20 things to do with the family during winter break

Local destinations, special events and quick trips to add to your holiday must-do list

Whether you’re in need of a diversion for the kids while the gifts are being wrapped or you’re looking for boredom busters now that the novelty of the new toys has passed, we’ve got the cure.

There are plenty of things to do while school is out the next couple weeks to wipe out cabin fever, show out-of-town guests what our region has to offer or to help you plan a last-minute quick escape.

Here is a checklist of 20 things to do over winter break.

1. Use your imagination, explore science

Spend a day at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery (www.boonshoftmuseum.org, (937) 275-7431, 2600 DeWeese Parkway, Dayton) and hang out with some silly river otters, a 16-foot-long Burmese python and plenty of other creatures furry, feathered or scaly. Other activities include The Dome theater featuring planetarium shows, specialty films and IMAX-style 3D.

The special exhibit “Contraptions A-Z” continues through Jan. 5. Find water tables, a fossil pit, imaginative play stations and more. Admission is $9 for children 3-16. Adults are $12, seniors are $10 and children under age 3 and members are free. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The Boonshoft has a second location in Springfield at 1475 Upper Valley Pike (Upper Valley Mall), (937) 328-5128. “Treehouses” is on view through Jan. 5 at the Springfield location.

2. Inspire creativity in music, art

The Experiencenter exhibition “I See the Rhythm” at the Dayton Art Institute (www.daytonartinstitute.org) features an interactive sound sculpture, Delirioso, by Anthony Luensman, along with a display of several 20th-century works of art from the museum’s collection and musical instruments from around the globe. Hands-on gallery activities explore visual and musical composition, movement, art making, dramatic play and storytelling.

Also on view at the museum through Jan. 5 are “Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum,” “Elizabeth Turk: Wings” and “A Buckeye Abroad: Frank Wilcox in Paris 1910-1926.” Cost (includes admission to both “Object of Devotion” and “Wings”): adults: $12; seniors (60+), students (18+ w/id) and active military, $9; groups (10 or more): $9; youth (ages 7-17), $6; children (6 and under), free. Special pricing: Today only, get $3 off non-member adult admission to the special exhibitions with a donation of two non-perishable food items for The Foodbank. The museum is open regular hours through Dec. 23, open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 24, closed Christmas, open regular hours Dec. 26-30, open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 31, closed New Year’s Day. Regular hours resume Jan. 2.

3. Burn off some energy at all-ages playground

Enjoy laser tag, inflatable bouncing, indoor go-karts, arcade games, spinning bumper cars, blacklight indoor mini-golf, mini bowling and more. Scene 75, 6196 Poe Ave., Dayton, will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve (balloon drop for the kids at noon, adults only celebration after 9 p.m. with DJ, food and drink specials, midnight XBOX One giveaway and more). Scene75 will be open from noon to 8 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Scene 75 is closed Mondays and Tuesdays and is typically open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free, with fees per activity. Visit Scene75.com or call 937-619-3200. Find similar fun at The Web in West Chester Twp. (www.funattheweb.com) and Lazer Kraze (www.lazerkraze.com/lk1/).

4. See planes and more at Air Force Museum

The National Museum of the United States Air Force galleries present military aviation history, with more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display along with thousands of historical items. Find flight simulators, a movie ride and a digital and 3D theater. The museum is located at 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB. Visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil or call (937) 255-3286 The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

5. See dinosaurs before they vanish

This is your last chance to see “Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana” at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati. The exhibition features real fossils and 20 full-scale skeletal casts. Don’t miss Giganotosaurus, possibly the largest land predator to have ever lived, as well as the crocodile-faced spinosaur, Suchomimus, the horned meat-eater Carnotaurus, and many more. Tickets are $15 for adults, $11 for children ages 3-12 and $13 for seniors ages 60+. Other attractions on site at the Museum Center: Holiday Junction featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains through Jan. 5, the Duke Energy Children’s, the OmniMax Theater and the Museum of Natural History & Science. Special holiday museum hours: Dec. 24: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Dec. 25 (Christmas): Closed; Dec. 26-27: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Dec. 28: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Dec. 29: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Dec. 30-Jan. 1: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. More info: (800) 733-2077 (toll free). www.cincymuseum.org.

