Winter Fun Guide

It’s officially that time of year when the sky is almost always gray and several layers have to be donned before stepping foot outside. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun! We’ve put together 25 activities that are sure to keep you entertained and jolly this winter. From chop-your-own-tree to an epic craft beer tour, we’re sure we can chase your winter blues away.


Get your meal on ice

Are you missing the slow days of summer, casting your line and waiting for a bite? You can replicate that feeling — albeit in chillier weather — with ice fishing on Cosmo-Bethel Lake. Columbia Parks and Recreation teams up with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited to stock trout for the winter months. During the last week of October, about 2,400 trout, most between 10 and 12 inches, are released into the lake. Ice fishing is catch-and-release from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, but after that date, anglers can take fish under statewide regulations. All fishers between 16 and 64 must have a valid fishing permit.

A sign will be posted at the lake if the ice has been checked and was at least 4 inches thick at that time. Columbia Parks and Recreation recommends always fishing with at least one other person and never allowing children to fish alone. Ice fishing is allowed during daylight hours.


Shred some snow

There are two aspects that must be perfect for sledding: the snow and the sled. Since we can’t control the weather, picking the right sled is essential. There are four main categories of sleds, each with its pros and cons. Which is best for you?

Flexible flyer: This is probably the sled you found in your grandparents’ shed when you were a kid, and there’s a reason it’s still popular to this day. Flexible Flyers can last longer than plastic sleds because they’re typically made with wood and metal, but the biggest pro is that they can be steered. Cons include if the snow layer is too thin, the blades will hit grass, slowing down your ride. And because they are made of metal and wood, crashes can potentially be more hazardous.

Plastic toboggan: Often the easiest to find, plastic toboggans are versatile. They are lightweight, fairly inexpensive and work well. The biggest cons are that because they are plastic, they can crack and break fairly easily, and they can be difficult to steer.

Saucer: These were traditionally metal (if you’re feeling nostalgic, the metal lid of a trashcan will work) but now are typically plastic. If you’re looking for a thrill in your sled ride, saucers are the way to go. They often spin while sliding, creating more of a rollercoaster feel. Cons include difficulty controlling and an increased risk of accidents because of the mandatory cross-legged pose.

Inflatables: If you’re tight on space, inflatable sleds can be a lifesaver. They typically work the same as regular sleds but can provide extra cushion for bumps. Cons include potential rips and tears, and maintenance to keep them filled with air.

Choose wisely!


Grab your skates

Has the temperature finally dropped low enough for lakes to freeze over? Even though we might be in the Midwest, you can still shred some ice in Columbia. Head to Stephens Lake Park, but before you get on the ice, look for a sign that says ice skating is allowed that day. As with ice fishing at Cosmo-Bethel Lake, the ice must be at least 4 inches thick to warrant a sign being posted. Be sure to skate with other people and watch out for ice around partially submerged objects and currents. Dress warm and, after skating, head to the Collins Shelter to start a bonfire with provided wood.


Chop down a tree

For a good reason, of course! Instead of dragging out the old artificial tree with the needles falling off, opt for a fresh, fragrant tree. Real trees can also benefit the environment and are produced locally, unlike artificial trees. Most tree farms open after Thanksgiving, but Christmas trees typically last around three weeks, so choose when you cut carefully. There are a few places around Columbia where you can chop your own tree:

Hinkson Creek Tree Farm
4150 Mexico Gravel Road in Columbia
Timber View Tree Farm
5301 E. Raitt Road in Hartsburg
Starr Pines Christmas Tree Farm
21298 Pleasant Hill Road in Boonville


More outdoor fun

Building snowmen Anyone who has ever built a snowman knows that not just any snow will do. It has to be packable snow — the same kind that makes perfect snow balls — and, fortunately, that can be re-created. If the snow is too powdery, simply add a little water to make it more packable. Get creative with your snowman’s accessories. Use a colorful scarf, funky hats and different materials for buttons, eyes and noses. If you have an artistic flair, ditch the basic snow-rolling and try your hand at snow sculpting.

Bonfires One of the best things about cold weather is bonfires. There are plenty of ways to enjoy sitting around a cozy fire, whether that’s with roasting marshmallows, sipping on hot cocoa or enjoying a glass of wine.

