How to enjoy your Palo Alto winter

For many, the word “winter” conjures up romantic images of swirling snowflakes, frosty windows, laughter over lopsided snowmen, attacking siblings with snowballs and the exhilaration of skiing down a hill. Yet, Palo Alto’s conspicuous lack of snow renders many of these traditional activities impossible.

At first glance, winter in Palo Alto comes off as dreary, devoid of the entertainments that make it a season of universal cheer. Look a little closer, however, and you’re met with a bursting list of pastimes to try out that will make a Palo Alto winter just as appealing as a traditional snow-filled wonderland.

Although Palo Alto lacks snow, there is no shortage of winter rains, creating a seasonal atmosphere. Curling up in a nest of fuzzy blankets with a large mug of hot chocolate or spiced apple cider while the rain pitter-patters on the roof outside will instantly provide a much-needed dose of winter coziness. To finish off your relaxing ensemble, find the perfect winter movie to watch: from “Last Christmas” to “Let it Snow,” there’s no shortage of new seasonal movies to explore. And you can always go back to a winter classic, such as “Love Actually” or “Home Alone.” Many holiday-themed movies play at the Stanford Movie Theater as well. On Christmas Eve, the theater shows “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an annual tradition. Come out with your friends or family and enjoy the sentimental blast from the past.

On a clear night, call up a couple of friends and enjoy a fun-filled evening of ice skating at Winter Lodge. Palo Alto is one of the few spots in the Bay Area with an outdoor skating rink, and nothing screams winter like sliding around the ice for a couple of hours and racing your friends. Plus, if you squint, the “soap snow” that comes down in the middle of evening skating sessions almost looks real.

If you don’t feel like venturing outdoors, invite some friends over for a holiday baking spree. Whether you opt for traditional gingerbread men, snickerdoodles and sugar cookies or for something more unusual, you’re sure to end up with a stash of goodies to enjoy with a glass of milk or give out as gifts. For more holiday cheer, create a winter wonderland in your kitchen by decorating a gingerbread house.

For more fun, organize a secret Santa or white elephant event. It’s always fun to pick out gifts for loved ones, and nothing beats the excitement of unwrapping a thoughtful present. Plus, a day of gift-giving is a great opportunity to use some of those delicious treats you’ve whipped up.

Venturing a little farther out, you can explore one of the many holiday fairs and events that pop up around the Bay Area. San Jose’s Christmas in the Park is a local tradition, filled with glittering Christmas trees as well as carnival rides, entertainment events and treats. For something a little less traditional, check out the SJMade holiday craft fair, held the weekend of Dec. 14 and 15, where artists and makers come to show off their creations. This is the perfect place to buy some presents and sup- port small businesses.

Even if the most festive thing you have planned this season is studying for finals, pull on a cozy sweater, grab a mug of your favorite hot drink and remind yourself why this season is so universally beloved. After all, snow or no snow, whether sledding or studying, there’s always a way to make your winter days feel just a little warmer and cozier.