“The party’s over ...” croon Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Doris Day, and several others. That could be the theme song for January in Montana.
Christmas, New Year and Epiphany are just memories. The sun goes down early and comes up late and it’s cold, cold, cold. But Ol’ Man Winter doesn’t have to call the shots. Here are some fun activities, both inside and out, to beat the blahs.
Almost for free
1. Reread your favorite childhood book. Mine is “The Secret Garden.” I read it every year when I was home from school with the flu. Or wend your way through a difficult book that you always promised yourself you’d read.
2. Fresh snowfall? Make a snow angel. Try to get up without destroying your creation. If the snow will pack, build a snowman and then paint it by squirting on water and food coloring.
Eat some fresh snow. It crunches and melts at the same time. Just make sure it’s not yellow. (A 9-year-old boy joke.)
3. Pop some popcorn and watch movies until your eyes won’t focus anymore. I’m a multi-tasker. I like to watch movies while also working a jigsaw puzzle and eating popcorn.
4. Create something. Whittling has always been a winter activity. All it takes is a piece of wood and a pocket knife. Crochet. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Play with clay from the dollar store. Buy a package of construction paper and a new box of crayons.
5. Gather friends and kids and go sledding or sliding at Pioneer Park or on the closest hill, then finish off with a bonfire and weenie roast with marshmallows.
6. The next Art Walk is Feb. 1 from 5-9 p.m. You don’t have to walk. You can take the trolley from gallery to gallery.
7. Take a spiritual holiday. Turn off your phone and enjoy the silence. If that’s too big a leap, play some gentle music. After quieting the inner chatter, try writing with your non-dominant hand and expect some surprises.
8. If you have a grill, invite your friends to a pot luck winter barbecue. You supply the drinks and a side dish or two and they bring their own steak, chop or burger.
9. For star gazing, Montana’s dark winter skies are the best. Take some old blankets, leave the city lights behind, find a safe place to park, and lie down on your back. Holding hands with your sweetie while you do this is even better. Add a hot drink and snacks.
10. Have a sleep-over with your girlfriends. Listen to oldies while you eat things that are really bad for your waistline. Share some scandalous secrets. Do men do this? I think that it’s called a stag party.
11. Plant some seeds. Marigolds, tomatoes, and petunias all are great choices. You’ll be able to watch the sprouts shoot up in just a few days.
Give yourself away
1. Bake some cookies for the workers at your favorite nonprofit: the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter; the closest fire station; your priest, minister, rabbi. You get the idea.
2. Be a good Samaritan. Help someone change a tire. Shovel a walk. Give someone a lift to the store. Pay for the meal of the person behind you at the drive-up.
3. Clean out closets and drawers, then don’t keep them for a spring garage sale. Instead, donate the bags and boxes of stuff to a thrift store and take the tax deduction.
For a small amount of money
1. Go to a museum. The Yellowstone Art Museum, Western Heritage Center, Moss Mansion, Yellowstone County Museum, Museum of Women’s History, and High Plains Women’s Museum. Admission fees vary. Visit one of these a week and you’ll arrive at Easter.
3. Go to Zoo Montana, a thriving venture where the exhibits are more and more interactive. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.
4. The Billings Symphony presents Trout Fishing in America on Jan. 26. In February, the Russian Ballet Company dances Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
Billings Studio Theater performs BST Encore: “On the Funny Side of the Street: A Broadway Riot” at Yellowstone Country Club Jan. 26 and 27. “On Golden Pond” plays weekends in February.
Venture Theatre plays “Red” and “A Steady Rain.” as part of The Fringe Festival.
5. Dine out! The choices, from the A&W to Z Pizza, will please your palate.
6. Bars, Saloons and Night Clubs. Billings has more live music (as opposed to dead music?) than even a skilled bar hopper can experience on a weekend. Cover charges are minimal to zero.
7. Movies! The Academy Awards are Feb. 24. See one of the nominated movies on the big screen. Or treat your inner child to “The Hobbit.”
Take heart. The first day of spring is March 20, mere weeks away. In the meantime, keep your eye on the Outpost’s calendar for more ways to defeat the winter doldrums.