Decorating trees One fun activity to do with the kids is to help out creatures that can’t escape the chill for indoor heat. Gather fruit, popcorn, stale bread and whatever else you can find and head outside. Use the bare branches of trees as your canvas and decorate with food items. Squirrels and birds will surely appreciate it!


See a film

Head to the movies this wintry season in search of buttery popcorn and a few hours of enjoyment. Ragtag Cinema, a nonprofit independent movie theater, has showings of popular and newly emerging films. If you’re looking for a hit movie, head to Regal Columbia & RPX or the Goodrich Quality Theaters Forum 8. If you’re more of a fan of live performances, check out Talking Horse Theatre, GreenHouse Theatre Project, Columbia Entertainment Group or the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. Student and faculty productions also can be seen at MU’s Rhynsburger Theatre and Corner Playhouse and at Stephens College’s Macklanburg Playhouse and Warehouse Theatre.


The Crossing’s Magic Tree

A visit to view The Crossing’s majestic Magic Tree is fast becoming a treasured tradition for many mid-Missouri families during the holiday season. The Tree Lighting occurs in late November, and the tree remains lit through the holidays into January. Towering 85 feet, the sturdy sycamore is a spectacular sight. Draped in 38 miles of tiny multicolored twinkling lights, it has a breathtaking beauty that is dazzling to behold. The church’s website says there are almost 200,000 lights on the tree, each representing a person living in Boone County and reminding us that every member of our community matters to God and is made in his image. This will be its third year in existence. Daily viewing hours for The Crossing’s Magic Tree are 5 to 10 p.m., and every Friday night in December until Christmas, visitors can enjoy live music, hot drinks and photos from 6 to 9 p.m.


Ceramic studios

Making a piece of pottery can be both a fun and functional endeavor. After all, you can actually use what you create if you make something practical such as a mug, vase or bowl. There are a variety of options when it comes to crafting a clay creation. You can hand-build a piece, “throw” one on a pottery wheel or choose a premade piece to paint or decorate with stamps, stencils and other decorating tools. The ceramics studio will fire the piece in its kiln and have it ready to pick up in about a week. Columbia has several ceramics studios offering different options. Some offer classes; others allow walk-ins. It all depends on your preference. Don’t worry if you’ve never potted previously — the studio staff will be happy to help. Look into Squarepeg Art Studio, which is based in a private home in a residential area near downtown; The Mud Room; Pottery Island; or Access Arts.


Axe throwing

This sport is a little like throwing darts — only on steroids! Sure, it’s a great way to relieve stress and release rage, but it’s also just plain fun, and there’s usually alcohol involved. You hurl a hatchet at a target on the wall, earning points depending on where it lands. Even though axe throwing is technically an old sport, its surge in popularity is recent. The National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF) was established in 2016 and now represents more than 6,000 league members in more than 75 cities and six countries. Some say these leagues are today’s version of the bowling leagues of yesteryear. They’re a social activity, as much as anything. Axe throwing is something you can do alone or in a group, and venues are popping up everywhere, especially in urban areas, where they’re often in former warehouses. If you think you can “handle” it, Columbia has two axe-throwing venues you can try: COMO Axe Attack and The Axe House. The Axe House even offers a Mobile Target Unit that will come to you!


Painting places

Looking to unleash your inner Renoir, Van Gogh or Degas? It’s easy to enjoy a brush with fame here in town — the operative word being “brush.” Painting is a wonderful form of self-expression that’s both relaxing and rewarding, since you end up with a finished piece of art you can proudly display on a wall in your home. Don’t fret at the thought of a blank canvas or about a lack of artistic ability. An experienced instructor will guide you through the process step by step. Depending on the place, you’ll either go in and paint on site as part of a group, or an instructor will come to you and bring all the supplies. On-site painting places in Columbia are The Canvas on Broadway, which offers group painting classes for as many as 62 painters and serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and Wildys World, in Alley A, which is a mural makers’ studio offering mural parties, team builders and private art lessons. Paint the Town will send an instructor to your home or business and lead you through painting your own work of art. All they need is a group of participants and a well-lit room with tables a


