date published: February 27, 2006

This year we've missed out (well, some of us haven't missed it at all) on an abundantly arctic Hub winter, but low snow totals doesn't mean missing out on strapping on some skates, gliding around on ice and giggling like kids while you try to keep your ankles from giving out. Ice skating in Boston is guaranteed, even on warmer days, since Boston Common's Frog Pond is equipped with an underground refrigeration system. Though the season is winding down, you may still be able to hit the ice at Brookline's Larz Anderson Park, considered by some to be one of Boston's most romantic destinations, and the Charles Hotel Skating Rink in Cambridge, which offers upscale, rink-side refreshments. Refer to listing.

If there does happen to be a ton of snow, forget the MBTA-the best way to travel is by sleigh. A trip roughly 45 minutes west of Boston will earn you a ride in a horse-driven sleigh at Bobby's Ranch in Acton (978-263-7165) or at Hollow Brook Farms in Brimfield (weekends only, 413-245-9325). For the more adventurous, head even further west and try a dog sled ride at Northern Exposure Outfitters in Brookfield (508-867-4396). Tours are $250 for two adults, and unlike T conductors, your canine guides may even let you scratch their bellies.

Ever wish you could combine winter sports and fine art appreciation? Consider that wish granted-rather than leaving the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park for fair-weather art connoisseurs, visitors can snowshoe while perusing the pieces. On March 5 , staff from Eastern Mountain Sports provide visitors with equipment and instruction and then a museum guide leads a tour of the park. Beginners are welcome and free snacks are available afterwards in the café. Refer to listing.

If that exercise sounds a bit too vigorous (and cold!) for you, work up a sweat with a good guffaw or two taking in standup comedy, the perfect cure for the wintertime blues. Boston has some of the best comedy clubs in the country, including the Comedy Connection in Quincy Market. In addition to regular nationally-known headliners, every Thursday the Connection hosts Frank Santos, The R-Rated Hypnotist, who might be able to make you believe that it's already June. Or keep the laughs coming at Improv Asylum 's new show "Monkey Trial & Error.Or, You Say You Want An Evolution." Hey, what isn't funny about intelligent design? Refer to listings.

Sure, Boston's got some amazing buildings-but it's much warmer to check them out from the inside. Luckily, you don't always have to be outside to enjoy good architecture. Visitors are invited to take free guided tours of venerable Symphony Hall (home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) on March 4 at 1:30 p.m., and March 1 & 8 at 4:30 p.m. William Tudor called Boston the "Athens of America," and the grand hall of symphony is lined with Greek statue replicas to prove it. Afterwards, lounge in Symphony Hall's original leather seats from its opening in 1900 and listen to the BSO perform works by Schoenberg and Beethoven (March 1-4). Refer to listing.

Mingle with those who love the cold at the New England Aquarium . There, the staff lets animal lovers play with the harbor seals behind the scenes, or even be a sea lion trainer for the afternoon (call 617-973-5206 for reservations). Or just watch 2005's biggest cinema sensations-the penguins-march about their famous habitat, which holds 143,000 gallons of chilled and filtered Boston Harbor seawater. Refer to listing.

If it's too cold to get out of bed, simply wait it out until it's time for brunch. Then try Zaftig's in Brookline (335 Harvard St., 617-975-0075), where they ask you to let them be your Jewish mother and serve knishes, blintzes and borscht along with award-winning sandwiches. Or sample everything from goat cheese salads to delicious crepes stuffed with jam, fruit, meats or whatever you fancy at 33 Restaurant and Lounge (33 Stanhope St., 617-572-3311). Finally, get great food, entertainment and a view all in one stop at the Skyline Sunday Brunch at the Museum of Science served at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (refer to listing). Food by Wolfgang Puck Catering is served in the sixth-floor dining room with river views and is followed by a show at either the cozy planetarium or Omni Theater.

