Winter Solstice marks a changing point, but it also leaves us to wonder: How much longer until spring? To keep kids from going crazy (or driving you crazy) here are ideas for things to do during winter break and beyond.

Free Activities

Ice skating: Kids can skate for free at the Rink on Fridays this winter. That includes free skate rental and hot chocolate for ages 17 and younger. Hours are 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. This Maranda’s Free Skate 4 Kids is sponsored by the Battle Creek Community Foundation.Noon Year’s Eve: Gather in downtown Battle Creek on New Year’s Eve. There will be a countdown at noon, with confetti balls falling at the strike of 12. After that, go on a scavenger hunt to different downtown businesses and gather free party items, like 2020 glasses.Walk in the woods: Appreciate nature while getting some exercise. 

  • Calhoun County Parkway in Battle Creek
  • Brooks Nature Area in Marshall (recommended for snowshoeing)
  • Marshall Riverwalk in Marshall 
  • Whitehouse Nature Center in Albion
  • Fort Custer State Park in Augusta (recommended for cross-country skiing, dog sledding and snowshoeing)

Binder Park Golf Course: Once it snows, you can sled, snowboard, cross-country ski and snowshoe at the golf course. They offer equipment to borrow, so you can try something new. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.Willard Library: Willard has a new 3D printing machine, a vinyl cutting lab and Maker Kits. Submit a project to the 3D machine and library staff will print it out for you to take home -- it costs 10 cents per gram. The vinyl cutting machines are for adult use, so kids must be accompanied and you can work on a project together. Check out if you want to try a vinyl craft class. The Maker Kits can be checked out for free and you can use them to record a podcast with a professional microphone, fold origami, learn how to play the ukulele or control a BB8 Droid.

Places to go

Cereal City Escape: The newest escape room is Wizard Academy, where you have to solve puzzles if you want to graduate as a full-fledged wizard. Cereal City Escape has two other rooms: Syndicate's Revenge and Pawn Shop. If you want to make a day of it, go see a movie at NCG Cinema and bring your ticket stub for 20% off the escape room. Both are located in Lakeview Square Mall.Grandma’s Party and Play: The Marshall toy shop has expanded, with a new space for playtime and crafts. Fans of the Melissa and Doug products will recognize a lot of the toys that kids can spend time playing with. Hours are 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For craft times, go to Pinball Museum: Bring your quarters and play some old-fashioned pinball at the Playable Pinball Museum. It’s located in the atrium of Kellogg Arena, by the Biggby Coffee. Most of the games are only a quarter to play.Movie theaters: Winter is a great time for family movies. Look for: “Little Woman” (Dec. 25), “Spies in Disguise” (Dec. 25), “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle” (Jan. 17), “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Feb. 14) and “Trolls World Tour” (Feb. 14).Here are some special events happening in local theaters:

  • NCG Cinemas has sensory friendly movies -- that means the lights are up, the volume is down and it’s okay for kids to talk, move or sing along with the movie. Winter movies include “The Polar Express” at 9:30 a.m. from Dec. 18-24; “Dolittle” on Jan. 18; and “Sonic the Hedgehog” on Feb. 22. 
  • See a classic movie in a classic movie palace: “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be at Bohm Theatre in Albion, 11 a.m. Dec. 28 for $5.

Postcards: Brighten someone’s winter with a postcard. There are some colorful options at the Battle Creek Welcome Center. It’s also a chance to get your photo with Tony and the Tiger and to stop by the Cereal History Exhibit.YMCA: Buy a day pass and get access to the pool and gyms. It costs $16 for family or $6 for ages 13-18 and $10 for ages 19 and older.Bowling: It’s a time-honored classic for a reason.

  • Bowlero Fun Center has half-off Tuesdays, when they open early at noon and have discounts on bowling, virtual reality and laser tag.
  • Marshall Lanes is open during the day if you’ve got time off of school.On Wednesdays, you can get started as early as 9 a.m.

End of the year events

Light displays: There’s still time to check out the lights before Christmas. 

  • Binder Park Zoo's ZooLights is open Dec. 20-22 for lights, animals and carousel rides. 
  • The last Warming House date is Dec. 21 at the Battle Creek Welcome Center. Kids can get a photo with Santa and do a craft. There’s also free horse-drawn wagon rides to see the Festival of Lights in downtown Battle Creek. 
  • The Marshall Merry Mile at the fairgrounds is open until Dec. 30.

A Year with Frog and Toad”: Based on the classic children’s book series, this musical is about the adventures of two best friends. Great Escape Stage Co. is performing until Dec. 22.Kids ‘N’ Stuff Noon Year’s Eve: The hands-on museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special activities include making a party popper for the noon countdown and a toast with sparkling punch. It’s regular admission for nonmembers and free for members.