Brooklyn's lovely Botanic Garden offers free admission to visitors entering before noon on Saturdays, always free for those 16 & under & Tuesdays are free all day. "Blooming Lights" light up the Garden with holiday displays, entertainment & refreshments [Weds.-Sun. 5:30-9, through 1/2, $5, $2 child./s.c.]; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave. (Eastern Pkwy.), 718-623-7200; Weds.-Fri. & Tues. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 10-6.
children's museum of the arts
Museum feat. daily activities & exhibitions incl. children's art shows & art studio, interactive computer art station, creative playroom, actor's studio, costume shop, community group workshops, after-school art programs & birthday parties. On Saturday, explore the world of sand during "Sand Casting & Creating Workshop" with Andrea Guttman (1-4); 182 Lafayette St. (betw. Broome & Grand Sts.), 274-0986; Weds. 12-7, Thurs.-Sun., 12-5, $5, s.c. & kids under 1 are free.
NY BOTANICAL GARDENS
"A Victorian Holiday" celebrates the holidays with a 30-foot glowing tree, miniature trains, caroling & holiday puppet show. Watch bunnies skate & ice fish at "City Bunnies' Winter Wonderland" [through 1/9]. Get your picture taken with Thomas the Tank Engine from Fox [call for times, through 1/9]; NY Botanical Garden, 200th St. (Southern Blvd.), Bronx, 718-817-8773; noon-5, free w/grounds adm., free after 4.
CALENDAR CREATIONS: HELLO YEAR 2000!
Paint scenery from Wave Hill for a 2000 calendar; Kerlin Learning Center at Wave Hill, 675 W. 252nd St. (Indep. Ave.), Bronx, 718-549-3200; Sat. & Sun. 1-4, free w/grounds adm.
kids in the kitchen
Poetry & performance workshop for teens, hosted by Annie Lanzillotto & Treva Offutt; The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 255-5793; Sat. 2-4, free.
1000 PAPER CRANES
Celebrate the holidays with a stroll through the church to see Keith Harring's silver-toned-triptych & a huge tree covered with paper cranes, then make your own to take home; Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. (112th St.), 932-7347; Sat. 10-12, $5.
RAP WRITERS & PERFORMANCE WORKSHOP
Free seminar on rap music at Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave. (betw. 120th & 122nd Sts.), 870-6784; Fri. 7-9 p.m. [through 12/17].
rock climbing classes
Offered by Central Park Conservancy, free for ages 9 & up?learn rope management, anchor set-up, knot tying & more; North Meadow Recreation Center, 97th St. (midpark), 348-4867, res. req.; Weds. 3:30-5:30, free [through 12/22].
Learn about "tea culture" & brew tea from leaves, roots & plants?ages 7 & up; Dana Discovery Center, Harlem Meer in Central Park, 110th St. (5th Ave.), rsvp 860-1370; Sat. 1-2:30, free.
WRITING WORKSHOPS FOR TEENS
Learn how to generate ideas & explore different writing styles with filmmaker K. Wise during today's "Casting Your Net" workshop (Thurs. 4-6), Adam Nadler's "Writing & Producing the Screenplay" (Mon. 4-6) & Marcelle Karp's "Making the Zine" (Mon. 4-6)?ages 13 & up; Writer's Voice at the West Side YMCA, 5 W. 63rd St. (Central Pk. W.), 875-4124; free [through 12/20].
Things to See & Hear
Every Saturday Sensation artist, Rachel Whiteread leads 90-minute gallery tour, discussion & activities in Chelsea; meet at Luhring Augustine, 531 W. 24th St. (betw. 10th & 11th Aves.) 718-797-1573, res. req.; 11 a.m., $20 per child & adult, $5 each add. child. [through 12/18].
BIG APPLE CIRCUS
Returns to Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, B'way (64th St.), 307-4100 or 800-922-3772; call for times, $15-$60 [through 1/9].
HOLIDAY PUPPET THEATER
Ralph Lee pres. The Little Engine That Could at NY Botanical Garden; 200th St. (Southern Blvd.), Bronx, 718-817-8700; Sat. & Sun. at 1, 2 & 3, $2 [through 1/2].
MISS MAJESTY'S LOLLIPOP PLAYHOUSE
Santa & the Snow Queen (1:30) & The Three Bears' First Chanukah (3:30); Grove St. Playhouse, 39 Grove St. (betw. Bleecker & Hudson Sts.), rsvp 741-6436; Sat. & Sun., $8.50 [through 1/2].
NEW YORK NEW YEAR
TADA! youth theater's musical celebration of NYC; TADA! Theater, 120 W. 28th St. (betw 6th & 7th Aves.), 627-1732; Fri. at 7, Sat. & Sun. at 2 & 4, $12, $6 child. [through 1/17].
RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR
Radio City Rockettes, dancers & Santa Claus continue to entertain families during a 90 minute production incl. "Parades of the Wooden Soldiers" & "The Living Nativity;" Madison Square Garden, 2 Penn Plaza (34th St.), 465-MSG1, call for schedule, $29-$77 [through 1/2].
Musical adaptation of Rumplestilskin; Thirteenth St. Rep, 50 W. 13th St. (betw. 5th & 6th Aves.), 675-6677; Sat. & Sun. at 1, $7 [through 1/22].
Sony hosts holiday activities for families. This week, screening of the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Sony Plaza, 550 Madison Ave. (55th St.), 883-8100; Sat. & Sun. at 2 & 4, free.
SUN SETS AT THE CASTLE
Learn how sunsets occur with Central Park Conservatory, then watch one from the roof of Belvedere Castle, Central Park (midpark at 81st St.), 772-0120; Sat. at 3:15, free.
Marianna Loosemore directs production about Clifford the Pig's birthday; Thirteenth St. Rep, 50 W. 13th St. (betw. 5th & 6th Aves.), 675-6677; Sat. & Sun. at 11 a.m., $7 [through 1/22].
WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Part of "Just Kidding!" series at Symphony Space, 2537 B'way (95th St.), 864-5400 or www.symphonyspace.org; Sat. at 11 a.m., $8.