By Danielle Taylor

The cold temperatures and snows of winter create some long-awaited outdoor opportunities in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region, and a number of businesses and organizations here offer great indoor winter events as well. If you’re starting to feel cabin fever, check out these ideas to get you out and about and keep you entertained for an afternoon, a weekend, or longer.

Hit the trail

With good boots and plenty of layers, you can easily enjoy a winter walk in the woods. Fresh snow makes places like Cook Forest State Park’s Forest Cathedral even more magical, and trails like the Longfellow Trail make it easy to access and enjoy this special place.

Snow also allows snowmobile and cross-country ski trails to open up for those who prefer a little more speed. The Allegheny National Forest features hundreds of miles of trail for winter outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels, meaning you’ll find endless opportunities for adventure here.

The white-blanketed landscape also helps wildlife watchers spot animals more easily, and it makes a beautiful backdrop for nature photographers as well. Owl fans may want to check out the Owl Program at Sinnemahoning State Park this Saturday, where you can discover the folklore, natural history, and adaptations of these intriguing birds while learning how to identify Pennsylvania’s eight owl species.

Enjoy a festival

Several communities in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region celebrate the winter season in their own way, and they invite you to join in on the fun.

Marienville’s Winterfest celebration comes on January 27, and it includes a chili cook-off, Chinese auction, scavenger hunt, snow sculptures, games for kids, raffles, food, and more during the day, plus a snowmobile torchlight parade and sky lanterns after dark.

Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day (February 2) occurs on a Friday this year, but the celebration spans several days during the week before and after. In addition to Phil’s official prognostication, check out other events like Breakfast with Phil and a Groundhog Tour, the Gobbler’s Got Talent contest, and the Inner Circle’s Groundhog Ball.

On February 17, go to Cook Forest State Park for Snowman in the Forest Day, an afternoon of winter family fun. Enjoy sledding or tubing (bring your own), ice skating (some rentals available), horse-drawn sleigh rides, a chili cook-off, a happy dog contest, and Smokey the Bear.

And if you missed your chance at New Year’s, you can also take a dip at the Polar Bear Plunge at Medix Run on January 13 — that is, if Bennett Branch isn’t frozen over!

Take a class

If you prefer to stay indoors when the weather outside is frightful, consider signing up for a class to pick up a new skill or learn something interesting. Long Shot Ammo & Arms in New Bethlehem offers a women’s handgun course later this month, and the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette runs regular educational programs on elk and other regional wildlife, covering topics such as management, antlers, and birding.

Or, try your hand at something creative, such as a paint and sip event or a dream board making class at a local winery.

Enjoy a night out

Many local restaurants, wineries, distilleries, and breweries offer live music and trivia nights, such as the Clarion River Brewing Company and the Winery at Wilcox.

You can also take a moment to reflect on the bigger picture by attending a Stars Over Clarion program at Clarion University’s Peirce Planetarium, where astronomers share insight on the month’s celestial events and the mythology surrounding them.

Plan a getaway

If the long winter’s giving you itchy feet, take a trip here for a few days with the family, some friends, or your significant other. Many lodging destinations throughout the region offer winter specials on accommodations of all types and sizes, making it highly affordable to take a memorable vacation for any group. Engaged couples, check out the upcoming Down the Aisle bridal show at Clarion’s Park Inn by Radisson, and make a romantic weekend out of your trip.

Find more interesting things to do and places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.

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