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Go Ask Mom

Winter Break Guide: Fun activities for families

Posted December 15, 2015
Updated December 16, 2015

Most public school students have two weeks off for winter break this year. And some kids have even longer time away from school bells, homework and routine.

Cookie baking, present wrapping and other holiday activities will take up a lot of their time. But at some point, once the wrapping paper is cleaned up and the holiday decorations are down, all of us will be getting a little restless.

So, when it's time to get out of the house, here's a guide with all sorts of activities. Happy holidays!

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" runs through Dec. 30 with multiple shows in the morning, afternoon and evening. The show is perfect for preschoolers to young grade schoolers and is a faithful retelling in style, script and music of the classic TV special. It's at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in Raleigh. Tickets start at about $23.

The Carolina Ballet's The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 27, also at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, including four performances after Christmas. Check our ticket discount. The discount, which includes shows after Christmas, is valid through Dec. 23.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill will be open extra days during the holidays. Those days are Dec. 21 to Dec. 23; Dec. 26 to Dec. 31; and Jan. 2 and Jan. 3.  Planetarium show tickets are $7.68 for adults and $6.51 for seniors, students and children. Morehead will host Chapel Hill's Night Lights: A Family-Friendly New Year's Eve from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 31. This is a perfect way for kids and parents, who can't wait until midnight, to celebrate 2016! Tickets are $5. It's best to register online for this one.

At the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, Treasures from North Carolina: Stories from the State Archives might be interesting, especially for those with extended family visitors in town. The exhibit features one-of-a-kind documents, photographs and other media from the State Archives of North Carolina. One poignant part of the exhibit: A Civil War letter from Martha A. E. Henley Poteet to her husband, Francis Marion Poteet, who was away at war. She enclosed a cutout of her four-week-old daughter’s hand with the request “write to Me what to name her.”

Extreme Mammals, have taken over the special exhibit space at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. The exhibit explores the weirdest and wildest mammals that have ever lived. Some are extinct. Others are roaming the planet today. There are hands-on activities for kids. Tickets are $15 for adults; $13 for seniors, students and military; and $10 for kids ages 3 to 12. (Admission to the rest of the museum is free).

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh has some new and revamped exhibits over the last year. Its popular kitchen and grocery store got a major overhaul in the spring. And the new Sun Sprouts Fort offers a fun new outdoor place to play.

Marbles also is busy with holiday activities. A 2D version of "The Polar Express" will be at its IMAX Theater through Dec. 24. The museum also will be hosting some holiday-themed activities most days leading up to New Year's Eve, including regular "snowball" tosses. They are free with admission, which is $5 per person. The museum will extend its Monday hours on Dec. 21 and Dec. 28 to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Special hours also are planned from noon to 7 p.m., Jan. 1.

I'm going to have a bigger post about the N.C. Museum of Art's M.C. Escher exhibit next week, but I really can't say enough about this fantastic exhibit, especially for grade schoolers and up who are into art. My 10-year-old has poured through this exhibit twice. The first time, she spent a solid two hours looking at the works of art. The exhibit explores the works of Escher. There also are a couple of stations with videos where museum goers can learn more. If you go, be sure to ask for a family guide, which should be ready for the holidays. Tickets are $18 for adults; $15 for seniors, groups of 10 or more, and college students with a current ID; and $12 for kids ages 7 to 18. Kids 6 and under are free. The rest of the museum is free, along with the fantastic Museum Park where you can see the Whisper Benches, among many other things!

Go ice skating! Raleigh's Winterfest rink is open through Jan. 31 this year, including daily during winter break. That includes the big holidays. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Christmas Eve, and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Christmas day. It costs $10 per person, including skate rental.

If you haven't been, get yourself over to the Museum of Life and Science's new Hideaway Woods, which opened earlier this year in Durham. This massive exhibit might just be one of the best places in the Triangle for kids to run off some energy. The outdoor exhibit features a collection of tree houses, trails, a stream and much more. The museum also typically lines up special activities during the winter holidays. And, of course, if it actually gets chilly outside this December, it's always a balmy 80-something degrees in the butterfly house! Tickets are $11 to $16 per person. (You can easily spend an entire day here!).

Will you have extended family in town ... namely grandmas and aunts? Take a moment for afternoon tea at one of several establishments here in the Triangle. At The Carolina Inn, they'll have special holiday afternoon teas through Dec. 31 and gingerbread house displays through Jan. 3.

Several of the region's large light displays stay up until after Christmas. Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville is on until Dec. 27. The Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary is open through Jan. 3. If you're up for a road trip, Speedway Christmas near Charlotte is open through Dec. 30.

Pullen Park in Raleigh and its rides are open daily except for Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 when it's closed. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Get rid of some of that extra energy by going swimming at one of the region's indoor pools. They include Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center and its giant water slide, lazy river and vortex. Our public pool database includes year-round pools.

And, if you've lived in North Carolina for a year, you'll know that one day could be below 30 degrees and the next day could be a beautiful 60 degrees. Check out our posts on parks and playgrounds to get the kids and all of that energy outside. We have some new and updated parks in 2015, including Fuquay-Varina's Falcon Park, Apex's new skateboard plaza and the Go Ape course at Blue Jay Point County Park in Wake County. Earlier this year, I ranked my five favorite family hikes.

Need more ideas? How about checking Notasium, the new music-based play space in Durham. We also have Cipher Escape, a fantastic escape room experience for kids and families to do together.

Have a wonderful winter break!

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  • greenfeet Dec 17, 2014

    you can make outdoor bird houses