Little Bethlehem

For many, Christmas Day isn’t about Santa and his sleigh or toys and gifts. Instead, it’s a sacred day that celebrates the miracle of Christ’s birth long ago in the little town of Bethlehem. For Fairview United Methodist Church on Chapel Hill Road, the story of that miracle merits an interactive retelling each year through Little Bethlehem, its inspiring living Nativity, which has been staged for more than 30 years. The cast is mainly made up of church congregants and their friends, who volunteer for various roles along with children, parents and teachers from Mother’s Morning Out, the church-sponsored preschool. Visitors are initially greeted by shepherds who walk them into Bethlehem, where they meet the innkeeper and are taken to the stable to meet Mary and Joseph and the Wisemen. Afterward, visitors enter the church through the side door, where they can enjoy refreshments, singing and kids’ crafts. The event is free, a gift from the church to the community, although there is a donation basket inside for visitors who wish to contribute an offering. This year, Little Bethlehem will take place on Friday, Dec. 13, Saturday, Dec. 14, and Sunday, Dec. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m.


Snow Geese hunting

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try your hand at snow geese hunting. Snow geese migrate from the Arctic Circle during the fall and winter, sometimes getting as far south as the Gulf of Mexico but often interspersing in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. They congregate in large agricultural fields, where they feed on waste grain and small winter annual plants. The closest places to Columbia where people typically go snow goose hunting include Audrain and Saline counties, says John George, a wildlife biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. While snow goose hunting is popular in Missouri, it requires more preparation than hunting for Canada geese or ducks, such as large displays of decoys. Typical duck and goose hunting involves targeting the birds where they eat and rest in water bodies, but snow goose hunting involves targeting where they are feeding.


Embark on a beer tour

If you’re feeling a little bit of cabin fever, escape the house with a group beer tour. Grab your friends and embark on a wintry imbibing journey. Feel free to mix up the order, or head to just a few.

Stop 1: Bur Oak. Perhaps one of the most Columbia-essential beers, Bur Oak’s Big Tree Double IPA is a must-try. If you’re not an IPA person, The Old 63 Pilsner is also great.

Stop 2: Logboat Brewing Co. Home of the famous Snapper and Shiphead, Logboat’s industrial interior lends itself to plenty of Insta-worthy moments.

Stop 3: Broadway Brewery. With a cozy atmosphere, Broadway Brewery is the perfect place to spend cold winter afternoons. It also has plenty of space if you have a big group. Try the 11 Point IPA — named after a river in Missouri — or the Thresher Robust Porter.

Stop 4: Flat Branch. Chances are if you’re still on the beer tour at this point, you will definitely want something to eat. Flat Branch is not only one of the best breweries in Columbia; it’s also one of the best restaurants. Try the Katy Trail Pale Ale or the Baltic Porter, and pair your beer with a brick oven pizza or Chokes ’n’ Cheese.

Stop 5: Günter Hans. The draw of Günter Hans isn’t only its selection of German beers but also its bretzels — giant, baked-fresh-daily pretzels. Don’t leave without trying one!

Stop 6: International Tap House. To round out this beer tour, head to what regulars call iTap for the most international beer options in Columbia. Bonus: Insomnia Cookies is right next door if you’re craving something sweet.


Concerts

Music lovers in Columbia are lucky. With venues that allow both large-scale and more intimate performances, we’re able to enjoy a diverse array of musical entertainment. Mizzou Arena often books big-time names and touring artists such as Chris Young. The University of Missouri Concert Series brings acclaimed acts in many musical genres to Jesse Auditorium and the Missouri Theatre each season, including major musicals, internationally renowned symphonies and ballets and more. Shows this winter include The Great Russian Nutcracker in December, “Finding Neverland” in January, and “An American in Paris” and the Russian National Ballet performance of “Swan Lake” in February.

The Blue Note draws popular national acts, as well as local and regional ones, and its sister venue, Rose Music Hall, offers shows in a smaller indoor setting, plus al fresco shows at Rose Park during warm weather. Although they aren’t technically “concert venues,” plenty of other places in CoMo offer musical entertainment, too: You can find jazz at Murry’s, aspiring artists at Café Berlin, Odyssey Chamber Music Series’ concerts at First Baptist Church and more. Heck, you can even catch a solo strummer at Potbelly Sandwich Shop! (And grab a Logboat brew, too — a first at any Potbelly location.)


