15 Perfect Things To Do in the Winter in Pittsburgh
Consider these options if you're looking for outside activities coupled with warm and cozy escapes close to home.
Editor's Note: This story was first published in November of 2016.
photo courtesy nemacolin woodlands resort
Head to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort to cruise through the snow at speeds up to 20 mph while a team of Alaskan huskies pulls you along for a heart-quickening adventure along winding trails through awe-inspiring, natural landscapes. Before taking off for your 30-minute jaunt, enjoy a tour of the dog yard and get some quick schooling on how the musher is able to maneuver the sled using voice signals to keep the canines under control. —KB
1001 Lafayette Drive, Farmington 724/329-8555, nemacolin.com
photo courtesy butler county tourism & convention bureau
The seventh iteration of Winterfest at Moraine State Park, a day-long event, promises to keep you moving. Among the planned activities for Feb. 4 are a 5K Run/Walk, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and horse-drawn wagon rides. You also can take in a snowshoe or ice-fishing workshop. Also popular: the Douse for a House, sponsored by Lawrence County Habitat for Humanity, in which participants take a quick dip in the lake. Add to all of that food vendors, a chili cook-off, warming fires and live music, and what more could you want? —RC
Ice Climbing with the Explorers Club
Hate to hit the slopes? Pick up the slack with the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh for ice climbing that will take you everywhere from frozen waterfalls in regional parks to clandestine spots both in and out of state and overseas — well-guarded favorites due to the inability of the ice to withstand a lot of use. Tours are informal and led by experienced volunteers. —KB
cross-country photo by charlene reinhart
In the winter, the Sunken Garden and Pleasant Valley hiking trails at Moraine State Park transform into enjoyable cross-country skiing paths offering visitors a chance to take in the serene views of the park’s forests and wetlands. When the snow is thick, the groomed trails make for more than 5 miles of connected paths for winter trailblazing. This intense physical activity will keep new and seasoned skiers warm on cold winter days. —ET
photo courtesy hidden valley resort
The slopes at Hidden Valley Resort offer the perfect nearby retreat for ski and snowboard enthusiasts. The resort — found a little more than an hour’s drive southeast of Pittsburgh — offers 26 slopes and trails as well as two terrain parks on 110 acres that will entertain beginner and experienced skiers alike. Come for the well-groomed slopes and scenic views. Stay for the family-friendly lodging — and a second chance to hit the slopes the next morning. —ET
1 Craighead Road, Hidden Valley 814/443-8000, hiddenvalleyresort.com
photo by charlene reinhart
Snow Kite Skiing
Charles Stumpf mastered the art of snow kite skiing by trial and error, and it didn’t take long before he was hooked. “Some days I’ve kite skied for five hours straight,” he says. Pulled along by a power kite connected to his body with a harness, Stumpf glides along frozen Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park or the bay at Presque Isle State Park in Erie at average speeds of 35 to 40 mph. He steers with handles connected by lines to the kite. “My fastest speed, measured with a GPS, was 52 mph,” he says. While Stumpf prefers to keep his skis on the ground, he says he knows another fellow skier with a reputation for going airborne. “I have seen Brian jump about 15 feet up and travel about 35 feet; that’s why we call him “Flying Brian.” —RC
Not too far east of the city is the family-friendly winter complex at Boyce Park. Next to the bunny hills, you’ll find slick slopes dedicated to an easy but exhilarating winter activity: snow tubing. The fun begins with a magic carpet ride that pulls you up the hill; then it’s off to the races. Check the schedule — the park breaks for a half hour between two-hour tubing sessions. —ET
675 Old Frankstown Road, Plum; 724/327-0338, county.allegheny.pa.us/parks/activities/winter-sports/snow-tubing.aspx
Burn off holiday-cookie calories with a Snowshoe Tour at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Treks through the Laurel Highlands are available daily as weather permits, so be sure to check the snow report before you go; you’ll want to see at least 5-6 inches of natural snow on the ground. Bring your own equipment or suit up in a rental. Groups of four or more also can opt for a private tour. —KB
777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs 800/452-2223, 7springs.com
skate photo courtesy highwoods properties
Why drive to New York City for a holiday excursion in Rockefeller Center when our ice skating rink Downtown is larger (and just as picturesque)? The MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place is 116 by 116 feet — 67 percent larger than the Rink at Rockefeller Center and two-thirds the size of an NHL rink. It opened for the season on Light Up Night and is open seven days a week through Feb. 26, giving you plenty of time to create a picture-perfect moment. —LD
photo by fr. stephen lowery, c.o.
