Family fun on a budget

Free events and activities fill winter months with fun for families on a budget

Lisa Martineau |
January 01. 2017 2:57AM

Keene Ice and Snow Festival 

There are so many festivals and activities to do during the spring, summer and fall months and many of them don't cost a thing. Some folks hibernate or head south once the snow flies; others will spend their days outdoors - skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sledding and more. While the winter season allows for many outdoor recreational opportunities and activites, there are also some festivals, theatre, dance and even music shows to attend. We have chosen these events and activities because they are all free, family-friendly, and fun. 

White Park's Ugly Sweater 5K and Winter Carnival
White Park, 1 White St., Concord
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Race: 10:30 a.m.
Carnival: 12-4 p.m.

This one will cost ya - if you want to run a 5K in an ugly sweater, that is. The Friends of White Park, which might actually be in the top tier of New Hampshire public parks, is collecting $30 for the run. That money does go into the pot that helps pay to keep this park clean (almost pristine) and for maintenance on their pool, baseball and basketball courts, the largest children's playground in Concord, hockey and ice skating rink, sledding hill, and walking trails. So, register for the race and do your thing - ugly sweater and all - then chill out with the family at the Winter Carnival. You can also just come for their carnival if you wish; it's a fun community event the whole family can enjoy. Featuring games, face painting, food, a bonfire and more. Other activities will be going on, including some of the ones we mentioned above such as ice skating, sledding, and hockey.

To register for the race, click here: Ugly Sweater 5K

Cinderella by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia 

Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
7 p.m.

The State Ballet Theatre of Russia, from the city of Voronezh and formed in 1961, brings the world’s most beloved ballet to glorious life! This company of distinguished dancers has showcased the unparalleled art of Russian ballet to countries throughout the world. The international masters of dance present the story of "Cinderella," one of the most popular fables of the 19th and 20th centuries to the stage, bringing it to life with beautiful imagery, choreography, and costume. The State Ballet Theatre of Russia was founded by Maya Plisetskaya, the legendary dancer and former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater Ballet and is now under the direction of award-winning dancer and Moiseyev Dance Company soloist Nikolay Anokhin. The company has showcased the unparalleled art of Russian ballet to countries throughout the world, and now tours the U.S. with 55 of Russia's finest dancers in Cinderella. Become enchanted all over again when this fairy tale springs to life. This show is part of the William H. Gile Concert Series opened on December 16, 1960, after a legacy of more than $700,000 was left by Helen B. Gile to finance a free concert series for the residents of Concord. The bequest was made in memory of Miss Gile’s father, William H. Gile. Tickets are free and limited to four tickets per patron. Tickets were made available on January 2, 2017.

More info: Cinderella

Snow Sculpting Competition (Courtesy/Jackson Chamber of Commerce)

16th Annual Snow Sculpting Competition
373 Black Mountain Rd, Jackson
January 27-29, 2017
12 noon

The 16th New Hampshire Sanctioned & Jackson Invitational Snow Sculpting Competition begins on Friday, January 27th at noon when teams from all over the Northeastern part of the United States will converge on Jackson Village to play (or compete) in the snow. Sculpting continues through out the weekend and finishes at noon on Sunday the 29th. Spectators are welcome to view the entire process but to see finished pieces it is recommend you come back on Sunday the 29th.

See first hand how our sculptors take 8’ high by 4 foot round cylinder of compacted snow and create incredible art frozen in time. Sculpting pieces usually remain available for viewing for at least a week after the event giving visitors ample time to get coveted photos, however as weather is a factor there is no guarantee how long they will be standing. At night, during the event, the Sculptures are lit up giving them an entirely different perspective. The Village of Jackson is expecting at least 15 teams to compete for 2017.

In addition to watching the sculptors do their best work, the event will feature a bonfire for roasting marshmallows, possibly a torch light parade, a scavenger hunt, and other activities throughout the three-days of competition.  Remember that this is an event put on not only by the sculptors but by mother nature too - and she doesn't always cooperate. Plan accordingly and please call The Jackson Chamber at 603-383-9356 if you have any concerns about the weather or you need additional details on the event.

More info: Snow Sculpting Competition


1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Championships (Courtesy)

7th Annual 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Championships
White Park, 1 White St., Concord
January 27-29, 2017

"Black Ice hockey" refers to the diamond-hard clarity of the frozen surface beneath the skate. This tournament is a nod to the first ice hockey game played in America. The year was 1883 and the game was played at St. Paul's School in Concord. The Black Ice Pond Hockey Association, a non-profit entity started in 2010, created this event as a way to maintain and expand ice skating opportunities for the community as well as honor the rich heritage of hockey in Concord. Over the past two years, the tournament’s success allowed the association to give over $100,000 back to the community to keep skating alive and well - where it all started. Players come from all over the country to play in this tournament and a similar tournament, the Pond Hockey Classic, in Meredith in February. These talented players form teams to play - from early morning through the night and often, it seems, for three straight days without quitting. Come watch these teams go head to head outdoors, but don't be surprised if your children will long to get on the ice too. If you come back on another day, when there are no hockey games scheduled, you can in fact skate on the ice in White Park (and also in nearby Rollins Park and at the Beaver Meadow Golf Course). White Park even offers lighted night skating until 9 p.m. For the Black Ice Pond Hockey Championships though, the teams will be on the ice all weekend. Pick your favorite teams for the tournament and enjoy the action on the ice!

