Sleigh rides combine nature, fun and history. Submitted
By Laura Churchill Duke
It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!
In the winter months, one of the most frequently asked questions through my website is where families can go for a sleigh ride. A list of venues can be found on the Valley Family Fun website.
Last winter, James and Tracy Churchill took their daughters Isla (then three) and Lahrin (then one) on a sleigh ride in Wilmot.
“A sleigh ride is a great way to enjoy winter as a family,” says Tracy. “It was wonderful watching the kids enjoy the horses and being outside in the snow.”
Although young, Isla has fond memories of the experience.
“I remember singing Jingle Bells on the ride and that the horse was soft," she says. I think she may be channelling her great-grandmother, whose sole winter transportation was horse and sleigh. Grammie Churchill used to tell me that before every sleigh ride she would nuzzle her head into the horse’s neck, telling it how soft it was and how great it smelled. She and her family would then huddle beneath a buffalo-hide blanket for the ride. My father now has this blanket and it comes with us on our annual sleigh ride trek.
A sleigh ride is a great way to teach your children about old-fashioned forms of transportation in the Maritimes, to connect with nature and to just do something unique. We’ve taken international friends from Japan, Italy, Mexico and Scotland on sleigh rides, and it’s a great cultural experience for everyone!
If you plan to go on a sleigh ride this season, here is some advice to heed:
“Dress warmly,” says Tracy. You’ll be sitting outside in the cold for about an hour. Because you are not moving, you will get cold quickly. Bring lots of blankets too - some to sit on and some to cuddle under.
Book early. Weather is unpredictable. Your sleigh ride might be cancelled at the last minute. Avoid disappointment by booking as early as you can so if you have to postpone, you will still have a chance to go.
“Bring snacks,” says Tracy. Some sleigh ride operators will stop and offer you a cup of hot chocolate from a thermos, or consider bringing your own.
Fill the sled. Every sled is a different size and the operator will tell you how many people it will hold. It is usually a set fee for the hour’s ride. “It would be a lot of fun,” says Suk Hee Campbell, mother of two, who went on a sleigh ride over the holidays, “if you gather a sleigh full of friends and family. Also, it will be cheaper for each family.” Besides, the extra body heat will keep you warm!
If you don’t fancy booking a private sleigh ride, you can still get the experience by going to New Ross Farm. The farm offers sleigh rides on weekends as part of the admission fee and will take you around the property. This is a shorter ride, but a great way to test the waters – or the snow, for that matter!
Grab some apples for the horses, a couple of blankets, your camera and your friends, and make a lasting memory by going on a sleigh ride this winter. And, as Isla says, “Don’t forget to sing Jingle Bells!”
Laura Churchill Duke of Valley Family Fun has great memories of going on childhood sleigh rides with the Girl Guides. Her son Daniel, seven, wrote in a list that his hope for the winter was to go on another “slay ride”. She hopes to avoid that type of ride!