5 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities

Winter time has arrived in The Bend. Think you can’t enjoy the outdoors as the temperatures drop and snowflakes fly? Think again. Lace up your boots, zip up that coat and pull on some gloves before heading outside for these five fun activities.

Winter at Howard Park

Howard Park, the first park in South Bend, reopened in fall 2019 after a 14-month revitalization. Now more than ever, it’s a winter lover’s destination.

The park includes a 16,000-square foot ice trail and pond. The trail gently rolls along slight hills and through soft curves, even over a bridge, for a one-of-a-kind skating experience. The trail is connected to a pond for different activities (like broomball) or those learning to skate for the first time.

RELATED CONTENT: Your Guide to Exploring Howard Park

Skating is available seven days a week. Admission and rental is $10 for adults; $7 for children ages 3-14. You can rent skates ahead of time online. Here are the park’s regular hours:

5-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday
5-10 p.m. Friday
Noon-10 p.m. Saturday
1-8 p.m. Sunday

Elsewhere around the park you’ll find an ADA accessible, state-of-the-art playground, a community building and a concession area serving up hot chocolate and snacks. And don’t forget the fire pits if you’d like to warm up for a bit without going inside.

Ice Skating at Merrifield Park

Winter means the crisp sound of skates meeting ice takes over at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka, a city well known for its parks.

Skate rental at Merrifield is only $2 with admission fees set at $3 for kids, $4 for adults and $3.50 for seniors. Fridays double as Family Night, where the whole family can skate for $15.

Keep an eye out for special themed nights throughout the winter. They include Passport to Play on Dec. 17, DJ Night on Jan. 3, A “Frozen” theme Feb. 1 and a Valentine’s Day Couples Skate on Feb. 14.

Here are the regular hours Merrifield’s ice rink:

Friday: 5-9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: Noon-4 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.
Open daily during winter break with Saturday/Sunday hours.

Tubing Around The Bend

Ready to speed down a snow-covered hill? You’re in luck. Tubing is available at multiple area parks.

St. Patrick’s and Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Parks both offer tubing hills that are sure to thrill children and adults alike. Tubes are provided and there are supervisors at the hills to make sure everyone has a good time. No sleds or toboggans, just so you know.

There’s a gate fee to enter the park plus $4 per person to tube. Hills are open daily from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 then just weekends Jan. 11 through March 12, snow conditions permitting. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also find a tubing hill at George Wilson Park in Mishawaka. It’s open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, weather permitting. You’ll pay a $3 entry fee and $2 for tube rental.

Tubing is available at Potato Creek State Park as well.

RELATED CONTENT: A Serene Escape at Potato Creek State Park


Hiking through the area parks is pretty much a pastime in The Bend during warmer months.

Don’t let a little snow keep you from taking to the trails. Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the splendor of winter at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park, where you can rent some shoes and get on your way for $3 per person plus a gate fee to enter the park.

Trails are open for snow shoeing daily Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 and weekends only Jan. 11 through March 1 (snow conditions permitting). Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cross Country Skiing

One of the best ways to explore in the snow is on a pair of skis.

St. Patrick’s County Park opens the trails to cross country skiing every year with an added bonus — you get access to the adjacent Madeline Bertrand County Park with a uni-trail pass. Trail passes purchased at either park will be honored at both.

The trails at both parks tended to throughout the week.

Cross country skiing is available at St. Patrick’s County Park daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 then Wednesday through Sunday from Jan.8-March 8, weather permitting. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s a gate fee plus a $5 adult daily trail fee or $4 youth daily trail fee. You can snag a seasonal trail pass for $20 (adult) or $15 (youth). Ski rental is available for $10.

If you want a unique experience, plan your visit for a Skiing Under the Stars event. Winter doesn’t get much more serene than at night, when the stars shine bright and the moon can be your guide as it reflects off the snow.

St. Patrick’s County Parks makes special use of this with Skiing Under the Stars. Grab the family for cross country skiing at night from 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 3, Jan. 10, Jan. 17, Jan. 24, Jan. 31 and Feb 7 (snow conditions permitting). Homemade cookies, coffee and hot chocolate await at Manion Cabin to refresh you from the trip. Cost is $7 per person. Ski rental is available for $10.

You can also find cross country skiing at Potato Creek State Park, although there is no equipment rental. There are more than eight miles of trails for skiers when there’s snow on the ground.

For more details on these and other great events and activities in the South Bend area, check out the EVENTS CALENDAR.