More info: Black Ice Pond Hockey Championships

7th Annual Nansen-Milan Winter Festival   
Various locations
January 20-22, 2017

The 7th Annual Nansen-Milan Festival, hosted by the Nansen Ski Club, the oldest ski club in America. Winter Festival is a community event that takes advantage of the fallen snow and allows families the opportunity to "go play outside!" You may have heard that often as a child, at least if you were born before video games ruled the world around us. The event features XC Ski Races, the burning of the greens (goodbye holiday season! Until we meet again...) ice skating and hot cocoa, a Broomball Tournament, a Mid-Winter Market with Food and Craft Vendors,  Live entertainmentAMC & Boy Scouts Winter Camping and Tracking workshops and much more. Get outdoors before cabin fever sets in! 

More info: 7th Annual Nansen-Milan Festival

Keene Ice and Snow Festival
Main Street, Central Square and Railroad Square
Saturday, February 4, 2017
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Keene Ice and Snow Festival has been going strong for 15 years now. Professional ice sculptors and students come together to carve blocks of ice into beautiful sculptures in Keene's downtown. In addition to the sculptures, the event features crafts for children, a bonfire to warm your fingers and toes (and make s'mores), and roaming railroad train ride, characters with a snowman, penguin, and an ice princess. There will also be an airport snow blower display, live enterainment, face painting, and a warming station inside Scores Sports Bar and Grille, who will be offering children's activities. The is one that should not be missed. The icy creations are beautiful whether you like the weather or not. 

More Info: Keene Ice and Snow Festival

WinterFest 2017 (Courtesy/The Farm at Eastman's Corner)

WinterFest 2017
The Farm at Eastman's Corner, 244 Amesbury Rd., Kensington
Saturday, February 4, 2017
11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

The Farm at Eastman's Corner in Kensington will be hosting their 3rd Annual WinterFest. Get out of the house and get some fresh air while spending time with your family. They will be celebrating the grand opening of their pastries and desserts display - New Year's Resolutions need not apply - in their Food Barn. Their chefs are using their brand new Food Truck to do start up their grills for WinterFest. Did someone say barbecue? You'll find food and beverage sampling, product demonstrations, horse drawn sleigh rides, sledding, and more. Here's another bonus: you'll find out where the beautiful town of Kensington is located. Hint: It's west of Hampton Falls. 

More Info: Winterfest

88th Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby
Rte. 106, Laconia
February 9-12, 2017

Attracting some of the top dogsled teams in the world, the 88th Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby will be held (weather permitting) from February 9-12, 2017. This is not Alaska (although it does darn well feel like it at times) nor is it the Iditarod, but when conditions are right, it is a site to behold. Dogs running full speed ahead, tongues flailing and faces grinning because they are being allowed to do what they do best: Racing across snow to get their passenger (er, Musher) to the finish line first.

The first sled dog races to be held in Laconia took place in 1929 and 1930, as a part of a series of weekend events sponsored by the New England Sled Dog Club. In 1931, the Laconia Sled Dog Club was formed to produce and promote sled dog racing in the “Lake City” as an annual, “major winter sporting” event. In 1936, “World Championship” was added to the title of the race and at the time, was the first and only sled dog race to claim that lofty designation. Today we have days-long races instead of shorter races, with young mushers joining in for some of the races. This may be the only place that you'll actually see a sled dog derby, so why not check it out?

More info: Lakes Region Sled Dog Club

Brendan Taaffe
Hopkins Center for the Arts, Alumni Hall, 44 East Wheelock St., Hanover
Saturday, February 11, 2017
11 a.m.

Stories and songs with Vermont-born multi-instrumentalist, Brendan Taaffe. Vermont's own Brendan Taaffe offers up a blend of traditional songs, compelling stories and crankies—magical scrolling illustrations in a puppet theater that will captivate grown-ups and children alike. A multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar, fiddle, Zimbabwean mbira), Taaffe has traveled the world with his songs and stories and has been featured on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and The Thistle and Shamrock. 

This is a HopStop Family Show and it's on the house!

More info: Brendan Taaffe

The New Hampshire Aviation Museum Free Admission Day
27 Navigator Rd., Londonderry
Friday, March 3, 2017 
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The New Hampshire Aviation Museum is offering free admission on Friday, March 3rd. End your winter school vacation week at the Aviation Museum of NH. Join us for paper airplane building and flying at 11 a.m. The New Hampshire Aviation Museum welcomes everyone with an interest in learning more about New Hampshire's exciting aviation history.

