Classes are over, finals are coming to an end and the start of another semester is weeks away. Wondering what to do with your free time over winter break? Rutgers Today asked faculty and staff across the university for some recommendations. 

Here are some suggestions to fill your free time. 

Get Creative

Klip Collective, ‘cheat.code,’ 2022, and Bruce Beasley, ‘Dorion,’ 1986, stainless steel, 1/2 , 240 x 360 x 120 inches
Night Forms exhibit at Grounds for Sculpture
David Michael Howarth Photography/Grounds for Sculpture

Winter break can offer prime moments to step away with the family and tap into some culture. I plan a short list early on for sanity’s sake that can hopefully stir up wonder from toddlers to teens. Consider starting small, literally, at  Northlandz, The World’s Largest Miniature Museum in Flemington with model railroads and tiny kingdoms that amount to a sprawling masterpiece. You might also enjoy a quiet day at home, then head out to Night Forms at Grounds for Sculpture. Even if you’ve been here before, the sensory light and sound experience is entirely new and transporting.   

The NAACP New Brunswick Area Branch’s annual Community Kwanzaa Celebration (December 28) is always a treasured tradition featuring performances, food, crafts, and the lighting of the Kinara. This free event never fails to inspire gratitude and valuable lessons about the diverse community we share.  

Another free outing on the list this season is Our Place in the World: Children’s Illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum, with bilingual English/ Spanish exhibition text.  

And finally, you can always just stay home and bust out the crafts. No snow? Maybe try making snow in a jar, and if snow has fallen, snow painting, or make DIY bird feeders and take bets on whose creation the birds will flock to first.  

Cassandra Oliveras-Moreno 
Administrator, Communications & Collaboration 
Department of Art & Design, Mason Gross School of the Arts 
Rutgers University-New Brunswick  

Stay Active and Be Kind to Yourself 

Family ice skating at a rink

It is important to maintain a balance in everything we do, whether it’s work, play, or even diet and exercise. This is particularly important during this time of year when we wish to enjoy all the indulgences of winter break. There are a few tips that can be helpful to keep balance during this time. First, stay active! Avoid prolonged periods of time sitting. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150-minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75-minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Second, eat mindfully! Have your favorites this winter break, but reduce the amount, e.g., portion size, of those favorites to avoid excessive calories and the guilt that may follow. And finally, have a plan! Planning and sticking to that plan can help one avoid temptations! Staying hydrated and avoiding excessive alcohol intake should be part of that plan too. Our tri-state area is full of wonderful parks, big cities, and small quaint towns to visit. Visit Cape May or Toms River, head north to Allentown or Montclair or make a winter visit to the Barnegat Lighthouse. Enjoy a hike, go ice skating, or prepare and share your own healthy version of a favorite dish. Whatever your taste, allow yourself some grace. We may all not succeed every day, and that is okay. The key is to enjoy the winter break, in moderation! 

Sara C. Campbell 
Department of Kinesiology and Health 
School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Put Down Those Screens and Go Explore

Astronaut on the movie screen at the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium
Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium at Liberty Science Center
Courtesy of Liberty Science Center

While staying in your PJs and experiencing the world through your devices might be tempting during winter break, here are some device-free suggestions for you and your children. 

Take a Hike 

Hiking encourages your family to get out of their daily routines and into some fresh air fitness. New Jersey is full of wonderful hiking trails with breathtaking vistas across the state, and most are family-friendly. You can choose a short 1- or 2-mile hike, or something more strenuous. Match the hike to your family and get out and enjoy nature! You could even bring a list of items to find along the way, or play an impromptu game of “I Spy” as you enjoy the scenery.  

Visit a Museum 

You don’t have to drag the kids into New York or Philly to learn about science, art, or natural history. New Jersey has extraordinary, child-friendly museums with more than enough exhibits, displays, shows, and activities to fill a family day. Top of the list is the Liberty Science Center with its planetarium, animals of all kinds, and hands on interactive exhibits. There are also smaller museums all around the state like the Newark Museum of Art, the Montclair Art Museum. So grab your coats and grab some culture! 

