Tops in topographies
If you've had it up to here with Santa and the reindeer, there are holiday-free activities that may distract the younger set from the upcoming gift grab. Stop by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art for this month's Kids' Art Adventure. This session on origami is in conjunction with MMoCA's brand-new exhibit, 'Alyson Shotz: Topologies.' Kids will tour the Shotz exhibit, and learn more about her two- and three-dimensional works inspired by space, light and shape, and how she uses scientific theories as a starting point for making art. Then everyone will make their own paper sculptures. Activities are appropriate for 6- to 10-year-olds, and children must be accompanied by a parent or other adult. Dec. 10; meet at 1 pm in MMoCA's main lobby. Free.
Get outdoors at the Arboretum with Earth Partnership for Families. 'Listen to the Stories the White Pine Tells' is the topic on Dec. 9. Families will visit the Arb's towering white pines, pick up some tree legends as well as facts and hunt for pine cones. There will also be crafts and snack time in the visitor center. 1'3 pm; free. Dress for the weather, and meet at the visitor center.
December's Family Walk on Dec. 10 will teach kids more about 'Our Feathered Friends,' in a season when it's easier for children to focus on the fewer species that are around. 1:30'2:30 pm; meet at visitor's center; free. www.uwarboretum.org/events or call 263-7888.
The Aldo Leopold Nature Center will celebrate the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21, 7-8:30 pm, with a winter hike, campfire, Yule log, readings and stories. $7/person and $18/family. Pre-register by calling 221-4038.
December is a good time to visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which hosts its annual Holiday Express Flower and Model Train Show Dec. 2-Dec. 31. Kids are always fascinated by the large-scale model trains that run through miniature villages and landscapes. The attraction of the 800 poinsettias, however, may be lost on them. $3/adults, $2/ kids 2-12; members free. 3330 Atwood Ave.; 246-4550.
If you have little ones who might not sit through a whole ballet, take them to the Waisman Center Children's Theatre, where Dance Wisconsin will preview its Nutcracker Fantasy with shows at 1 and 3 pm, Dec. 3. (The Center advises showing up by noon on the day of show to get tickets; call 263-5837 for info.) The performances will feature some of Madison's finest young dancers. At the Waisman Center Auditorium, 1500 Highland Ave., $2/adults, $1/kids.
The entire ballet will be presented at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Dec. 9-10 (dance wisconsin.com or call 262-2201 for tickets).
Kids want to join in the fun on New Year's Eve too, and U.S. Bank Eve makes it easy to keep them entertained. Events are slated for U.S. Bank Plaza on the Capitol Square, Monona Terrace, Olbrich Gardens, Madison Children's Museum, Wisconsin Historical Museum, Henry Vilas Zoo and UW Space Place. Most activities run 6-10 pm. Advance tickets: $5/adult $2/kids 5-15; $10/family pass also is available. Call 877-7517 for more info.