Holiday Fun, Naturally

family having fun on fresh snow at winterJust because it’s chilly outside doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. National Wildlife Refuges have a variety of family events that will bring smiles to you and your loved ones during the holiday season. Many of them are low-cost and even free! Here’s a highlight of some of the exciting things you can do.

Open House

Canada GooseA walk through nature brings the family together like nothing else. You can ooh and ahh at the sight of migrating sandhill cranes, Canada geese, snow geese and Ross’s geese overhead and in the fields. Live music accompanies this fun-filled event at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico on November 14 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Enjoy a warm fire, festive music, kids’ crafts, good company and holiday gifts at the bookstore of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio on December 6 from noon to 4 p.m. Two neighboring wildlife refuges, Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the state-managed Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, will also hold open houses the same day.

Get In Touch With Local Culture

Some of the fondest memories come from the most unique adventures, and getting in touch with local culture is one of the best ways to create them. Learn how settlers once made soap, brooms, butter and quilts on November 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.

Cajun Christmas GatorHave yourself a merry little Cajun-style Christmas with Santa in Louisiana at the visitor center of the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex on December 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. Enjoy story time, cookies and free photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

 

Make Homemade Wreaths

Gathering around with family and making something special is a staple of the holiday season. Wreaths make great house warming gifts and are easy to get little ones involved in making. At the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy or Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, you can make a festive wreath using branches and berries from native trees and shrubs. All materials will be provided, and you can bring pruning shears and garden gloves if you have them.

homemade wreathDecember 6, noon to 2:30 p.m. — Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy, Lincoln City, Ore.

December 12 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and December 13 from 10:30 am to 1 p.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newport, Ore.

Pre-registration is required: 503-812-6392.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

What’s more Christmas-y than cutting down your very own Christmas tree? At Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, visitors can cut two balsam fir or pine trees per person starting at the end of November, but make sure you pick up a free permit from the refugee office before you cut. Phone: 207-454-7161.

At the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, visitors are allowed to hand-cut one tree per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No permit is necessary, but cutting is restricted to certain areas. Phone: 907-262-7021 or toll-free: 1-877-285-5628.

And there’s plenty more happening at wildlife refuges around the nation. Check the website for a full listing of events, and kickoff the holiday season with some nature-inspired family fun.

To learn more about how the National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water across the country, visit the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr.

By Yousef Abdul-Husain

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