You’ve already Googled a million crafty ideas to help you survive the holiday break with the kiddos at home. For those days when you just need to get out of the house, we’ve pulled together 25 ideas that’ll help you celebrate the season North Texas–style. Not only will the days fly by, but you just might create a few new family traditions along the way.
At Beth Marie's new outpost in Carrollton, ask for the hot chocolate float topped with their famous homemade ice cream and whipped cream—for $2.50, it doesn’t get more decadent than that. bethmaries.com
Sure, you can make hot chocolate and play games at home, but if you need a change of scenery, head for Nerdvana in Frisco. Order sipping chocolate for the kids and a ristretto chocolate (with a short shot of espresso) for Mom and Dad, then sit down with a game from the lending library—it’s full of kid favorites like Candy Land and Monopoly. nerdvanafrisco.com
Order Highland Park Soda Fountain's classic hot chocolate (this standard has been on the menu for as long as it’s been open—105 years) for less than $2, or stray from the “hot” idea altogether and try their seasonal peppermint milkshake. highlandparksodafountain.com
Get Your (Indoor) Play on
Hang with Santa at The Coop in Frisco on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 10am–noon, 1–3pm. He’ll read a story to his mini audience and pass out milk and cookies afterward. The rest of the month, let the kids dress up in superhero capes and fluffy tutus, swim in the ball pit and fly through the bounce house while you cozy up to the cappuccino bar (free drinks on Fridays). thecoopfrisco.com
Visit Frisco’s EQ Kids Club each week in December for winter-themed activities like building a snowman out of recycled bottles. Be sure to pay a visit to the snow-covered Safari Sam’s Market and the new rainmakers and banjos in the sound corner. eqkidsclub.com
Sip (free) coffee and let the kids explore North Dallas’ newest indoor play space, The Playdate Co. in Richardson. Little green thumbs can work their magic at the farm-style playhouse with a vegetable garden or tidy up shop at the Sinclair garage with play gasoline and lawn tools. There is also a schoolhouse, Santa’s workshop, ice cream parlor and even a baby section. Attend free play Monday–Friday 9am–5pm for $10.50 per child ages 1 and older, $5.50 for younger than 1, $8.50 for siblings 1 and older and free for siblings younger than 1. playdateco.com
Let the kids play dress up at one or all five Play Street Museums (the Downtown-themed location in Lake Highlands will open in February 2018*). Milk a cow at the farm in McKinney, fight fires at the fire station in Frisco, go fishing in Plano, board a mini airplane in Allen or visit a kid-size Reunion Tower in Lake Highlands. All locations provide one free snack or drink with admission. playstreetmuseum.com
Wesley's Playground at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake staunches cabin fever (daily from 8am, 4pm on Saturdays) with tunnels, slides, a netted climbing area and padded toddler space. Parents can warm up with a coffee from Wesley’s cafe. whiteschapelumc.com
Elementary-age children and preschoolers can spend their evenings and weekend afternoons at The Hills Church Playscape in North Richland Hills. Parents can take a breather on one of the comfy, oversize chairs and survey the kiddos riding down the long tube slide, crawling through spinning tubes or monkeying around the three-story play structure.
Get to First Baptist Church Grapevine’s Paradise Pond right at 9am (Thursdays and Fridays, $1 per kid) before it “overflows” with littles ages 2–12 scaling the small climbing wall, scrambling the two-story play structure or playing dress-up. fbcgrapevine.com/paradise-pond
For $10 per child, kiddos can dress up as a construction worker, a pumpkin patch farmer and a veterinarian, or they can spend hours fidgeting with PVC pipes on the magnet wall, age appropriate blocks, books, stuffed animals and more in the 1,400-square-foot Playspace at The Happy Lark in Fort Worth.
Take a break from holiday shopping at the Simon Kidgits play space inside North East Mall in Hurst. Behind Forever 21 and adjacent to restrooms with changing tables, the romping grounds include a clubhouse with a toddlersized slide, oversize caterpillar and piglet to climb on and even a sensory corner. Bring loose change so the kids can take a ride on one of the mechanical rides just outside the enclosed playground. simon.com/mall/north-east-mall
Sometimes you have to bring your kids along for the holiday shopping, but Ridgmar Mall keeps them distracted at the soft child’s play place on the lower level. They play conductor on thekid-size train and captain on the boat. Next door is the newly opened Seaquest interactive aquarium. For $9.95 per child ages 2–11 and $14.95 per adult, meet, feed and play with parakeets, stingrays, capybaras and more. There are also trains that take kids on rides around the mall on both levels, and join the Kids Club for free games and activities from 11–noon on Dec. 14.
Roll over to Cowtown Bowling Palace Sunday before noon for the early bird special: play for $1.50; rent shoes for $2. Or head there during the week for lunch ’n bowl Monday–Friday: eat lunch, rent shoes and bowl two games for $10.79 per person. cowtownbowling.com
Permit the kids to stay up late for $5 allyou- can-bowl (every night of the week) after 8pm at It'z Family Food & Fun in Euless.