6. Basketball blends with comedy, family fun

Looking for a family friendly way to celebrate the end of 2013? At 2 p.m. Dec. 31, Wright State University’s Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Fairborn, will host the Harlem Globetrotters exhibition basketball team that combines hoops with theatrics and comedy. As part of the “Fans Rule” tour, fans get to help vote on new rules to be used in actual games. For more information, visit www.nuttercenter.com. Tickets range from $26-$106 and are available at the Nutter Center Box office, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 23, Dec. 27 and Dec. 30, at Ticketmaster outlets and at www.ticketmaster.com.

7. See local college sports teams in action

Take in a college basketball game. The University of Dayton men’s basketball team will play at home on Dec. 22, Dec. 29 and Jan. 1 at UD Arena, 1801 Edwin C. Moses, Blvd. (www.daytonflyers.com). Prices vary for men’s basketball games depending on the opponent and are usually available in the 400 level. Tickets are available in lower levels while students are on break. Adult tickets are either $10 or $20 and youth ages high school and younger are $5 or $10. The Wright State Raiders men’s team will play at home at the Nutter Center on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 (www.wsuraiders.com), with tickets ranging from $13-$25.

8. Skate outdoors at the MetroParks Ice Rink, even on holiday

Have an old-fashioned, family Christmas and skate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Perfect for the whole family and a great way to entertain out-of-town guests. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Christmas Eve and 1-8 p.m. Christmas Day. The MetroParks Ice Rink, 111 E. Monument Ave., is open both New Year’s Eve from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and New Year’s Day from 1-8 p.m. Extended hours Dec. 23 through Jan. 4. Skate rentals are $5. No admission fee on weekdays. Admission is $7, including skates, on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Ages 3 and younger are free with a paying adult. Find a complete schedule at www.metroparks.org/icerink.

9. Shop, dine with out-of-town guests at local market

The 2nd Street Market, 600 E. 2nd St., Dayton, recently voted the best Farmers’ Market in Ohio by a readers’ poll in Ohio Magazine, is both family-friendly and a great place to show off local foods to out-of-town guests. Grab a cup of cocoa and fresh-baked goodies with the whole family. Market hours: Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day. www.metroparks.org/localfood

10. Join in on Christmas Bird Count

Dayton Audubon Society will host their 90th Christmas Bird Counts at many Five Rivers MetroParks sites on Saturday, Dec. 28. The public is welcome to attend this free event. Please visit www.dayton.net/audubon/warbler.html for location, time and count leader contacts to sign up. Check with hike leaders posted on websites for times.

11. Unwind, decompress with a family nature hike

Unplug and unwind after the holidays and find a little zen in nature. Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” — such as your local MetroPark should be just enough to make you feel happier and less stressed. MetroParks has over 75 miles of nature trails, many suitable for little ones. Looks for shorter trails and travel at your child’s pace to make it fun for them. play games, look for treasure or try geocaching. Bundle up. www.metroparks.org.

12. Reflect on true Christmas spirit

Four exhibitions at the University of Dayton on view through Jan. 26 will help you reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Check out “At the Manger: And Animals Were There,” a display of nativities from the Marian Library collection, first floor; “The Little Saints,” a collection of many small and varied figures from all walks of life that accompany the Holy Family, second floor; “Christmas — A Celebration of Beauty,” a display of especially beautiful creches from the library collection, seventh floor; and “Visual Piety: an exhibit of Holy Cards,” a display of Holy Cards, which have been used for centuries as expressions of personal devotion, seventh floor. The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and from 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. It is free and open to the public. It will be closed on Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. For more information, including directions and parking, visit http://www.udayton.edu/libraries/manger or call (937) 229-4265.