Barrage! Snowball Fight Games
Imagine the lovechild of capture-the-flag, dodgeball and a snowball fight and you’ve got Barrage! The object is to steal the other team’s flags while avoiding getting pelted in the head with an incoming snowball. When that happens, the player remains frozen until a “medic,” a teammate carrying a flag, links arms with the frozen player and returns them to home base. —KB
Dates/locations TBD; facebook.com/Barrage-The-Snowball-Fight-Game-133528516739611
photo courtesy venture outdoors
Sometimes you need organized fun to motivate you to keep active on those short, frosty winter days. Luckily for you, Venture Outdoors organizes rigorous Urban Fitness Hikes every other Thursday from December through March. These journeys challenge attendees to hike 5-6 miles while exploring various city neighborhoods. The neighborhood hikes highlight some of the steepest hills, most remarkable landmarks and best views in the South Side, West End, Mount Washington and other communities. —ET
Fall head over heels with the Laurel Highlands’ half pipe and terrain parks. You’ll find seven parks and the new Riglet (for thrill seekers between 4-7 years old) at Seven Springs Mountain Resort (777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs; 7springs.com), advanced and intermediate levels at Hidden Valley Resort (1 Craighead Road, Hidden Valley; hiddenvalleyresort.com), and the Yeti’s Lair at Nemacolin Woodlands (1001 Lafayette Drive, Farmington; nemacolin.com), which includes a 16’ down cannon rail.
photo by chuck beard
Whether you care more about the destination or the journey, consider a trip to the Pymatuning Reservoir for ice fishing this winter. The 17,088-acre reservoir is the largest lake in Pennsylvania and home to walleye, perch, crappie — all of which can be caught by those with the license, equipment and savvy to extract them from the ice-capped lake. Make sure to do your research into obtaining necessary ice-fishing gear, how to attract different kinds of fish and the ice conditions before you go. —ET
photo COURTESY MORAINE STATE PARK STAFF
It’s a blast — lots of adrenaline,” says veteran iceboat enthusiast Todd McBride. Powered by the wind, iceboats are the winter equivalent of sailboats. An iceboat glides over the frozen water on two, fixed rear skis and a movable one in the front, which acts as a rudder; about a dozen iceboaters frequent Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park when conditions permit. McBride says some boats are capable of reaching speeds of 80 mph, but he admits he’s never seen anyone try it. “It’s a pretty rough ride. There is no Zamboni out there to smooth out the ice,” he says. —RC
One of the (very few) disadvantages to living in Pittsburgh: You may not often get a chance to stay in one of the many B&Bs in town. Change that, and enjoy a mini-escape this winter.
At The Inn on Negley (703 S. Negley Ave., Shadyside; 412/661-0631, innonnegley.com), reservations for the popular high-tea service are at their peak this time of year (and you don’t have to be a guest to attend). Looking for something more festive? Try the hot cocoa and cookies instead.
For the first time this year, the Morning Glory Inn (2119 Sarah St., South Side; 412/431-1707, gloryinn.com), pictured, will host Breakfast with Santa, with all proceeds benefiting the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. In the heated courtyard and inside the inn, guests and the general public are invited to enjoy a buffet and holiday activities. Two dates, Dec. 3 and 4, are scheduled, but more may be added.
At The Priory Hotel (614 Pressley St., North Side; 412/231-3338, thepriory.com), you could try the “Winter Wonderland” package ($219 plus tax) through March 1. Included is a one-night stay in a Deluxe King room with a $25 voucher for ice skating at PPG Place (with a complimentary shuttle) and a $50 dinner voucher to Six Penn Kitchen followed by hot cocoa and cookies from Priory Fine Pastries bakery in your room. —LD