Can you believe all of these cold, crisp, dry days we are having? We are averaging something like 10 degrees below our “normal” winter temps. But oh the dry air, and the snow flurries, and the sun that has shined on us—delightful! Hello winter 2013. Now if only the days would get longer faster—a minute a day is just not cutting it.  Darkness falls wayyyy too early.

The best way to beat the darkness is to start the day out right: get up, get moving, and before you know it, feel a wee bit refreshed and rejuvenated. Here are some new suggestions for where and how. Grab your little champions, your coats and get out there. And don’t let Jack Frost ruin your mama-mo-jo or momjo!

Smiles For Days
What surefire option is certain to bring smiles to you and your little animal lovers no matter how frightful our weather? Why the Oregon Zoo of course! Now it may not be the first option to come to mind on a wet, coooold or windy day. But think it through. It’s likely to be quiet, uncrowded and dare we say it—peaceful. Ninety-seven percent of people say they love animals, so let that adoration work its wonders on you today. Many, many, many of the zoo’s fabulous exhibits are inside and the coffee and snack windows are ready for your business. There is plenty of room to roam and the new penguinarium is open, hurrah!

After two long years of fixing up and new, refreshing, heating and cooling systems, the penguins are in their back-and-better-than-ever habitat. How happy are they? Go and see these little flippers for yourself. You can feel the love right through the glass—yours, your kids’ and theirs.  Soak it in, it’s yours to keep.

And while at the zoo, go and see Lily. Our newest amazing addition to the elephant clan, Rose-Tu’s 300 pound baby, was born in December and continues to thrive. She is out for adulation daily (viewing room open until 3:00 pm). Lily loves sunsets, pina coladas and long walks on the beach. Well, zookeepers claim she is a spitfire so she might love all three things if she knew what they were. Just sing yourself the song, doll face. Don’t you feel better already?  The zoo’s winter hours are 10:00 am – 4:00 pm with the grounds open until 5:00 pm.

Right Here, Right Now
Portlanders meet Harper’s Playground. The first of its kind here, this universally-accessible outdoor play mecca opened last fall after three years of inspiration, fundraising, and dedication by Harper’s parents. They wanted a place where their daughter could play right alongside other kiddos. Inclusion was the name of the game and now that game has a fantastic home base. Located in Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland, Harper’s parents (and many legions of supporters including the Portland Timbers) have done tremendous, glorious, humongous good. It’s wheelchair and walker accessible, sports wide walkways and slides, and rocks some universal playground staples like swings and merry-go-rounds. It will surely be some of the richest playtime you and your mini playgoers have had in awhile. Gorgeous landscaping, combined water and sand play, delightful bronze animal sculptures, a xylophone any musician can reach, and grins the size of Oregon itself await. Go forth and play. And better yet, donate to help make more playgrounds just like it.

Tangled Up in Blue(s)
Ready to get out of the house? We hear ya. Kudos to you and your motivation. How about a retro diversion that will bring you back to middle school and Friday nights at the Y? Point your little movers and shakers towards this ageless, timeless, classic activity and have a splendid workout while you’re at it. Time to get rolling!

Oaks Park’s Kids Morning Skates are crazy fun. You’ve just got to go! Running on Saturday mornings from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm, kids ten and under can stretch, get a quickie lesson from a pro-skater (or a ranked amateur), skate to their heart’s delight and enjoy some kiddo-selected tunes. Adults are free and so are the games. Yes, roller skating games! Only $6 per kiddo and please leave snacks in the car. Outside food or drinks banned, concessions at the ready inside. For kiddos still not quite ready to hit the big rink, there are beginner pathways to help secure some whirling and twirling confidence.

During the week, Oaks Park rocks Chipper’s Preschool Play & Skate for the six and unders. Same rules apply, plus if your kiddo doesn’t last long they can run around aplenty. Shoes and strollers are allowed on the floor during these events. A snack is included in the price of admission and wheels can be tightened down on size 2 and under skates. Plus the Fisher Price over-the-shoe skates are on hand as well. What haven’t they thought of?

Did You Know?
The Oaks Park is one of the oldest/longest running amusement parks in the US. Let’s support this local treasure—all year long!  Keep an eye on their monthly calendars —evening events like pajama skate parties, disco nights and who-dun-it mystery nights —it could be just the adventure your little rollers need.

Keep It Rolling
Mt. Scott Community Center has a roller rink in the basement that was built in the early 50s. They host Open Skate for all ages on Tuesday and Thursdays from
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm and Saturday, 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Fees are $3 per person midweek, $4 on weekends and skates can be rented for $1. You are welcome to bring your own skates but they must pass inspection before hitting the rink. Let the good times roll!

Skate World in Gresham has been rocking the roller skating world since 1974. Thrilled to be a part of healthy, affordable, family fun for nearly forty years, they host a Kids Day from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm on Tuesdays for $2.75. Thursday mornings their Tiny Tot skate is from 9:30 am – 11:00 am and is $3.75 and on Sunday nights the whole family is invited for Cheap Skate (best name ever) from 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm for $3.75 each. Regular skate rental included in these prices and inline skates are $3 more. Public sessions are sprinkled throughout the other days of the week and beginner classes are on Saturdays at 10:15 am. Wifi is at the ready and outside food and drinks are not allowed. Coupons mean even more affordability on holidays, school breaks and snacks. Let’s go…time’s a-wastin’!

If you prefer to get your skate on via ice, Red Tricycle’s got you covered for that, too. Hooray for winter!

Don’t Forget About…
Indoor dens of rowdy play, the new aquarium, a worthwhile road trip to McMinnville, kiddo-rockin’ live music, one of the BEST libraries in the country, and historic, beloved steam trains make it easy to keep you and your little sports playing and beaming. Bye bye winter-time blues, we know of many a cure.

— Liz Overson