What will you do this winter break when kids are out of school? Follow our tips

The kids are out of school. Often, day care centers closed down between Christmas and New Year’s. How are you going to cope? We have fun things you can do during winter break.

Around Austin and Central Texas

Light shows

Head to these light shows around Central Texas, or go for a strolling around your own neighborhood or one nearby.

 

People explore a light tunnel during the Winter Wonderland event at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin Trail of Lights. 6-10 p.m. through Saturday. $3 Zilker Park. austintrailoflights.org.

Zilker Tree. The tree will be lighted every night from Through Dec. 31. Zilker Park. austintexas.gov/zilkerholidaytree

Trail of Lights. 6:30 p.m. 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Dec. 28. Free. EmilyAnn Theatre 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org

Mozart’s Christmas Light Show. 6-11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters at Oyster Landing, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd.

Winter Wonderland at the Circuit of the Americas. See lights, go skating, enter the petting zoo and Santa’s workshop and more. 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 30, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. $16, plus additional fees for some activities. circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

Outdoor activities

When you can, go outside and get some exercise.

Whole Foods Skating on the Plaza. Go ice skating 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. now through Jan. 15. Closed Christmas Day. $10 per person. Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. wholefoodsmarket.com

Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm. Buy Christmas trees through Christmas Eve, when it closes at 3 p.m. Noon to dark daily, except Saturday, when it opens at 10 a.m. Weekends there’s s’mores making and pinecone painting, too. 242 Monkey Road. evergreen-farms.com

Plus, try a new playground in our playground guide on austin360.com/raisingaustin or go for a hike. We love the trails of Mayfield Park, Mary Moore Searight Park and behind the Austin Nature and Science Center.

Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), who struggles against his family’s generations-old ban on music, creates a secret space where he can play his guitar and soak up the on-screen talent of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt), in “Coco.” Contributed by Disney/Pixar

Movies

Family Movie Night: “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Twin Oaks Library Branch.

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp. “The Peanuts Movie,” 10 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, Lakeline, Mueller and Slaughter Lane.drafthouse.com

Plus see these new movies in theaters: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Disney’s animated “Coco,” the updated “Jumanji” with the Rock; “Wonder” with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, and the animated “Ferdinand,” based on the children’s book.

Ballet Austin’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Choreography by Stephen Mills. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Theater

This year we have a few holiday theater possibilities to see during winter break. Check out these offerings.

Hideout Theatre Presents: “Monster Holidays.” 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 30. $5. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.org

Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” 7:30 p.m. through Friday and 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $15-$98. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

“Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic.” Noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday. $20-$55. Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com

“The Muttcracker (Sweet).” Circus Chickendog reenacts the “Nutcracker” with rescue dogs. 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 27-Jan. 1. $35-$15. Vortex Theatre, 2307 Manor Road. chickendog.net

“A Christmas Story: The Musical.” The classic Christmas movie comes to life. We double dog dare you to go. 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30; 11 a.m. Dec. 30, 3 p.m. Dec. 30, 1 p.m. Dec. 31. $26-$86. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. TheLongCenter.org.

A topographical sand map allows you to create mountains and watch the topography lines change.
Hill Country Science Mill.

Museums

Often museums have holiday programming to keep kids busy. If you can, buy tickets in advance and go early in the day.

Thinkery Gingerbread House Workshops. Traditional or Tot (ages 5 and younger) 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:45 p.m., 4 p.m., Saturday; Wednesday-Saturday and 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m. Sunday. $12 per person plus $20 house kit. Gingerbread Art and Architecture for ages 7 and older. 10:45 a.m.–1:15 p.m. daily through Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Candy Chemistry for ages 7 and up. Make candy to go on your house. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. daily through Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Austin Nature and Science Center. Family Climbing Day. Go rock climbing as a family. 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday. $5 per person, ages 5 and up. Family Archery Day. Explore archery. 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday. $5 per person, ages 7 and up. Family Planetarium Day. 9 a.m. to noon, Friday. Free, ages 3 and up. Austin Nature and Science Center, 2389 Stratford Drive. austintexas.gov/ansc

Bullock Museum.Maker Faire. Create things at the museum. Dec. 28-30. Story time at the Museum: Brrr! 10 a.m. Thursday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Hill Country Science Mill. Special activities around a theme all week: Imagine Yourself as a Biologist, Tuesday. Imagine Yourself as an Inventor, Wednesday. Imagine Yourself as a Computer Scientist, Thursday. Imagine Yourself as an Engineer, Friday. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

