11 fun things to do with the kids over winter break

Whether it’s the excitement-filled countdown to Christmas or days after the wrapping paper has been discarded and the presents have lost their novelty, holiday breaks can seem more like two months than two weeks.

But family fun abounds in and around the Miami Valley well into the New Year.


Holiday traditions are plentiful in the Miami Valley, so here are some fun options for the entire family.

Downtown holiday fun: Relive the magic of Christmas past at the Schuster Center’s Wintergarden Wonderland, one of the area’s longest-running holiday traditions. Animated elves and furry woodland creatures are just a few of the festive scenes in the Rike’s department store holiday window displays. The little ones can check off their holiday shopping list at the Tike’s Shoppe – a special shop run by kids, for kids – also in the Wintergarden. Enjoy the one-of-a-kind model train display – given to the community by Virginia Kettering – in the Kettering Tower lobby. The Family Movie Series continues on Dec. 17 at noon at The Neon with “It’s a Wonderful Life” for $2 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. Back by popular demand, the Sinclair Theatre presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Dec. 15-18 in Blair Hall. Tickets:

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The Nutcracker: With the brave Nutcracker and his soldiers battling the Rat King and Clara traveling to the Land of Sweets to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker offers an enchanting experience for the young and young at heart. The Schuster Center will come alive with the sights and sounds of this holiday classic with nine shows from Dec. 16-23. The kids might even spot a classmate or two on stage as the talented professionals of the Dayton Ballet will be joined by more than 100 young dancers from across the Miami Valley. A backstage tour (Dec. 17) and Sugarplum Tea (Dec. 18) add to the festive options. Info:

Clifton Mill: The legendary light show – complete with 3.5 million lights – takes three months to set up but the result is nothing short of breathtaking as the historic mill transforms from complete darkness to a colorful, twinkling holiday wonderland with the flip of a switch. Don’t have time before Christmas, no problem. The display continues nightly through Dec. 31. Info:

Woodland Lights: For more than two decades, Woodland Lights, at Countryside Park near the Washington Twp. Recreation Center, has been brightening the holiday season for local families. Some new additions to the half-mile lighted woodland trail are a laser light show, a tunnel of lights and a train ride. Costumed characters, amusement rides, snacks and, of course, Santa round out the holiday fun. Info:

A Carillon Christmas: A new tradition has begun at Carillon Historical Park with Christmas lights aplenty and the dazzling Carillon Tree of Light. Live holiday music, historical craft demonstrations, traditional holiday fare and visits with Santa are just part of the fun. The little ones won’t want to miss taking a spin on the Carousel of Dayton Innovation, riding the Midnight Express or watching a puppet show. Round out the night with a gingerbread cookie and hot cocoa. Info:


A little road trip can pay big dividends as far as increasing holiday spirit.

Newport Aquarium: Discover the Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa and dance to holiday tunes amidst bright lights and bubbles in the Shark Ray Bay Theater at the Newport Aquarium. While the holiday fun continues through Dec. 31, visitors can also enjoy their favorite exhibits like the playful otters in Canyon Falls, the colorful inhabitants of the Coral Reef and, of course, brave the Shark Bridge. The aquarium is open 365 days a year and the young and young at heart can enjoy an undersea adventure. Info:

Cincinnati Zoo: The Festival of Lights: More than 2.5 million colorful, twinkling lights, a Madcap black-light puppet show and the BB&T Toyland Express are just part of the fun at the 34th annual PNC Festival of Lights. Zoo visitors can also search for five hidden fairies in Fairyland, marvel at the spectacular Wild Lights show on Swan Lake or warm up with hot cocoa. No worries if you don’t have time to take in the sights and sounds of the season before Christmas as the Festival of Lights continues through Jan. 1. Info:

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: With millions of twinkling lights and plenty of holiday attractions, Wildlights has been a Central Ohio mainstay for close to three decades. But the annual event has much more to offer than light shows and cocoa – from camel rides to the Polar Bear Express and ice skating to the Santaland Zoo, there is so much to do and experience. Wildlights continues through Jan. 1, so there is plenty of time to visit the Sparkling Spruce and the Reindeer Corral. Info:


If the kids are bouncing off the walls, it might be time to find a way for them to burn off some energy. Mom and dad can also burn off some Christmas calories.

MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape: The region’s largest outdoor ice rink – on the banks of the Great Miami River – is open for a new season of family fun. With open skating events on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, what better time to experience the excitement of the holiday season? Even spectators can enjoy the fun with a steamy cup of hot cocoa in hand. Info:

Sky Zone: If jumping on their bed is a thrill, the kids will be downright ecstatic at the sight of wall-to-wall trampolines at Sky Zone. The fun, however, isn’t limited to the little ones as everyone can bounce and flip till their heart’s content at the Washington Twp. indoor trampoline park. With extended hours over Christmas break – including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve – there is plenty of time to burn off some energy and calories. Info:

Scene 75: Play laser tag, race a go-cart, get in a round of blacklight mini-golf, and bounce through a room of inflatables all under one roof. That’s just part of the fun at Scene 75 as there are also bumper cars, mini-bowling, a 4-D motion theater and an expansive arcade. “I’m bored” will not be uttered at Scene 75. Info:

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