’Tis the season to delay bedtime for an hour or two with an impromptu Tuesday night game at Bowlero in Euless. Every Tuesday, games and shoes (and beer for Mom and Dad) are just $2.22 after 8pm—spend your extra pennies on the five-pound cheeseburger or the XXL pretzel.
Let There be Light
Bask in the glow of 4 million twinkle lights at Prairie Lights all month long. You can drive (starting at $35 per vehicle) through the Grand Prairie light show to the Holiday Village, and stretch your legs with a walk through the new Snow Maze. Finally, grab a hot cocoa, take a picture with Santa and be on your way to the grand finale tunnel of lights. prairielights.org
Fun on the Ice
Chill out weekday afternoons at the Allen Community Ice Rink inside the Allen Event Center. On the weekend, come for the holiday-themed skates. $5 admission; $3 rentals. cityofallen.org/acir
Bring your socks for an ice skating session at one of the Dr Pepper StarCenters. (There are five locations in Dallas and Collin counties.) Public skate costs $8 per child, free for kids 3 and younger and $9 for parents. Bring your beginner skater on Friday evenings or weekends to learn how to skate in the bucket zones with balance props. drpepperstarcenters.com
Get in the holiday spirit at Galleria Dallas Ice Skating Center. For $11 per skater and $3 for rentals, families can glide around the larger-than-life Christmas tree in the center of the rink for as long as they please. galleriaiceskatingcenter.com
Bring your socks for an ice skating session at Dr Pepper StarCenters. See listing in Collin County for the details. drpepperstarcenters.com
Open from 11am–11pm (10pm on Sundays) throughout winter break, Panther Island Ice welcomes skaters rain or shine at its outdoor rink (the only one in Fort Worth). $12 admission includes skate rental for 90 minutes.
Head to The Parks at Arlington for an afternoon on Ice at the Parks weekdays at 11am (11:30am Fridays only). Kids 5 and younger get in free, $7 for kids up to age 13, $9 for adults and $3 skate rental for all.
From the 18th through the rest of the month, skate NYTEX Sports Centre's Winter Wonderland Extravaganza. Skaters of all ages glide under lights and tinsel from 10am–8pm (with Zamboni breaks every 90 minutes) for $15. The daily 75-minute lunchtime public skate (12:15–1:30pm) is $6 admission ($7 age 11 and older) and $3 rental. On weekends, the open skate schedule changes, but most Friday evenings offer free skate rentals for 90 minutes (6:45–8:15pm) for $10 per guest.
Bring your socks for an ice skating session at Dr Pepper StarCenters. See listing in Collin County for the details. drpepperstarcenters.com
See a Show
See How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Dec. 2 (Dallas only) and Home Alone on Dec. 9 at the Dallas and Plano locations of the Angelika Film Center. angelikafilmcenter.com
Get in the holiday spirit at Theatre Three in Dallas. To celebrate the season, performers will regale audiences of all ages with Finnish tales, European poems and other stories and songs from periods of history and countries around the world. Tickets from $10. theatre3dallas.com
See classic holiday flicks every other Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30pm at Movie Taverns across Fort Worth. Christmas Vacation plays Dec. 5 and 6; White Christmas, Dec. 12 and 13; and It’s A Wonderful Life, Dec. 19 and 20. $7.50 per child ages 12 and younger; $9.75 per adult.
Sit back and enjoy the view from the comfort of your seat warmer at Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth. Catch a showing of Home Alone or The Polar Express for $8 per adult, $6 per child, and free for ages 4 and younger. coyotedrive-in.com
Watch the season’s standards including a double feature of A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 22–23) throughout the month at Palace Theatre in Grapevine. Pro tip: Bring a sameday receipt from any Grapevine restaurant to get a free small popcorn. grapevinetexasusa.com/palace-theatre
Take a Ride
Take a ride through Dallas aboard McKinney Avenue Trolley’s M-Line Holiday Express. A conductor dressed as an elf drives the garland-laden historic railway car from Uptown to Downtown with a stop at Starbucks to fill passengers’ tummies with cookies and hot chocolate. Rides from $25. mata.org
Play Some Games
Treat your video game–loving kids to allyou- can-play arcade games at Free Play Arcade in Richardson. For $10 per person, access over 80 classic games including Frogger, Mortal Kombat and Mario Bros. that you can play for free after 3pm on weekdays, 11am on weekends. freeplayrichardson.com
Bring the kids’ piggy banks to Nickelrama at Firewheel Commons or Northstar Crossing in Garland, and let them spend the nickels they’ve been saving on classic arcade games such as air hockey, Skee-Ball, pinball, Pac Man and Space Invaders. $3.50 admission. nickelrama.com
Head to Tornado Terry's in Keller for the Free Zone where kids (best for ages 6 and up) can play over 70 arcade games, from billiards to Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. Games= in the Free Zone are—you guessed it—free with your $15 admission. tornadoterrys.com
It may be too cold to explore outdoors, but kids can learn about nature indoors during story time at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sactuary. Fridays at 10:30am, kiddos gather round for a nature-themed book often accompanied by a live animal followed by a handson activity. heardmuseum.org