Escape rooms

You’ve no doubt heard the expression that something “provides an escape from reality.” That couldn’t be a more apt description of escape rooms: You and your teammates are locked in a themed room and given a time limit to complete some sort of a mission and “escape” the room by finding hidden clues and solving challenging puzzles. The escape room trend started a few years ago, offering players a real-life version of “Mission Impossible,” and has continued to grow, in spite of — or perhaps in part because of — a world gone digital. It’s fun to do something active in real life with others and bond over a satisfying shared experience. Columbia currently has two Escape Room businesses: MindBreak Escape Rooms, located in the Columbia Mall, and Breakout CoMo on north Eighth Street. In addition, the Columbia Public Library has hosted escape room events in the past, including one with a Harry Potter theme.


The MOSY Holiday Home Tour

If you love the magic of the holiday season and delight in decorations, you won’t want to miss the Missouri Symphony Society’s (MOSY) Holiday Home tour, happening the first weekend in December. You can take a tour of four festive, fabulously decorated homes in various neighborhoods throughout Columbia. It’s the perfect chance to sneak a peek at how other folks deck the halls! Who knows? You might even find ideas and inspiration for your own home. This marks the 36th year for the annual fundraising event, which helps ensure that the Missouri Symphony can continue to amaze audiences with the artistry of its talented musicians. Tour hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 day of, and are available online at www.themosy.org or at the Broadway D&H Drugstore, all Columbia
Hy-Vee locations and McAdams LTD.


Spas

As joyous and fun-filled as the holiday season can be, it can also be a major stress fest. That’s where spa services come in. Who wouldn’t enjoy a chance to recharge and refresh during the dead of winter? A massage, facial, mani-pedi or other treatment can provide a blissful break when it’s bleak. Far and away, massage is the most popular spa service in the U.S., and it offers a host of health benefits, including calming the nerves, reducing anxiety, helping to relieve depression and stimulating the lymphatic system. Didn’t happen to receive any gift certificates for pampering during the holidays? Not to worry. Columbia is home to many topnotch spots offering spa services. The types of services vary, but some options to consider are: The Strand Salon and Spa, Riversong Spa & Salon, Dermistique, Bella’s Massage, Rebecca’s Day Spa, Cayce Medical Spa, KeLani Wellness Spa, Life is Sweet Massage Therapy and CoMo Massage.


The Candy Cane Crib

For years, when the holiday season rolled around, Ryan Shultz’s house was the stuff of local legend in Columbia, known as “The Candy Cane Crib” because of its incredible holiday lights. People flocked to see it and offered Shultz money to help defray his electric bill, but he opted to donate those funds to charity instead. By 2017, Schultz felt he needed a bigger canvas to capture his vision, so he talked to Logboat Brewing Company, which agreed to let him decorate the brewery’s exterior and also pledged a generous charitable donation. You could say things snowballed from there. Taylor Dalton joined forces with Schultz, and the brewery became a bona fide seasonal attraction, complete with special holiday festivities, a visit from Santa, live music and more. This marks the Candy Cane Crib’s third year at Logboat and its 10th year in existence. It’s a project both men are passionate about, hoping it will become a holiday tradition for families in and around Columbia and will encourage people to remember worthwhile local charities during the season of giving. It’s grown each year, adding more lights and structures, and this year it promises to be even bigger and better than ever. Look for two Santa Nights from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7 and 21. The second one will include a huge raffle giveaway of local goodies! Any donations received this year will benefit the Columbia Golf Foundation.


Get your green thumb on

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh herbs and produce. Worried about that green thumb getting frostbite? Simply move your garden indoors. You can use pots, planters or really any other containers to hold your plants. The most important thing you will need is light. If your home doesn’t have a spot that gets enough sunlight, you can invest in grow lights that can be found fairly inexpensively.

