Remember when you were a kid and your parents would say, “Go out and play,” and you just did?

Even if it was freezing cold or snowing like crazy. In fact, snowing like crazy was a good thing, because then you could start a snowball fight or make a snowman or grab the sled out of the garage.

Embracing Maine’s long winters requires one to think a little more like a kid. Just get out there and play. But as adults, we’re just not as spontaneous anymore, and we need a plan. We need to know what we’re getting into, where and when it’s happening, and how much it costs.

Luckily, Maine is good at organizing its outdoor fun, with tubing parks, outdoor skating venues, hiking trails, state parks and nature preserves, to name a few. Here are a bunch of places to have some pre-planned fun this winter. It’s a good idea to check websites for any new COVID-19 restrictions or cancellations.

The tubing hill is open at Seacoast Adventure in Windham. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

SLIDING THE DAY AWAY

One of the simple pleasures of winter is sliding down a hill, and Maine’s tubing parks make the experience easy. You don’t have to bring your own sled, for instance, because they provide the tubes. You don’t have to worry about the snow becoming too icy or melting away, because the parks groom it for you. And at some, you don’t have to climb the hill, because there are tow lines to drag you and your tube to the top.

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One of those is the Maine Family Snow Tube Park at Lost Valley ski area in Auburn. The groomed tubing lanes are 600 feet long, and there’s a tow lift to the top. Sessions are 55 minutes and cost $16, but group rates are also available. The park is open weekends and February school vacation week. Lost Valley also offers downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowshoeing. For more information, go to lostvalleyski.com.

Seacoast Adventure in Windham also has a tubing hill, open weekends and school vacation weeks. There’s a carpet lift – sort of a conveyor belt for people – to get you to the top with ease. There are also night sessions, including half-price student nights on Thursdays. Tickets are $30 per person for a two-hour session. A combo price of $46 will get you one regular tube and one child tube. For more information, go to seacoastadventure.com. 

The Rink at Thompson’s Point offers views of the Fore River. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

SKATE AWAY

Maine’s state parks are well-known as hiking and skiing spots in winter. But what about ice skating? Well, if you want to skate outdoors while taking in some stunning mountain scenery, try the skating rink at Mount Blue State Park in Weld, near Farmington. The Bureau of Parks and Lands website lets you check conditions at the park, including whether the rink is open and ready for skating. The park also has a sliding hill, Center Hill, and there’s always a fire in the nearby yurt for sliders and skaters to warm up. The park is open 9 a.m. to sunset, and admission is $5 for Maine residents, $1 for children ages 5-11 and free for those under 5. For more information, go to Maine.gov and search for Mount Blue State Park.

If you want to skate protected from the elements – but still for free – you can check out the Waterhouse Center in Kennebunk. It’s a covered but open-sided 100-by-120-foot rink run by the town’s recreation department. It’s currently open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. most days. If you want to see what it looks like and how busy it is at any given time, checkout the rink’s live webcam. For more information and to see the webcam view, go to kennebunkmaine.us. 

You can also skate under cover – the cover of an antique train shed roof – at The Rink at Thompson’s Point on the Fore River in Portland. It’s a 10,000-square-foot rink with views of the water and is resurfaced every two hours. Admission is $10, which allows you unlimited skating that day. Parking is in a paid lot. There are also hockey skates for rent, for $4. For hours and more information, go to therinkatthompsonspoint.com.

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Pineland Farms in New Gloucester has a myriad of winter activities to try. Photo courtesy of Pineland Farms

ALL-IN-ONE

If you’ve got a family where everyone is into a different winter activity, try Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.  The property has 5,000 acres of woodlands and fields and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (rentals for both are available) on about 18 miles of trails. Adult ski passes are $2o a day, while a snowshoe pass is $12 a day. There’s also a free sledding hill with sleds for rent, at $5 a day, and a free skating rink on the farm. And if you get hungry from all the activity, get lunch at the farm’s deli or pick up local foods at the market. You can also check out the conditions of the trails, rink and sledding hill daily on the farm’s website. For more information, go to pinelandfarms.org.

Fat tires rule at Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley. M. Bailey/Shutterstock.com

BIKE RIDING?

Fat-tire biking is a thing in winter in Maine. People ride bikes with really fat tires, which actually work in the snow. If you’ve never tried it and want to, you can find a place to rent a fat tire bike for the day. One place in southern Maine is Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, which has groomed trails and rents the bikes for $30 for two hours. That price includes a day pass to ride the trails, plus a helmet and the bike.

If you want to get away to the mountains to try fat-tire bikes, Sugarloaf ski area in Carrabassett Valley rents them for $90 a day, including a trail pass, or $50 for two hours. Sugarloaf, of course, has all kinds of other activities, including downhill and cross-country skiing, and an NHL-size skating rink. For more information, go sugarloaf.com.


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