Hockey is one of the most expensive sports your kid can choose to pursue (preceded only by polo, which requires a horse or three, and water polo, which requires an aquatic horse). Before you go out and drop a car payment-size wad on helmets, sticks, skates, shoulder pads, cups (optional for those who don't want to be grandparents) and goalie pads that may gather dust in the basement, why not discover if your kid actually has an aptitude to go with his or her interest?
The St. Louis County Parks' Kennedy Complex (6050 Wells Road, 314-894-3089) offers two sessions of Stick and Puck Skates, either of which will give you a good idea of your kid's future hockey-earning potential. The 10 a.m. class is for five- to nine-year-olds, and the 11 a.m. class is for ten- to fifteen-year-olds. Kids will work on their skating and stick-handling in a friendly, no-checking environment, and admission only sets you back $5. Participants need to bring their own knee- and shin-pads, sticks, gloves and a full-face-shield helmet, but you can borrow it all from a neighborhood kid and then rent skates from the rink (only $1 a pair). Consider it an investment toward a future signing bonus. -- Paul Friswold
The Lion in Winter
US Bank Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo
If your family would like to hear a group of bullfrogs croaking out "Jingle Bells" in unison, make your way to the closing week of the US Bank Wild Lights party at Forest Park's Saint Louis Zoo, December 26 through 30. True, the bullfrogs are made of Christmas lights and are not actual amphibians, but forcing live animals -- and we're including humans, here -- to learn holiday songs is just too cruel. Visitors to Wild Lights (5 to 8 p.m.; $4, free for kids younger than two; 314-781-0900; www.stlzoo.org) enjoy many other light displays, storytelling with an Arctic theme, animal craft projects, contests, hot cocoa for sale and bonding with the boids at Penguin & Puffin Coast. Park for free in the zoo's south lot on Wells Drive near Highway 40, and while you're at Wild Lights, say hi to the cute little baby takin (a Chinese goat/antelope) and the cute big baby reticulated giraffe, both born just last month. -- Byron Kerman
Lifestyles of the reptilian and venomous
Rattlesnakes aren't poisonous, you know. If they were, you couldn't eat them. No, they're venomous and, we hear, good with Tabasco sauce. For more fun facts such as these, check out the "Hands-on Herps" program at the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center. Kids get to touch a black rat snake and a bull snake. A rattlesnake will be on hand too, but under glass, just in case any of you missed lunch! Other featured reptiles include turtles and lizards, plus there's a craft activity and a slide show (9:30 to 11 a.m. for ages seven to twelve; 12:30 to 2 p.m. for ages thirteen to seventeen; call 314-301-1500 for reservations; free; 11715 Cragwold Road). -- Ben Westhoff
The Gardenland Express winter flower and model-train show rages on through January 4 at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard) every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to this loco event, which features large "G"-scale trains running along 500 feet of track and through a jungle of live foliage, is free to $3, in addition to the Garden's admission charge (314-577-9400, www.mobot.org). -- John Goddard
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