MILWAUKEE -- Winter in Wisconsin is a simple fact of life, but that hardly means the population goes into hibernation here in the Milwaukee area.
When the much-talked about polar vortex isn't having its way with us, we do winter like no one else does. When the mercury drops, most Wisconsinites get right to doing the things they love. Milwaukee County Parks are a big part of that winter fun. They manage to make the seasonal activities even more fun through the services offered at locations like Whitnall Park, where you can cross country ski, snow-shoe or go sledding.
"As Wisconsinites, we try to embrace winter," said Milwaukee County Parks Marketing Director Jeff Baudry. "The [polar] vortex is gone for now. So this is a great time to experience the park, experience winter and enjoy Whitnall Park."
Whitnall is just one of the many parks in the system that provides opportunities to enjoy the activities you can only do during the coldest months of the year. Of course the comfort of a warm fire is worth taking note of.
"People can come here with their kids and families, use the big hill -- that goes down onto Mallard Lake -- for sledding and tubing," said Baudry. "And of course, we have this beautiful warming house."
At the Whitnall Park warming house, you'll find everything you need with snacks and beverages for kids as well as those of the grown-up variety.
If skiing isn't your thing, perhaps strapping on some skates is right up your alley. Most everyone knows about places like Red Arrow Park. However -- unlike the last couple of years -- the local ponds, lakes and lagoons are ready for you to grace the ice.
We visited Scout Lake, where we found a parks staffer pouring water on an outdoor skating rink on the lake. We were told there is a great deal of public interest generated by the many frozen lakes and ponds that the parks maintain for visitors to enjoy.
"The phones have been ringing off the hook," said Milwaukee County Parks chief of operations Guy Smith. "And also people are checking our website at www.countyparks.com on a regular basis. Also shooting emails, Facebook, Twitter -- just asking, 'Hey, when are the rinks gonna' open?'"
Thankfully the wait is over. Maybe you want a different kind of environment. That is no problem. Check out The Rock outdoor sports complex. It offers a ski hill and terrain park, along with some other fun activites. They partnered up with the Milwaukee County Parks with a specific goal in mind.
"Bring back the nostalgic family entertainment that existed a long time ago," The Rock snow parks manager Joe Zimmerman told CBS 58. "And we're trying to bring that back with tubing, getting out with your family, sitting by the fire and all that fun stuff."
If the park is more to the liking of the younger members of your family, well then there's Tap Works for the adults -- with plenty of choices for cold beverages in a warm environment. You won't find a park like this in any other urban setting in the region.
"I think it's unique to the Midwest," said Zimmerman. "You know there's really nothing else like it. We got a great relationship with the Milwaukee County Parks system. They're very supportive as well."
Milwaukee County Parks also offer equipment rentals for those who need the proper gear to participate. They also stock many of the ponds and lakes with fish for ice fishing.
Winter in Wisconsin is so much better, thanks to the Milwaukee County Parks. They're making Milwaukee great.