Tarrant-area family events to beat the winter break blues

Members of the Texas Ballet Theater perform during a dress rehearsal of the "The Nutcracker" ballet at Bass Hall
Members of the Texas Ballet Theater perform during a dress rehearsal of the "The Nutcracker" ballet at Bass Hall Star-Telegram

Winter break is here! The kids have two weeks off from school, and the family is in town for a visit.

Between the holiday festivities, you probably will have some down time. Before cabin fever sets in, plan a day out. We rounded up ideas for local events and activities for all ages and and interests, including a few possibilities for New Year’s Eve with the whole family.

The great outdoors

Panther Island Ice

Fort Worth’s only ice skating rink is open through Jan. 19, including Christmas and New Year’s Day. Skates are included with admission. Dress for outdoor weather.

Details: Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily while school is out, through Jan. 4; hours on Christmas and New Year’s holidays vary. $11. 223 N.E. Fourth St., Fort Worth, 817-698-0700;

Winter Wonderland Hike

Take a hike appropriate for all ages at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. Observe the ways that the refuge changes in winter and how animals and plants adapt. Dress for outdoor weather. This hike is free with park admission. Meet at the Hardwicke Interpretive Center.

Details: 1-3 p.m. Dec. 29. $2-$5. 9601 Fossil Ridge Road, Fort Worth, 817-392-741;

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

The Grapevine Vintage Railroad is running a special After Christmas Train route from Friday to Dec. 30. It will run from the Grapevine Depot to the Fort Worth Stockyards and back. Ride in a vintage open-air passenger car and enjoy on-board entertainment. The train departs daily at 1 p.m. to arrive in the Stockyards at 2:30. Explore the Stockyards and depart for Grapevine again at 4:15 for a 5:45 p.m. arrival.

Details: 1-5:45 p.m. Friday-Dec. 30. $10-$28. 701 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-410-3579;

Screen and stage

‘The Nutcracker’

The Texas Ballet Theater performs the classic holiday ballet at Bass Hall, even after Christmas. When young Clara receives a nutcracker for a gift, it inspires a dream adventure with a nutcracker prince, sugarplum fairies, and an army of rats.

Details: Through Saturday. (Performances at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Tuesday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.) $15-$110. 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-212-4280;

Polar Pajama Parties

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is showing The Polar Express on the big screen at the IMAX Theater. Kids can wear pajamas, just like in the film, for a pre-show party. Enjoy themed hands-on activities, hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa. Tickets include the activities and film.

Details: 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, 6 p.m. Tuesday. $8-$12. 1600 Gendy St., Fort Worth, 817-255-9540;

Here Comes Santa Claus

Here Comes Santa Claus will appear onstage at Casa Mañana until the big man himself returns to the North Pole for his Christmas Eve deliveries. The story revolves around a boy who does not believe in Santa, but through a Christmas Carol-like experience learns the real meaning of the holiday. This musical is appropriate for all ages.

Details: 7 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. $20-$39. 3101 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-2272;

Holiday specials at Studio Movie Grill

Studio Movie Grill in Arlington will be screening two holiday films. On Tuesday, see The Muppet Christmas Carol and on Wednesday, It’s a Wonderful Life. Both films begin at 5 p.m. and have a discounted admission price.

Details: 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. $2-$5. 225 Merchants Row, Arlington, 817-466-4440;

’Twas the Night Before Christmas at Artisan Center Theater

This stage show has been so popular that dates have been extended. The classic poem gets a cute twist in this retelling that features a mouse named Izzy. Audience participation will appeal to kids of all ages. There are two showtimes each day.

Details: 10 a.m. and noon Monday and Tuesday. $5-$10. 444 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, 817-284-1200;

Seasonal fun

Santa in Sundance Square

If you haven’t had your child’s photo taken with Santa this year, visit him in Sundance Square Plaza under the 58-foot Christmas tree. Cost is a cash donation that will support Fort Worth Sister Cities International youth programs.

