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7 fun family winter activities

Local blogger Heather Manning offers her top 7 picks for winter activities for families in the Philadelphia region.

Today's guest blogger is Heather Manning who lives in Bethlehem, Pa. with her partner and their sons, Lucas and Miles. Together they hike, paddle, run, swim, visit farms, and attend festivals throughout the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley area.  Her blog originally appeared on Kids Outdoors Philadelphia, a free online community from the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Now that brisk winter weather has arrived and snow flurries have made their way through a few areas, it's time to start planning some fun winter activities to enjoy with your family. Below are a few of my favorite picks for Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and surrounding areas.

1. Holiday Open House at Hawk Mountain

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton is hosting a Holiday Open House on December 7 from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. It includes a live raptor program, children's activities, winter wildlife watching, wildlife art exhibit and more. In addition, the Annual Autumn Hawkwatch continues through December 15 on the North Lookout of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. An average of 18,000 hawks, eagles, and falcons migrate through this area each year. It is a spectacular sight to see! An official counter and interpreters are nearby to assist visitors with identifying birds.

2. Holiday Open House at Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center

Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center will be open for a Holiday Open House on December 14 from noon until 4:00 p.m. This event features crafts, games, music, and refreshments. At 2:00 p.m. there will be a guided walk highlighting the history of Henrys Woods. This hike will also stop at the Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum.

3. Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum

Visit the Holiday Garden Railway at beautiful Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia through January 5 to enjoy a quarter mile of train tracks throughout the outdoor winter gardens featuring tunnels, fifteen different rail lines, cable cars, bridges, and more. All of these displays are made from materials straight from nature. On December 13, 20, & 27 from 4:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. the Holiday Railway will be lit up with tiny white lights that decorate the display.

4. Easton Farmers' Market Winter Mart

More than thirty vendors will be offering fresh, local, and organic foods and crafts at the Easton Farmers' Market Winter Mart. The indoor market will be open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., December 7 through April 26. The Winter Mart will have live music each week, children's programs, educational talks, and cooking demos.

5. Rodale Institute Winter Open House

Rodale Institute, located in Kutztown is holding Winter Open House on December 7 from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Browse their selection of organically-grown Christmas trees, wreaths and swags while enjoying yummy treats with your family. They will also be selling sustainable gifts. Complimentary photos will be taken with Santa on a vintage sleigh.

6. Winter Fest Free Family Fun Day at Tyler State Park

Located in Newtown, Tyler State Park is situated on 1,711 acres and offers all sorts of outdoor winter fun including sledding, cross-country skiing, hiking, ice fishing, ice skating and more. On December 14 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., the park will be hosting a Winter Fest Free Family Fun Day. Activities will include a bonfire with hot chocolate, kid refreshments and crafts, snow shoeing demonstrations, and Jingle Bell Rides.

7. Christmas City Village in Bethlehem

Enjoy the open-air Christmas market full of unique holiday gifts, foods, music, and crafts located in historic Bethlehem. While you are in Bethlehem, you can enjoy a variety of shops, Moravian museums, Candlelight Walking Tours, horse and carriage rides, and more. Visit for more information about holiday events taking place in the Christmas City.

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