Nothing makes a cold day better than a delicious cup of hot chocolate. But forget Swiss Miss-Paris Creperie in Beacon Hill (326 Cambridge St., 617-589-0909) makes their hot chocolate with Nutella, the delectable Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread. And on the off chance it's too warm for your chocolate to be hot (figure that one out), try the oxymoronic frozen hot chocolate (regular or white) at L.A. Burdick's in Harvard Square (52-D Brattle Street 617-491-4340).

Ever since caveman days, sitting down to dinner before a roaring fire has been a can't-miss way to shake off the cold. Options in Boston include The Fireplace (634 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-975-1900), which serves classic New England cuisine. Hungry i (refer to listing) takes it to the next level with fireplaces on all three floors to go with their hot French dishes. And if you must have steak, in addition to the fire, to warm your bones, try Smith & Wollensky's (101 Arlington St., 617-423-1112), located in the Castle near the Park Plaza Hotel.

Replace your scarf with a bib at Redbones BBQ (55 Chester St., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-638-2200). They'll make you forget what it's like outside with down-home Southern cooking and 24 fresh microbrews on tap. Recent Harvard Square arrival Phatt Boys (50 Church St. 617-354-2005) conjures up memories (real or imagined) of summer in Kansas City, Louisiana and other BBQ hotbeds with tasty ribs, chicken, steak, jambalaya and more. If you like your BBQ rowdy, go to Boston's famed dive bar, Dick's Last Resort (Quincy Market, 617-267-8080) for raucous service and buckets of ribs.

Tea is intrinsically linked with Boston history and is also a hot and delicious winter refreshment. At the Boston Athenaeum (refer to listing) you can take in early Boston newspapers, George Washington's book collection and portraits by Boston-bred artist John Singer Sargent-and on Wednesdays, wash it down with the tradition of Athenæum Tea, which was revived in 1984. Or, live it up like it's the Victorian Era with a cup at the Ritz-Carlton (15 Arlington St., 617-92-3355). A harpist plays during Afternoon Tea, Wednesday through Sunday, while you sip your tea and watch the Newbury Street crowd walk by. Reservations are recommended for both.

Winter in Boston is definitely nothing like the Serengeti, but some zoo animals were made to handle it, like the reindeer at the Stone Zoo. Others, like Christopher the lion at the Franklin Park Zoo, need the help of a heated rock to encourage them to stay out and mingle with visitors. On a guided tour of Arnold Arboretum, you can see hardy flowers like the winter witch hazel and white willow. And even though the Public Garden isn't in bloom, it's still good for a winter stroll. Geese are still in the pond, just waiting (like the rest of us) for spring to arrive. Refer to listings in sights of interest and wildlife.

A jog along the Charles River Esplanade may only appeal to the most hardcore jogger or rollerblader, but that's no excuse not to start shedding those extra winter pounds, because there are plenty of places to workout inside. At The Ring Boxing Club (971 Commonwealth Ave. 617-782-6946), you're put through the training of a professional boxer. (But if you're more Gerry Cooney than Mike Tyson, don't worry-you only have to spar if you want to.) Beginners are welcome and first-timers can take advantage of a free trial lesson. If you're of the more traditional type, try the ancient art of yoga at Bikram Yoga Boston (108 Lincoln St., Loft 1A, 617-556-9926). Bikram yoga is performed in heated rooms to burn more calories, flush out toxins, promote relaxation and fight Old Man Winter.

Have fun with a New England tradition. The skinny pins, small balls and the fact that no one has ever gotten a perfect score keep things interesting. Go into a time warp and play at The Milky Way Lounge & Lanes (403-405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-3740)-originally the JP Bowl (founded in 1914), now a retro/sci-fi/outer-space basement fully equipped with a 1950s wooden ball return. Or check out Sacco's Bowl Haven (45 Day St., Somerville, 617-776-0552) where they proclaim "we've got small balls, but we're big on fun."

It's easy to take it slow in the summer, but sometimes in winter we forget to. Let go of the cold and stress with spa treatments like a therapeutic hot stone massage and hot lava mud manicure at Le Pli Day Spa (5 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-547-4081). Or bask in the Chocolate Delight Package with a chocolate body mask and chocolate body oil massage at Violet (257 Newbury St., 617-262-7546).

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