2018 Winter/Christmas Break Guide: 25 fun things to do with your kids in Northwest Arkansas when school is closed

Winter Break Activity Guide, Northwest Arkansas

After the excitement of the holidays, there’s that looong stretch of winter break that can make parents — and kids — feel a little cabin feverish after a while.

When those moments hit, you need inspiration! So consider this guide your Winter in NWA Bucket List.

To keep everyone happy this winter, here are 25 cool ideas for things to do with kids of all ages in Northwest Arkansas (including some special events that happen BEFORE Christmas day while the kids are out of school):

1. Skate it off, skate it off. Ice skate or swim at the Jones Center (indoors) in Springdale or ice skate at Lawrence Plaza in Bentonville (outside), which is open through Jan. 21.

There are also some roller skating options, including Starlight Skatium in Fayetteville (they’ll have expanded hours over Winter Break) and Great Day Skate Place in Bentonville.

2. Play places for the little ones. A great place for little kids to play is Fast Lane Entertainment in Lowell. They have bowling, arcade games and and AWESOME big play structure that even the littles can have fun climbing. They even offer a special lunch/climbing special for the kids.

There’s also  Fun City in Springdale and the Amazeum Children’s Museum in Bentonville, which has fun interactive exhibits for all ages (including 2 and under).

The Little Gym has a Winter Camp Extravaganza from Wednesday, Dec. 26-Monday, January 7th. Ages 3-10 (must be potty trained). Snacks are provided at these fun camps, which include Lego mania, New Year’s Beach Bash and Dance Party.

CLICK HERE to see the Baby/Toddler Guide to Northwest Arkansas.

3. Go bowling. Not only can you bowl, but you can also play laser tag and try super-cool virtual reality games at Fast Lane Entertainment in Lowell. You can also try to bowl a spare at Ozark Lanes in Fayetteville, Rogers Bowling Center or Springdale Bowling Center,

Fast Lane has a Winter Break Special running Dec. 21st through January 7th. For $14.99 per person you get unlimited access to bowling, laser tag, rides and their giant play land from 9 a.m. to noon daily.

On Christmas Day, Fast Lane is offering a special for $24.99 per person. You can score unlimited access to bowling, laser tag, their giant play land and all rides from 4 p.m. to midnight.

4. Jump your sillies out. Jump and jump your sillies out at Altitude Trampoline Park in Fayetteville for lots of fun for all ages! HighRise is a trampoline park in Rogers.

5. Climb your cabin fever out. Let the kids climb their cabin fever out at Lewis & Clark in Springdale or at the Ozark Climbing Gym in Springdale, which has winter climbing camps for kids ages 7 to 11 on Jan. 2-4, 10 a.m. to noon. The camp includes games, technique instruction, and of course a lot of climbing.

6. Enjoy Winter Break Wonders Camp at Crystal Bridges. Bring the kids to Crystal Bridges museum over their school break to enjoy special family-friendly activities each afternoon for Winter Break Wonders. Make memories at the museum over your school break as you create with artists, make buttons in the gallery, and listen to fun music together as a family. (Free, no registration required.) The dates are December 22-24; December 26- December 31; Jan 2-4, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

7. Play arcade games. If you like Pac-Man and Zelda, try Retrocade Arkadia in Fayetteville has all the vintage machines. Of course, Fast Lane Entertainment has lots of arcade games for big and little kids (plus virtual reality games).

8. Visit a museum. Why not learn something new while hanging out at a great NWA museum on a cold winter’s day? We already mentioned Crystal Bridges which is perfect for a fun indoor activity that also enriches. There are permanent and traveling exhibits to check out in addition to classes, workshops, a big art room for play — plus lots of events. You can also enjoy the 50,000 square foot Amazeum Children’s Museum, which isn’t far from Crystal Bridges and offers “Priceless Nights” on Wednesday nights (donation only for admission). Crystal Bridges and the Amazeum both have food options, too.

If you want your kids to learn more about history, there’s the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville and Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale. If you visit the Walmart Museum in Bentonville (which has some fun, old-fashioned candy available for purchase), be sure to stop by the Spark Cafe next door for ice cream. There’s also the Rogers Historical Museum, the Clinton House Museum in Fayetteville, the Lowell Historical Museum, the Arkansas Air and Military Museum and Headquarters House Museum.

Speaking of the Walmart Museum and The Spark Cafe next door, you can score a free ice cream at the soda fountain through Jan. 1, 2019, as part of an offer they’re doing exclusively with nwaMotherlode. Woo-hoo! Also, Santa will be visiting The Walmart Museum on the dates below in December, which would be a fun family outing. It’s free to the public and you can bring your camera to get fun photos with St. Nick.

Santa will be at the Walmart Museum on these dates and times:

  • Thursday 12/6 from 5pm to 8pm
  • Monday 12/10 from 5pm to 8pm
  • Saturday 12/22 from 9am to 1pm

9. Create something! You can make art together at Imagine Studios, Painting with a Twist, Junque 2 Jewels and Community Creative Center. There’s also the new Rogers Experimental House for an artistic outing.

The Fayetteville Public Library will have a Holiday Artsy Craftsyevent on Saturday, Dec. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon (all supplies provided).

The Springdale Public Library is hosting free craft days Dec. 26-28. They’ll provide some fun crafts to make and take home. You can drop by between 10 and 11 a.m. any of the three days.

10. School’s Out Day Camp (all day) at Rogers Activity Center. Send the kiddos to Rogers Activity Center School’s Out Camps for all-day care. They’ll go on field trips and have fun while school’s out.

