The holiday vacation can be a mixed blessing. Just as teachers are getting that "two weeks of freedom glint" in their eyes, parents' eyes are glazing over with the look of "two weeks that could seem like two months."
What follows is a sampling of easy-on-the-pocket activities--many of them free--to get you through to next year with a minimum of stress.
Winter Wildland at the L.A. Zoo: From Dec. 26 to Jan. 3, the zoo will have five reindeer (four adults and a yearling named Zoodolph) on exhibit, in addition to a costumed "reindeer," who will pose with children for photographs (their camera, $2; your camera, free). Teatro de los Puppets will entertain with a mix of puppets, magic and comedy at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2:30 p.m. daily in the Treetops Terrace. Kids can make their own reindeer antlers to wear home, and someone will be standing by with a dab of red paint for their noses.
A special holiday bird show is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. daily in the Wildlife Theater. The Zoopeteers, the zoo's resident puppet group, will also perform daily at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. in the Eucalyptus Grove.
The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be closed on Christmas, but open New Year's Day. Admission is $4.50 for adults and $1.50 for children (5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, 213-666-4650).
Library Programs: Many San Fernando Valley branch libraries will offer story hours and other diversions for their youngest patrons during Christmas vacation.
At the Canoga Park Library (7260 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park, 818-887-0320), Patty Nesman of No Frown Clowns will perform magic tricks and invite children 3 to 10 to join her Dec. 30 at 10 a.m. Children will receive balloon animals to take home.
There's a storytelling hour for all ages at the Woodland Hills Library (22200 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, 818-887-0320) at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 29.
At 10:30 a.m. Monday, the children's librarian at the Chatsworth Library (21052 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, 818-341-4276) will lead children 5 to 12 in an hour of stories and crafts with holiday themes. Each child will get a candy cane.
Miniature Golf: On weekends it pays to arrive early on the links at Malibu Castle miniature golf. There usually is no wait, and the games are $1 between 10 and 11 a.m. After 11 a.m., the cost is $4 a game for adults and $3 for children, with replays at $1 each. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. Malibu Castle closes Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. and is open Christmas and New Year's Day (4989 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818- 990-8100).
Ice Skating: Many local rinks will be open for public skating during the holidays. Dress your children in warm clothes--long pants and gloves make falling a little bit easier.
Ice Capades Chalet has weekday sessions from 1 to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.; weekend sessions run from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. On Christmas Eve, the rink will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. The rink will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. on Christmas and offer regular hours New Year's Day. Admission is $4.25 per person, plus $1.50 for skate rental (Laurel Plaza, North Hollywood, 818-985-5555).
Van Nuys Iceland has public skating from 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1:45 to 4:30 p.m. weekends. Hours on Christmas and New Year's Day are 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $4 a person, plus $1 for skates (14318 Calvert Ave., Van Nuys, 818-785-2171).
Pickwick Ice Arena will be closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Weekday hours are 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.; weekend hours are 2:30 to 5 p.m. Evening skating is scheduled Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Admission is $4.50 for adults, $4 for juniors and $3.50 for children. Skates are $1.50 (1001 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818- 846-0032).
Bowling: Bowling alleys offer cheaper rates during the day and, since there is no league play, plenty of lanes. It is easier for children to play on their own if the lanes have an automatic scorekeeper, which does all the tallying for them.
Bowlerland has such a scorekeeper and charges $1.40 a game for juniors and $1.80 for adults during the day. After 6 p.m., Bowlerland charges $2.10 a game for everyone. Shoe rental is $1. Daily hours are 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Bowlerland is closed Christmas Eve and open Christmas from 2 to 10 p.m. (7501 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, 818-989-1610).
Van Nuys Airport Tour: Free tours are given at 9:30 and 11 a.m. During Christmas vacation, the tours will be offered Mondays and Tuesdays only, and reservations are essential. The 1 1/2-hour tour, suitable for first-graders and up, takes visitors around the airport to inspect various kinds of aircraft. Everyone is invited to get off the bus and climb around the C-130 military cargo plane at the Air National Guard hangar (6950 Hayvenhurst Ave., Van Nuys, 818- 785-8838).