While a chunk of Winter Break will be spent on family gatherings, we’ve drummed up 16+ ideas for family fun — some around town, a few at home, and all free or budget-friendly — to help you make the most of your winter break. Close out the year and keep the kids busy with our annual list of 16 things to do over Winter Break in the Twin Cities!
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS FOR WINTER BREAK IDEAS IN THE TWIN CITIES:
- Our latest DECEMBER WEEKEND GUIDE
- Our round up of WEEKLY ACTIVITIES
- Our fully-stocked FAMILY FUN CALENDAR
- Our merry and bright TWIN CITIES HOLIDAY GUIDE
December 8-13, 2023
Screening classic holiday films White Christmas, Elf & It’s a Wonderful Life. $5/pp or $3 with non-perishable food donation. Don’t miss the excellent and reasonably-priced popcorn! And remember, Tuesday’s the day of the deal when it comes to Twin Cities movie theaters. Check our list of discounts at Twin Cities Cheap Flicks.
December 16, 2023
American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Let littles roam free in a real-life castle after an hour or so of structured activity time with stories, songs and games aimed at ages 2-5. This month’s program has a holiday bent as the mansion will be decorated for the season. 9-10am, $15/family.
December 16-17, 2023
The final holiday weekend before Christmas is absolutely packed with things to do in all corners of the Minneapolis-St Paul metro area. Breakfasts with Santa, holiday light shows, outdoor wintry activities and ways to stay cozy dominate:
- WEEKEND EVENTS IN MINNEAPOLIS & ST PAUL
- WEEKEND EVENTS IN THE TWIN CITIES NORTHWEST METRO
- WEEKEND EVENTS IN THE TWIN CITIES NORTHEAST METRO
- WEEKEND EVENTS IN THE TWIN CITIES SOUTHWEST METRO
- WEEKEND EVENTS IN THE TWIN CITIES SOUTHEAST METRO
December 16-31, 2023
Mississippi River Visitor Center, 120 Kellogg Blvd West, Saint Paul, MN 55102
This event isn’t technically in a park setting (the visitor center is located in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota) but the activities center on the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – operated by the National Park Service. Kids can complete a Junior Ranger activity booklets, and earn a Junior Ranger badge FREE. December 16-31, 2023, 12:30-2pm. CLOSED Christmas Day.
ADD ON: A family visit to the Science Museum of Minnesota is loads of fun and y’all might learn a thing or two over school break, too. But no pressure, the three stories of permanent and traveling science exhibits are designed to be hands-on and super fun. Kids can try different science experiments and even see a real mummy. And the Omnitheater screens 3-4 films per day.
December 21, 2023
Westwood Hills Nature Center, 8300 W Franklin Ave, St Louis Park, MN 55426
Celebrate the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year) with an illuminated walk towards spring. Make sure to register in advance to receive a start time. Learn more about what Westwood Hills has to offer and get excited to visit for your visit. 6:30-8:30pm, FREE.
We have collected several ways to observe the winter solstice (and turning point from the dark) on this activity list. Activities take place December 15-21, 2023.
December 22, 2022
Before Santa’s gone…bring your Christmas list and visit him at Cabela’s in Woodbury. Please make your (free!) advance reservation to meet Santa and get a free 4X6 photo! Thru Dec 24 during store hours. Find our master list of where you can meet Santa in the Twin Cities – there are still a few opportunities before he packs up his sleigh and heads off for a little vacation.
December 23, 2023
Lace up a pair of ice skates: Bring your skates to the Central Park Ice Skating Loop in Maple Grove or the canals of Centennial Lakes Park in Edina. Skating is free and the backdrops are lovely; skate rental is available for about $8 per pair if you need it. Dick’s House of Sport in Ridgedale Mall (Minnetonka) is also offering FREE skating on their outdoor ice rink through December 30 with skate rental just $3. Searching for ice closer to home? Use our Skate the Twin Cities list to find your nearest free outdoor ice rink.
