My fellow blogger Jamie Hergott recently wrote about locations to enjoy Outdoor Winter Fun in Hendricks County, so as the assistant superintendent of Hendricks County Parks & Recreation, I thought I would complement Jamie's post with one about 8 outdoor activities that visitors and locals can enjoy in Hendricks County, Indiana, parks.

With COVID-19 throwing a kink into many indoor public gatherings, parks departments have a distinct advantage in the fight to keep us all sane: the Great Outdoors. Outdoor activities still require taking some precautions for the sake of public health, but they're far less restrictive than the precautions required for indoor activities.

Just because it's winter doesn't mean that we can't all go outside for some fresh air and exercise. You might be surprised by what we have to offer during the winter months!

Let's start with Penguin Park, which is a really cool synthetic ice attraction at Washington Township Park in Avon that's open from Nov. 18 through Jan. 3 with open skating available daily during that time. They also have a bunch of fun special activities on the slate for this winter!

1. The Market at Penguin Park Penguin Park in Avon is home to an Adult Night and a family-friendly Game Night in February!

On Saturday, Dec. 5 from 1 to 4 p.m., visit The Market at Penguin Park! Skate with the Grinch and Buddy the Elf, enjoy some delicious food from The Grumpy Gringo and The Frigid Frog, purchase your family's Christmas tree from local Boy Scouts, check out the craft and boutique vendor booths, visit with Santa Claus and mail your wish list to the North Pole, explore Santa's Village and much more!

For more information, click here.

2. Curling at Penguin Park

You've seen it on TV from the Winter Olympics -- one person slides a stone with a handle down the ice while teammates frantically sweep the ice in front of the stone to "steer" it toward the center of a target. It's curling!

Now you can try curling for yourself! Rent a lane at Penguin Park or join a curling program. Also, keep an eye out on Washington Township Parks & Recreation's Facebook page for pop-up curling events!

For more information, click here.

3. Rent an Igloo at Penguin Park

Got someone in your family with a winter birthday? Looking for a unique idea for that person's birthday party? Rent an igloo at Penguin Park! You'll get your own private igloo with room for up to 10 kiddos, skating and skate rental for those kiddos, pizza, cupcakes and drinks. They'll even clean up for you afterward! 

For more information on birthday party igloo rentals, click here.

And you don't need a birthday party to rent an igloo. You can rent one for any special occasion!

For more information on special event igloo rentals, click here.

4. Brisk Bicycle Rides on the Vandalia Trail Don't let winter stop you from enjoying bike rides along the Vandalia Trail in Plainfield! (Photo courtesy of Vandalia Trail Facebook page)

Bicyclists, don't let the winter months leave the activity that you love out in the cold! Beginning Nov. 21, join the Friends of the Vandalia Trail for monthly brisk rides along Plainfield Parks & Recreation's section of the Vandalia Trail. 

Whether you're a regular cold weather rider or would like to try it for the first time, come on out & enjoy a relaxed opportunity to try out your cold weather gear & exchange strategies on staying warm on the bike. The group gathers right behind Biggby's Coffee and the Metro Diner and in front of Meijer, convenient for a hot drink before and a warm breakfast and shopping after.

Riders then launch off to the nearby Vandalia Trail, part of the cross-Indiana National Road Heritage Trail, Inc. initiative, ride at a leisurely pace to its west end, then back to & down the White Lick Creek Trail a bit, and finally return to the Vandalia Trail for the last stretch. This route is about 10 miles, but the group and individuals can choose more or less, depending on the conditions. The out-and-back routing gives a lot of flexibility on distance. 

For more information, click here.

5. Wintertime Wander at Pecar Park

Come out to Pecar Park in Avon on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. for a unique experience!

Walk along a path lit by luminaries and enjoy the warmth of a fire and pre-packages smores. Live animals will be inside the Pecar Nature Center to view, there will be a nature lantern-making station, as well as a photo booth. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Capacity is limited so register now! 

To register, click here.

6. Frosty Paws at McCloud Nature Park Bring your canine besties out to McCloud Nature Park near North Salem for a winter hike!

Are you and your four-legged friend tired of the same old walk? Then come out to McCloud Nature Park, which our department operates just outside of North Salem, on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. and take a winter walk led by one of our naturalists. We will blaze a path for our frosty paws together!

During the hike, find out what your canine’s ancestor, the coyote, is doing during the winter months. Be sure to dress for the weather! Participating dogs must be friendly with other dogs, and all dogs at McCloud are required to be on a leash.

This program is free to attend.

7. Explore Hendricks County Trails Sodalis Nature Park in Plainfield provides one of many winter hiking options in Hendricks County.

Up in the northeastern section of Hendricks County, the B&O Trail Association operates the B&O Trail, which runs through and west of Brownsburg. This is a paved trail that is perfect for biking, running and walking.

Hendricks County Parks & Recreation operates a four-mile paved section of the Vandalia Trail, running from Amo through Coatesville to the Hendricks-Putnam County Line, where it connects with People Pathways and continues all the way to Greencastle. We do not clear our section of the trail in the event of snow, which makes it a fun environment for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking or hiking.

Plainfield Parks & Recreation operates a paved section of the Vandalia Trail that runs through Plainfield. They do clear their part of the trail after a snowfall, so bicyclists, joggers and walkers can enjoy it. Plainfield Parks & Recreation operates a great trail system throughout their town, so there is plenty to explore outdoors. 

We have 6.5 miles of trails at McCloud Nature Park near North Salem. You can discover even more trails at Sodalis Nature Park and Hummel Park in Plainfield, Williams Park and Arbuckle Acres Park in Brownsburg, Washington Township Park and Avon Town Hall Park in Avon and Ellis Park, Gary Eakin Community Park and Blanton Woods in Danville.

8. Go Sledding!

Washington Township Park in Avon, Ellis Park in Danville and Hummel Park in Plainfield provide three great locations to go sledding in Hendricks County. All three parks have nice steep hills that are popular after a snowfall.

And can you keep a secret? Hendricks County Parks & Recreation is currently building a new park in Avon called W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park. It will open in 2021, and it will have two distinct features: two ponds totaling 5.5 acres and a huge 30-foot-tall hill created with the soil that was excavated to create the two ponds. We are in the process of contouring the hill with heavy equipment, seeding it with grass, and installing trails in the park that include one to the top of the hill, so it won't be ready to sled on this winter. But circle next winter on your calendar and be amongst the first to sled at W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park!

Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Hendricks County!

These aren't the only ways to enjoy being outside during the winter in Hendricks County! For more outdoor (and indoor) events over the next few months and beyond, be sure to check out our Events Calendar.