Dayton Ballet’s The Nutrcracker is on stage for nine shows from Dec. 16-23 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED

11 fun things to do with the kids over winter break

Whether it’s the excitement-filled countdown to Christmas or days after the wrapping paper has been discarded and the presents have lost their novelty, holiday breaks can seem more like two months than two weeks.

But family fun abounds in and around the Miami Valley well into the New Year. 


Holiday traditions are plentiful in the Miami Valley, so here are some fun options for the entire family.

⛄Downtown holiday fun:

>>RELATED: Dayton’s classic Rike’s Wonderland Windows have new additions

Dayton’s long running holiday tradition, the Rike’s Wonderland Windows, has something new this year. Two new window boxes and four new elves are making their debut in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Performing Arts Center. The little ones can check off their holiday shopping list at the Tike’s Shoppe – a special shop run by kids, for kids – also in the Wintergarden. Enjoy the one-of-a-kind model train display – given to the community by Virginia Kettering – in the Kettering Tower lobby. 

The 46th annual Dayton Holiday Festival at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton on Friday, Nov. 23, includes the Grande Illumination tree lighting, Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights, Rike’s Holiday Window (pictured), live entertainment and more. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributing Writer


WHAT: Rike’s Wonderland Windows 

WHERE: The Wintergarden Wonderland at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton 

WHEN: The Wonderland Windows are available to view Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon- 6 p.m. They are closed during private events, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Call 228-7591 before you head to the Schuster Center as private events are not always publicized. 



⛄The Nutcracker:

>>RECENT COVERAGE: One of Dayton’s most beloved holiday traditions returns this weekend

*This is the last weekend for the Nutcracker! 

The Dayton Ballet presents the classic story of The Nutcracker every winter, with a cast that includes young dancers from throughout the Dayton area, with music by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. With the brave Nutcracker and his soldiers battling the Rat King and Clara traveling to the Land of Sweets to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker offers an enchanting experience for the young and young at heart. 

Dayton Ballet's The Nutcracker will be on stage at the Schuster Center beginning Dec. 14. CONTRIBUTED


WHAT: Dayton Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” accompanied by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra 

WHEN: Dec. 14-23 for 10 performances 

WHERE: Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton 

TICKETS: $18 and up, available at Ticket Center Stage (888) 228-3630 or online at Senior, teacher and military discounts are available at the box office.

⛄Clifton Mill:

>>Clifton Mill wins national TV show light contest

The legendary light show – complete with 4 million lights – takes three months to set up but the result is nothing short of breathtaking as the historic mill transforms from complete darkness to a colorful, twinkling holiday wonderland with the flip of a switch. The Mill has had a huge year in the spotlight, too, when they won $50,000 in “The Great Christmas Light Fight” that aired on a national television show.

The historic Clifton Mill, built in 1802 and still working, opened its Legendary Lights for the 2018 holiday season on Friday, Nov. 23. CONTRIBUTED BY TOM GILLIAM


WHAT: Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill 

WHERE: 75 Water St., Clifton 

WHEN: 5-9:30 p.m. Nov. 23-Dec. 31. Lights go on at 6 p.m. Display closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. 

COST: $10, children 6 and younger are admitted free 

MORE INFO: 937-767-5501 |

⛄Woodland Lights:

>>RELATED: This weekend is your last chance to experience the magic of Woodland Lights

For more than two decades, Woodland Lights, at Countryside Park near the Washington Twp. Recreation Center, has been brightening the holiday season for local families. Some new additions to the half-mile lighted woodland trail are a laser light show, a tunnel of lights and a train ride. Costumed characters, amusement rides, snacks and, of course, Santa round out the holiday fun.

The Woodland Lights, located in Countryside Park, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, in Washington Twp. is one of the longest-running and most popular annual lights festivals in the Miami Valley area. The Christmas light display is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Photo: Tom Gilliam


WHAT: Woodland Lights 

WHEN: Nov. 23-Dec. 23, 6-9 p.m. 

WHERE: Countryside Park, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Twp. 

COST: $8, free for children 2 and younger 

MORE INFO: 937-433-0130 | Website

⛄A Carillon Christmas:

>>RELATED: The breathtaking Tree of Light and 7 more ways to find your Christmas spirit at Carillon Park

A new tradition has begun at Carillon Historical Park with Christmas lights aplenty and the dazzling Carillon Tree of Light. Live holiday music, historical craft demonstrations, traditional holiday fare and visits with Santa are just part of the fun. The little ones won’t want to miss taking a spin on the Carousel of Dayton Innovation, riding the Midnight Express or watching a puppet show. Round out the night with a gingerbread cookie and hot cocoa. 