Thinkery Baby Bloomers. Kids birth to age 3 learn about a winter wonders. 9 a.m. Saturday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Elizabeth Kahura, of Austin, originally from Kenya, holds up a figurine as an example of teamwork during a Kwanzaa workshop held at the Carver Public Library. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2013

Special Events

Night Before Christmas Break. Enjoy reindeer game and treats. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Free. Metz Recreation Center, 2407 Canterbury St. austintexas.gov

Kwanzaa Celebration of Ujamaa with Elizabeth Kahura. 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov

Austin’s New Year. A family-friendly New Year’s Eve party with events throughout the day beginning at 3 p.m. Fireworks are at 10 p.m. Step into the Kids Magic Forest for the Bike Zoo, Dark Stack Media’s liquid light show, a giant Austin piñata, a stop-motion animation station, a crafting station, a magical fairy world and a train. Auditorium Shores, 900 W. Riverside Drive. austintexas.gov

Books

BookPeople story times. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” story time 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Last Story Time of 2017. 10:30 a.m. Dec. 27. Things that Go story time. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 2. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.comBookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturdays story times at all locations: “Santa’s Magic Key,” Saturday; “The Story of Ferdinand,” Dec. 30.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie. 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Dec. 30, Yarborough Public Library Branch.

NBTween Book Club Keeper of the Lost Cities.” 6 p.m. Wednesday, Spicewood Springs Branch. “The Nameless City.” 6 p.m. Thursday, Twin Oaks Branch.

Family Craft Night. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Howson Branch.

Plus find out when your local library is open and check out some new books to bring home with you.

Bradley Tredway, 7, made a colorful gingerbread house at the Bastrop Public Library open house event in 2013. SARAH ACOSTA/AUSTIN COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS

To Do at Home

Here are 10 things you can do at home during the break:

  1. Decorate gingerbread houses. Don’t have a kit or don’t want to make the gingerbread? Use pretzel sticks or graham crackers and connect them using frosting, cream cheese or peanut butter. Use cereal and different snack foods as decorations if you don’t have candy.
  2. Play a board game. Even if you don’t get a new one for Christmas, there’s something very satisfying about even the classics like Candy Land, Life or Sorry.
  3. Learn a new card game. Yes, you can start with Go Fish, but you also can branch out to Spoons, Swindle Your Neighbor, B.S. or Poker.
  4. Make your own movies/plays. Let the kids write the script, create the costumes and direct one another. You also could have an evening of improv or charades. You also can’t go wrong with shadow puppets.
  5. Make goop or play dough. ”
    DIY Natural has this recipe for play dough:
    1 cup of flour (whatever kind you have on hand)
    ¼ cup of salt
    ½ cup of water
    3 to 5 drops of food coloring
    Mix together the flour and the salt.
    Mix together ½ cup of warm water with a few drops of food coloring.
    Slowly pour the water into the flour mixture, stirring as you pour. Stir until combined, then knead with your hands until the flour is completely absorbed. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until it doesn’t stick at all.
    For Goop:
    1 part water
    2 parts corn starch
    Mix it in a zippered bag. Throw in some food coloring and get to playing.
  6. Make a meal together. We love make-your-own pizzas or tacos or tostadas, but winter break is also a great time to teach life skills like how to make spaghetti and meatballs.
  7. Throw a dance party. You can turn this event into dance party cleanup time, or it could just be a dance party in the living room. Crank up the music, practice your best air guitar and get to rocking.
  8. Make art. You’ve got supplies you didn’t even know you have. All that wrapping paper from Christmas makes great scraps for collages. All the boxes can become dioramas or dollhouses or spaceships. Use the back of the wrapping paper as drawing paper.
  9. Go outside and start exploring. See what amazing rocks you can find in your yard or on a hike. Hunt for different insects. Look for different signs of animal life in your yard or the park nearby. Pick out different leaves for making leaf rubbings. Or if you have sports fans, create your own Olympic Games, play a game of basketball or soccer, tennis or golf.
  10. Start a new book. You’ve got more time to read bedtime stories. Start a new series like “Harry Potter” or “Magic Treehouse” or “The Lightning Thief” and read a little aloud each night. You can even build a blanket fort in their bedroom or living room for reading time.

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