Raising Richmond: Winter break to-do list

Eight ideas to keep your kids busy (and you sane) during winter break here in Richmond.

When our son JR entered Richmond Public School’s pre-kindergarten program back in September, my husband and I could only focus on one thing: no more day care payments!1

For three-and-a-half years, a huge portion of our monthly income went towards the cost of day care. Even when we cut back to part-time care, I still cringed every time the school’s director ran our credit card through that machine.2 It was huge relief for us when we got to reap the benefits of our tax dollars and make use of the public school system. Now we drop our son off at school every weekday at 9:00 AM, pick him up at 3:00 PM, and we don’t have to give any money to anybody. It’s awesome!

Well, except for one thing.

Day care centers tend to cater to working parents. Most working parents, as you probably know, get Christmas and New Year’s Day off, but they still need child care for a good portion of the days surrounding those holidays. So day cares are usually open.3

Public schools, however, are not. Of course, we knew this going into it, but it all feels so abstract until you’ve got a genuine, bona fide winter break staring you right in the face.4

This Friday marks the beginning of JR’s first winter break. He’ll come home from school the afternoon of the 20th and won’t go back until January 6th. That’s 16–SIXTEEN–days (counting weekends because OH THEY COUNT) of him being at home. Sixteen days that we’ve got to keep him entertained…and keep ourselves from going coo coo for cocoa puffs.5

Thankfully, we’ve got grandparents who are ready and willing to help out if needed; I’m also working out some child care swaps with friends who will also have kids on winter break. But we’re still looking at several days in need of activities–because although I’m sure JR would be plenty content to spend most of his break pajama-clad, binging on episodes of Phineas & Ferb, I’d like to return him to his teacher with a brain that isn’t complete mush.

So! I’ve put together some ideas for kid-friendly activities and events available for your enjoyment in and around Richmond over the next few weeks. It’s my hope that these quality options will make the quantity of family time headed our way seem a little more manageable–for me and for you other parents out there gearing up for winter break as well. And if you have any suggestions to share, please do so in the comments. The more ideas we all have the better!

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1. Pizza and a Movie

One of my fondest memories as a parent (like, ever) involves a viewing of Home Alone with my son and my husband as we pounded down our individual, homemade pizzas. I plan to recreate this sweet family moment during winter break (repeatedly, if possible), but this time we’ll support one of RVA’s own small business by purchasing pizza kits from Pizza Tonight. A lovely, local cheese pizza just for me.

2. Miracle of Christmas

For three nights only, visitors to the Metro Richmond Zoo can see a live re-enactment of the Christmas story featuring animals from the zoo. As in real sheep, real donkeys, even a real baby.6 There are three performances a night, with music from local churches and performing arts groups before and after each show. Krispy Kreme donuts and hot chocolate will be sold to benefit ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Volunteer Rescue Squad.

  • December 21st, 22nd, and 23rd • performances at 7:00 PM, 7:45 PM, and 8:30 PM
  • Metro Richmond Zoo, 8300 Beaver Bridge Road (it’s way out in Moseley but well worth the trip)
  • Free

3. RVA on Ice

Zipping7 around on the ice with your wee ones to holiday music? Toasting s’mores as you cuddle around the fire pit, gazing out at Richmond’s beautiful skyline? If you can resist that kind of holiday cheer, well, I just don’t know what to do with you.

  • Open Wednesdays through Sundays until January 20th • Hours vary (see website for details)
  • Corner of Broad and 6th Streets
  • General admission and skate rental for adults are $5 each; free admission and $3 skate rentals for kids 10 and under

4. Block by Block: Inventing Amazing Architecture

Featuring 10 replicas of world famous landmarks constructed entirely out of LEGO® bricks (almost 200,000 of them), this traveling exhibit is sure to blow any LEGO®-mind. Considering our son’s LEGO® obsession goes to 11, how we’ve managed to not see this yet is beyond me. But we’ve all got to hurry! This exclusive, traveling exhibit is only in town through December 31st before it heads off to Seattle.

  • Runs through December 31st (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day) • 9:30 AM — 5:00 PM
  • Children’s Museum-Chesterfield, 6629 Lake Harbour Drive
  • Free with museum admission ($8 for ages 1 and up; free for members)

5. Hollywood Costume

Two words for you: Superman’s costume. Two more words for you: Batman’s costume.

I doubt I need to say more, but for the sake of keeping you completely informed, allow me to add that this exhibit also features costumes from legendary films like The Wizard of Oz, Titanic, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and many, many more.

  • Runs through February 17th • 10:00 AM — 5:00 PM Saturday through Wednesday; 10:00 AM — 9:00 PM Thursdays and Fridays (open regular business hours on all holidays)
  • VMFA, 200 N. Boulevard
  • $20 for adults and $10 for kids 7-17; free for members and kids 6 and under

6. University of Richmond vs. Old Dominion University

Looking for a good way to fight off the end-of-Christmas blues? Watch the Richmond Spiders take on the ODU Monarchs. Will they win? I have no idea; I know nothing about basketball. But I do know that this will be an excellent way to kill a couple hours with your kids. Also: nachos probably?

  • Saturday, December 28th • 6:30 PM
  • Robins Center, University of Richmond
  • $12-$22 (see ticket website for pricing options)

7. The Importance of Being Cute: Pet Photography in Virginia

I, for one, am totally pissed because apparently this has been going on over at the Library of Virginia since June and I’m just finding out about it now. It’s an entire exhibit of photos of pets being cute–and some of the images even date back to the Victorian era. Olde timey cutie puppers and kitties, guys!

  • Runs through February 22nd • 9:00 AM — 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday (closed December 23rd through December 25th, and on January 1st)
  • Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street
  • Free

8. Midday Music

If you’re in the market for something a little bit different to do with your kids, something a little more “fancy” and “cultured,” consider stopping by the Jefferson for the final installment of its Music at Midday series: a performance from The Carillon Bell Ringers of First Baptist Church of Petersburg. Sounds like a lovely way to ring out the holiday season.

  • Monday, December 30th • 12:00 PM
  • The Jefferson, 101 W. Franklin Street
  • Free

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  1. Well, that and the bittersweet fact that our BAYBEE was getting so big. (But mostly the money thing.) 
  2. And you know I took a picture of her running that last payment. 
  3. JR’s day care also rarely closed for weather–just once in the three years we were there. We were spoiled. 
  4. Don’t even talk to me about summer because I CANNOT EVEN. 
  5. That’s not to say we don’t love hanging out with JR. We do! He’s great, and I will enjoy the chance to spend time with him that isn’t bookended with the hustle-and-bustle of going to and from school. It’s just…well, have you ever spent 16 full days in a row with a five-year-old? I haven’t, and I’m the mother of one. 
  6. I’m not suggesting that the Metro Richmond Zoo has a Baby Exhibit or something; that would be unacceptable and (I imagine) illegal. It’s just that in going along with the practice of using real animals for the performance, the role of the baby Jesus is played by an actual baby. 
  7. Or, more likely, clomping and falling—but whatevs. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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