Learn About Animals 

Everyone likes learning about animals and New Jersey has some unique wildlife sanctuaries and zoos that are worth a visit. Sure you and the kids will need to bundle up, but what could be cooler than learning about wolves, bobcats, and the like, at Lakota Wolf Preserve or meeting lots of animals at the Turtleback Zoo, or Cape May Zoo

Sharon Ryan 
Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education 
Amy Lewis 
Associate Teaching Professor 
Rutgers Graduate School of Education 

Visit Camden 

Boy looking at Shark Tank at Adventure Aquarium
Courtesy of Adventure Aquarium

Those staying in or visiting Camden for the holidays should stop by Nuanced Café for breakfast and coffee. My coworkers kept telling me I had to try a maple bacon scone, and when I finally did, I wasn’t disappointed! It’s meant a lot to support Camden small businesses starting when I grew up here, during my time as a Rutgers-Camden student, and now continuing my career at the university. Adventure Aquarium is another great spot for families. I took my 12-year-old brother last year and he loved it – the hippo exhibit was particularly memorable! I also have a lot of fond memories of learning to roller skate at Millennium Skate World – it was a great place to go on field trips and pick up a fun new skill.  

David Tran  
Rutgers-Camden Class of 2017 
User Support Services Specialist
Rutgers University-Camden IT 

Focus on Wellness

Family running on country road in autumn time

Winter break is a perfect time to recharge, by prioritizing and engaging in wellness activities in the eight dimensions, a model that focuses on mental health. Plan to spend time outdoors for fresh air; walking, even for short intervals, is great for physical wellness. The break is an ideal time to reset your sleep schedule, book medical appointments and screenings. You may also have time to try a new, fun and healthy recipe: make a smoothie, your favorite cookies or carrot bread.  Schedule relaxing activities that allow you to recharge and express your feelings. To enhance your spiritual and occupational wellness, set time to reflect on activities that have meaning and align with your values, and schedule time for them. Plan a mini retreat - schedule anywhere from five minutes to a half-day to do these activities. Social and intellectual wellness can be strengthened by planning time to connect with people you care about and make you feel good. Schedule fun, creative activities. Try art journaling, knitting, painting, karaoke, or a favorite board game. Strengthen your environmental wellness by decorating your living space with uplifting items. Setting time to walk outside to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season and get a dose of sunshine is also great for immune health. 

Margaret "Peggy" Swarbrick 
Graduate School of Applied Professional Psychology 
Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Explore Newark

Ballantine House at the Newark Museum
The Ballantine House
Courtesy of the Newark Museum

After a two-year, $12 million restoration, the Newark Museum’s Ballantine House re-opened in time for a winter outing. Built in 1885, the Ballantine House is the former home of the owners of Ballantine Breweries, one of the oldest and largest breweries in the country.

With this re-opening, the Ballantine House enhanced its offerings of fine objects and artworks with new installations, revamped historical rooms, and multi-sensory activities.

“Stay: The Black Women of 19th-Century Newark,” by local artist and historian, Noelle Lorraine Williams, is on view within the bedroom of beer heir, Percy Ballantine. The installation demonstrates the legacy of Newark's Black women's activism explored in her Zócalo article, The Incredible Legacy of Newark's Black Women Activists, and through her other project, Black Power! 19th Century.

Williams also served as research consultant on the new Harriet Tubman Monument in Harriet Tubman Square. Adjacent to the museum, the monument is a larger-than-life rendition of Tubman. An immersive experience, it features a timeline of local abolitionist history, tiles created by residents, and audio of stories narrated by diverse voices, including Queen Latifah.

Afterwards, treat yourself to a wine tasting at the Divino Tasting Room, owned by Burley Tuggle, a welcoming and entertaining host!

