54 Ways to Beat Winter Break Boredom
Make new holiday traditions with these wintertime activities
Words Jessica Myers, Photography ISTOCK
Published December 2017
Updated December 6, 2018
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You’ve already Googled a million crafty ideas to help you survive the holiday break with the kiddos at home. For those days when you just need to get out of the house, we’ve pulled together 54 ideas that’ll help you celebrate the season North Texas–style. Not only will the days fly by during winter break, but you just might create a few new family traditions along the way.

Cozy Cocoa
Collin County
At Beth Marie’s outpost in Carrollton, ask for the hot chocolate float topped with their famous homemade ice cream and whipped cream—for $2.50, it doesn’t get more decadent than that. bethmaries.com

Sure, you can make hot chocolate and play games at home, but if you need a change of scenery, head for Nerdvana in Frisco. Order sipping chocolate for the kids and a ristretto chocolate (with a short shot of espresso) for Mom and Dad, then sit down with a game from the lending library—it’s full of kid favorites like Candy Land and Monopoly. nerdvanafrisco.com

Dallas County
Order the classic hot chocolate from boutique chocolatier, Chocolate Secrets. With ample servings of whipped cream and peppermint chocolate shavings, this cup of cocoa is like Christmas in a cup. Or, stray from the “hot” idea altogether and let your kids try one of their many other sweets for sale, while you explore their menu of craft beer and wine. mychocolatesecrets.com

Tarrant County
Take in the seasonal sights at Sundance Square, then make your way over to Schakolad Chocolate Factory. All chocolates are made in-house (sure to satisfy your sweet tooth), so sample some goodies and pick up a bag of Schako Latte, the shop’s rich hot cocoa mix. While you’re there, inquire about future Sweet Night Out events, which take you behind-the-scenes of this sweet chocolate shop. schakolad.com

Get Your (Indoor) Play on
Collin County
Hang with Santa at The Coop in Frisco on Saturday, Dec. 15, 10am–noon, 1–3pm or 4-6pm. At the 4th annual Cookies with Santa event, the Big Guy will read a story to his mini audience, pose for photos and pass out milk and cookies afterward. Register here. The rest of the month, let the kids dress up in superhero capes and fluffy tutus, swim in the ball pit and fly through the bounce house while you cozy up to the cappuccino bar (free drinks on Fridays). thecoopfrisco.com

Visit Frisco’s EQ Kids Club each week in December for winter-themed activities like baking gingerbread cookies and themed movie nights (like Frozen, Cars and A Bugs Life). Recurring Parents Night Out and Drop & Shop nights allow Mom and Dad to finish shopping for Santa … or just indulge in some solo time. Drinks and snacks provided. eqkidsclub.com 

Sip (free) coffee and let the kids explore Richardson’s indoor play space, The Playdate Co. Little green thumbs can work their magic at the farm-style playhouse with a vegetable garden or tidy up shop at the Sinclair garage with play gasoline and lawn tools. There is also a schoolhouse, Santa’s workshop, ice cream parlor and even a baby section. Attend free play Monday–Friday 9am–5pm for $10.50 per child ages 1 and older, $5.50 for younger than 1, $8.50 for siblings 1 and older and free for siblings younger than 1. playdateco.com

Let the kids play dress up at one or all eight Play Street Museums across Dallas-Fort Worth. Milk a cow at the farm in McKinney, fight fires at the fire station in Frisco, go fishing in Plano, get schooled at Irving’s college space, board a mini airplane in Allen, explore the great outdoors in Flower Mound or visit a kid-size Reunion Tower in Lake Highlands. playstreetmuseum.com

Tarrant County
For $10 per child, kiddos can dress up as a construction worker, a pumpkin patch farmer and a veterinarian, or they can spend hours fidgeting with PVC pipes on the magnet wall, age appropriate blocks, books, stuffed animals and more in the 1,400-square-foot Playspace at The Happy Lark in Fort Worth. Consider signing up for one of the daily events, like Bubble Fun (yes, fun with their bubble machine) or Wind Tunnel Play, which run 9:30-10am. thehappylark.com

