Family Activities for Bad Weather

Whether you head out or stay in, don't let bad weather put a damper on family fun. Photo: Scott Livingston

By Ethan Hipple

January ice. February snowstorms. March rains. April mud. Winter and spring weather can make it challenging to get motivated for family adventures outdoors. And since we all want our kids to have the most positive experiences possible, sometimes when it rains or snows, we bag our plans and stay home instead. But wait! Hold that rain check! Below are some ideas to keep your kids playing in less than optimal conditions. And for when the truly nasty weather hits, we’ve got indoor ideas, as well.  

Just go out in the rain (or snow or SLUSH)
We often forget is that skin is 100-percent waterproof. Once we get over the discomfort of slightly soggy clothes, being outside in the elements can be fun, especially if we keep warm by keeping active. One of my favorite family memories is a trip in the Vermont highlands: a day full of muddy trails, wet clothes, bushwhacking, misty vistas, drizzle, and fog—and adventure and exhilaration. A few tips:

Indoor Options for an Outdoor Adventure

When the weather is too rough to go out, you can still embrace the indoors with an outdoors mindset. Here are some of our tactics:
Indoor camping. Round up a couple of couches, coffee tables, chairs, blankets, or tarps and build a massive indoor fort. Set up pads and sleeping bags inside then read a book, take a nap, or watch a movie on the laptop inside your cozy nest. Top it off with a picnic in the fort while it pours or snows outside.

Sardines. Hands down, the best rainy day activity, ever. Just like hide and seek except only one person hides, and everyone else breaks up and goes looking for them. When a seeker finds the hider, the seeker hides with the hider and waits for the rest of the seekers to come looking. One by one, the other seekers will eventually discover the hiding spot, and everyone ends up hiding together in a cramped space while one last seeker tries to figure out where everyone went. Great times. We usually play that the first person who finds the hider gets to hide next.

Climbing gyms. Rock climbers hit these indoor training grounds to keep in shape during the off season or just during bad weather. Most climbing gyms have great kids programs and introductory lessons for beginners. A quick web search will help you find you a climbing gym within about an hour of most locations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Science and childrens museums. There are so many great examples of these—and what better time to visit than a rainy day? Some of our personal favorites:

Watch SHOWS about the Outdoors
Some of our family favorites include:

Trip Planning
Rainy or icy days are a great time to plan your next trip. Get out the maps, read a guide book, plot a route, buy tickets, and start organizing your gear. When the sun comes back out, you’ll be ready to go! 


Get tips on raising the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts in Great Kids, Great Outdoors and find more trip ideas in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s community for families,

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