Christmas is quickly approaching, and most of our minds are probably on that busy time of year. But the winter solstice is also quickly approaching. On December 21, the first day of winter, the Northern hemisphere will be tilted farthest from the sun. The result is the shortest day of the year, giving way to the longest night. If you don't already have a winter solstice outdoors celebration planned, now is the time to plan it. We have suggestions for a variety of family-friendly outdoor winter activities that will soon become as popular as your favorite Christmas traditions. But first, let's address the astronomical elephant in the room.
What & When Is The Winter Solstice?
The winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) happens yearly when the North Pole is tilted farthest from the sun. For reference, grab a globe and tip it back just a little. Amazing that little difference makes in temperature, right? It's like space is frigid, and the sun is scorching. In case you wondered, the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice is when the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun.
This year, the winter solstice falls on Wednesday, December 21. The exact winter solstice happens around noontime, when the Sun rests over the Tropic of Capricorn, creating some wildly beautiful moments in our sky. You might want to be outdoors for the winter solstice! You're not going to mistake that moment for anything else.
Take A Solstice Camping Trip
Some people prefer to plan a summer solstice trip for warmer conditions. Still, the beginning of winter is a great time to plan a camping trip. We know it's tough to do during the holiday season. If appropriately prepared, the whole family will have a great time. Make sure to read some of our winter camping guides ahead of time for tips on how to stay warm.
The longest night of the year is a great time to enjoy if you enjoy sleeping. We think some of the best sleep we've ever gotten is in a toasty sleeping bag in cold weather conditions. You could also stargaze or prepare a fire-cooked solstice feast.
Sitting around a nice bonfire is the perfect opportunity to connect with friends and family. You may find you have a new winter solstice outdoors tradition on your hands!
An All-Night Ice Fishing Trip
We always enjoy ice fishing, but most experts agree the bite can be even better at night. This year's winter solstice falls on a Wednesday.
You shouldn't have to worry about work in the morning, so why not stay up all night during the darkest day of the year? Head out just after sunset with your buddies and some cold ones and kick back and wait for the return of the light. Alternatively, you could take your kids for their first ice fishing trip.
This time of year is the last good chance to get some fishing in before Christmas and the New Year holidays eat up the rest of the week, so you'd best take advantage of it. If you're lucky, you should be able to catch a whole mess of bluegill, crappie, and perch. Those fish will make for some great meals leading to your Christmas feast!
Go For a Winter Hike
If you're like me and you've already tagged out on deer this year, you may be looking for a light, fun activity to do with the whole family. Hiking is an excellent option because most hunting seasons have wound down, and there's less chance of you disturbing someone's hunt. Pick up a pair of snowshoes if you've already got snow on the ground. It makes for some great exercise!
The winter solstice is a great time to check out your local State Park or National Park, which you have never visited. These places are often near devoid of visitors during the holiday season, which means you can soak in the majesty of nature with your whole family, even if it's just a short hike through some pines while fresh snowflakes fall on your head.
Plan a Late-Season, All-Day Hunt
Have a hard time sitting in the tree stand for long hours? I know I do. So, it makes sense to plan an all-day sit around on a day with the least hours of daylight each year. Here in Michigan, it's still muzzleloader season. Still, you might look at late firearms or antlerless season in some states and provinces. But it's also a good time for some late-season bowhunting.
Because the rut is mainly over by this point, now is the time to focus heavily on food plots and other feeding areas. If your freezer is still bare of venison, you might as well take advantage of the winter solstice for one last major hunt before the new year.
The winter solstice could also be an excellent time to take a kid out for their first hunt. Sit with them on a food plot, and they're almost sure to see deer, which could help them make a harvest, or the very least, keep their interest enough that they'll want to try in the future. Just make sure they're dressed warmly for the conditions!
Geocaching is an excellent choice if you're looking for winter activities for kids to do leading up to Christmas. Never heard of it? Read my guide on this hobby, where you use GPS or smartphones to locate hidden containers at your local park or other public areas.
As we get closer and closer to Christmas, kids are likely to be getting riled up with excitement in anticipation of the big day. Geocaching should help temper some excitement by taking them on a "treasure hunt." Plus, they'll get some good exercise that will help wear them out for at least a day, giving the parents a quiet evening at home. Adults will also appreciate the incredible views and cool, quirky places geocaching takes you as you celebrate the winter solstice outdoors.
This article was originally published on December 19, 2019.
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