"Holiday Happenings Around the World": Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, hosts the latest installment in its yearlong festival "The Celebration of the Natural World," which continues through September. Kids learn about the seasonal celebrations of other cultures via events like the "Ho!Ho! Holiday Hay Maze," gift-making sessions and art classes. These and related events continue daily (except Monday), through December 30; participation is free with regular admission: $7, $6 for seniors, $3.50 for kids ages 4 to 12, free for younger children and zoo members. For details call 273-1341 or 273-7771.
Holiday Stories: Leticia Pizzino tells seasonal tales, augmented with songs, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dobson Ranch Branch Library, 2425 South Dobson in Mesa. Admission is free, but tickets are required. For details call 644-3441.
Santa's Castle: A house full of holiday joy awaits kids of all ages at the Clauses' desert digs, 4237 West State (off 43rd Avenue, three blocks north of Glendale Avenue). Eight of the home's rooms have been transformed into thematic wonderlands, including the North Pole, the South Pole and an ice cave. Hours are 6 to 10 nightly, through Monday. Admission is free. For details call 937-3482.
"Wild Winter Nights": Wildlife World Zoo has zoo lights, too. Like Phoenix Zoo's popular ZooLights event (see Thursday in Pic Hits), the display features thousands of lights placed strategically around the grounds at the menagerie, 165th Avenue and Northern in Litchfield Park. Unlike Phoenix Zoo, Wildlife World Zoo allows some of its critters, including white tigers Sir Lunge-a-Lot and Mrs. Lunge-a-Lot, to stay up late and enjoy the show. Other highlights include visits bySanta and his reindeer, special Wildlife Encounters shows and live entertainment. "Wild Winter Nights" continues from 5:30 to 9:30 nightly, through February 3. Special admission is $4, free for kids age 2 and under. Call 935-9453.
at the museum
"Bear With Us": The exhibit at Arizona Museum for Youth, 35 North Robson in Mesa, features multimedia representations of bruins of all shapes, sizes and sorts, plus interactive games and learning activities. It continues through February 2. The museum is closed Friday through Monday; it's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Regular hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $2, free for kids under 2. For more information, call 644-2467.
"Computer Works": The exhibit explores the elements required to run a computer and how they relate to one another; it continues indefinitely at Arizona Science Center, 147 East Adams. Call 256-9518 or 258-7250.
"The Great Russian Dinosaurs": Mesa Southwest Museum, 53 North Macdonald, presents this major touring exhibition co-sponsored by City of Mesa and Paleontological Institute of Moscow. It features 24 full skeletons, as well as remains of dino nests, eggs and hatchlings, 50 skulls and dozens of other specimens collected this century from sites in Russia and Mongolia; many of them have never been displayed in the West. The American premiere of the installation continues through February 4. Call 644-2230.
arts and minds
"Celebrating 40 Years: Many Faces, One World": The exhibition features works by kids from Scottsdale and its sister cities: Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Cairns, Queensland, Australia; and Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. It opens Saturday and continues through February 25 in Young at Art Gallery at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. The creators of the best works, to be picked by a panel of judges, will be announced at areception scheduled for January 18; the first-place finisher receives a cash award of $300 and an automatic entry in the Sister Cities International competition in Boston in the spring. Admission and viewing are free. Call 994-2787.
"A Child Is a Gift": Works by artists-in-training from South Mountain Magnet Arts High School, the Coalition of Black Artists, and the ArtWeb program of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix are displayed in this exhibit, which continues through January 2 at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Call 954-8182.
on the stage
Babes in Toyland: Greasepaint, Scottsdale Youtheatre presents Victor Herbert's operetta Tuesday through December 30 and January 3 through 7 at Stagebrush Theatre, 7020 East Second Street in Scottsdale. For details call 990-7646.
Great Arizona Puppet Theater: Final performances of The Elves and the Shoemaker are at 10a.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the theatre, 3302 North Seventh Street. Cinderella opens with performances at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday and continues through January 7. Tickets are $4, $3 for members; group rates are available. Call 277-1275.