25+ FREE Things 4 Kids to Do in Des Moines on Winter Holiday Break - dsm4kids.com

25+ FREE Things 4 Kids to Do in Des Moines on Winter Holiday Break

Students all over Des Moines will be out of school on winter break in just a few short weeks. Time off from school means more time to entertain your brood.

While we recently offered a number of fun DSM options for your family to enjoy during break, we’ve rounded up even more great ideas. Our list of 25 FREE things to do with the kids during winter break offers ways to enjoy the school vacation without denting your budget.

Need more local inspiration? Check out our Holiday Fun and Winter Fun Guides. And, as always, our daily Event Calendar is loaded with even more family activities happening all over the Metro.

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FREE kid-friendly events happening over winter break in Des Moines:

Family Open Gym

Shoot a few hoops before you go back to school. Family Open Gym is at the Grimes Community Complex.  They have the basketballs for you or you can bring in your own. Kids 10 and under must be directly supervised by an adult.

When: Wednesdays December 26, 2018 and January 2, 2019 at 5:00 to 8:00 pm
Saturdays and Sundays December 29 & 30, 2018 and January 5 & 6, 2019 at 1:00 to 3:00 pm

Free Flicks at South: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Kids and families! Do you have a Golden Ticket? Visit South Library during Winter Break and watch the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (Rated G). They’ll have props for kids to interact with, snacks, and prize drawings afterwards! Parent or guardian must be present with children during the screening.

When: Wednesday, December 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm.

Christmas Break Learn To Bowl Classes

Kids can learn basic bowling fundamentals from certified coaches at Great Escape in Pleasant Hill.  Topics covered include: equipment and safety, approach and delivery and hand position and spot bowling.  Find the registration form on-line.

When: December 27 & 28, 2018 at 10:00 to 11:00 am

Take a Break from Winter Break – Movie

Everything is awesome at the Indianola Public Library when you can play with Legos while watching “The Lego Movie”!

When: Thursday, December 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm.

Matinee at the Museum

Warm up this winter break at the State Historical Museum of Iowa with free films from two Iowa directors and tours of the “Hollywood in the Heartland” exhibition. The winter break fun fest begins Dec. 27 with the screening of Big Hero 6 (PG), co-directed by Glenwood, Iowa, native Don Hall and continues Dec. 28 with Avengers: Infinity Wars (PG-13), which was co-directed by University of Iowa graduate Joe Russo, one half of the Russo brothers.

When: December 27 & 28, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Smash Bros. & Mario Kart Video Game Tournament

It’s a video game tournament extravaganza at the Johnston Public Library! You’ll be playing the new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U and Mario Kart! Compete in one tournament or all three! There will be fabulous prizes for the winners and yummy snacks for everyone. For students in 6th grade and up. Call or register online.

When: December 27, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Teen Escape Room

Experience the “Breakout Room” phenomenon! Bring friends OR make new ones among your fellow escapees at the Urbandale Public Library. Use creativity and tenacity to work together, think critically, and solve all the puzzles before the time runs out. For kids ages 12-17. Registration is required.

When: December 27, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Tween Escape Room

Experience the “Breakout Room” phenomenon! Bring friends OR make new ones among your fellow escapees at the Urbandale Public Library. Use creativity and tenacity to work together, think critically, and solve all the puzzles before the time runs out. For kids ages 10-14. Registration is required.

When: December 27, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Winter Hike at Jester Park

Take a hike with a Polk County Naturalist and discover the wonder of the forest in the winter. No registration required.

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 at 10:00 am.

The Real Beal’s One Man Band

You won’t want to miss this charmingly fascinating program!  The Real Beals have traveled the country sharing their love of rock and roll with a unique flair. The music’s great, and you’ll be amazed at how Jeff plays the guitar, drums, and more all at the same time!

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

Movie & Munchies: Elfin Edition

Kids in grades 7-12 can can watch “Elf” at the Altoona Public Library. Enjoy snacks from the four main elf food groups (and pizza) and play bingo with scenes and sayings from the movie for “fabulous” prizes!  No registration necessary.

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm.

Incredibles 2 Movie Party

Enjoy a craft and some snacks while you watch everyone’s favorite superhero family save the world again at the Franklin Avenue Library.  This movie is one hour and fifty-eight minutes long and is rated PG. Please be aware that this movie contains a sequence of flashing lights, which may affect customers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or other photo sensitivities.

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm.

Family Fun Night

Join Des Moines Parks and Recreation every Friday night at Pioneer Columbus Community Recreation Center for Family Fun Nights! Participants will have full access to all amenities at the newly renovated facility for basketball, pickleball, dodge ball in the gym. They’ll also have board games, a ping pong table a pool table, weight room, computer lab and cardio room for your enjoyment.

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 and January 4, 2019 at 5:00 to 8:00 pm

Teen Winter Break Shut-in

Teens (ages 12+), have you ever wanted to know what it is like to be in the Clive Library after hours and in the dark? Tired of the same old winter break activities? Bring friends and make new ones during a super fun shut-in with a pizza party, sugar treats, and a variety of activities (some in the dark) that we are in the mix of planning.

When: Friday, December 28, 2018 at 5:45 to 10:00 pm

Free Friday Flicks : Space Jam (PG)

In a desperate attempt to win a basketball match and earn their freedom, the Looney Tunes seek the aid of retired basketball champion, Michael Jordan. Watch the movie at the North Side Library.  Popcorn provided. Please feel free to bring in a blanket and a covered drink to relax and enjoy this film!

When: Friday, January 4, 2019 at 3:30 pm

FREE kid-friendly activities you can do anytime over Winter Break:

Go Sledding

Weather permitting, find a fun hill in Des Moines and take the family sledding over winter break.

Go Ice Skating

Local ice rinks managed by Parks and Recreation Departments are FREE to skate on, but you have to supply your own skates.

Visit the Wells Fargo Museum

Located in downtown Des Moines admission to the museum is FREE.  Its open Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.  They will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Visit the Des Moines Art Center

Admission to the Art Center is always FREE.  Their hours over winter break are Tuesday through Friday 11:00 am to 4:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm.  They are CLOSED on Mondays.  They will also be closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Build a Snowman

Do you wanna build a snowman?  Kids surely will if we ever accumulate enough snow.  A little incentive…enter West Des Moines Parks & Recreation’s Snowman Building Contest.  After building your snow sculpture snap a photo of it and submit it to win $100 in “Parks & Rec Bucks.  Find contest details in the Winter/Spring 2019 Program Guide.

Feed the fish in the Bass Pro Shops Main Aquarium

You can watch them feed the fish every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 3:00 pm or kids four and older can reserve a spot to assist with the feeding.

Go for a hike through Brenton Arboretum

There is no admission fee to visit the Brenton Arboretum.  They are open daily 9:00 am to sunset.

Enjoy the great outdoors at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

The Refuge roads and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.  The Prairie Learning and Visitor Center is open year-round.   Winter hours, December 1-February 28, are Monday through Saturday from 9am-4pm.  They are CLOSED on Sunday.



How will you keep your kids entertained on a budget this Winter Break?  Help us all out and share your secrets in the Comments section below. 

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