Some herbs that grow well indoors include basil, parsley, thyme, mint, cilantro, oregano and chives. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, try tomatoes, peppers, greens (such as kale and spinach) or carrots. Indoor gardening can be a great project to do with the kids, from making a trip to the store for materials to watering newly sprouted seedlings — all the way to that first bite of your home-grown goodness.


Kitchen creations

While there are a lot of winter dishes and desserts you could make, sometimes simple is better. Enlist the kids’ help in making this snow ice cream, but maybe leave them out of the hot toddy preparation.

Snow Ice Cream
Craving something sweet? Instead of schlepping to the grocery store in the cold, whip something up with ingredients you already have — both inside and outside the house. Snow ice cream is extremely easy to make and only requires a few ingredients: snow, sweetened condensed milk and flavoring. For more adventurous flavors, try mixing in fresh fruit or chocolate! Recipe via the Food Network.

8 cups of snow (or shaved ice)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra toppings, as needed

Pour condensed milk over snow or shaved ice. Add vanilla and other toppings. Stir until well-mixed. Serve immediately.

Hot Toddy
Looking for a beverage a little more grown up? Curl up with a steaming hot toddy. Made with bourbon and honey, this traditional toddy is sure to warm you up from fingers to toes. Recipe via Epicurious.

1 ounce bourbon, brandy or scotch
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup water, boiling

Mix bourbon, honey and lemon juice. Top with hot water and stir until honey is dissolved.


Get cozy & creative

Whether you have kids or you’re wanting to relive the days when you were one, blanket forts are fun for everyone. There are a few essential steps to creating a blanket fort:

Step 1: Choose your location. Your fort can face a TV if you’re looking to set up a cozy movie-watching nest; if you’re looking for more stability, use a table as the base of your fort.
Step 2: Gather all of the blankets and pillows you have in your home.
Step 3: Construction time! Make sure to use paper weights, books, hand weights or anything else heavy to weigh down blankets and ensure they won’t slide off.
Step 4: Line your fort with plenty of pillows and any blankets left over.
Step 5: Enjoy your cozy haven, preferably with hot cocoa (or a hot toddy!) and a good book, movie or just spending time with friends or family.


Binge the blues away

It doesn’t matter if you’re a die-hard Netflix fan, an Amazon Prime-watcher or a Disney-plus subscriber, chances are you’ve binge-watched at least one series since the inception of streaming services. Don’t worry, we’re not judging. In fact, we’re big fans of grabbing a bowl of popcorn, some hot cocoa and curling up on the couch … for several hours. If you’re looking for a new series to get hooked on, check out our staff recommendations and reader picks. Try something new — from the comfort of your home.

Staff Recommendations:

Outlander
“This show is based off of a book series written by Diana Gabaldon. It doesn’t conform to one genre so it has something for everyone. History, romance, sci-fi, there’s a lot! The fifth season will be premiering in February so there is a lot to catch up on, making it great for binge watching.”
–Megan Schmeling, graphic designer

Yellowstone
“Hosted on Paramount Network, “Yellowstone” is like The Sopranos, except with cowboys. It has drama, action and mystery all wrapped into one easy-to-get-hooked-on show.”
–Scotty Cox, Clear 99 radio personality

This is Us
“It’s a family story line that is mostly in the present, but has flashbacks of their pasts, as well as glimpses of their future. Because of this, it’s a great show to get hooked on because you’re constantly getting little clues. It’s a great family drama that will have you empathizing with the main characters — laughing with them, grieving with them and cheering them on.”
–Victoria Brees, event planner

How I Met Your Mother
“I love the mystery of who the mother is throughout the entire series, and it’s an authentic show with great life lessons in every episode. It’s essentially impossible to pick which character is your favorite because all five of them have qualities that you can relate to on some level. It’s just a series that makes you feel happy.
–Christine Lepp, director of sales

Reader’s Picks:

Downtown Abbey
“The costumes, drama and characters are all outstanding!”
–Nancy Adrian

Big Little Lies
“Besides the most fantastic cast, I really love this show because it showcases the difficulties of working moms, real relationship issues with friends, spouses and your children. The characters are so well built in the first episode that it leaves you eager to know more. I was hooked. It also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard lately!”
–Nicole Calvert

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