Holiday school breaks are a great time to explore Grand Rapids with family and friends. In addition to our usual robust lineup of winter and holiday diversions, a number of attractions offer special kid-focused programming during this period. Say no to cabin fever and yes to entertaining, engaging and enlightening experiences this year!
In no particular order, here are some excellent ways for you and your kids (or your kids’ kids or your friends’ kids) to make the most of winter break 2023.
Celebrate the HolidaysBack to Top of List
Explore holiday traditions from around the world with unique displays at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
Photo by Ashley Wierenga for Experience GR
Most Kent County schools break for the holidays from Dec. 22 - Jan. 4, so you’ve got three days to soak up the holiday spirit before Christmas (Dec. 25). Here are a few suggestions for using your time festively:
Start a new holiday tradition with a trip to the new Christkindl Markt at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. This traditional European-style Christmas village is a great place to shop, dine and have fun, with lots of authentic old-world touches – including German-style kinderpunsch for thirsty kids! It’s open through Dec. 23.
Visit the annual University of Michigan Health-West Christmas & Holiday Traditions show at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to see how other people from around the world celebrate the year-end holidays. You’ll see 46 unique cultural displays, a Grand Rapids-themed railway garden and 350,000 lights, meet Santa and his reindeer, and more. Gather outdoors to cozy up around firepits and hot drinks for Winter Glow, a new immersive lighting experience surrounding The American Horse sculpture, from Dec. 18-22 and 26-30.
Speaking of lighting: The Christmas Lite Show Drive Thru offers a two-mile drive through more than one million lights, animated displays, lighted tunnels and more at LMCU Ballpark through Dec. 31. Hop on board the Memory Lane Train to let somebody else do the driving. See it through Dec. 31.
There are plenty more holiday lights to see around Grand Rapids – see this list to plot your tour.
Kick off the holiday break with some holiday music from the Grand Rapids Symphony. The University of Michigan Health-West Holiday Pops concert at DeVos Performance Hall features classic songs both old and new, plus a surprise visit from a certain North Pole resident. Dec. 21-23.
If your kids’ musical tastes run more towards rock, they’ll love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Ghost of Christmas Eve concert at Van Andel Arena. Pyrotechnics, lights and lasers add to the spectacle. Choose from two shows on Dec. 26.
See (and hear) Let It Snow!, a festive light & music show for the holidays, at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Dec. 23 & 24. Thematic animation, immersive special effects and full-dome scenery make it an experience not to be missed.
Visit a MuseumBack to Top of List
The science of Michigan winter is a major focus during the Grand Rapids Public Museum's winter break programs.
Photo by Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Snowflake Break Camps provide kids with exciting opportunities to explore science, history and culture during the holiday season. There are eight different camps to choose from between Dec. 27 and Jan. 5.
Some of the Snowflake Break Camps are based on two current can’t-miss GRPM exhibits: BUGS and the Historic Grand Rapids LEGO® Display. See them both – and the Museum’s fascinating holiday displays – for hours of fun.
LEGO lovers will also want to check out Brick by Brick: The Creative Art of LEGO at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It includes an interactive community LEGO building area and a minifigure scavenger hunt throughout the Museum.
Explore Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: The Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Based on the PBS KIDS® TV series, this innovative exhibit takes kids back in time to learn from real-life inspirational figures.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park offers a host of winter break programming for kids:
- Wintertime Walks through the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, Dec. 22-23, 26-27 & 29-30.
- Winter Break Day Camp: Unusual Art, Jan. 2.
- Cozy Tales for Chilly Days Preschool Story Time, Jan 2.
- Winter Break Day Camp: Winter Wonderland, Jan. 3.
- Winter Adventure Walks: Trees & Sculpture!, Jan. 3-7.
- Winter Break Day Camp: Explore the Tropics, Jan. 4.
- Winter Break Day Camp: Exploring Processes, Jan. 5.
Older kids might enjoy Forest of Dreams: Contemporary Tree Sculpture at Meijer Gardens. It’s an exhibition showcasing the power, beauty, strangeness and glory of trees, featuring the work of 15 exceptional artists.
Take your young history buff to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for A Heartbeat Away: The American Vice-Presidency. It honors the 50th anniversary of Ford’s vice-presidency by exploring the history of the office.