Take a break from holiday shopping at the Simon Kidgits play space inside North East Mall in Hurst. Adjacent to restrooms with changing tables, the romping grounds include a clubhouse with a toddler-sized slide, oversize caterpillar and piglet to climb on and even a sensory corner. Bring loose change so the kids can take a ride on one of the mechanical rides just outside the enclosed playground. simon.com/mall/north-east-mall

Let the kids play dress up at one or all eight Play Street Museums across Dallas-Fort Worth. Tarrant County’s newest PSM, an appropriately themed “Under Construction” location in Keller, will open mid-December. Be sure to visit when the museum will host Santa on Christmas Eve. See listing in Collin County for more details. playstreetmuseum.com

Sometimes you have to bring your kids along for the holiday shopping, but Ridgmar Mall keeps them distracted at the soft child’s play place on the lower level. They play conductor on the kid-size train and captain on the boat. Next door, families will find the newly opened Seaquest interactive aquarium. For $9.95 per child ages 2–11 and $14.95 per adult, meet, feed and play with parakeets, stingrays, capybaras and more. ridgmar.com

Denton County
Let the kids play dress up at one or all eight Play Street Museums across Dallas-Fort Worth. See listing in Collin County for more details. playstreetmuseum.com

Bowled Over
Tarrant County
Roll over to Cowtown Bowling Palace Sunday before noon for the early bird special: play for $1.50; rent shoes for $2. Or head there during the week for lunch & bowl Monday–Friday: eat lunch, rent shoes and bowl two games for $11.49 per person. cowtownbowling.com

Permit the kids to stay up late for $5 all-you-can-bowl (Sunday-Friday) after 8pm at It’z Family Food & Fun in Euless. itzusa.com

’Tis the season to delay bedtime for an hour or two with an impromptu Tuesday night game at Bowlero in Euless. Every Tuesday, games and shoes (and beer for Mom and Dad) are just $2.22 after 8pm—spend your extra pennies on the five-pound cheeseburger or the XXL pretzel. bowlero.com

Let There be Light
Dallas County
Bask in the glow of 4 million twinkle lights at Prairie Lights all month long. You can drive (starting at $35 per vehicle) through the Grand Prairie light show to the Holiday Village, and stretch your legs with a walk through the new Snow Maze. Finally, grab a hot cocoa, take a picture with Santa and be on your way to the grand finale tunnel of lights. prairielights.org

Fun on the Ice
Collin County
Chill out weekday afternoons at the Allen Community Ice Rink inside the Allen Event Center. On the weekend, come for the holiday-themed skates. $5 admission; $3 rentals. cityofallen.org/acir

Bring your socks for an ice skating session at one of the Dr Pepper StarCenters. (There are seven locations in North Texas: Euless, Farmers Branch, Frisco, Mansfield, McKinney, Plano and Richardson.) Public skate costs $8 per child (ages 4-17), $9 for parents, free for kids 3 and younger; $4 skate rentals. Bring your beginner skater on Friday evenings or weekends to learn how to skate in the bucket zones with balance props. drpepperstarcenters.com

Dallas County
Bring your socks for an ice skating session at one of the Dr Pepper StarCenters. See listing in Collin County for details. drpepperstarcenters.com

Get in the holiday spirit at Galleria Dallas Ice Skating Center. For $12 per skater and $3 for rentals, families can glide around the larger-than-life Christmas tree (the tallest indoor Christmas tree in the U.S.) in the center of the rink for as long as they please. galleriaiceskatingcenter.com

Tarrant County
During winter break hours (Dec. 24-Jan. 8), Panther Island Ice welcomes skaters rain or shine at its outdoor rink (the only one in Fort Worth). The rink is open 11am–11pm (10pm on Sundays). $12 admission includes skate rental for 90 minutes. pantherislandice.com

