A quick hot and cold guide to winter fun

01/06/2014 12:00 AM

01/08/2014 6:20 PM

Baby, it’s cold outside, but at least it’s better than Monday.

And (as long as we’re looking on the bright side) at least Monday wasn’t as bad as December 1989, when Kansas City hit a record low -23 degrees.

Still, spring is more than two months away, meaning there could be more extreme cold and polar vortices ahead.

Make the most of the rest of winter with our guide to fun excursions for people who like the cold weather (yes, they exist!) and people who are counting down the days until March 20.

Chill out: 5 fun things to do in the cold

• Go skiing: The Rockies offer world-class skiing if you’re willing to drive long hours through the desolate western Kansas landscape. But if it’s fresh powder you’re after, Snow Creek

is about 45 minutes northwest in Weston.

The ski resort lives up to its name with 60 snowmaking machines that carpet the green, blue and black diamond runs. There’s also a rental shop, ski lodge and terrain park for snowboarders.

Adult lift tickets average $43 per full day or $36 for a half. Youth lift tickets cost $28, and ski rentals cost $30.

Snow Creek also boasts a 700-foot-long tubing hill with a conveyer carpet; $26 gets you two hours of unlimited tubing. (



• Eat spiked snow:

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to eat yellow snow.

But if it’s purple, go right ahead.

Snow Co

., 1815 Wyandotte St., serves a frozen cocktail called Purple Rain ($7.25) made with blueberry-infused moonshine, milk and Chambord, a French black raspberry liqueur.

Other Snow Co. cocktails include the Rockefeller ($7.25), made with cherry-infused rye whiskey, and Elbow’s Sexual Chocolate ($8.50), a spicy concoction made with Cointreau, a premium triple sec, and spiced chocolate from Kansas City’s own Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolates. (



• Learn to ice skate:

With the Winter Olympics coming up next month, now is the time to get your Michelle Kwan (or Apolo Ohno) on.

Take a few laps around the

Crown Center Ice Terrace

, open through mid-March, and you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for Olympic figure and speed skaters.

Regular admission is $6, plus $3 if you need to rent skates. Children under 4 get in free, and on Tuesdays after 5 p.m., admission is two for one. (



• Take the Polar Plunge:

Why would anyone pay $75 to jump into a frigid lake? For a good cause.

On Jan. 25, brave Kansans will take the

Polar Bear Plunge in frostbitten Shawnee Mission Lake. Across the state line, equally brave Missourians will take a Polar Plunge

into an ice-cold Longview Lake.

Money raised from plunge participants, who each gather a minimum of $75, benefit Special Olympics in Kansas and Missouri.

The Polar Bear Plunge at Shawnee Mission Lake will be followed by a

Polar Bear Strut 5K. Race admission costs $35, or $30 if you sign up before Jan. 18. ( somo.org/plunge for Missouri, ksso.org/plunge

for Kansas)

• Visit penguins and polar bears: If you haven’t been to the new Helzberg Penguin Plaza at the Kansas City Zoo

, now’s the time.

The $15 million exhibit holds 100,000 gallons of cool saltwater and snowmaking machines that produce 3 inches of the fluffy stuff daily. There, you can watch King, Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins waddle, do underwater acrobatics and snack on fish (public feedings are at 10 a.m. on weekdays).

While you’re there, swing by Polar Bear Passage to see Nikita and his female companion Berlin.

Winter admission to the zoo costs $7, or $4 for Jackson and Clay county residents. (



Heat it up: 5 things to do for cold-haters

• Hit the hot tub:

One of the largest spas in the Midwest is about half an hour northeast of Kansas City, in Excelsior Springs.

The Elms Hotel and Spa is a recently renovated 125-year-old getaway with old-school charm and a brand-new spa area called the Grotto

, complete with steam shower, hot tubs, dry sauna, steam sauna and cold plunge shower (not that you’ll be needing that).

Access to the Grotto is free with a spa service. Heat seekers should spring for the 75-minute hot stone massage ($145) — the therapist uses smooth heated stones to relax muscles with penetrating warmth. The Elms signature massage ($140) sounds even better: The 60-minute rubdown melts tension with hot stones and a “relaxing back, shoulder, and neck massage while nine shower heads cascade warm water over you.” (



• Stroll Powell Gardens: Boost your vitamin D intake with a stroll through the glass-top conservatory at Powell Gardens

, 40 minutes southeast of Kansas City in Kingsville.

Outdoor foliage around these parts is about as shriveled and brown as the Crypt Keeper, but the conservatory blooms year-round with foliage that changes six times a year. This week, Powell gardeners are hard at work updating the conservatory with paper whites, primroses and other colorful flowers. The conservatory reopens Jan. 11.

Winter admission to Powell Gardens costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for children (ages 5-12). (



• Set your tongue ablaze with spicy ramen: Noodle bowls

are a hot food trend for 2014.

If you’re cold and craving ramen, dive into the spicy ramen challenge at

Sama Zama, 425 Westport Road. ( samakc.com


If you can finish a bowl of Sama Zama’s super-spicy ramen ($14 regularly, or $16 with the challenge) without taking a bathroom break, then your meal is free. Winners get a $10 gift card and their pictures on the “Wall of Lava.”

Ramen Bowls, 125 E. 10th St. in Lawrence, offers a similar Ghost Ramen Challenge. ( ramenbowls.com


The $20 challenge consists of a double-noodle, double-ghost pepper bowl of ramen topped with grilled pork belly and soy sauce-braised egg. If you slurp down every drop, your meal is free, and you walk out with bragging rights and a “Ghost Ramen Conquerer” T-shirt. Owner Shantel Grace says that about eight customers have won the challenge so far.

• Get stranded in KCK:

In the movie “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks gets stranded on a deserted island with only a volleyball named Wilson to keep him company.

For around $239 a night, you can live out a more luxurious version of the old stranded-on-an-island fantasy at

Chateau Avalon

, 701 Village West Parkway in Kansas City, Kan.

Chateau Avalon’s Castaway Isle Adventure Suite is designed to resemble a shipwreck — the two-story suite even has a queen bed on the bow of a wooden “boat.” Potted palms stand in for lush foliage, but there’s no beach — just a jacuzzi tub.

Chateau Avalon also has a Mayan Rainforest room and a Tahitian-style room with a 16-foot-tall mural of an island paradise, a bed with mosquito netting and a tub with a thatched roof. (



• Beach yourself at the Sandbar:

The Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo” is an ode to Aruba, Jamaica and the Florida Keys.

Bodies in the sand/ Tropical drink melting in your hand

We'll be falling in love/ To the rhythm of a steel drum band

Wouldn’t it be nice? If you can’t jet off to the Keys this time of year, here’s the backup plan: Go to

the Sandbar

, 17 E. Eighth St. in Lawrence, and order a Dirty Banana, a Bahama Mama or a Shark Attack — that last drink is garnished with a red-mouthed great white shark — and make believe you’re near the equator, not the North Pole.

Saltwater tanks filled with tropical fish and a nightly indoor “hurricane” complete with wind, rain and lighting help fill out your Fantasy Island. There’s even a mermaid costume if you’re brave enough to dance on the bar. (



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