Visit the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives for a look at the unique historical and cultural contributions local African Americans and people of color have made to our community, our country and our world. Follow up your visit with a self-guided Black History Walking Tour of downtown Grand Rapids.
Enroll your kids in a Winter Break Day Camp at Blandford Nature Center. Each day from Jan. 2-5 features a different theme – Artic Adventures, Chilly Creations, Wintry Wildlife and Snowy Survivors – with different experiences for 7-9 and 10-12 age groups.
Head OutdoorsBack to Top of List
If you're new to winter sports, snowshoeing is a great place to start and Blandford is a fun, close-by place to try it.
Photo by Paul Jendrasiak for Experience GR.
Snow willing, Cannonsburg Ski Area will be open for tubing and downhill & cross-country skiing. Cannonsburg Kids is a weekend learn to ski and ride program for kids ages 6-12 at any ability level.
Cold weather willing, Rosa Parks Circle in downtown GR will be open for outdoor ice skating under the sun and stars. Admission (which includes skate rental) is $4 for adults and $2 for 17 and under.
Explore local parks and nature centers on snowshoes or cross-country skis – both are great family activities (and a great way to burn off those holiday calories). Fat tire biking is even more of a workout. And if sledding is your thing, check out the hills at Belknap Park (downtown), Mary Waters Park and Wabasis Lake Park (northeast), Richmond Park and Covell Dog Park (northwest), Cascade Township Park and Manhattan Park (southeast), and Johnson Park and Pinery Park (southwest). Don’t have the right gear? Here’s where you can rent snowshoes, skis, skates, fat tire bikes, sleds and more.
Snow or no, a hike through the woods and meadows of Blandford Nature Center, the Calvin University Eco System Preserve and Wittenbach Wege Center for Agriscience and Environmental Education is an inspiring and invigorating way to spend a few hours.
Have Some Indoor FunBack to Top of List
In search of indoor winter fun? Take the family bowling!
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids
Play laser tag, archery tag, video games and other fun activities during Holiday Break Camp at BattleGR Tactical Games & Sports. For ages 6-15 years old, Jan. 2-4.
Cheer on the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team at their New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) game against the Cleveland Monsters in Van Andel Arena. Enjoy post-game fireworks and post-game open skate on the Griffin’s ice!
There’s even more hockey action at Van Andel Arena a few days before New Year’s Eve: The 2023 Great Lakes Invitational features the teams from Michigan Tech, Michigan State, Ferris State and Alaska Fairbanks. Dec. 28-29.
See the Grand Rapids Gold basketball team play a four-game home stretch in Van Andel Arena: Jan. 2 & 3 vs. the Birmingham Squadron, and Jan. 5 & 7 vs. the Osceola Magic.
Craig’s Cruisers offers a whole host of indoor activities throughout the winter season, including go-karts, bumper cars, laser tag, a ninja course and trampoline park.
Swing around with Spider-Man, explore the deep sea, take care of cute kittens and battle dinosaurs – they’re four of 50 virtual reality games kids can play at Amped Virtual Reality.
Play mini golf and mini bowling under black light at Great Lakes Glow Golf – there’s also an arcade filled with vintage-style games.
Tailor-made for budding artists: an All-Ages Open Studio at I’m An Artist Community Studio, a Family Open Studio at Cultivate every Saturday, and a Drop-In Family Studio at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, all on Saturdays. I’m An Artist also hosts a Sensory-Friendly Studio for ages 6+ on Dec. 27.
Get a guest pass to swim and splash in the pool at the David D. Hunting YMCA (downtown), Mary Free Bed YMCA (southeast), Visser Family YMCA (southwest), Spartan Nash YMCA (southwest) or The Salvation Army Kroc Center (southeast).
Ring in the New YearBack to Top of List
Take the kids to New Year’s Early Eve at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum for an enchanting evening filled with hands-on activities, magic, music, dancing and much more. From 5pm-8pm Dec. 30.
BattleGR Tactical Games & Sports invites kids to bid goodbye to 2023 with fun & games: laser tag, archery tag, axe throwing, football bowling and more. An early session (3pm-5:30pm) is for kids under 10 years old, the later session (6pm-8:30pm) is for 10 and older.
Skate the old year away at the Neon New Year’s Eve open-skate party at Walker Ice & Fitness. Dec. 31 from 5pm-7pm.
Browse our list of Family-Friendly Things to Do with Kids in Grand Rapids for even more holiday break ideas.