11. Enjoy Skatemas Break at the Jones Center. On December 26th, ice skating takes over the holidays and it will be time for Skatemas Break. After Christmas and before New Year’s Eve, the Jones Center is opening up the rink for extended all-day sessions. From Dec 26-30, public ice skating sessions will be from 12 pm until 8 pm (2-3:45 pm on Sunday). Skating is just $3 per person. Ultimate members get unlimited free skating during public sessions. Door Prizes, Holiday Music.

There will also be movies in the theater each day at 3 p.m.:

  • Wednesday (12/26/2018) – Polar Express
  • Thursday (12/27/2018) – The Grinch
  • Friday (12/28/2018) – Arthur Christmas
  • Saturday (12/29/2018)- Home Alone

The Jones Center also has an event scheduled for Dec. 22 called the Ho Ho Holiday Skate Party Open House.This is a FREE family event including complimentary skating with friends and family, hot chocolate, holiday goodies, and a visit from Santa Claus!

And after the holiday, on Jan. 4th, the Jones Center will have a Winter 2019 Skate Camp all day for kids 4-18 years old. It’s only $25.

12. Play laser tag, inside or out. Complete a super-cool mission at Modern Mission. They’ve got outdoor indoor laser tag or an indoor battlefield to tackle in Fayetteville.

13. Visit a bookstore. There are several quirky favorites in Fayetteville: Nightbird Books, Dickson Street Bookshop or the Curious Book Shoppe on Block Street. There’s also Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville and Rogers.

And there’s a new bookstore in Bentonville called Two Friends Books & Records!

14. Visit your local library. Browse the books, play with puzzles, listen to a story time or attend an event at the big public libraries in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale (home of the “duck park”) or Fayetteville.

15. Get dramatic at the theatre. Trike Theatre is having a fun event called December Break: Holiday Musical Revue Camp. It’s $45 for grades K-8th, on Friday, Dec. 21st, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get into the spirit and perform scenes and songs from great holiday classics.

You can also go see some fun shows at Walton Arts Center! See The Polar Express together as a family on Dec. 21st at 7 p.m. Put on your PJs and head over to WAC for a special screening of the family-favorite Christmas story about a young boy on an extraordinary ride to the North Pole. Hot chocolate bar included. Tickets are $10.

On Jan. 4-5, you’ll be able to see The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical at Walton Arts Center. It’s going to be lit!

16. Attend a New Year’s Eve event. There are two great family-friendly NYE events happening in NWA, including Noon Year’s Eve at Crystal Bridges, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ring in the New Year (without staying up past bedtime) at this fourth annual family celebration. There will be fun art projects, performances, a Coca-Cola toast at noon, and a family dance party. Free, no registration required.

Zing in the New Year at the Amazeum on Monday, Dec. 31. Visit the museum during the day to help celebrate the beginning of 2019. The Amazeum will open at 10 am (member hour from 9-10 am) and close at 3 pm. Activities throughout the day include a photo booth, creating wishing balloons to be released during the countdown, the Hershey’s S’mores Pit (weather permitting), and a final end-of-day parade for 2018. Zing in the New Year activities are included in paid daily admission and membership.

Fast Lane Entertainment has some New Year’s Eve packages available. Click here to read about the options.

If you’d rather be skating, Starlight Skatium in Fayetteville will once again host an “all-night skate” on  New Year’s Eve from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for $25.

17. Watch some planes! Thaden Field is a great spot for the kids to see planes flying to and fro. The 22,000 square foot Thaden Fieldhouse on the Northwest side of the airport houses an aviation exhibition center, a retail space, and a large balcony allowing visitors to watch as aircraft come and go from the nearby runways. And there’s a cool restaurant where you can see the planes, too.

18. Find out where bluebirds come from. Watch the Bluebirds of Happiness come to life at Terra Studios outside of Fayetteville. If it’s not too cold, walk around and see all the quirky sculptures. There’s also a gallery featuring local art of all kinds.

19. Catch a movie. You should check out the reclining seats at the newly-renovated Fiesta Square and Razorback Malco theatres, both in Fayetteville. And have you visited Skylight Cinema in Benonville? You can eat dinner while you watch a movie there!

The Fayetteville Public Library will be showing some fun school’s-out movies on Dec. 20-21 and Dec. 27-28.

On Jan. 2, the Springdale Public Library will host a movie marathon that’s sure to melt those post-holiday blues away. Watch “Incredibles 2” and “Ferdinand” in the children’s department from 1-5 p.m. Snack will be provided.

20. Watch real eagles! Hobbs State Park has offered eagle watch tours on Beaver Lake for nine years. Every cruise is different. You never know what wildlife you will see. According to Chelsea Porter, park interpreter, “We have always been lucky seeing eagles on our tours; some mature, some immature, and we always see other beautiful wildlife as well. It could be migrating osprey, great blue herons, king fishers, deer, or red-tailed hawks. No one will ever be disappointed on our eagle tours.” Tickets must be purchased in advance. Adults $10 + tax. Children 6-12 $5 + tax. For more information and to make reservations, call 479-789-5000.

21. Hop a train. The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad offers Holiday Express train rides right before Christmas.

22. Visit kitties. The Purr Catfe in Fayetteville partners with local shelters & rescues to facilitate the successful socialization & placement of homeless cats while offering community members “a space to enjoy the company of these furballs & reap the many benefits of purr therapy.” (There is a cost to visit the kitties — this is a non-profit.)

23. Go out to eat on the cheap. Pop over to our Kids Eat Free List to see where you can go during the week for free or inexpensive meals for the kids.

24. Go see the holiday lights before they’re gone! The Fayetteville Square lights will be up through New Year’s Day. CLICK HERE to see a big list of where to see holiday lights plus more Christmas events in Northwest Arkansas.

25. Join forces with your kids to help others. A local mom shared with us how she and her kids do the “giving back” calendar every year. CLICK HERE to see all the fun ideas she had for what to do this holiday season to make someone’s life brighter.