THRILLS

Wednesday December 27 Bored games: The most interminable part of the holidays begins right about now, when the tree begins to shed and the novelty of new bikes and Barbies begins to wear thin. But there are ways to prevent cabin fever from taking hold. For instance, there's nothing like a frosty jaunt to put the bloom back on those cheeks, and Barr Lake State Park, with that in mind, offers daily nature activities for kids and families through Sunday. A one- to two-mile nature walk starts things off at 10 this morning; other sessions include tomorrow's animal-tracking workshop for children ages six to twelve and an all-ages wildlife puppet show Friday. Events take place at the park's Nature Center, 13401 Picadilly Rd., southeast of Brighton off I-76; a $3 daily park pass or annual pass is required for each vehicle. For more information or to register, call 659-6005. Discoveries can also be made indoors at the Denver Art Museum, which extends its Adventure Backpacks program, usually offered on alternate Saturdays, to a daily schedule through Saturday. Backpacks--stuffed with themed materials such as Samurai Swords and Stories or Postcards and Passports, free of charge and recommended for ages five to twelve--can be checked out between 10:30 and 3:30 from the first-floor Kids' Corner. And if an extra backpack can't be found, the museum also now features special, touchable Art Stops on each floor, while older children and unencumbered adults can check out the Choice Tour, a 45-minute guided introduction to DAM collections offered at 1:30 p.m. daily. The museum is located at 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.; for information call 640-4433.

Thursday December 28 Strings attached: Mini moppets with time on their hands will instead have the time of their lives at the Denver Puppet Theatre, whose latest offering, The Day It Snowed Tortillas--a Southwestern tale with no holiday aftertaste--opens today. Every show--offered Thursday through Sunday, weekly through February at puppeteer Annie Zook's children's venue--combines a fun performance with hands-on string-pulling for young participants (involving a collection of more than 100 puppets and marionettes), as well as a great, messy art project in a special workshop area. Tickets, usually available without reservations, are $3. The theater is located in the University Hills Mall, 2700 S. Colorado Blvd.; call 757-8702 or 987-3612 for details.

Friday December 29 Elvis has entered the building: There's always one name accidentally left off your holiday gift list. But a visit to the Colorado History Museum's new exhibit Shake, Rattle & Roll: The 1950s in Colorado--the latest in a decade-by-decade museum series, featuring a loving Elvis paean, Davy Crockett coonskin caps, poodle skirts, oh-so-modern '50s consumer products and a cherry 1950 Mercury among its various paraphernalia--can help you kill two birds with one stone. Plead that you were caught in a time warp. Then you can have a jolly old time perusing the exhibition's authentic artifacts and, afterward, shopping the museum store's collection of ancient Magic 8 Balls, McGuffey's Readers and I Love Lucy cookbooks for those late--very late--wrappables. It could, at the very least, make you appear to be utterly keen, daddy-o. Shake, Rattle & Roll continues at the museum, 1300 Broadway, through next August; call 866-3682.

I shot an arrow in the air: Now here's a novel way to pick a site for your temporary art installation: Throw darts at a map of the city. That's exactly what six EDGE Gallery members did, and they'll be on hand to celebrate the results with a show called MAP (short for Metro Art Project), opening tonight from 7 to 10 at EDGE, 3658 Navajo St. Photographs of each work will be displayed through January 14, along with "something removed from the site"; if you'd like to hunt out any of the installations in their natural habitats, call EDGEtremist Marti Lawrence at 293-8977 for information.

Saturday December 30 Last chance: Didn't snap up your tickets to Big Head Todd fast enough, eh? Todd tourmates and H.O.R.D.E.-fest veterans Ugly Americans--an Austin band boasting former members of Cracker, Poi Dog Pondering and Mojo Nixon's outfit among its fold--will be getting funky tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. And they'll be back for a New Year's Eve show tomorrow night, with help from Zoo People and Carolyn's Mother. Tickets are $8 this evening and only $15 for tomorrow's party; call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS to reserve your seats.

Sunday December 31 As the world turns: The truly creative New Year's Eve reveler can actually celebrate the last day of the year from before dawn till, well, when the cows come home. All it takes is a little planning. Start off with a Global Peace Meditation Service--you can participate in the annual guided prayer service, a synchronized hour-long World Healing Day affair involving similar meetings all over the world, at 5 this morning at the First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams St. (322-7738), and the Divine Science Church of Truth, 1939 S. Monroe St. (759-3409), in Denver, or at Unity of Boulder Church, 2855 Folsom (442-1411), in Boulder. Both Denver meditations are to be followed by potluck breakfasts, while the Boulder location will repeat its ceremony at 11:30 tonight; call the individual church for details. As the morning wears on, little folks can get a head start on the holiday by attending a staging of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, to be performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, today at 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. Reserved seating is five bucks a head; call 986-8742 or 830-TIXS to snap up your tix. Events at that annual misnomer, First Night Colorado, get under way long before dark, making it a perfect party place for everyone. The alcohol-free arts blowout, moving this year to roomy digs at the Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, starts off with the Denver Concert Band at noon; nonstop entertainment can be found in nine heated tent pavilions beginning at 1 and continuing through the night. Then prepare to get starry-eyed: It's all topped off by fabulous fireworks at midnight. Tickets are $7 in advance at area Total gas stations ($8 at the gate); for information call 808-1996. Families are also the focus at the Kwanzaa Karimu Celebration, an African-flavored event sponsored by the Moyo Nguvu Cultural Arts Center. Taking place at Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St., from 5 to 10 p.m., the festival features an Afrocentric kaleidoscope of arts and crafts, music and martial arts, as well as live jazz and potluck feasting. Ethnic garb is encouraged for partygoers. Admission is $10 ($5 children, seven and under free); call 322-2511. Now, if you're kidless, dance-crazy, glitz-hungry or just ready to revel, turn to the New Year's Guide for further partying possibilities. And keep in mind: Rides on all RTD buses will be free from 7 tonight until 6 tomorrow morning. Or--if you think you've had too much to drink--American Cab will donate complimentary rides for the woozy between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. If you need to, give 'em a call.

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