Kristyn Scorsone
Part-Time Instructor/ Ph.D. Candidate
American Studies Program
Rutgers University-Newark

Go to a Game   

Many of Rutgers’ NCAA sports programs will be active during the winter break - providing ample opportunity to support the Scarlet on the New Brunswick, Newark and Camden campuses.  

Members of the Division I Big Ten Conference, the Scarlet Knights host competitions in men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, and women’s gymnastics at Jersey Mike’s Arena.  

The men’s team plays Stonehill on Saturday, Dec. 30 (noon), and Indiana on Tuesday, Jan. 9 (7 p.m.), while the women’s team welcomes Iowa on Friday, Jan. 5 (6 p.m.) and Penn State on Sunday, Jan. 14 (2 p.m.). Wrestling takes on Rider on Sunday, Jan. 7 (noon) and Indiana on Friday, Jan. 12 (7 p.m.). Fans can secure men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling tickets by calling 866-445-GORU (4678) or by visiting the Official Ticket Page. Admission is free for gymnastics, which hosts Oregon State, Utica, and Southern Connecticut State in a quad meet on Saturday, Jan. 13 (2 p.m.)  

The Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders and the Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors compete in the Division III New Jersey Athletic Conference. Both have a pair of basketball doubleheaders during the break.    

Rutgers-Camden hosts its first on Wednesday, Jan. 3, with the men’s team playing Penn State Berks at 3 p.m., before with the women meet Penn State Harrisburg at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Jan. 6, the Scarlet Raptors welcome Ramapo College, with the women’s game tipping off a 1 p.m. and the men’s at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $5.00 at the Athletic and Fitness Center door.  

Rutgers-Newark also hosts a doubleheader on Saturday, Jan. 6, with the women’s and men’s teams both playing New Jersey City at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. On Wednesday, Jan. 10, the Scarlet Raiders welcome The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), with the women’s game tipping off a 1 p.m. and the men’s at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $5.00 at the Golden Dome Athletic Center door.  

2023-24 Winter Break Home Athletics Schedule  

Thursday, December 28, 2023 

  • Women’s Basketball vs Centenary | noon at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 

Saturday, December 30, 2023 

  • Men’s Basketball vs Stonehill | noon at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 
  • Women’s Basketball vs Vassar | 1 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 

Sunday, December 31, 2023 

  • Men’s Basketball vs Arcadia | 1 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024 

  • Men’s Basketball vs Penn State Berks | 3 p.m. at Athletic and Fitness Center, Rutgers-Camden 
  • Women’s Basketball vs Penn State Harrisburg | 5 p.m. at Athletic and Fitness Center, Rutgers-Camden 

Friday, January 5, 2024 

  • Women’s Basketball vs Iowa | 6 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Saturday, January 6, 2024 

  • Women’s Basketball vs Ramapo College | 1 p.m. at Athletic and Fitness Center, Rutgers-Camden 
  • Men’s Basketball vs Ramapo College | 3 p.m. at Athletic and Fitness Center, Rutgers-Camden 
  • Women’s Basketball vs New Jersey City | 4 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 
  • Men’s Basketball vs New Jersey City | 6 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 

Sunday, January 7, 2024 

  • Wrestling vs Rider | noon at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 
  • Tuesday, January 9, 2024  
  • Men’s Basketball vs Indiana| 7 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Wednesday, January 10, 2023 

  • Women’s Basketball vs TCNJ | 1 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 
  • Men’s Basketball vs TCNJ | 3 p.m. at Golden Dome Athletic Center, Rutgers-Newark 

Friday, January 12, 2024 

  • Wrestling vs Indiana | 7 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Saturday, January 13, 2024 

  • Women’s Gymnastics Quad Meet | 2 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Sunday, January 14, 2024 

  • Women’s Basketball vs Penn State | 2 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers-New Brunswick 

Kevin Lorincz
​​​​​​Director of Communications
University Communications and Marketing

Looking for more suggestions? Check out last year's winter break recommendations:

What to Do Over Winter Break 2022