Many families across Massachusetts have a week of family time to enjoy before the turn to 2011. Time for playing in the snow, trying out all of the new holiday gear, and a need to get out of the house. Here are some free things going on around the area to entertain all ages.

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Guided Family Hikes

The Department of Conservation and Recreation is offering free guided hikes in 14 of the state’s parks on New Year’s Day. The First Day Family hikes are a great chance to get outside and get some exercise, while doing something different. If there’s snow on the ground, the DCR experts can help you spot and identify animal tracks. Check for a hike near you.

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Free First Day Skates

DCR is also opening a couple of their ice rinks for free on New Year’s Day. The Murphy Memorial Rink at 1880 Day Boulevard in South Boston and the Kelley Skating Rink at 1 Marbury Terrace in Jamaica Plain will be free for all ages from noon to 4 p.m.

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Movies, Puppet Shows, And More…

Check your local library’s schedule for vacation week. Many have special events planned while the kids are out of school. Just a quick check of a few local towns and we found everything from free movie showings, to puppet shows, musical acts, board game tournaments and more.

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Check Out The Lights

Once the sun goes down, the lights come on. Pack the family up in the car, turn on the heat, turn on the holiday music and take a festive drive. Most holiday light displays stay up right through the New Year. While the big displays like LaSalette Shrine, Edaville and Zoo Lights charge an entrance fee, most communities have a house or neighborhood that’s not to be missed.

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Free Museum Hours

Both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art offer free hours each week, if you know when to visit. Arrive at the MFA on Wednesday’s after 4pm for free entrance; it’s open until 9:45. Over at the ICA, you can get in free on Thursdays between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Kids under 17 are always free.

A visit to Old Ironsides and the USS Constitution Museum are is always free. The ship itself is open Thursday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with tours leaving on the half hour. The adjacent museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., thought it’s closed on New Year’s Day.