Dayton Ballet’s The Nutrcracker is on stage for nine shows from Dec. 16-23 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED

Keep your kids entertained throughout the winter break with these family-friendly Miami Valley events

Once the excitement of the holiday season begins to wear off, it can be difficult to keep your kids entertained throughout the entirety of their holiday break. So, to avoid bouts of boredom (or, even worse, tantrums), we’ve put together a list of some fun things to do with your kids over the winter break. From holiday displays to thrilling shows, 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

Dayton’s long running holiday tradition, the Rike’s Wonderland Windows, has something new to offer the public this year. Theater set designer Adam Koch, along with other key figures in Dayton’s creative community, gave the windows a makeover, adding four windows: “Woodland Forest,” “Silent Night,” “Snow Day” and “Christmastime.” 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. 

>> Designer gives iconic Rike’s display a makeover: ‘I loved those windows!’

The Victoria Theatre Association unveiled the final installment of the redesigned Rike’s Wonderland Windows on Nov. 26. CONTRIBUTED/TOM GILLIAM
Photo: Staff Writer


What: Rike’s Wonderland Windows 

Where: The Wintergarden Wonderland at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton 

When: Viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The exhibit will be closed during private events and on Dec. 24 and 25. It will be open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31 and will then close.

Admission: Free 

More info: Website

⛄ “The Nutcracker”

*This is the last weekend for “The Nutcracker”! 

The Dayton Ballet presents the classic story of “The Nutcracker” every winter, with a cast that includes young dancers from throughout the Dayton area, with music by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. 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. 

Dayton Ballet, accompanied by the full Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, will present the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker.” CONTRIBUTED/SCOTT ROBBINS
Photo: Staff Writer


What: Dayton Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” accompanied by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra 

When: 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 23

Where: Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton 

Tickets: $20 and up, available at Ticket Center Stage (888) 228-3630 or online at Senior, teacher and military discounts are available at the box office.

More info: WebsiteFacebook 

⛄Clifton Mill:

The legendary light show – complete with 4 million lights – takes three months to set up, but the result is nothing short of breathtaking. The historic mill transforms from complete darkness to a colorful, twinkling holiday wonderland with the flip of a switch. Even after winning $50,000 in “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” The Mill has continued to impress the thousands who trek to see the lights display each year.

The historic Clifton mill, built in 1802 and still working, opened its Legendary Lights for the 2019 holiday season on Friday, Nov. 29. Four million lights cover Clifton Mill’s scenic attributes, including the mill, a covered bridge, cliffs and riverbanks. Last December, Clifton Mill was the winner of a $50,000 prize on ABC show “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Photo: Tom Gilliam


What: Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill 

Where: 75 Water St., Clifton 

When: 5-9:30 p.m. until Dec. 31. Lights go on at 6 p.m. Display closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve on Christmas Day. Closed on New Year’s Eve.

Cost: $10, children 3 and younger are admitted for free. 

More info: (937) 767-5501 | WebsiteFacebook 

⛄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, a train ride and a Ferris wheel. Costumed characters, amusement rides, snacks and, of course, Santa, round out the holiday fun. 

Woodland Lights, a walk-through Christmas lights display near Centerville, Ohio, is now open for the 2019 season. Here is who we spotted there opening night. DAVID MOODIE/CONTRIBUTED


What: Woodland Lights 

When: Through Dec. 23, 6-9 p.m. 

Where: Countryside Park, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Twp. 

Cost: $9, free for children 2 and younger 

More info: (937) 433-0130 | WebsiteFacebook

>> Where you can go see beautiful, twinkling Christmas lights without leaving your car

⛄A Carillon Christmas

At Carillon Historical Park, holiday cheer is aplenty with lights as far as the eye can see and the dazzling Carillon Tree of Light serving as the beacon of holiday joy in Dayton. 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. 