Head to The Parks at Arlington for an afternoon on Ice at the Parks weekdays at 11am (11:30am Fridays only), 12:30pm Saturdays, and between 2-5pm Sundays. Kids 5 and younger get in free, $7 for kids up to age 13, $9 for adults and $3 skate rental for all. Glide by on Dec. 28 to take part in Ugly Sweater Night on the rink.
iceattheparks.net

From Dec. 20th through the end of the year, skate NYTEX Sports Centre‘s Winter Wonderland Extravaganza. Skaters of all ages glide under lights and tinsel from 10am–8pm (except Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, which closes at 3pm) for $15. The daily 75-minute lunchtime public skate (12:15–1:30pm) is $6 for kids under 10 ($7 age 11 and older) and $3 rental. On weekends, the open skate schedule changes, but most Friday evenings offer free skate rentals for 90 minutes (6:45–8:15pm) for $10 per guest. nytexsports.com

Bring your socks for an ice skating session at one of the Dr Pepper StarCenters. See listing in Collin County for details. drpepperstarcenters.com

See a Show
Collin County
Every week, visit your nearest Studio Movie Grill to watch screenings of classic holiday flicks—the cheap ticket prices (just 5 bucks!) will help cover an extra order of fries or two. Elf plays on Dec. 5, Home Alone plays on Dec. 9 and 10, The Polar Express plays on Dec. 12, Christmas Vacation plays on Dec. 17, and A Christmas Story plays on Dec. 26. studiomoviegrill.com

Dallas County
See Miracle on 34th Street on Dec. 10 (Plano only) or attend The Polar Express-themed pajama party screening on Dec. 8 (Dallas only) at the Angelika Film Centerangelikafilmcenter.com 

Every week, visit your nearest Studio Movie Grill to watch screenings of classic holiday flicks—the cheap ticket prices (just 5 bucks!) will help cover an extra order of fries or two. See listing in Collin County for details. studiomoviegrill.com

Tarrant County
See classic holiday flicks during matinee and evening screenings every Wednesday and Sunday at Movie Taverns across Fort Worth. Miracle on 34th Street plays Dec. 5, Elf plays Dec. 9 and 12, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation plays Dec. 16 and 19, It’s a Wonderful Life plays Dec. 23. Showtimes at each location subject to change. $7 per child ages 7 and younger; $9.75 per adult / $7.50 per adult (matinee). movietavern.com

Every week, visit your nearest Studio Movie Grill to watch screenings of classic holiday flicks—the cheap ticket prices (just 5 bucks!) will help cover an extra order of fries or two. See listing in Collin County for details. studiomoviegrill.com

Sit back and enjoy the view from the comfort of your seat warmer at Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth. Catch a showing of new releases like The Grinch or Smallfoot for $8 per adult, $6 per child, and free for ages 4 and younger. Avengers fans should visit on Friday, Dec. 14, for Spider-Man Night featuring costume contests, movie screenings, a bounce house and ice skating on the Panther Island Ice rink. coyotedrive-in.com

Watch the season’s standards including a double feature of A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 22–23) throughout the month at Palace Theatre in Grapevine. Pro tip: Bring a same-day receipt from any Grapevine restaurant to get a free small popcorn. grapevinetexasusa.com/palace-theatre

Denton County
Every week, visit your nearest Studio Movie Grill to watch screenings of classic holiday flicks—the cheap ticket prices (just 5 bucks!) will help cover an extra order of fries or two. See listing in Collin County for details. studiomoviegrill.com

Take a Ride
Dallas County
Take a ride through Dallas aboard McKinney Avenue Trolley’s M-Line Holiday Express. Families can enjoy hot cocoa and holiday tunes aboard the garland-laden historic railway car as it travels from Uptown Dallas to the Downtown Arts District and back. While Mom and Dad take in the scenery, the kids will be kept busy with a scavenger hunt. Rides are $15 for kids 2-17, $20 for adults. mata.org