Start your month of celebration at Interurban Railway Museum where Eugene the Motor-Mouse tells the tale of The Polar Express during Plano’s Dickens Festival on Dec. 1. The rest of the month, join story time followed by a guided tour of the over-100-year-old Car 360 every Friday morning at 10:30am. Don’t forget to peruse the collection of interactive STEM displays before you leave. interurbanrailwaymuseum.org
Let your child be king or queen for the day at Arturo’s Nest inside the Dallas Museum of Art. This month’s theme is imaginary worlds. Kids bring imagination to life with a kid-size castle, mini marionette theater and dress-up crowns and capes to defeat the dragons. dma.org
Give your kids a local history lesson while they take a break from the books at Dallas Heritage Village. This month, visitors can tour three historic homes decorated with photos, artifacts and memorabilia from prominent societies in Dallas’ history: the Jewish Historical Society, the Dallas Mexican American Historical League and Remembering Black Dallas. If you can swing it, get to the annual candlelight celebration on Dec. 9 and 10. You’ll be serenaded by carolers dressed in period costumes and take a candlelit hayride on an antique tractor. dallasheritagevillage.org
For $7 (free for ages 2 and younger), your jet-setter can scramble up and down a play control tower with knobs and levers, slide out of a kid-size plane or even catch a show at the mini theater at Frontiers of Flight. flightmuseum.com
This month, kiddos meditate on the extraordinary 3-D sculptures that paper can create—and it’s not just paper airplanes—in the Paper Into Sculpture exhibit at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Get the most out of your visit on the First Saturday (Dec. 2) for free family activities such as arts and crafts, art scavenger hunt and a family tour through the museum. nashersculpturecenter.org
In December, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas celebrates its fifth birthday with free cupcakes, ice cream chemistry demos and 3-D chocolate printing on select days for museum ticket holders. And Dec. 23–Jan. 7, older kids experiment with arctic slime, dry ice bubbles and snowball launchers while kids ages 5 and younger make melted snowmen and snowflakes and do other water-play activities at the Candy Cane Art Lab
(free with admission). Don’t forget to download the winter-themed scavenger hunt before you go. perotmuseum.org
It’s hard to find a rainbow on these wintry days so take the kids to Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum where they can literally walk under one in the large-scale Plexus No. 34 exhibit by Gabriel Dawe. On display through next year, the piece uses over 80 miles of thread to make the illusion of a rainbow. Make it an interactive experience by downloading and listening to the complimentary playlist featuring “colorful” songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Yellow by Coldplay. cartermuseum.org
Take a free family-friendly tour of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Ask for a picture card from the Piano Pavilion, then discuss the fun facts about selected masterpieces throughout the museum. Take an intermission between gallery strolls to read books and play with blocks in family area Studio A. On the first three Saturdays of this month, kids can explore the artistic element of zigzag lines in the Kids Drop-in Studio. kimbellart.org
A Wild Holiday
Pet and feed the animals of Preston Trail Farms in Gunter. Admission is free, but feed for the cows, sheep, goats, chickens and more costs $3 per cup. prestontrailfarms.com
Being able to tell their friends they met a zorse might make going back to school even more enjoyable for your kids. Fortunately, they can meet and pet a zorse and his furry friends at Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch in Pilot Point. $12 for adults, $10 for ages 3–12 and free for kids 2 and younger. sharkarosa.com
Get in the Holiday Spirit
Find Santa’s missing reindeer in the world’s largest outdoor light maze at Enchant at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Under the big top, take a picture with Santa in his golden palace, glide on the ice pond, walk through the Christkindl Market Lane and sip on cider while kids brave the mini maze by themselves. Also, bring the selfie stick for a family photo with one of the giant 25-foot tall reindeer at the main entrance. $29.95 per adult, $21.95 per child, free for ages 4 and younger. enchantchristmas.com
Take a carriage ride under the twinkling lights of Fort Worth’s Stockyard Station. For $15 per person or $5 per child ages 5–9 (free for 4 and under), a horse-drawn carriage takes you past the stables, arena, Cowtown Coliseum and giant Christmas tree and back to the visitors center. Take a photo with Santa and listen to Mrs. Claus’s story time at the end of Stockyards Station Friday–Sunday noon–5pm right from now till Christmas Eve when Santa leaves to make his way around the world. stockyardsstation.com
Calling all Cooks
Get in the holiday spirit at a Gingerbread workshop at Taste Buds Kitchen in Southlake. Listen to holiday tunes and sip hot chocolate as you and your kiddo combine skills to build a gum drop bedazzled gingerbread house. Workshop days and times vary throughout the month. $45 per child, free for one parent. tastebudskitchen.com/southlake
Bake and decorate cookies and gingerbread houses at the Fort Worth or Southlake Central Market Cooking School. In the gingerbread class, you and your pastry chef decorate traditional Swiss Lebkuchen homes; in the cookie class, your little one will leave her mark (literally) on jam thumbprint, chocolate chip and molasses crinkle cookies. Finally, in cookie decorating, you and yours will unleash the artist within using edible paint (read: icing). centralmarket.com