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BEST BETS

1. Ever wonder what bears do for Christmas?

Take Buster Bear, for instance. He's always in hibernation, until this year when he learns about Santa and the meaning of Christmas.

And then there's the story of the tin soldier who falls in love with a paper dancer. What is a paper dancer?

Discover the answer at the Lancaster Opera House, where two holiday puppet matinees will be staged. At 1 p.m. Monday, "The Bear Who Wouldn't Believe in Christmas" will be performed, followed at 1 p.m. Tuesday with "The Steadfast Tin Soldier."

Following Monday's performance, the audience can visit a Holiday Circus featuring marching marionettes.

Tickets are $3. For box office information and reservations, call the Opera House, 21 Central Ave., at 683-1776.

2. Here's another venue that won't be dark for the holiday week: Explore & More Children's Museum in East Aurora.

Traditionally closed early in the week, the museum will be open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for families who are searching for fun -- and food for thought.

The current exhibit at the museum, "Incredible Edibles," caters to children from infancy to age 10, who might want to bring their parents along.

In addition to theme exhibits, activity days and book readings, the museum offers educational school workshops, and serves as an educational and parenting resource.

The museum is located at 430 Main St. and is usually open Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for children, $2 for adults.

3. Bored of tinseled trees and lights that seem too bright? Tired of the millennium merry-go-round? Well.

Board that bull!

The Professional Bull Riding Rodeo takes to the South Towns from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, with winners advancing to compete on New Year's Eve.

Bully!

Tickets for the steering session, to be held at the Hamburg Fairgrounds, cost $6 for children and $12 for adults.

For more information on the New Year's Eve bucking, dancing and dinner extravaganza, call the Hamburg Fairgrounds at 649-3900, ext. 404.

4. Sword fights! A giant ship! A quest to save the world!

Are Bill and Hillary at it again?

No. It's "The Voyage of the Dragonfly" presented at 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday by Theatre of Youth, at the splendidly restored Allendale Theater, 203 Allen St. Join the strong-willed Queen Meaghan as she sails to the enchanted island of Alamauria to capture the mystical flame.

Children ages 9 and up will most enjoy the production that runs without intermission for 90 minutes and includes an interactive chat.

Single admission is $10 for all ages. Group discounts are available by calling 884-4400.

5. What better way to to put the icing on the holiday cake than gliding downtown to the Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza. Weak ankles allowed!

Special holiday skate times for Monday through Friday are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Regular hours are: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. All-day skating on Saturdays lasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Sundays, the ice is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Blades are available for rental, with prices for children at $2. Adults, meanwhile, are charged $2 before 2 p.m. and $3 after 2 p.m.

Group rates and party arrangements can be planned by calling Buffalo Place at 856-3150 or 854-RINK.

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