hearts is a local non-profit online social group created to connect young adults with learning disabilities.  The Community Bridge Adults with Disabilities Program provides inclusive opportunities for adults with disabilities to build and maintain friendships, learn, serve and become active members of the community.  Numerous classes and activities are offered, including:  music, dance, pizza parties, yoga, cooking, and more. 

Support Special Olympics Athletes

Each year, the Polar Plunge challenges thousands of brave jumpers at numerous locations around the state.  It's a great way for everyone -- individuals, organizations and businesses -- to get involved in supporting Special Olympics Minnesota.  All funds raised go towards programming and events for more than 8,000 athletes statewide.  Check out the Plunges coming up in White Bear Lake (Jan 28st) and Woodbury (Feb 11th).

Minnesota State Parks and Trails - Winter Activities Guide

Discounted state park permits and reduced camping rates are available to people with disabilities.  Visit the Dept of Natural Resource website for details.

Winter Activities Guide - Winter offers a whole new way to play, and Minnesota State Parks and Trails have adventures to keep you and your family enjoying the season all winter long!  Many parks have rental gear available, and there are lots of kid-friendly activities, from sledding to winter geocaching.  Hit the trails and try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling.  Wildlife watching is great in the winter, and even a simple hike is a whole different experience on the snow.  Check out the candlelight events!

Get Some Exercise

Whether you are looking for a team sport or an individual non-competitive way to exercise, there are ways to cope with mid-winter cabin fever.

  • Visit an indoor play area.  There is a Special Education Family Recreation Night at Otter Lake School in White Bear Lake on Fridays throughout the school year. Have fun jumping at Sky Zone, the world's first indoor trampoline park, located in Oakdale.  Lookout Ridge in Woodbury is a state-of-the-art outdoor themed facility for kids 12 and under.
  • Indoor walking.  Walk the hallways of Skyview Community School and/or John Glenn Middle School and forget the worries of inclement weather.  Walk Monday through Thursday from 6:30 - 8:30 pm and 9 - 11:30 am on most Saturdays from January through April for a $10 fee to join the Walking Club. Maplewood Mall opens it's doors 2 hours earlier than the stores open so people can come in and walk in a climate controlled environment without all the crowds. 1 lap equals 1/2 mile. Free. Mall hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. - Fri, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sat. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Walking hours start at 8 a.m. Mon. through Sat. and 9 a.m. Sundays. You could walk in any mall during open hours.
  • Young Athletes Program.  The Young Athletes Program (YAP) is a partnership between the YMCA Twin Cities and Special Olympics for kids ages 2-7.  YAP is an inclusive program for kids with and without cognitive disabilities.  This program is designed to introduce kids to the world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility.  YAP is offered in several locations in the Washington County area as well as other cities in the Twin Cities area.
  • Play a sport. On our Sports page, ConnectWC has links to a variety of adaptive sporting activities, including hockey, basketball, martial arts, Special Olympics, and more.  Snowshoeing lessons for kids nine and older will be held at Lake Elmo Park Reserve in January and February.  The Roseville REI offers equipment rental, lessons, and a variety of other events, some for free!

Sign Up for a Class

Located in St. Paul, ArtShop provides therapeutic art lessons for children and adults with disabilities. Feeling crafty?  Michael's (stores in Stillwater, Woodbury and Maplewood) and Joann's (stores in Woodbury and Maplewood) have classes for all ages. For a listing of links to other classes, including dance and music, visit our Arts & Entertainment page.

It's not too early to start thinking about summer camps!  Registration for AuSM summer camps began on January 30th!

Enjoy a Movie

If a trip is not in your future, try escaping in the plot of a great movie. Many families have realized that going to see a show can be difficult if their kids have sensory challenges because it may be too dark or too loud for them, or they may have a difficult time sitting for the length of an entire movie. Local theatres, including Reel Movies for Real Needs at Marcus Theatres-Oakdale, and Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theatres-Roseville, have responded to this need and are offering special showings to help going to the movies become a more positive experience. On our Events page, ConnectWC lists movies currently showing at these participating theaters. Check out what's playing this month!

Take a Trip

If you are lucky enough to get away from the cold and snow to enjoy some warmer weather, there are resources to assist you before and during the trip. Navigating Autism with MSP is a partnership of the Minneapolis Airport Commission (MAC), Fraser and the Autism Society of Minnesota. The program guides families through the entire process of flying – from walking through the door of the airport to finding seats on the plane. Destination Resort Disneyland with Disabilities is a guidebook and planner for individuals with disabilities for visitors to both Disneyworld and Disneyland. Don't forget that the TSA has policies in place to assist flyers who have disabilities. ConnectWC has an extensive list of travel companies that specialize in customized and accessible vacations and adventures on our Travel & Vacation page.

Whether you want to try a new craft, break a sweat, travel, or stay close to home, we hope some of these resources will help you and your family enjoy winter in Minnesota.