Pack up the kids and get outside for some seasonal fun.
This time of year, many zoos brighten up their grounds and buildings with animated scenes "drawn" with thousands of glittering lights.
Chicago The Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights includes an endangered species carousel, train rides, temporary tattoos, and spiced wine and holiday cocktails. 2200 N. Cannon Dr., 312/742-2000, free. New York City Live reindeer and horse-drawn carriage rides are among the highlights of the Bronx Zoo's Wild Winterland, which also includes ice-carving demonstrations and marshmallows for roasting. 2300 Southern Blvd., 718/220-5100, from $11. Oakland At the Oakland Zoo Lights, more than 120 animals are portrayed in illuminated scenes. 9777 Golf Links Rd., 510/632-9525, from $6. Portland, Ore. Displays at the Oregon Zoo's ZooLights include swinging monkeys, leaping frogs, and diving penguins: Real-life mountain goats and farm animals also join the party. 4001 SW Canyon Rd., 503/226-1561, from $6. San Diego The zoo's 20th Festival of Lights includes a puppet show, a light show, and night tours of the Journey into Africa exhibit. 2920 Zoo Dr., 760/796-5615, from $26.
New York City Skating's free if you bring your own skates to the Pond at Bryant Park. Hot chocolate and lots of holiday shops are both close by. 42nd St. and 6th Ave., 866/221-5157, rentals $12. Chicago The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park sees more than 100,000 skaters annually. 55 N. Michigan Ave., 312/742-1168, rentals $10. None of the Chicago Park District's eight outdoor skating rinks charge admission. San Francisco The Holiday Rink at the Embarcadero Center lets you skate just a few blocks away from the bay. Justin Herman Plaza, 1 Market St., 415/837-1931, admission from $5, rental from $4. Kansas City Downtown's Crown Center Ice Terrace has a canopy that offers some protection from the elements. 2405 Grand Blvd., 816/274-8411, admission $6, rental $3. Atlanta Overlooking downtown, Atlanta's only outdoor skating rink is in Centennial Olympic Park. 265 Park Ave. West NW, 404/223-4412, admission $7, rental $2. Philadelphia Near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the RiverRink at Penn's Landing will have good views of the New Year's Eve fireworks. Delaware Ave. and Chestnut St., 215/925-7465, admission from $7, rental $3.
Washington D.C. The many holiday events happening in and around the National Gallery of Art include caroling in the decorated West Building Rotunda as well as holiday sweets like mulled cider and cocoa. There's also an ice rink nearby. 4th St. and Constitution Avenue NW, 202/737-4215, free. Atlanta During the High Museum's Hands on for the Holidays, kids can craft replicas of the stained glass windows and medieval swords now on loan from London's Victoria and Albert Museum. 1280 Peachtree St. NE, 404/733-4444, from $11, starts Dec. 26. New York City The wreaths and garlands at the Cloisters are inspired by the Middle Ages; events include a class on medieval food that lets you create tableware you can take home. 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., 212/650-2280, suggested donation from $10. Denver The very popular Holiday High Tea at the Molly Brown House includes a tour of the museum, the famous Titanic survivor's last residence, which is all decked out for the holidays. Candlelit tours are also available. 1340 Pennsylvania St., 303/832-4092, from $13.
New York City Held on Sundays before Christmas and run by the upscale Brooklyn Flea group, the Gifted holiday market brings together carefully chosen vendors selling antiques, handmade items, toys, and jewelry. Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 317 Clermont Ave., free. Austin The Blue Genie Art Bazaar gets its stock from more than 100 local artists. Monarch Event Center, 6406 North IH-35, 512/371-1711, free. Denver The traditional items at the Christkindl Market include hand-carved wooden figurines as well as German food and drinks. 16th St. Mall and Arapahoe St., free. Bethlehem, Pa. Live entertainment and German and Austrian food give a little extra authenticity to the town's Christkindlmarkt, which has aisle after aisle of handmade works. Spring and Main Sts., $8.HoustonDiscovery Green, a market open on Thursdays, is now selling stocking stuffers, ornaments, and other seasonal gifts. There's also a skating rink. 1001 Ave. De Las Americas, 713/400-7336, free.