December 24, 2023
Bake that last batch of cookies: Do your kids like to help in the kitchen as much as mine? Need a last-minute idea for the holiday cookie exchange? We’ve got some sweet and blessedly simple recipes to whip up sugar cookies and gingerbread cut-outs.
December 25, 2023
Merry Christmas if you celebrate! Got some down time after you’ve cleared away all the wrapping paper and gift boxes? Make it a craft day and stay cozy at home making these homemade ornaments for next year’s tree.
December 26, 2023
Take a holiday lights tour – and bring along this list of Minnesota Christmas Lights & Music Shows to find one near you. If you’re in the car destined to or from the relatives, maybe you’ll find a new display en route.
December 27, 2023
Visit an indoor winter market like the one at EAGAN COMMUNITY CENTER – from 4-7pm kids can do a special “produce hunt” activity while caregivers shop for local products. Make a day of it at THE BLAST INDOOR PLAYGROUND, also located in the community center. The perfect way to work out winter break wiggles and just $5/child. Speaking of kids with energy to burn, we have a dozen more indoor play places listed on our ultimate guide to TWIN CITIES INDOOR PLAYGROUNDS.
December 28, 2023
Thursdays mean FREE MUSEUM night at a couple Minneapolis museums we think are definitely worth checking out (especially if you can waive the admission fee for a family): First, AMERICAN SWEDISH INSTITUTE is free after 3pm and this month is an idea time to go as the mansion is all decked out for the holidays and their seasonal exhibit runs through January 4, 2024. Kids will love a gallery designed just for them and poking around the “castle” like museum for little tomtes (elves). Second, the WALKER ART CENTER is free Thursday nights from 5-9pm and could make for an interesting outing with older kids.
December 29, 2023
Make it a cozy pajamas-and-Christmas movies kind of day. You might well have been doing this since Thanksgiving (we’ve already checked it off the list), but in case you need a few more classic suggestions…Gianna has laid out 32 Christmas movies to enjoy at home.
December 31, 2023
Celebrate the closing of 2023
Whip out our list of New Year’s Eve Family Events. Choose from kids dance parties, outdoor adventures, obstacles courses, ice skating, crafting and more.
January 1, 2024
Go sledding or snow tubing for New Years Day!
But where to find the best hills? Our Twin Cities Sledding Hills Guide contains a long list of the best – in all shapes and sizes. Gianna’s Winter Break Survival Guide also has a great list of St. Paul & Minneapolis-area sledding hills along with spots to go snow tubing in the Twin Cities. Pictured below are a few of my absolute favorite kids on the giant hill Town & Country Club golf course in St Paul – free for all to sled on.
Winter break into January
You’ve almost made it to the end! Go out with a bang visiting the magical Ice Castles – held this year in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Gianna has tips on how to make the most of your visit here and likely we’ll be able to offer you an exclusive reader discount of 15% off if you purchase tickets with our code. 12500 82nd Ave N, Maple Grove, MN 55369.
More winter break ideas
Trade in the snow and cold outdoors for some green and warmth inside the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Make a day of it exploring the Tropical Encounters exhibit, the cozy conservatory and the cheerful Holiday Flower Show. All activities are FREE, just remember to make an online reservation beforehand.
Beat break boredom and burn off energy
Open Gym & Play sessions across the Metro are budget-friendly – FREE or under $5 per child to attend – and come with a practically-guaranteed nap following. If you’ve got older kids, our Twin Cities Indoor Playground and Trampoline Park Guide might come in handy.
- Best Places to Buy Real Christmas Trees in the Twin Cities
- Cross-Country Skiing and Downhill Skiing / Snowboarding in the Twin Cities
- Wintertime Survival Guide
- Indoor Activities for Kids
- Fun Activities and Events For Kids of All Ages
- Find fun indoor games and board games for kids when it’s chilly outside.
- Visit your local library
- Top Kids Story Time Options in the Twin Cities
- Turn Family Movie Night into a Cozy Act of Kindness
- Cold Weather Crafts to do at Home When You Don’t Want to Leave Your House
- Plan a winter getaway to Disneyland
- Find hundreds more things to do in Minneapolis & St Paul with kids!