13. Create your own ornament

Local artists will help children make holiday ornaments and other crafts. Monday, Dec. 23, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Schuster Center Wintergarden, Second and Main streets, downtown. Let your kids pick up some last-minute gifts at The Tike’s Shoppe inside the Wintergarden. This shop is run by kids for kids and priced within a kid’s budget. The shop is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (Santa 2-5 p.m.). Also, stop by and see Rike’s department store holiday window displays featuring animated elves, woodland animals and more. While you’re downtown, check out a one-of-a-kind model train display that was given to the community by Mrs. Virginia Kettering on display through Jan. 2 at the Kettering Tower lobby at the corner of Second and Main streets. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visit www.downtowndayton.org or call (937) 228-7591.

14. Splurge on Cincinnati Ballet’s “Nutcracker”

“The Nutcracker” performed by Cincinnati Ballet returns with Tchaikovsky’s score, played by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Performances at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26 and 27; 2 p.m. Dec. 28; 1 p.m. Dec. 22 and 29; 5:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 29. Tickets start at $32. All performances at Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, www.cballet.org.

15. Holiday sounds, sights in concert

It’s an annual holiday tradition well-suited for the whole family. Mannheim Steamroller presents its annual concert tour Monday, Dec. 23, at 4 and 7:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center. Created by Grammy Award-winning composer Chip Davis, Mannheim Steamroller promises holiday tunes and multimedia effects. Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Tickets are $31-$75. Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.

16. Holiday lights at the zoo

These holiday traditions are definitely worth a short drive. The Cincinnati Zoo’s PNC Festival of Lights (cincinnatizoo.org) continues through Jan. 4 at 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. General admission is $10 for children ages 2-12 and seniors 62 and older and $15 for adults age 13 and up. Parking is $8. The Columbus Zoo’s Wildlights (www.columbuszoo.org) is celebrating 25 years with zoo creatures big and small, coupled with lights, a musical animated light show, giant snow glob, Santa, reindeer and more. Open through Jan. 5 at 4850 Powell Road, Powell. Hours are Sundays through Thursdays 5-9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 5-10 p.m. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is $9.99 for ages 2-9, $14.99 for ages 10-59, $10.99 for ages 60 and older and free if under age 2. Parking is $8.

17. Holiday lights closer to home

Find beautiful holiday light displays much closer to home.

  • Clifton Mill holiday light display: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton. Through Jan. 1. (937) 767-5501. Admission is $10 per person for everyone age 7 and older. Children 6 and under get in free. Parking is free. www.cliftonmill.com/
  • Whispering Christmas: Fort Saint Clair, West Main Street and State Route 355, Eaton. Through Dec. 31, 6 to 10 p.m.
  • Woodland Lights: Countryside Park, next to the Washington Twp. Recreation Center, 895 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Washington Twp. Through Dec. 30 Closed Dec. 24 and 25. Cost: $7, free for kids 2 and younger. (937) 433-0130. www.washingtontwp.org/recreation/woodland-lights-2
  • Holiday Lights on the Hill: Through Dec. 31 at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Road, Hamilton. Open 6 p.m. daily. Admission by car load (up to 8 passengers): Monday-Thursday $20 and Friday-Sunday $25. (513) 868-1234.
  • Light Up Middletown: 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31 at Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown. Admission by donation.
  • Christmas Walk: 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Dec. 30 at Niederman Family Farm, 4972 LeSourdsville-West Chester Drive, Liberty Twp. A free walk-though Christmas display. Visitors view life-size nativity and several Biblical scenes telling the story of Christmas. In addition, there are hundreds of decorated trees and live animals. The walking path is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Free hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. Warm up in the barn and enjoy free entertainment. (513) 887-0725
  • The Christmas Ranch: A holiday ranch featuring 500,000 dancing Christmas lights synchronized to holiday music, Christmas craft gift shops, a bakery and cafe, model trains, Santa’s workshop, photo opportunities with the man in red, nighttime village wagon rides and more. 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Runs through Dec. 31 at 3205 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow.
  • Holiday in Lights: features one mile of holiday-themed light displays, strung over the trees and through the woods. Head inside to Santaland in the Sharon Centre for hot cocoa, carolers, baked goods and photos with Santa. Open 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Located at 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, and runs through Dec. 31. Cost is $13 per car.


