2019: 25 FREE Things to Do with Your Kids Over Winter Holiday Break in Des Moines

2019: 25 FREE Things to Do with Your Kids Over Winter Holiday Break in Des Moines

From December 21, 2019 through January 5, 2020, Des Moines students are officially on holiday break. As your family gears up for days of gleeful abandon (or mass chaos;), we’ve pulled together some fun ideas for things to do with kids over the break.

While we recently offered several fun camps, classes, events and activities for your kids 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 AND give your wallet a break.  

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 things to do over the holiday winter break in Des Moines:

1. Attend Joy to the World, presented by the Central Iowa Figure Skating club.  They will be putting on their holiday show at Buccaneer Arena on December 21, 2019 and they invite the public to attend and support their skaters.

2. Tour the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates while it’s decorated for the holidays.  Public tours are offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

3. Kids ages 5 to 12 can learn to bowl at Great Escape’s FREE Christmas Break Learn to Bowl Class offered December 26 and 27, 2019.  

4. One person can ice skate for FREE during Brenton skating plaza’s Two for One Tuesdays.

5. Learn how to find clues about the animals that live around us at “Tracks and Scat” at Jester Park Nature Center on December 26, 2019.

6. Shoot a few hoops during Grimes Park and Recreation’s Family Open Gym time at the Grimes Community Complex.  Kids 10 and under must be directly supervised by an adult.

7. Join the Clive Public Library for some Thursday Night Fun.  On December 26th, they’ll be calling for some Family Bingo fun. Registration required.   

8. Have a ball during Des Moines Parks and Recreation’s Family Fun Night, every Friday night at Pioneer Columbus Community Recreation Center. (Cost is $1 per person ages 18 to 59 with FREE admission for youth and seniors.)

9. 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.  

10. Teens (ages 12+) can bring friends and make new ones during Clive Public Library’s Teen Winter Break Shut-in on December 27, 2019.

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

12. Learn how Animals Prepare for Winter at the Urbandale Public Library on December 27, 2019.

2019: 25 FREE Things to Do with Your Kids Over Winter Holiday Break in Des Moines – dsm4kids.com

13. Feed the fish in the Bass Pro Shops Main Aquarium. You can watch them feed the fish every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or kids four and older can reserve a spot to assist with the feeding.

14. Relax and celebrate at a Winter Break Party at the North Side Library on December 27th. They will provide board games, crafts, and snacks for you to enjoy!

15. Gawk at holiday lights. If you haven’t made it out to look at holiday lights, time is running out! Now is the time to check them out before they come down for the season.

16. Warm up over winter break at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. They have several activities planned through their Goldie’s Kids Club, including movie matinees and a History Mystery on December 27 and 28, 2019.

17. 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.

18. Take a Winter Hike on December 29, 2019 with a Polk County Naturalist and discover the wonder of Jester Park’s forest in the winter. No registration required.

19. Grab your skates and 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.

20. Put those gaming skills to good use during Johnston Public Library’s Smash Bros. & Mario Kart Video Game Tournament on December 30, 2019.

21. 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. 

22. Engineer the perfect Mystery Movie Fort at the East Side Library.  Lounge in your creation as you watch a fun mystery movie or take your creation to curl up with a good book in the library on December 30, 2019.

23. Check out some great art at the Des Moines Art Center, where admission is always FREE.  They are CLOSED on Mondays.  They will also be closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

24. Ring in the New Year at a kid-friendly event, many of which are FREE to attend.  

25. Do you wanna build a snowman?  If your kids need a little incentive…they can enter West Des Moines Parks & Recreation’s Snowman Building Contest.  Find contest details in the Winter/Spring 2020 Program Guide. 



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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