Play Some Games
Dallas County
Treat your video game-loving kids to all-you-can-play arcade games at Free Play Arcade in Richardson. For $10 per person, access over 80 classic games including Frogger, Mortal Kombat and Mario Bros. that you can play for free after 3pm on weekdays, 11am on weekends. freeplayrichardson.com

Bring the kids’ piggy banks to Nickelrama at Firewheel Commons or Northstar Crossing in Garland, and let them spend the nickels they’ve been saving on classic arcade games such as air hockey, Skee-Ball, pinball, Pac Man and Space Invaders. $3.50 admission. nickelrama.com

Tarrant County
Head to Tornado Terry’s in Keller for the Free Zone where kids (best for ages 6 and up) can play over 70 arcade games, from billiards to Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. Games in the Free Zone are—you guessed it—free with your $15 admission. tornadoterrys.com

Get Cultured
Collin County
It may be too cold to explore outdoors, but kids can learn about nature indoors during story time at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. Fridays at 10:30am, kiddos gather round for a nature-themed book often accompanied by a live animal followed by a hands-on activity. On Dec. 14 and 15, experience Holidays at the Heard during an evening stroll through the festively lit grounds. Your family can pose with Father Christmas and Mother Nature, enjoy live music and scope out the life-size animatronic dinos on display as part of Dinosaurs Live. heardmuseum.org

Start your month of celebration at Interurban Railway Museum where the annual Holidays on the Texas Electric Railway exhibit shares the story behind Collin County’s own version of the Polar Express. Families can join story time followed by a guided tour of the over-100-year-old Car 360 every Friday morning at 10:30am. Don’t forget to peruse the collection of interactive STEM displays before you leave. interurbanrailwaymuseum.org

Dallas County
Let your child be an explorer for the day at Arturo’s Nest inside the Dallas Museum of Art. This month’s theme revolves around the senses. Kids can explore all different sorts of sensory experiences with a mystery texture box, light table, musical instruments and dance with streamers and scarves. Open to children 4 and younger. Older kids ages 5-8 can explore the senses at the Young Learners Gallery. dma.org

Give your kids a local history lesson while they take a break from the books at Dallas Heritage Village. This month, visitors can tour three historic homes decorated with photos, artifacts and memorabilia from prominent societies in Dallas’ history: the Jewish Historical Society, the Dallas Mexican American Historical League and Remembering Black Dallas, Inc. If you can swing it, get to the annual candlelight celebration on Dec. 8 and 9. You’ll be serenaded by carolers dressed in period costumes while you enjoy cooking demos, period games for kids and plenty of snacks. End the evening with a candlelit hayride on an antique tractor. dallasheritagevillage.org

For $7 (free for ages 3 and younger), your jet-setter can scramble up and down a play control tower with knobs and levers, slide out of a kid-size plane or even catch a show at the mini theater at Frontiers of Flight. Adult entry is $10. flightmuseum.com

On Dec. 21, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science opens its doors early (like, 6am early) for a Winter Solstice Sunrise party with dancing, yoga near the dinos and plenty of fun. No worries if your family opts to hit the ‘snooze’ button instead. Kids can pack their PJs and head to the Perot on Jan. 5 for a Winter Wonderland Sleepover. In addition to having a real-life Night at the Museum moment (we can’t guarantee what comes to life after dark), kids will learn how to make fake snow and enjoy a host of other wintry activities. perotmuseum.org

Tarrant County
It’s hard to find a rainbow on these wintry days so take the kids to Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum where they can literally walk under one in the large-scale Plexus no. 34 exhibit by Gabriel Dawe. On display through Sept. 29, 2019, the piece uses over 80 miles of thread to make the illusion of a rainbow. Make it an interactive experience by downloading and listening to the complimentary playlist featuring, well, colorful songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Coldplay’s “Yellow” or “Red” by Taylor Swift. cartermuseum.org

