September 22, 2020

How to Resist Leaving Your Kids in a Snowbank Over Winter Break

Fun family activities and day trips
By Kristi Kates | Dec. 21, 2019

You’ve baked all the cookies, visited with all the relatives, unwrapped all the gifts, watched all the movies, and played all the games ... and there’s still a week of winter break left to go. Now what? If you and your kids are starting to come down with a hot case cabin fever, get out of the house and head to one of these fun destinations in Michigan.
Weeknights through Dec. 31
You probably can’t name a kid who ever gets tired of twinkling, colorful holiday lights. So if they keep asking for more, load ’em up and take them on a road trip to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, where a drive-through tour through a display of millions of holiday lights has been running for over 20 years. Animated holiday motifs share space with cartoon characters and brightly lit tunnels; other kid-sized activities on site include rides on a mini train, refreshments, and puppet shows in Nite Lites’ own “Winter Wonderland.”
Cost: $25 per car
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Dec. 28 (12pm-8pm)
Pond Hill Farm’s Gnome Scavenger Hunt — a trail walk on which you seek out little gnome houses, open their doors to find letter clues, and combine the letters to try and win a prize — runs year-round just north of Harbor Springs, but it takes on a particularly festive flair on Dec. 28, when you can chase the gnomes on cross-country skis or snowshoes, too. After your search, take in some sledding, enjoy a fun family lunch in the cafe — with live music — and visit the animals on the farm.
Cost:  Visiting the farm is free; food and some activities are extra.
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An entire room of trampolines? Including walls you can bounce off of? That’ll keep even the most active kid occupied. Grand Rapids’ Sky Zone (there are several other locations in Michigan, as well) encourages kids to bounce off the walls, floor, and everywhere. It also offers a Foam Zone, where kids and adults alike can try more daring stunts — and fall safely into a landing zone of giant soft foam cubes — as well as free rock-wall climbing, parkour blocks, and even a toddler zone. Schedule your own group event with the fam over the holidays, and you’ll be the talk of the season. If you’ve got little ones, keep an eye out for Character Toddler Time events ($11.99 per toddler), which happens over holiday break and includes guests like Santa and Snow Princesses. (Pssst … Sky Zone also sells gift cards, so you can kill two birds with one stone: Stuff a gift card in your kid’s stocking and enjoy his grin Christmas day and a few days later on the trampoline.
Cost: Prices start at $15.99 per person per hour; an all-day pass is $31.99 per person. Rates vary for group events, inquire directly.
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Ongoing, weekends only
No gear is needed to ride a giant inflated tube down the mountain at Traverse City’s Timberlee Hills — your ticket covers your tube rental plus Timberlee’s nifty handle-tow system so you can glide back up to the top of the hill while lounging in your tube instead of having to lug the big doughnut up yourself. After an afternoon of some speedy, bumpy fun, take a break in the warming lodge — it offers TVs, a full-service kitchen and bar, and kid-friendly snacks like pizza, nachos, cheesy bread, and cinnamon-sugar (bread) nuggets, hot cocoa — and even adult beverages for Mom and Dad.
Cost: A one-hour ticket is $14; a two-hour ticket is $24. (Bonus: A two-hour ticket can be split in half, time-wise, but cannot be shared with another person.)
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Selected dates starting Dec. 21, weather permitting Watch the delighted looks on your kids’ faces when you sit them behind a team of beautiful Belgian horses on a covered surrey — aka carriage —at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. The horses (and their driver, of course) will take you all on a unique and comfortable wintery trek through some of northern Michigan’s prettiest landscapes. At ride’s end, a bonfire and complimentary hot cocoa will be waiting.
Cost: $12 per person, one kid 6 years old or under free with each paying adult.
More Information: See the events calendar at
Ongoing (Holidazzle dates are limited)
Mom and Dad can head downstate for some casino fun, while simultaneously taking the kids on their very own (supervised) mini-vacation at Kids Quest. Work it like this: Take your crew to Kids Quest at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mt. Pleasant and plan to participate in the “Holidazzled” activites, which include seasonal crafts and visitors from the North Pole. While you and your adult partner trade off taking in some gaming tables and slot machines, the kids can check out the Karaoke Star Stage (complete with dress-up accessories), Sports Room, video gaming stations, a giant climbing maze, and their own cafe. Even the littlest of kids can have fun in the Tiny Tots room.
Cost:  Hourly fees for play vary by kids’ age.
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Now through January 5
Education and fun in the same Christmas break activity can be found at the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum this holiday season, home of the family-approved Hands-On Holiday Workshops. Your kids can learn about how animals adapt to winter (“Critters in the Cold” workshop); match up posture with pitch and torso with tempo (“Music and Movement”); make a house for insects (“Habitat Building”); or even make that most favorite of gooey kids’ toys, Slime. (Check the museum’s website for days and times for each workshop; all repeat throughout the season into January.)
Cost: $6 general public, $4 museum members (per workshop)
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Got a large crew of kids or teens? Send them into battle — literally — by taking them to BattleGR in Grand Rapids, where they’ll be put into teams and can get out all of that leftover Christmas break energy through mission/objective-based games of laser tag or archery tag. Your kids will not only have a blast but also be stealthily learning tactics, strategy, and the art of friendly fights.
Cost: Each 30-minute session costs $15 per person, a 60-minute session is $25. For group pricing (eight people or more) or to book larger party packages that include refreshments, contact BattleGR directly.
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Dec. 31
Rather than celebrate the arrival of 2020 like a boring old adults, take your kids to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum for a party of their own! The museum’s “New Years Early Eve” runs from 6pm to 8pm, and fits an entire New Years’ celebration in for the little ones before bedtime. Each kid will be equipped with noisemakers, party hats, and glow bracelets, and they can enjoy pizza and dancing until the big ball drop — complete with confetti — at “midnight.”
Cost: $10 per kid member/$15 per kid non-member.
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Now through Jan. 3
The Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Experience in Portage, Michigan, is offering up their Winter Break Family Fun days as a complimentary (yes, free!) add-on to general museum admission on Thursdays and Fridays. Kids will find oodles of themed crafts and special games, fascinating interactive demonstrations, and special guests (the schedule changes daily, check the website for details). Activities include making a snowstorm in a bottle, excavating the icy moons around Jupiter, building roller coasters and rockets, and even an early celebration of the New Year.
Cost: Adults, $15.95; kids 5–18 $14.95; kids 4 and under are free.
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Jan. 2 magic show, ongoing museum
Sometimes it literally takes magic to keep the kids occupied. That’s no problem at all at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, where a special performance from “museum favorite,” magician John Dudley, will entertain and astonish audiences on Jan. 2. Dudley combines traditional stage magic with modern trickery for a fast-paced show to delight all ages; some guests might even be plucked from the audience to help him do magic. After the magic show, check out the rest of the museum — especially its puzzle treks (hint: try the new Mindbender Mansion) — and other interactive activities.
Cost: Free.
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If you’ve got a wide range of ages in your family, this is another place that will be fun for everyone from kindergarteners to teens to parents. Amped Reality in Grand Rapids is an immersive experience for everyone, where you simply put on a headset and are taken right “into” a virtual destination and quest of your choice. Walk a plank like a pirate, hit cubes with light sabers to the beat of music, chase dinosaurs, ride a roller coaster, or cut falling fruit with giant swords. There are spooky games and tougher challenges for older kids, and friendlier quests for the younger set. You can even take a virtual vacation to a winter break-appropriate snowy location!
Cost:  $30 per hour per VR station. Larger parties can be accommodated; see “pricing” on the website.
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