Just because it might be cold and blustery outside, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun activities going on for you to enjoy! The National Wildlife Refuge invites you to attend a free event – everything from creating a wreath in Oregon to counting birds in Texas, and celebrating Pioneer Day in Georgia, to chopping down your own tree in Alaska. There are activities in  most states and many are centered around the holidays. Most are family-friendly and fun!

Bundle up, take a thermos of hot chocolate and get out there and enjoy your National Wildlife Refuges! Not sure where the National Wildlife Refuges areas are in your state? Visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/ and find them by state. They’ll be adding more holiday and winter  events so stay up to date with what’s new by visiting the US Fish and Wildlife Special Events Calendar.

National Wildlife Refuge Holiday and Winter Events


Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Work off those holiday-season calories by cutting your own tree at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine or Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

  • Moosehorn Refuge lets visitors cut two balsam fir or pine trees per person, starting at the end of November. The trees must be cut to maintain road safety. Pick up a free permit from the refuge office before you cut. Phone: 207-454-7161
  • Kenai Refuge lets visitors hand-cut one tree per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No fees or permits are required. Cutting is restricted to certain areas. Phone:  907-262-7021 or toll-free: 1-877-285-5628


Okefenokee Pioneer Day

November 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA
Visit the Chesser Island Homestead to discover how people once lived in southeast Georgia. Learn how settlers made soap, brooms, butter, quilts and other everyday items. Watch a sugar cane boil and taste the cane juice.


Holiday Open House

December 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL

Celebrate the holiday season with refuge Friends, staff, and volunteers. Sample a variety of holiday food and learn about the refuge and Friends of the Cache River Watershed.

Winter Open House

December 6, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, WI
Enjoy musical performances by popular artists Ken Lonnquist and Dave Adler at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be nature crafts and outdoor activities, and discounts at the Coot’s Corner Bookstore.


Cajun Christmas with Santa
December 13, 2 to 4 p.m. — Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex, Lacombe, LA
Don’t miss the annual visit of Santa and Mrs. Claus to the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center. Kids of all ages are invited to join for story time, cookies and free photos with Santa.


Holiday Bazaar

November 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Shop for wild and not-so-wild, new and gently used treasures. Find unique gifts that support the Patuxent Research Refuge and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.


Christmas Bird Count

Scores of refuges take part each year in this bird census, coordinated by the National Audubon Society. Dates vary. Check Refuge System event listings to see if your nearby refuge is participating, or check the Audubon site.

  • December 20, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, MN
    Join Friends of Sherburne Refuge to count birds on the refuge and in the local area. Meet at refuge headquarters.


Open House

December 7, noon to 4 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, OH
Enjoy a warm fire, festive music, kids’ crafts, good company and holiday gifts at the bookstore. Two neighboring conservation organizations, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and the state-managed Magee Marsh Wildlife Area will also hold open houses the same day.


Wreath-Making Workshops

  • December 7, noon to 2:30 p.m. — Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy, Lincoln City, OR
  • December 14, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
  • December 15, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
    Combine materials from native trees (cedar, hemlock, fir) and shrubs (huckleberry and manzanita) into a beautiful wreath you can take home. Bring your family. All materials are provided. If you have a pair of pruning shears or gardening gloves, please bring them. Pre-registration is required: 503-812-6392


Christmas Bird Count

Scores of refuges take part each year in this bird census, coordinated by the National Audubon Society. Dates vary. Check Refuge System event listings to see if your nearby refuge is participating, or check the Audubon site.

December 30, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Take part in the 18th annual Trinity River Christmas Bird Count for northern Liberty County. Areas to be counted include the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Tarkington Prairie, and Gaylor Lake. Meet at 7 a.m. at the Valero Gas station located at the intersection of Hwy 105 and Hwy 321, about 6 miles southeast of Cleveland.December 30, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Winter Tram Tour, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA

Take a ride on an open-air tram and see the ducks, geese and swans that make the refuge their winter home. Continue to False Cape State Park for a one-mile hike to the Wash Woods cemetery and church site. $8 per person. Reservations are required: 757-426-7128.
Dates are: November 9, 1 to 4:30 p.m., November 23, 1 to 4:30 p.m., December 7, 1 to 4:30 p.m., and December 21, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend

November 27 – 30 Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA
The refuge will host an open house and offer special events in conjunction with the festival, which marks the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge.


Snowshoe Habitat Hike

December 13, 10 to 11 a.m. — Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI
Explore the refuge and search for winter wildlife and tracks on a free one-mile snowshoe hike. Warm up with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Some snowshoes in adult and children’s sizes are available to borrow. If there’s not enough snow for snowshoes, enjoy a winter hike instead. Snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages.


Winter Sleigh Rides

Starting Monday, December 15 — National Elk Refuge, WY
Horse-drawn sleigh rides onto the refuge are a popular winter activity, allowing riders a unique wildlife viewing experience and an incredible opportunity to photograph the elk that winter on the refuge. For details, see: http://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147509854 or Elk Sleigh rides. Sleigh rides will continue through Saturday, April 4, daily except for Christmas.

These events can be cancelled or changed at any time due to weather other other problems. Please visit the Wildlife Refuge site before heading out or to RSVP if required.

About the National Wildlife Refuge System and the US Fish and Wildlife Service

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit the home page at www.fws.gov/refuges or follow them  on Facebook and Twitter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr.