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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Looking for winter break ideas? Check our guide

Posted December 15, 2013
Updated December 17, 2013

This family holds each others hands to keep their balance Sunday afternoon at City Plaza in downtown Raleigh. (Photo by Wes Hight)

Winter break is nearly here! It begins this week for many preschoolers and private school students. And it starts next week for most public school students.

While most kids will be busy with holiday fun over the next couple of weeks, we all know that there will be some long days ahead once the wrapping paper is cleaned up and the shine is gone from all of those new toys.

So, when it's time to get out of the house, here's a little guide with all sorts of ideas. Since preschools are out this week, I'll start with activities for younger kids, but there should be a little something here for everybody. Happy winter break!

As I've reported already, Kazoom Puppet Theater will end its regular puppet shows at ComedyWorx on Peace Street near downtown Raleigh this week. Their final shows are 10 a.m. and 11:10 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, and Thursday, Dec. 19. Tickets are $5. These shows are best for ages 2 to 7. I'll be out there on Thursday to bid so long to this wonderful program that started more than a dozen years ago. (Though ... never fear: They will still be available for school field trips and birthday parties and will be performing at Holly Springs Cultural Center on the first and third Tuesday of each month). If you go this week, be sure to have your kids make a picture for Bartlet, the show's puppet star. You can put the picture or note in the mailbox on stage and Barlet will read it.

"Frosty the Snowman," a musical on stage at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts is here until Dec. 24. It's part of the Storybook Theater children's performance series. The show offers weekday and weekend matinees and evening performances. It's just an hour long, with a 15-minute intermission, and is perfect for young children. Read my review for more information. Tickets start at $14.

Also, a great spot for little ones, the Stay & Play Snack Cafe offers a place for parents to relax and kids to play. Enjoy coffee and treats while your kids play with all of the toys.

Marbles Kids Museum will be celebrating Arctic Antics from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1. Enjoy favorite activities with a seasonal twist. Marbles is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. It also will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 23, and Dec. 30, when Wake County schools are closed. It's closed Dec. 24 and Dec. 25. The special activities are free with admission, which is $5 per person. Marbles' IMAX theater includes a variety of family-friendly documentaries, including "To the Arctic 3D," which my older daughter enjoyed so much that she took her friends to see it for her birthday.

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences' Birds of Paradise exhibit continues in Raleigh. It's a fascinating look at the colorful, wacky birds who live in New Guinea and Australia. This is a very kid-friendly exhibit with interactive games (including a dance competition) and a fascinating video. I highly recommend this one, especially for those with school-aged kids. Read my earlier post for details.

Across from the natural sciences' museum, the N.C. Museum of History's Story of North Carolina exhibit is great to walk through with extended family. Here you'll find lots of interesting artifacts and interactive pieces for kids. The museum also has a special exhibit on Russian decorative arts. Also, be sure to check out the very kid-friendly Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Discovery Gallery.

The Museum of Life and Science's Springs, Sprockets & Pulleys is open. The exhibit features the moving porsche by design sculptures of Steve Gerberich, who has had exhibits at the museum six times in the last decade. It's a colorful, eclectic collection of thrift store items that visitors can move by pedaling or pushing a button. There is so much to see here. Read my earlier post for more about it. Also, don't forget that the museum just opened up a new coffee shop and gift store.

The N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh offers Porsche by Design, an exhibit with appeal to a wide variety of audiences. The exhibit features about two dozen Porsches from the 1930s to today. The exhibit will have special hours during the holidays: The exhibition will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 26 to 28, Dec. 30, and Jan. 20. The exhibition will also be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 1. Tickets are $18 for adults; $12 for kids ages 7 to 18; and free for kids 6 and under. The art museum also has a great museum park to roam when the weather is good.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill will be open on the weekends, as usual, and with special hours on Dec. 23, Dec. 26 and Dec. 27. In addition to the planetarium shows, there's also the fun and free Science Live shows.

The only day the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro is ever closed is on Christmas day. Otherwise, it's open daily. The zoo is about 90 minutes from the Triangle. Pullen Park carousel

In Chapel Hill, admission is always free at Kidzu Children's Museum on Sundays. It's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. This is a sweet little children's museum, best for young children and early grade schoolers. It's getting ready for a big move to University Mall early next year.

Pullen Park's rides are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily. Just be aware that there will be some major ride closures over the next few months. The park will close at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve. It's closed on Christmas day. Also, if you're checking out Pullen Park, it's worth a swing over to ride the carousel at Chavis Park, a few miles away. The carousel also is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily, and has a great view of downtown. It will operate under the same holiday hours as Pullen Park, Raleigh parks tells me.

We have two outdoor places to skate: Raleigh's downtown Winterfest rink is open daily, including Dec. 24 and Dec. 25. The rink on Fayetteville Street also offers carriage rides on Thursdays, a DJ on Fridays and a two for one deal on Tuesdays. It's $9 to skate and that includes the skates. And The Ice Factory at The Cage at American Tobacco Campus in Durham is open (except Mondays and Christmas day). It's $10 to skate (including skates).

Once you're done skating in downtown Raleigh, head over to Videri Chocolate Factory, where you can see how chocolate is made from the bean to the bar and sample some of their delicious chocolate. They also have a coffee bar where the kids can enjoy some amazing hot chocolate.

It's snowing at Go Play Outside Now! The outdoor play spot in Garner offers all sorts of fun activities for kids (including laser tag and a couple of big slides). They've added snow to the mix. Check the Facebook page for updates on when there is snow. This place is so much fun! 

Three Bears Acres in north Raleigh also is open with special holiday activities. This is another great outdoor play space with giant slides, a big tree house, a jumping pillow and more fun. 

We have lots of holiday light shows around here, including Hill Ridge Farms' Festival of Lights, which is open daily, and Lights on the Neuse in Johnston County. Read my earlier post for details and the schedule.

Take a day trip to Greensboro to check out the Greensboro Science Center and its aquarium, which opened earlier this year. Read my earlier post for more about this Triad destination.

And, knowing North Carolina weather, it's likely that we'll have a few decent days to spend outside. Check our posts on park and playground reviews and Triangle family destinations for more. One new playground that's worth a drive: Knightdale's new Knightdale Station park and playground.

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