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TOP 5 Winter Activities in Vilnius!

By Michael Durnan

As the windswept chill of an incoming Baltic winter steadily descends over Lithuania's capital, raincoats and falling leaves disappear, replaced by bright rainbow scarves, black wool coats, and snow flurries galore.  Since shorter days and bitingly cold temperatures can often lead to seasonal depression, start taking advantage of weekends or the upcoming holiday downtime to lift your spirits.

Here's a top 5 list of wintertime activities designed to do just that. Save your sanity, get out and explore what dark and frigid Vilnius has to offer. Chances are you've heard of, but haven't yet bothered, to partake in the following:

5. Drink up a home-brewed steaming glass of hot mulled wine, a Baltic staple remedy for the soul, loaded with specialty spices, cinnamon, and a dash of orange zest. Add a shot of rum or brandy for an extra kick. For the creative-minded, cook some up at home or better yet, cook it over a big open fire! Simply buy a bottle of cheap red wine (10-12 LT), heat it up over the stove with sugar (or honey) and add the spices and other ingredients (available at your local supermarket; sold literally as "spices for hot wine") to your taste. Alternatively, stop by Cactus Bar or In Vino for one of the best drinks (as well as friendlier crowds) in the Old Town.

4. Become a mall rat for a day in Akropolis. Despite the lack of shoppers toting large bags of anything (except for basic groceries from a super duper market, the only affordable items in a mall notorious for outrageously priced clothing), the fashion show is second to none and you can always go bowling or stretch your legs while ice-skating. Last but not least, revisit summer days here and cap the day off with a scoop or two of Italian ice cream.

3. Take a day trip and wander the snowy, whitewashed grounds of Trakai. There's something surreal about the castle's brilliantly spectacular setting in winter, as its iced-over lake and snow-covered island inspire many to enjoy a contemplative afternoon stroll. On a clear day, even the wind seems manageable in the sparkling glitter of a Saturday sunset. Grab your camera, bundle up, and see for yourself.

2. Hit the dance floor! Having opened earlier this year, Vilnius's premier Pacha club persistently pumps out a powerful mix of electronic, house, and modern dance music to satisfy a variety of musical tastes. A sophisticated, fashionable crowd sipping cocktails, a Mediterranean décor, and a thumping sound system create a posh atmosphere that easily makes for one of the best nightclub experiences in the Baltics. Step on to the dance floor, lose yourself in the smoke and tribal beats, and pound the night away.

1. Go for a splash in Vichy Aqua Park! Not just for kids, this energetic indoor water park is awash with daredevil waterslides, a crashing wave pool, and tropical vegetation to boot. A Vilnius highlight in winter, throw on a Hawaiian shirt and escape the cold outside. The park recently hosted an all-night Halloween rave; good times!