The sights and sounds of the season are on display at Carillon Historical Park's A Carillon Christmas. The event runs through Dec. 30. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Photo: Tom Gilliam


WHAT: A Carillon Christmas and the Carillon Tree of Light 

WHERE: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd. 

WHEN: Nov. 28–Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) 

ADMISSION: $10 per adult (18–59), $9 per senior (60+), $7 per child (3–17), Under 3 and Dayton History members: free 

MORE INFO: (937) 293-2841 | Facebook | Website


A little road trip can pay big dividends as far as increasing holiday spirit and making memories. 

⛄Newport Aquarium:

Discover the Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa and dance to holiday tunes amid bright lights and bubbles in the Shark Ray Bay Theater at the Newport Aquarium. While the holiday fun continues daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 31, visitors can also enjoy their favorite exhibits like the playful otters in Canyon Falls, the colorful inhabitants of the Coral Reef and, of course, brave the Shark Bridge. The aquarium is open 365 days a year and the young and young at heart can enjoy an undersea adventure. More details on all the Holiday fun is on Newport Aquarium’s website



Scuba Santa Times: Dec. 14-30: Every day from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.

WHERE: Newport Aquarium, One Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky.

INFO: Website

⛄Cincinnati Zoo: 

>>REALTED: What makes the zoo’s holiday season bright? 3 million lights should do it

Are you prepared to be dazzled? The 36th Annual PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo is going on now! The Festival of Lights: 3 million colorful, twinkling lights, a Madcap black-light puppet show and the BB&T Toyland Express are just part of the fun at the 36th annual PNC Festival of Lights. Zoo visitors can also search for five hidden fairies in Fairyland, marvel at the spectacular Wild Lights show on Swan Lake or warm up with hot cocoa. No worries if you don’t have time to take in the sights and sounds of the season before Christmas as the Festival of Lights continues through Jan. 1. Discount tickets are also available at any area Kroger, good for $2 off adult and $1 off child admission any night of the event.


WHAT: 36th Annual PNC Festival of Lights 

WHERE: The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati 

WHEN: Nov. 17–Jan. 1, open Sundays through Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5-10 p.m. 

ADMISSION: Admission varies for dates and times. Plan-ahead pricing can be found at 

MORE INFO: Website

⛄Columbus Zoo and Aquarium:

With millions of twinkling lights and plenty of holiday attractions, Wildlights has been a Central Ohio mainstay for close to three decades. But the annual event has much more to offer than light shows and cocoa – from camel rides to the Polar Bear Express and ice skating to the Santaland Zoo, there is so much to do and experience. Wildlights continues through Jan. 6 this year, so there is plenty of time to visit.

WHEN: Wed. Dec. 19- Sun. Jan. 6, not open Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 

Sun.- Thurs. 5 p.m.- 9 p.m., Fri.- Sat. 5 p.m.- 10 p.m.

WHERE: Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, 4850 West Powell Road, Powell, OH


Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images


If the kids are bouncing off the walls, it might be time to find a way for them to burn off some energy. Mom and dad can also burn off some Christmas calories.

⛄ Ice Rink at RiverScape:

>>RELATED: Lace up your skates: RiverScape Ice Rink is open for the season

The region’s largest outdoor ice rink – on the banks of the Great Miami River – is open for a new season of family fun. With open skating events on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, what better time to experience the excitement of the holiday season? Even spectators can enjoy the fun with a steamy cup of hot cocoa in hand. 

UpDayton hosted a free ice skating night at RiverScape Ice Rink on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Here’s who we spotted.
Photo: Tom Gilliam


WHAT: RiverScape MetroParks Ice Rink  

WHERE: 237 E. Monument Ave., Dayton 

WHEN: Beginning Friday, Nov. 23, through Feb. 28. Check website for dates and times.  

COST: $5 per person per skate, $2 skate rental. Seasonal passes available  


⛄Sky Zone:

If jumping on their bed is a thrill, the kids will be downright ecstatic at the sight of wall-to-wall trampolines at Sky Zone. The fun, however, isn’t limited to the little ones as everyone can bounce and flip till their heart’s content at the Washington Twp. indoor trampoline park. With extended hours over Christmas break – including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve – there is plenty of time to burn off some energy and calories. 

WHERE: Sky Zone, 976 Senate Drive, Dayton


⛄Scene 75:

Underwater themed nine hole mini golf course at Scene75. Contributed Photo by Alexis Larsen
Photo: Staff Writer

Play laser tag, race a go-cart, get in a round of blacklight mini-golf, and bounce through a room of inflatables all under one roof. That’s just part of the fun at Scene 75 as there are also bumper cars, mini-bowling, a 4-D motion theater and an expansive arcade. “I’m bored” will not be uttered at Scene 75. 

WHERE: Scene75, 6196 Poe Ave., Dayton

INFO: Website

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