School vacation week is fast approaching and parents are, no doubt, wondering how they’ll fill the days.
Kelley Heyworth, editor of Mommy Poppins Boston and the mother of three boys ages 7, 10, and 12, said Boston has such a wealth of cultural opportunities and outdoor facilities that it just depends what you’re looking for. Some families need drop-off programs because the parents have to work, and other families are looking for activities the entire family can enjoy, she said. She recommended checking out these five activities over school vacation week.
Strap on your hiking boots, snow shoes, or cross-country skis, and get ready to hunt for reindeer — reindeer sculptures, that is. Heyworth said she loves the Reindeer Quest activity available for families right now through the Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit conservation organization that preserves natural and historic properties across the state. Families search for wooden reindeer sculptures as they explore a historic property’s nature trails and then place bells around the necks of the sculptures. “It makes what many kids might think is a boring winter hike as a family a little more exciting,” she said.
You can take part in Reindeer Quests from dawn to dusk at Appleton Farms in Hamilton and Ipswich through Jan. 2., Bird Park in Walpole through Jan. 6, and Weir River Farm in Hingham through Jan. 27. Families can also go on a Reindeer Quest at “Winterlights,” the holiday light show taking place through Dec. 30 at Naumkeag in Stockbridge and the Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover.
Does your child love to perform? Boston University’s Wheelock Family Theatre has vacation programming perfect for young ones interested in theater, Heyworth said. The program is broken up into different groups: pre-K through third grade, fourth grade through sixth grade, and seventh grade through 12th grade. The younger students, in grades pre-K through six, work as playwrights, actors, and designers as they adapt a popular children’s book for the stage. During the final class, students share what they’ve learned with family and friends. Kids in grades seven to 12 are divided into teams of actors, directors, and writers and produce original 10-minute plays. “They do an excellent job of introducing kids of all ages to the theater,” Heyworth said.
The zoo is a great place to spend vacation week, Heyworth said. Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham will offer extra programming for kids from Dec. 26-29 between 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. with regular zoo admission, including visiting with animals, making winter-themed crafts, and interacting with the zookeepers. Franklin Park Zoo is also hosting a drop-off program on Dec. 27 and 28 for kids ages 6 to 10 years old, during which kids can go on behind-the-scenes tours. “It’s for kids who may be a little more outdoorsy,” Heyworth said.
There is always plenty to do and see at the Museum of Science. Two temporary attractions this season are all about trains: a Polar Express 4D film and the exhibit “All Aboard: Trains at Science Park.” Heyworth recently visited the attractions with her kids, and said the model train weaves through a wintry local landscape and delights kids with Boston touches such as a Prudential Center lit up with a “Go Pats” sign. “[The film] packed a lot of fun into 20 minutes and was really the highlight of our day,” she said.
“We’re really blessed in Boston to have plenty of ice skating rinks that are free or very low cost to families,” Heyworth said. She recommended checking out DCR Kelly Outdoor Rink in Jamaica Plain, which opened to the public on Saturday. Bonus: The rink has parking and restrooms.