When the excitement of the December holiday season is gone, we all settle in for a long winter. For many, this brings on “the winter blues,” a time when cold weather keeps us indoors, sun-deprived and cooped-up.
But there are plenty of ideas for how to beat cabin fever. Here are some suggestions — many fairly obvious, others a bit more novel.
There are so many options for keeping active in the winter months.
We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and be more heart-healthy. Now is the time to get started. If you don’t belong to a gym or health club, January is a great time to join. Many facilities offer discounted memberships during this time of year.
If you don’t want to join a club, there are many free places to get your juices flowing. In Southington, the Parks and Recreation Department offers an “open gym” for basketball on Sunday mornings at the Derynoski Elementary School, 240 Main Street.
Like to walk? Put on your walking shoes and join the early-morning “mall walkers” at Westfarms mall or The Shoppes at Buckland Hills. Westfarms opens its four main entrances every morning at 7 a.m. For a fee, Westfarms also sponsors workout sessions for moms and babies. "Stroller Strides" meets on the upper level in front of Nordstrom every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:45 a.m. At Buckland Hills, the mall entrances open to walkers at 8 a.m. on Monday through Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Swimming is great for your health. Head to any of several indoor pools in the area — at your local YMCA or health club. , 55 Buena Vista Road in West Hartford, is owned by the Town of West Hartford, but residents of other towns may participate in its programs for a small fee. Visit www.swimcornerstone.com.
As soon as there is a snowfall of about six inches, you can try cross-country skiing. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up. Cross-country skiing works your whole body while you enjoy the great outdoors. Winding Trails in Farmington offers the only full-service cross-country ski center in the state, according to their website (www.windingtrails.org).
There’s so much to do at Winding Trails: family skate nights on Walton Pond, nature walks, night walks, tubing, sledding and even classes on how to ice fish. During the weekend of Feb. 11-12, Winding Trails will be the scene of a Winter Carnival with sledding, tubing and snow building contests.
Are you courageous enough to take a Penguin Plunge? On Jan. 29, brave souls will jump into Dunning Lake at Winding Trails at a fundraiser for Special Olympics Connecticut.
Ice skating is a great way to beat cabin fever. There are ponds, parks and public skating rinks all over the region. Indoor skating arenas in the area are the International Skating Center of Connecticut, 1375 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, , 56 Buena Vista Road in West Hartford, Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Enfield Twin Rinks, the South Windsor Arena, the Bolton Ice Palace and the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum at UConn.
It’s always a good idea to call ahead for conditions and hours at these rinks. Through Feb. 20, there is free public skating as part of Winterfest at Bushnell Park in Hartford. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day except holidays. Visit www.hartford.com for more information, and if you'd prefer to roller skate, there's also Ron a Roll in Vernon.
FIND A NEW HOBBY
January is National Hobby Month. Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores in Avon, New Britain (near Westfarms Mall), Newington and Manchester are offering free and inexpensive workshops for kids and adults. Visit www.michaels.com for more information.
Other ideas: learn to knit mittens and scarves, build a terrarium or take a class either online or at your local library to brush up on your computer skills. Your local library typically offers lectures and free movies. Join a book club or learn to cook. January is also National Soup Month and National Tea Month, so look for hearty soup recipes and help prevent the flu by drinking green and black teas.
VISIT A MUSEUM
There are too many wonderful area museums to list here, but children of all ages will enjoy the new exhibit “Dinosaurs Alive — Jurassic Treehouse,” at , 950 Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford. The exhibit runs through June 14. Admission includes a planetarium show. Visit www.thechildrensmuseum.ct.org.
Don’t forget high school galleries such as at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, or college museums like Saint Joseph Art Gallery, 1678 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford.
DE-CLUTTER AND DE-STRESS
Wintertime is the perfect time to get organized.
Clean out your closets, basement and garage. Donate your unwanted items to any of several charitable groups. A fun thing to do while being environmentally responsible is to join a group like Freecycle. Instead of throwing away items you no longer want, you can recycle and give them away for free to someone who needs what you don’t want. Visit www.freecycle.org to find your local chapter.
Jennifer Alden, a residential organizer and consultant who serves clients in West Hartford, Farmington, Avon and surrounding towns, says: “There is no better way to spend your time, help you reduce stress, save money and gain a sense of control than organizing. Making a plan for your space, stuff and time is critical for your life to be productive and happy. Your environment reflects directly on your sense of well-being.”
Alden, who owns a company called Live Life Organized, helps clients “use a set formula for tackling each space” they wish to organize. It is important to focus on only one space at a time, says Alden, and to work in short spurts of about 20 minutes at a time. Alden also says donating or throwing things away will free up a lot of space.
She is also the co-owner of a company called HELP Organizers (Help, Environment, Life, Photos), which specializes in organizing those digital photos and boxes of photos you have accumulated. For more information, visit www.livelifeorganized.biz or call (860) 570-0038.
For indoor fun, bowling, laser tag and indoor mini-golf are always great choices. There are several places in the region which offer all of these activities. One such place is Blue Fox Rock & Bowl, 1603 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, near the Granby line. Call (860) 658-4479.
For the dedicated golfers, head to , 125 Jude Lane, in Southington. This facility provides a covered, heated practice range that is open year-round. The range is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Call (860) 621-3663.
Also in Southington, a fun place to hang is at American Gymnastics, where parents can bring their children to use the facility on Saturdays for a one-time of $5 per child. There is no registration required and no membership necessary to use the facility, which offers a rock wall, trampolines, gym mats, ropes courses and more. The address is 1280 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, Plantsville. Call (860) 621-5001.
And then there’s Nomads Adventure Quest, 100 Bidwell Road in South Windsor, which has billiards, video games, indoor mini-golf, bumper cars, and a rock-climbing wall. Visit www.nomadsadventurequest.com or call (860) 282-7337 for the full list of activities and prices.
For an unusual adventure, head to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. Park your car on Route 20 at the end of the runway and watch the planes take off and land. Bring your camera!
If you are willing to travel but don’t want to go far, look online for places to go for maple sugaring demonstrations, dog-sledding adventures and horse-drawn sleigh rides at farms. (These will mostly be in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.) There is a list of places at www.gonewengland.about.com.