18. Ride a one-of-a-kind carousel

Keep on learning over winter break. Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park offers history lessons in our region’s history — from aviation to industrialism to innovation. While you’re there, check out the Courosel of Dayton Innovation containing 31 figures and a 38-foot hand-painted mural illustrating some of Dayton’s proudest accomplishements . Hours are Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8 per adult (ages 18-59), $7 for seniors and $5 for children ages 3-17. Children under 3 are free.

19. See trains, trains and more trains

Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction continues through Jan. 5 at 7379 Squire Court, West Chester Twp. Find festive lights and decorations, and a North Pole walk-through adventure — plus three holiday-themed train displays free to the public. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Exended hours until 9 p.m. today and Monday and Dec. 26-30. Ticket packages vary. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p. m. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Closed Christmas Day. www.entertrainmentjunction.com.

20. The science of holiday lights at COSI

Learn about all kinds of holiday lights, from the single candle to the electric lamp, and even a reindeer-powered generator that triggers 12,000 holiday lights. This seasonal show runs through Jan. 5 at COSI, 333 W. Broad St., Columbus. While you’re there, ride a unicycle through the air or catch a heated game of rat basketball or escape to outer space. The museum is open seven days a week through Jan. 4, excluding Christmas Day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days. On Christmas Eve, hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On New Year’s Eve, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Jan. 5, hours are noon to 6 p.m. General admission is $12,95 for youth ages 2-12, $17.95 for adults and $16.95 for seniors 60 and older. Add-ons available. For more information, visit www.cosi.org.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Springfield Entertainment

Two more authors to cross off the list
Two more authors to cross off the list

Over the years that I have been reviewing books for this newspaper and interviewing authors on the radio, I have been compiling a list of writers. It has become a long one. I’m always adding names. And I’m crossing others off. If I intend to read a writer’s work for the first time I’ll add his or her name. After I read a book...
Gordon Lightfoot: The 78-year-old singer reflects on life and music
Gordon Lightfoot: The 78-year-old singer reflects on life and music

Gordon Lightfoot scored several hits in his native Canada before breaking through in the United States with his 1970 single, “If I Could Read Your Mind.” The folkie-turned-pop star, performing at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Monday, July 31, followed that single up with hits like “Sundown,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald&rdquo...
Goo Goo Dolls bring new ideas to upcoming Rose Music Center concert
Goo Goo Dolls bring new ideas to upcoming Rose Music Center concert

Goo Goo Dolls’ 11th studio album, “Boxes” (Warner Bros. Records), was released in May 2016 but the rockers wasted little time getting back in the studio. Twelve months later, Goo Goo Dolls, performing at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Wednesday, Aug. 2, released the EP, “You Should Be Happy.” Robby Takac (bass,...
Stunt show coming to Kings Island for limited time
Stunt show coming to Kings Island for limited time

A stunt show is coming to Kings Island for a limited-time run. The Ultimate Stunt Show features edge-of-your-seat thrills, including a Motorcycle High Wire over the Royal Fountain on International Street, the Globe of Fear, Wheel of Destiny, Human Cannon Ball and Defying American Cyclone. MORE: 9 things you didn’t know about Kings Island history...
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau makes cover of Rolling Stone
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau makes cover of Rolling Stone

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau graced the cover of Rolling Stone this week, and the pop culture magazine put forth a provocative question in its headline: “Why Can’t He Be Our President?” >> Read more trending news Trudeau is pictured with his sleeves rolled up and his jacket slung over his shoulder.  The prime...
More Stories