Take a free family-friendly tour of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Ask for a picture card from the Piano Pavilion, then discuss the fun facts about selected masterpieces throughout the museum. Take an intermission between gallery strolls to read books and play with blocks in family area Studio A. On select Saturdays (Dec. 8 and 15, Jan. 5, 12, 19 and 26) during winter break, kids can learn how to make books and explore the artistic element of collaborating with friends and parents in the Kids Drop-in Studio. kimbellart.org

A Wild Holiday
Pet and feed the animals of Preston Trail Farms in Gunter. Admission is free, but feed for the cows, sheep, goats, chickens and more costs $3 per cup. Santa will make an appearance on Dec. 15 from 10:30am-1pm. prestontrailfarms.com

Being able to tell their friends they met a zorse might make going back to school even more enjoyable for your kids. Fortunately, they can meet and pet a zorse and his furry friends at Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch in Pilot Point. $12 for adults, $10 for ages 3–12 and free for kids 2 and younger. Open to the public Saturdays and Sundays. Be sure to visit the gift shop on your way out for some last-minute holiday shopping. sharkarosa.com

Get in the Holiday Spirit
Tarrant County
Find Santa’s missing reindeer in the world’s largest Christmas light maze at Enchant, which is hosted this year inside Arlington’s Globe Life Park. While your family searches for gifts hidden by Eddie the Mischievous Elf, take a picture with Santa in his golden palace, glide on the ice skating trail and do some holiday shopping at the Christmas Market. After all those activities, Mom and Dad can sip on cider while kids brave the mini maze by themselves. Also, bring the selfie stick for a family photo with one of the giant 25-foot tall reindeer at the main entrance. Single weekday tickets from $19.99 / weekend tickets from $23.99; free for ages 3 and younger. enchantchristmas.com

Calling all Cooks
Collin County
Get in the holiday spirit at a gingerbread house workshop at Taste Buds Kitchen in Plano. Listen to holiday tunes and sip hot chocolate as you and your kiddo combine skills to build a gumdrop bedazzled gingerbread house. Workshop days and times vary throughout the month. $38 per child, free for one parent. tastebudskitchen.com/plano

Bake and decorate cookies and gingerbread houses at a Central Market Cooking School in Fort Worth, Southlake, Plano and Dallas (Lovers Lanes and Midway locations). In the gingerbread class, you and your pastry chef decorate traditional Swiss Lebkuchen homes; in the cookie class, your little one will leave her mark (literally) on jam thumbprint, chocolate chip and molasses crinkle cookies. Finally, in cookie decorating, you and yours will unleash the artist within using edible paint (read: icing). $65 per child & parent for the gingerbread class; $90 per child & parent for the cookie class. The Dallas-Midway Central Market also offers a kids-only Christmas cookie decorating class, where Santa will be in attendance to offer advice for the mini bakers for $45 per child. centralmarket.com

Dallas County
Bake and decorate cookies and gingerbread houses at a Central Market Cooking School in Fort Worth, Southlake, Plano and Dallas (Lovers Lanes and Midway locations). See listing in Collin County for details. centralmarket.com

Tarrant County
Bake and decorate cookies and gingerbread houses at a Central Market Cooking School in Fort Worth, Southlake, Plano and Dallas (Lovers Lanes and Midway locations). See listing in Collin County for details. centralmarket.com

Get in the holiday spirit at a gingerbread house workshop at Taste Buds Kitchen in Southlake. Listen to holiday tunes and sip hot chocolate as you and your kiddo combine skills to build a gumdrop bedazzled gingerbread house. Workshop days and times vary throughout the month. $38 per child, free for one parent. tastebudskitchen.com/southlake

Denton County
Bake and decorate cookies and gingerbread houses at a Central Market Cooking School in Fort Worth, Southlake, Plano and Dallas (Lovers Lanes and Midway locations). See listing in Collin County for details. centralmarket.com

 

This article was first published in the December 2017 issue of DallasChild. Updated with additional reporting by Alexis Manrodt in December 2018.