Ice skating is an awesome first date — the more you fall, the more you grab onto each other and giggle. It's also terrific for kids and an ideal venue for former hockey players / figure skaters to show off. Northeast Ohio has a number of outdoor rinks if the free skates at Brooklyn and Winterhurst are lacking in ambience. Check out Halloran Park on West 117th for free lessons and easy access. Check out Wade Oval in University Circle for family-friendliness and wintertime day trips. Check out the ice rink in downtown Cuyahoga Falls for a romantic setting and outdoor nostalgia.
Skiing / Snowboarding
Sometimes, snowshoeing just doesn't provide enough wintertime thrill. If you've got a need for speed (and you've skiied / snowboarded before) there are a few slopes in Northeast Ohio to satisfy your urges. Boston Mills / Brandywine, in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley, is probably your best bet. In addition to the steepest slope in Ohio, they added a fancy new lodge last year with an improved rental area. Alpine Valley, in Chesterland, is a slightly smaller, but no less exhilarating option. An hour or so away, you'll find the Clear Fork ski area in Butler, and the Snow Trails ski area in Mansfield. Day passes run $43, but a season pass for several Ohio resorts can be purchased for $499. Also, for family fun, an unlimited season snow-tubing pass can be purchased for only $69 at bmbw.com.
Tobogganing at the Chalet
Tobogganing — the novelty date and standard family outing — is a cherished local winter tradition in Northeast Ohio, and we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the runs at Chalet in our winter recreation section. We don't quite understand why they're so fun, but they are. The Chalet offers two 700-foot ice runs that go into operation just after Thanksgiving and continue through early March. There's also an indoor snack area and game room — a pocket of warmth for parents while the kids climb the stairs with freakish endurance and pep. The Chalet is at 16200 Valley Parkway in Strongsville; for a schedule and ticket prices, follow the links from the "Recreation" section on clemetparks.com or call 440-572-9990.
One of the advantages of living in a climate with bone-chilling winter temperatures is ice — and we're not talking about the slippery stuff on the highways. With a good couple of inches capping a lot of local bodies of water by later January, the Metroparks offers ice fishing at a number of locations: Beyer's Pond at Big Creek Reservation; Hinckley, Judges, and Ledge lakes at the Hinckley Reservation; Ranger Lake at Rocky River Reservation; and Shadow Lake at the South Chagrin Reservation. A valid fishing license is necessary for people 16 and older.
Cross-Country Skiing + Snowshoeing
Contrary to popular belief, downhill isn't the only fun you can have with a pair of skis and some poles, especially in Cleveland. The popularity of golf courses in this area means plenty of open spaces blanketed in white during the winter, perfect for cross-country skiing. The Metroparks offers trails, some groomed, on four of its golf courses: Shawnee Hills at Bedford Reservation, Sleepy Hollow at Brecksville Reservation, and the Big Met and Little Met courses at Rocky River Reservation. A minimum four-inch base is required for skiing and snowshoeing, which is offered in Bedford, Brecksville and Rocky River as well. Starting Dec. 26, snowshoe rentals are available on select days at Big Met in Rocky River and Squire's Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation. For complete schedules and prices, follow the links from the "Recreation" section on clemetparks.com; for snow conditions, call 216-635-3270.