Deeds Carillon is now transformed into the Carillon Tree of Light during the holiday season. The breathtaking Tree of Light — an unmistakable symbol of Christmas in the Miami Valley — signals the return of Carillon Historical Park’s month-long holiday celebration: A Carillon Christmas. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Photo: Tom Gilliam


What: A Carillon Christmas and the Carillon Tree of Light 

Where: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd. 

When: Running until Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) 

Admission: $12 per adult (18–59), $10 per senior (60+), $8 per child (3–17), Under 3 and Dayton History members can get in for free

More info: (937) 293-2841 | WebsiteFacebook 


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

⛄Newport Aquarium

Discover the Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa and dance to holiday tunes amid bright lights and bubbles in the Shark Ray Bay Theater at the Newport Aquarium. While the holiday fun continues daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 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. New this year, visitors can see dozens of adorable baby American alligators explore their new home and celebrate their first Christmas in Gator Alley. The aquarium is open 365 days a year and the young and young at heart can enjoy an undersea adventure. More details on all the Holiday fun is on Newport Aquarium’s website. 


When: Runs until Dec. 31; open every day from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Where: Newport Aquarium, One Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky.

Cost: General admission is $25.99 for adults (13+) and $17.99 for children (ages 2-12)

More info: WebsiteFacebook 

⛄Cincinnati Zoo

Are you prepared to be dazzled? The 37th Annual PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo is going on now! Three million colorful, twinkling lights, a Madcap black-light puppet show and the BB&T Toyland Express are just part of the fun at the 36th 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. 4. 

Photo: Angela Hatke


What: 37th Annual PNC Festival of Lights 

Where: The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati 

When: Runs through Jan. 4, open Sundays through Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5-10 p.m. Visits with Santa begin at 4 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving (open during the day), Christmas Eve (open during the day) and Christmas Day.

Admission: Event is included with zoo admission. Admission varies for dates and times. Discount tickets available at Kroger. Plan-ahead pricing can be found at

More info: Website 

>> WORTH THE DRIVE: Cincinnati river banks to transform into winter wonderland with ‘blizzards,’ snow tubing

⛄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. 5 this year, so there is plenty of time to visit.

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. CONTRIBUTED


What: Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
When: Through Sun. Jan. 6, not open Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Sunday through Thursday, 5-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Where: Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, 4850 West Powell Road, Powell, Ohio

More info: Website


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.

⛄ 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. 

UpDayton hosted a free ice skating night at RiverScape Ice Rink on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Here’s who we spotted.
Photo: Tom Gilliam


What: RiverScape MetroPark’s Ice Rink  

Where: 237 E. Monument Ave., Dayton 

When: Runs through March 1. Check website for dates and times.  

Cost: $6 per person per skate, $2 skate rental. Skaters who are 3 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult. Seasonal passes available.

More info: Website

>> WORTH THE DRIVE: Walk through one of the nation’s largest life-size nativity scenes

⛄Sky Zone

Photo: Kevin Winzeler

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 until their hearts are content at the Washington Twp. indoor trampoline park. 


What: Sky Zone

Where: 976 Senate Drive, Dayton

When: Hours vary. Check their website for a complete list of hours. 

Cost: Prices vary. Check their website for pricing.

More info: Website


ARTventures at the Dayton Art Institute

Grown tired of the afternoon marker sessions on your white walls at home? Perhaps it’s time to give the Dayton Art Institute’s ARTventures a try. On the second and fourth Saturday of every month, the Dayton Art Institute curates fun and interactive art-making experiences for all ages. Between 1-3 p.m., drop in with the kids to learn new art-making techniques. Every skill and age group is welcome. All materials will be provided. 

The Dayton Art Institute was in the midst of construction when the Great Depression hit. Because the startup budget was dedicated to building, when the new museum opened in 1930 the galleries were filled with donated art. TY GREENLEES / STAFF


What: ARTventures at the Dayton Art Institute

Where: 456 Belmonte Park N., Dayton

When: Select Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. Check website for exact dates.

Cost: Free

More info: WebsiteFacebook