That telltale frosty air and crisp smell of snow have returned as fast as summer departed. Winter is not just coming; it has arrived. And though the cold winter months beg for us to cozy up with a book and stay indoors, winter is, undo to popular belief, a beautiful time of year to be outside.

The Niagara Region is overflowing with tobogganing hills, skating rinks and beautiful outdoor trails that are calling to be filled with sled tracks, boot prints, snowmen and forts. Skating and tobogganing are fun for both kids and nostalgia-seeking adults. They are also both a great way to sneak in some cardio during hibernation season.

So, unpack those thermal pants, wrap your faces in scarves and bundle up your kids in layers [for warmth and extra padding] and venture out to rediscover your love for winter within your own backyard.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery | Niagara-on-the-Lake

A tribute to the winery and distillery’s namesake, the Niagara-on-the- Lake hot spot has opened a seasonal skating rink amongst the winery’s acres of grapes.

The Great One’s rink spans five thousand square feet and doubles as a reflecting pond during the summer months. After a skate, you can warm up on the heated Whisky Bar Patio with a whisky-inspired hot beverage, a cocktail, or a glass of wine. Skating admission is $5 dollars per person. Guests can bring their own skates or rent a pair for $10 dollars, plus taxes.

Fort George National Historic Site | Niagara-on-the-Lake

In partnership with Vintage Hotels, Parks Canada’s newest outdoor skating rink, located in the grounds of the Fort George National Historic Site, is the only one of its kind in all of Parks Canada. This free skating rink was constructed to encourage Canadians to get outside and experience the great outdoors in the winter, whether it is on the ice or enjoying hot chocolate around the supplied fire pits. Skates are available for rent and snacks and beverages for purchase.

Civic Square Skating Rink | Welland

This free skating rink is open to the public from December to March [weather pending]. Located on Main Street in Welland, this rink is family friendly and all ages are encouraged to come and enjoy the ice.

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery | St. Davids

The family owned and operated winery and restaurant converts its beautiful back yard into a public skating rink each year for kids and adults of all ages. This free rink is the perfect weekend activity for those who wish to leisurely skate or take part in a game of pick up hockey, which is known to take over the rink on weekends and welcomes all level of player.

Indoor Public Skating | Various Locations

Public skating nights are a great active option for those blistery winter days where you just can’t brave the cold air to make it to the outdoor rink. Arenas throughout the region offer public skating nights on a variety of evenings for all ages to enjoy the ice.

Pay as you skate options are available upon entry. Skating pass booklets, clip cards and group passes can also be purchased at a number of arenas and at city halls throughout the region for a lump sum, an inexpensive onetime fee for those who wish to take advantage of the public skating hours more than once throughout the season.

Chippawa Park | 128 Fitch St., Welland

This all-seasons park is a favourite amongst the locals for tobogganing and outdoor skating. The carefully manicured space with plenty of open-air features gentle hills perfect for all ages, as well as a steep hill for the daredevils. In the winter months, the Chippawa Park Pond and water feature adjacent to the public parking lot is also converted into a free ice rink.

Stamford Collegiate High School | 5775 Drummond Road, Niagara Falls

Located adjacent to the High School, this steep hill is ideal for high-speed tobogganer. The hill allows sliders to race directly down into the football field, away from any traffic or vehicles. Parking is also available on the school property.

FH Leslie Park | 5250 Valley Way, Niagara Falls

This petite hill is ideal for smaller children and adults who want to introduce their kids to the winter activity. Located inside a residential neighborhood of Niagara Falls, this community park’s hill offers a very low incline and slow speeds for smaller children. The park also features free parking, restrooms and a seasonal playground.

Burgoyne Woods Park | 30 Edgedale Road, St. Catharine’s

Burgoyne Woods Park is one of the most popular areas for winter tobogganing in the St. Catharines area. With a variety of hills which range in height and slope, this park can cater to every daredevil. Located in the neighborhood of Old Glenridge in south St. Catharine’s, the 122- acre municipal park also features parking in select areas and both paved and maintained seasonal trails, available for snow-shoeing in the right weather conditions.

Welland Canal Lock 7 | Hill in Thorold

This lesser known hill located adjacent to the Welland Canal’s Lock 7, found near the intersection of Glendale Avenue and the Welland Canal Parkway, is the best kept secret amongst tobogganers in the region. This very steep hill creates the perfect conditions for high speed racing to the bottom. The walk back up to the top is no small task, but the slide to the bottom definitely makes it worthwhile.

Jaycee Gardens Park | 543 Ontario St., St. Catharines 

This beautiful water adjacent park in Port Dalhousie offers a number of sloping hills which cater to all levels. Parking is available, but at a short walking distance away.

HH Knoll Lakeview Park | located at Sugar Loaf Street and Elm Street, Port Colborne

Located downtown Port Colborne on Sugarloaf Street at Elm Street, H.H. Knoll Lakeview Park is one of Port Colborne’s most beautiful waterfront parks. The park offers two modest sledding hills which cater to younger tobogganers.

Marlene Stewart Streit Park | 55 Park Ln, Fonthill

Located by the corner of Pelham Street and Highway 20 in Fonthill, this park is a favourite amongst sledders. Though the park advises to sled at your own risk, the numerous hills cater to all ages. The park also features a number of trails that cater to snow-shoers with the right amount of snowfall.