Angelenos can take a trip to the beautiful Big Bear Mountain in the San Bernadino mountains.
Skiing and Snowboarding at Big Bear Lake (Los Angeles)
In the same amount of time that it takes some Angelenos to run a few errands around the city, they could be at the sports-bum playground of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernadino Mountains. Sibling resorts Snow Summit andBear Mountain -- with a free, 10-minute shuttle between them --have nearly 450 acres combined, so there's plenty of room for the family to spread out after the car trip from the city. Younger kids and beginners can ease into skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit's Family Park, while older kids and experts will find more than 150 jumps and 80 jibs at Bear Mountain. Kids 6 and under are admitted free at both areas, which should leave a little extra cash in the pocket for a cozy night in a cabin on Big Bear Lake. The two-hour drive can wait until tomorrow.
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Partying With Polar Bears at the Zoo (Cleveland)
Polar bears don't hibernate during the winter, in fact, the Ursus maritimus is at its most active during the coldest months. At the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, you pay less to see the winter wonders, along with deer, wolves and tigers. Through March 31, admission is just $7 for adults and $5 for kids 2 to 11 (children 2 and under are admitted free). In December, families can have breakfast with Santa, decorate cookies or participate in special animal programs. On Polar Bear Days, Jan. 2 - 31, winter prices are slashed in half if the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below. But the zoo provides a nice escape from winter, too -- namely, the tropical RainForest exhibit where more than 600 animals and 6000 plants from the world's jungles make the snow and ice disappear momentarily.
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Art Hill is one of the nation's most popular places to sled.
Sledding and Skating at Forest Park (St. Louis)
Sorry, New York. When it comes to gargantuan outdoor playgrounds, the Gateway City outshines the Big Apple. At 1,371 acres, Forest Park is 500 acres bigger than Manhattan's Central Park, and has far fewer cabs cutting through its flanks. Sledding on Art Hill is no well-kept secret -- it has its own Facebook page -- but sledding has never been a solitary activity. At the foot of the stately St. Louis Art Museum, families can steer their Flexible Flyer toward the Grand Basin on a long, wide and gently sloping hill. Bring your own hot chocolate and sled -- even a cafeteria tray, or anything that slides, will do -- or keep the frozen fun going with a spin around Forest Park's Steinberg Skating Rink. Admission and skate rental is $10 per person, and you can warm up at the Snowflake Café.
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Sledding Mount Tabor (Portland, Ore.)
Never mind that Mount Tabor is a volcanic cinder cone. The 190-acre park is hottest on cold winter days, when bundled-up Portlanders tote all manner of sleds to the top and zoom down any which way. (You gotta take your snow days seriously here when you get 'em.) This is Portland, so some folks even hit the hill in recycling bins, which offer nice protection from the numerous trees. If you miss the snow, you can practice for the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby, which takes place here in the summer. Otherwise, brace yourselves for a few lightning-fast runs, then find some of the country's best hot chocolate -- made with cinnamon, coconut milk, paprika, cayenne and ginger -- at Cacao. Swiss Miss will never taste the same.
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Sarah Tuff is the co-author of "101 Best Outdoor Towns" (Countryman). She writes about adventure sports, health, fitness and travel from her home in Shelburne, Vt.
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