The Aviation Museum is New Hampshire's only working museum devoted to aviation history in the Granite State. Museum exhibits cover persons, places, events and artifacts related to the aviation history of New Hampshire. The information presented about the pioneering men and women who have represented New Hampshire in the air will take you back in time and might even change the way you think about New Hampshire, especially the contributions our State has made to the aviation history of America and the world. Bring the kids and learn something new about aviation!

More Info: NH Aviation Museum

No Strings Marionettes: Wasabi - A Dragon's Tale
Claremont Community Center at Claremont Savings Bank, 152 South St., Claremont 
Saturday, March 11, 2017
3 p.m.

Normally we'd be thinking "Puppets? Really?" That is, unless you are a Jeff Dunham fan. Do we have your attention yet? This is not a Jeff Dunham show by any stretch but but give this performance a chance. Your kids, emphasis on "the littles," as my sister refers to her two youngest, will be delighted with this modern-minded fairy tale told with puppets, including a seven-foot dragon. Ahh, now you're listening. Hey, it's free. Your kids will light up with this princess story. 

In this modern-minded fairy tale, Princess Aja happily contemplates her upcoming marriage to Prince Olaf, but things change quickly when fire-breathing Wasabi swoops from the sky, reducing the palace to ashes and carrying off the Prince! With a little help from her wise fairy friends, the spunky Princess outwits Wasabi to save the kingdom and the day. The performance begins with an interactive sing-along and ends with a behind-the-scenes look at the puppets.

This is a HopStop Family Show and it's on the house!

More Info: No Strings Marionettes

DRUMLine Live!
Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
7:30 p.m.

DRUMLine Live, the show-stopping attraction created by the musical team behind 20th Century Fox’s hit movies, “Drumline” and “Drumline: A New Beat,” has already paraded onto some of the biggest theatre stages in America, Japan, and Korea. After performing over 300 shows since 2009, it’s time for a BRAND NEW show, with new music and choreography. The Legendary Historically Black College and University (HBCU) band experience comes alive with this world-class cast of percussionists, musicians and dancers. Be prepared to laugh, sing, dance, and cry because DRUMLine Live is a high-octane musical roller coaster ride that will hit every emotion in your body.

Complete with dazzling choreography and an explosive percussion, DRUMLine Live is a thrilling spectacle that pays homage to the show-style marching popularized at historically black colleges and universities. With musical highlights from hip-hop, American soul, gospel, and jazz to name a few, DRUMLine Live blends genres. DRUMLine Live combines a unique style of drumming, mesmerizing musicianship, and lively choreography create a production never before seen on stage.

This show is part of the William H. Gile Concert Series opened on December 16, 1960, after a legacy of more than $700,000 was left by Helen B. Gile to finance a free concert series for the residents of Concord. The bequest was made in memory of Miss Gile’s father, William H. Gile. Tickets available starting January 30, 2017. Limit four (4) per patron.

More Info: DRUMLine

Go sledding
Various Locations
All winter, as long as there is snow on the ground

We are compiling a list of the best spots around the Granite State to rocket through the snow in your sled, tube/double tube or saucer - on second thought, the saucer is a bad idea. Why? Because I broke my collar bone climbing back up the hill at the Derryfield Country Club when I was five. The flash of that "saucer" beheading me was very real as I had face-planted into the snow just before impact. My five-year old life nearly ended right there on the side of Mammoth Road in Manchester. Fortunately it just bounced off my collar bone, splitting it in two, but the rest of the walk to the top of that hill was excruciating and scary. But I digress. It is possible that saucers may have come a long way since 1976. There are many types of sleds around now but you can haul grandpa's old wooden toboggan to the slopes and give that a whirl, but we can't promise you'll go very fast. 

Sled with care and respect the properties that allow you - at no charge - to zip down that hill until you can't feel your fingers or toes. Dress warmly, enjoy some winter sunshine, and sled at your own risk. Look for our roundup of the sleekest sledding spots in the state. We will link it here when it's complete.  

Akwaaba Traditional African Drum and Dance Ensemble
Hopkins Center for the Arts, 4 E. Wheelock St, Hanover
Saturday, April 8, 2017
11 a.m.

Claremont Community Center at Claremont Savings Bank, 152 South St., Claremont 
Saturday, April 8, 2017
3 p.m.

We know - it's already spring. However, before allergy/mud/black fly season really kicks in, we wanted to make you aware of two cultural shows that will be worth the winter wait. It's time to shake off the cabin fever and see this amazing performance: at 11 a.m. in Hanover and 3 p.m. in Claremont; you decide. The Akwaaba Ensemble brings African drumming and dance to vivid life with the rhythms and styles of different tribal groups from West Africa. The ensemble is led by master percussionist and teacher Theophilus Nii Martey who began studying traditional African music during his childhood in Ghana. The Akwaaba Ensemble’s energetic and engaging performances are a reflection of their name, which means “Welcome” in the Akan language of Ghana. Feel free to get up and move!

This is a HopStop Family Show and it's on the house! For ages 3+. 

More Info: Akwaaba Traditional African Drum and Dance Ensemble

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