Details: 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. $10 donation. 420 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-255-5700.

Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway

Drive through a Christmas light experience at Texas Motor Speedway that includes more than 600 displays. After the drive, stop at Santa’s Village for activities and photos with Santa until Christmas. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots and receive a $5 discount.

Details: 6-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. $20 per car. 3545 Lone Star Circle, Fort Worth.

Holiday in the Park

Six Flags Over Texas continues the season with its annual Holiday in the Park celebration, open through Jan 4. Hours vary between weekends and weekdays, but the entire park is decorated in thousands of lights and features multiple holiday-themed shows, rides, performances by local show choirs and other musical groups, holiday foods and more.

Details: Open daily through Jan. 4. (Hours vary widely day to day; check website for more details.) $49.99-$64.99. 2201 Road to Six Flags, Arlington, 817-640-8900;

Starlight Symphony

The light display along Crockett Street in the West 7th shopping center performs a synchronized routine complete with music nightly. The routine plays for five minutes on the hour 6-10 p.m. Enjoy free carriage rides along the route Fridays and Saturdays. The pickup location is on Crockett Street near Dude, Sweet Chocolate (2925 Crockett St.).

Details: 6-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 3. Free. Crockett Street, Fort Worth.

Interlochen Lights

This Arlington neighborhood has become the must-see holiday light display of the area. Drive through and see more than 200 homes decked out with lights and decorations. Official hours start at 7 p.m. Expect heavy traffic and allow for a few hours to see it all.

Details: 7-10 p.m. Monday, 7-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Free. Westwood Drive and Randol Mill Road, Arlington.

UT Arlington Planetarium shows

Two seasonal shows are on the planetarium screen this week. Tuesday, watch “Season of Light” and learn about the winter solstice and holiday traditions around the world. Wednesday, enjoy a display with festive music at “Holiday Music Magic.”

Details: 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. $4-$6. 700 Planetarium Place, Arlington, 817-272-1183;

Ring in the new year

Zoo Year’s Eve

Send the kids to the Fort Worth Zoo for an overnight adventure while the adults ring in the new year elsewhere. Activities include games, crafts, animal encounters, and a moonlight safari. Dinner, a snack, and breakfast are provided. Open to ages 6-11. Register early; this event will likely sell out.

Details: 5 p.m.-9 a.m. Dec. 31-Jan 1. $75. 1989 Colonial Parkway, 817-759-7200;

Alley Cats New Year’s Party

Count down the end of the year in two different ways at Alley Cats bowling alley in Arlington. The Family Party runs from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. and includes unlimited bowling, games, a food and drink buffet, and giveaways. There will be a countdown at 9:30. The Countdown Party is from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. It includes bowling, games, concession discounts, giveaways, and a midnight countdown. Attend one or both parties with kids. Discounts are available on tickets purchased before Dec. 28.

Details: 6:30-10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Dec. 31. $20-$50. 2008 W. Pleasant Ridge Road, Arlington, 817-784-2695;

Swingin’ New Year’s Eve

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performs a glitzy concert at Bass Hall on New Year’s Eve. The concert, sure to please those who are young at heart, will include all the greatest swing hits from favorites like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Henry Mancini. Guest conductor Michael Berkowitz will be accompanied by two vocalists, Tony Babino and Lisanne Lyons. The show will last approximately two hours, including a 20-minute intermission. The grand finale wraps up with a balloon drop.

Details: $29-$90. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31. 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-212-4280;

Polar Plunge

Start the new year with a splash. The Ryan Family YMCA hosts this annual event in which members jump into the outdoor pool. Bring a towel to wrap up afterward. Hot cocoa and coffee will be served. The first 100 willing jumpers receive a commemorative T-shirt. Spend the rest of the year using your membership to participate in fitness, aquatic, and social programs. This event is free with membership, which includes a joining fee of $30-$150 and a monthly fee of $38-$64.

Details: 10 a.m. Jan. 1. 8250 McCart Ave., Fort Worth, 817-346-8855;