Winter Activities in Milwaukee: Reflections and Recapping

As Ambassador of Snow, I have been visiting a range of winter activities around the area. So I wanted to share some snapshots of some of the memorable moments and insights which I took away from these events.

capture the flag at Lynden

Public events have a good range of activities for kids. It helps to be a kid – or to be willing to act like one 😉 – to enjoy them. For instance, since I was willing to go sledding in Washington Park, and a friend was willing to pet a sled dog, we found things to engage with. I have basically just been using one sled for the last quarter-century or so, so I did find it fun to try out some of the new sled models 😉 At the Lynden Sculpture Garden, playing ‘capture the flag’ provided a lot of us with a chance to be active, be playful… and forget how cold it was, and just focus on the joy of being outside!

(For more of my photos from the Lynden, see – and check out my other Milwaukee winter pictures on flickr as well!)

Sledding at UEC’s Washington Park event

The events did leave me wondering what we should do to have adults share winter celebrations together. Skating at Red Arrow Park comes to mind as the outdoor activity which most adults share. I do enjoy walking in parks, and saying hi to people I see while out walking, but that is a more solitary activity. I enjoyed our outdoor winter festivals, but none of them are on the scale of what the Twin Cities have. Perhaps our weather is too warm for that, but I hope we can find a way to appreciate what our milder winters have to offer.

Of course, part of the problem is that we have not had much snow this winter. As Ambassador of Snow, this has made my job a bit harder – if I want people to celebrate what they have, not much point in wandering around singing the praises of what was not falling. And some of the winter celebrations lacked elements they had last year, when we had more snow – the Urban Ecology Center’s Winterfest was unable to offer skiing, snowshoeing (as well as iceskating because the temperatures had not been cold enough).

So instead, I have seen more of my task this winter as one of reminding us of all the other distinctive aspects of winter (the cold, the ice, the starkness), as well as the things we have to enjoy year-round, but might forget during winter.

Sometimes, we might not realize some of what we have to enjoy around here – for instance, we have a ski hill in Milwaukee County, at Crystal Ridge! The instructors I talked to from Crystal Ridge were very enthusiastic, and wanted to spread word about the lessons they have available for children. You don’t have to travel far for downhill skiing, as long as the weather is cold enough.

And some of the smaller pleasures are more dependent on cold than on snow. At Wehr, I heard that being part of the process of obtaining maple sugar from trees is a winter highlight for kids. Small pleasure perhaps, but fun – and an interesting way to connect to local nature, as well as to connect to a source of food!

Remember that being pro-active, looking for things you can appreciate about each time of year, is a great way to reconnect with enthusiasm for winter. We have creativity on display, from the Plein Air exhibit of winter art at DeLind to the Winter Gallery at the Portrait Society Gallery to the Bright Winter exhibit at HotPop. Debra Brehmer and Erin Paisley each noted that they overcame earlier feelings of melancholy and isolation by reframing how they think about winter, choosing to find ways to connect with the season, and leading to creative production during the season. Painting snow may not be for everyone – but any of us could appreciate how beautiful shadows are on snow, whether cast by trees or by sculptures.

snow sculptors at work in Racine

And we have also had snow and ice sculpting to appreciate in our area, from the 3rd ward to Racine to Lake Geneva. (It may have melted quickly – like much of winter, it is good to go out and enjoy, to… strike while the iron is not hot, so to speak 😉 I was impressed to see the planning required to create art with little margin for error, and under conditions which leave the artists outside in winter all day!

snow sculpture in Racine (almost finished)

My favorite creative ways to interact with winter are probably letting my imagination have more free play during snowstorms… and looking closely, at the landscape and at small corners of it, to see the unusual ice and snow patterns one can follow during winter. Take a look, and see what you can find!

(For more of my photos from the Urban Ecology Center and Wehr’s winter events, see

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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2 Responses to Winter Activities in Milwaukee: Reflections and Recapping

  1. Pingback: Favorite Milwaukee Winter activities? | milwaukeesnow

  2. Pingback: Outdoor events recommendations, 2012-3 | milwaukeesnow

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