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 2021.

Celebrate the Holidays

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Holiday Traditions at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Celebrate the holidays with these favorite Grand Rapids traditions!

Photo by Dean VanDis

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 Jan. 1. Hop on board the Memory Lane Train to let somebody else to do the driving. It’s one of many dazzling holiday light displays in and around town – check out our list of favorites

University of Michigan Health-West Christmas & Holiday Traditions at Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture Park dazzles with the glow of more than 300,000 lights, strolling carolers, rooftop reindeer and 46 international trees and displays. In its 27th year, this crowd-pleasing exhibition is showcasing the sounds of the season – and the role music, bells, gongs, whistles and animals play in treasured holiday celebrations.

Amaze & Amuse: A Modern Day Magic Show Christmas Special at Wealthy Theatre features mind-blowing magic, comedy and lots of family-friendly audience participation with a special holiday twist. Dec. 17.

Grand Rapids Ballet presents The Nutracker, one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions, at DeVos Performance Hall, featuring incredible dancers, beautiful sets and live musical accompaniment from the Grand Rapids Symphony. Dec. 10-12 & 17-19.

Students of Michigan Ballet Academy present their version of The Nutcracker at the Jenison Center for the Arts, accompanied by the Girls Choral Academy. Dec, 17-19. A Nutckracker Tea on Dec. 19 is a luncheon featuring crafts, party favors and door prizes.

The Sound of Music, a Grand Rapids Civic Theatre holiday tradition for the whole family, runs through December 19. See and hear the von Trapp family come to life on stage.

Grand Rapids Symphony presents Cirque de Noel, with acrobats, aerialists, contortionists, jugglers and strongmen performing amazing feats to classical and seasonal music selections performed live. Dec. 21-22.

The Live Nativity at Critter Barn in Zeeland recreates the Biblical scene with live animals, shepherds and more. Dec. 17-18 & 21-23.

Don’t panic, there’s still time for kids to see Santa (and parents to get photos of them with the big red guy). Santa’s winter break schedule includes these local stops:

Visit a Musuem

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The Grand Rapids Public Museum is decorated for the Holiday Season

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

Two exhibits at Grand Rapids Public Museum are tailor-made for kids from one to 92: POPnology is an interactive exploration of the intersection between pop culture and technology, featuring items from such movies as Back to the Future and Star Wars; and Bats: Masters of the Night provides an up-close look at the facts and fictions surrounding these often-misunderstood mammals.

One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure is a new multimedia show at Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium inside Grand Rapids Public Museum. It takes viewers from Sesame Street to the Moon – and it’s just one of six different kid-friendly shows running daily from Dec. 18-Jan. 2.

An Art of Changes: Jasper Johns Prints, 1960-2018 at Grand Rapids Art Museum surveys six decades of output from one of America’s greatest living artists. Kids will gravitate toward Johns’ iconic American Flags and his use of bright colors. A concurrent show, The Black Ash Basketry of Kelly Church and Cherish Parrish, showcases a centuries-old Anishinaabe tradition, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the art and craft of the area’s indigenous peoples.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is resuming its annual holiday tradition of presenting the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Express – aka the Breton Village Miniature Train Display – which includes replicas of South High School, Bill’s Place diner and other significant structures in the president’s Grand Rapids life.

Stop by the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives for a look into the history and present of the local Black community – and check out the multicultural books in We Are Lit Bookstore, located inside the museum. Lots of great children’s books for gift giving! Before or after your visit, explore local Black history on a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Just download the FREE grwalks smartphone app

Learn, Make, Play

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Are you ready to see the world covered in snow? This bear doesn't seem to mind.

Are you ready to see the world covered in snow? This bear doesn't seem to mind.

Photo by Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

GiftWorks! at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is an opportunity for young ones to create a different handmade project for gift-giving, each day from Dec. 17-21. Special Winter Break activities and performers are planned every day from Dec. 20-23 and 27-30.

Kids in 1st through 6th grade can dive into history, science and culture in a variety of one-day Snowflake Break Camps at Grand Rapids Public Museum. Camps will take place at the museum Monday-Thursday, Dec. 20-30. A special Snowflake Break Day on Dec. 18 includes special crafts and games, including snowflake-making and a Santa and elf hunt.

Families are invited to create printed snowflakes as unique as they are during the Winter Break Drop-In Studio at Grand Rapid Art Museum (Dec. 21 & 23). A Miniature Weavings Drop-In Studio on Dec. 18 teaches participants how to weave, inspired by the woven works in the museum’s Black Ash Basketry exhibition.

Wintertime Walks at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park explore such themes as Holiday Carols and Symbols, and Birds and Their Sense. Bundle up for these outdoor walks, which are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 28.

Christmas Break Day Camp at Battle Grand Rapids offers 6-15 year olds the opportunity to play laser tag, archery tag, dodgeball, yard games and more – and lunch will be served. Monday-Thursday.

Head Outdoors

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Hitting the trails at Blandford Nature Center.

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 Experience Grand Rapids

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. Even if there isn’t any snow, you can explore the nighttime Glowing Forest at Cannonsburg Dec. 17 & 18.

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 Mulick Park and Plaster Creek Park – you can even rent sleds on site through the city’s Gear Library.

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 Fun

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Family Bowling at Spectrum Lanes

In search of indoor winter fun? Take the family bowling!

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

‘Tis the season for Hollywood’s biggest movies. See them at downtown’s Studio Park – or on the huge IMAX screen at Celebration! Cinema North.

Cheer on the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team at four home games during winter break: Dec. 18 & 19 vs. the Toronto Marlies and Dec. 31 & Jan. 1 vs. the Milwaukee Admirals.

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.

The Indoor Arcade at AJ’s Family Fun Center is open from 4pm-9pm through Jan. 1. Play games and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies.

Tarry Hall Roller Rink is open afternoons from Dec. 20-23 and Dec. 27-31 – and it hosts a rockin’ ‘80s Party on Dec. 28.

Check out 13 places to go bowling in and around Grand Rapids – including the Fowling Warehouse, which combines bowling and football, and is open to kids age 10+ on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ring in the New Year

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New Year’s Eve Family Fun at Battle Grand Rapids includes two hours of sport court activities, laser tag and e-sports for ages 6 and older, from 11am-1 pm on Dec. 31. Later that day (7pm-10pm) Battle GR hosts a New Year’s Eve Teen-ish Night for ages 10 and older.

The Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team hosts their 24th annual New Year’s Eve Celebration Dec. 31. Watch them play the Milwaukee Admirals, followed by fireworks and a public open skate at Van Andel Arena.

Spectrum Entertainment Complex throws a Kids Bowling Celebration from 6pm-9pm on Dec. 31.

Skate 2021 away at the Tarry Hall Roller Rink New Year’s Eve Party, Dec. 21 from 7pm-12:30 am.