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Wintertime Fun: Cheap Ski & Shoe Rentals

Cheap Family Ski & Snowshoe Rentalts - Snowshoe Boy-Kenaz-Mara
(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Select Sat and Sun beginning December 2, 2011 through Feb 26, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There must be at least three inches of snow.
Dec 2, 17, 18
Jan 7, 8, 14, 15, 22, 28, 29
Feb 4, 5, 11, 12, 19, 25, 26
*Dates are subject to change.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: $5 gear rental, BYO gear and ski free
Chicago Park District – Northerly Island

F & P 1.13.12 - Cheap Family Ski & Snowshoe Rentalts -Northerly Island-Kenaz-Mara
Photo Credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Winter 2011-12 is forecast to be a wicked one. You can hunker down indoors or embrace the white stuff and have some wild, wintery, family fun. Chi-town may lack mountains and ski slopes, but Northerly Island, 1400 S. Lynn White Dr., is an ideal place to cross country ski and snowshoe. Come out for some northerly adventures in this urban, wilderness oasis.

The best part? Snowshoeing and Cross Country skiing won't break the bank! The Chicago Park District and Nature Oasis have equipment available to check out at the Northerly Island field house for $5 for two hours of skiing and trekking. That's a deal that's hard to beat! First come, first serve basis applies and a valid ID is required. And if you bring your own gear you can ski and trek around the island for free.

F & P 1.13.12 - Cheap Family Ski & Snowshoe Rentalts -making mountains-Kenaz-Mara
Photo Credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Northerly Island features a 91-acre peninsula to explore. Families can set their own pace on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Numerous winter birds and native animals make their homes on the former site of Meigs Field Airport. Bring binoculars to see winged things still taking flight there. Once you've had your fill of nature, take in our own urban mountain range of glass and steel - Chicago's skyline! Northerly Island boasts an incredible view.

It sounds like snow will be plentiful this winter, but open outdoor space is still scarce in the city. Loads of Chicago families are apartment dwellers or lack yard access. Even those of us with yards are mostly relegated to 1/4 acre or less which includes garage and house footage. That's all the more reason to bring your urban urchins into the great outdoors for an island adventure—Northerly Island, that is. Build a creative snow creature or igloo, start a snowball fight, and make a few snow angels. When your fingers and toes go numb, or the little ones need a bathroom break, warm up inside the field house.

Remember: Northerly Island will have snowshoeing and cross country skiing available Jan 14, 15, 22, 28, 29 and Feb 4, 5, 11, 12, 19, 25, 26 (dates are subject to change and depend on a minimum of 3" of snow).

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara writes a photo filled music, theatre and events blog, which includes shows for kids and the 21+ crowd in Chi, IL. She explores adventures in urban-odd ball-off the wall-alternative-eco-punk parenting, including loads of give aways, live show footage, interviews, reviews and more at


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