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For kids on school break -- we have ways to entertain you

You and your kids could solve a crime this week, see a hawk up close, celebrate Dyngus Day or go to a baseball game.

Most children have off from school this week, so we've tried to come up with some answers to the age-old question: What is there to do?

There are plenty of activities close to home that will produce good times and foster great memories.

Some are free, some are not, and some require registration. It may not be beach weather here, with the forecasters predicting highs in the upper 40s and rain some days, but you don't have to be bored.

"All year they've been inside. I just want to get out," said Melissa Bannister, of Cheektowaga.

She took her children and their friends to Stiglmeier Park recently, where they played softball and football and climbed on the playground. They're looking forward to returning this week.

"With the structure at school, I think it's better to let them unwind a bit," Bannister said.

Parks and nature preserves have some indoor programs, and local libraries will have all sorts of activities -- such as the Dance Dance Revolution Party at the North Tonawanda Public Library and a family program on birds of prey at the Aurora Town Public Library.

Explore other cultures

Kid-friendly venues such as Explore and More Children's Museum are gearing up for a lot of visitors this week, starting with Dyngus Day on Monday.

"These are busy days for us, among our busiest of the year," said Barbara Leggett, director of Explore and More in East Aurora.

The children's museum has activities every day this week, celebrating traditions from Poland, Puerto Rico, Italy, Yemen and Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Children will learn about other cultures while sampling traditional foods such as Polish babka, making pizza from scratch, learning to write Arabic or getting a henna tattoo.

"Whenever kids are off from school, I think families are looking for something that has a bit of depth to it," Leggett said.

The 12-and-older crowd might enjoy solving a crime at the Buffalo Museum of Science. The interactive exhibit, "CSI: The Experience," is based on the television crime series. Visitors get to use the latest in forensic science as they walk into a simulated crime scene.

"Everyone who has gone through has loved it," said Amy Biber, marketing manager at the museum. "It's extremely interactive."

The museum has activities geared toward younger children, too, such as fingerprinting, K9 demonstrations, powder tracing and testing of observational skills.

Entry to CSI: The Experience is timed by 15 minute increments, and the last ticket is sold one hour before closing. The exhibit takes about an hour to complete, and Biber suggests getting there early in the day.

Reinstein Woods & Nature Preserve is offering CSI of a different kind. "CSI: Critter Sign Investigation," which takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, teaches youngsters how to become nature detectives and look for "clues" left by wildlife along the trails. Registration for that program and for others this week, such as "Frogs in Harmony," requires a phone call in advance.

You can walk right up to Coca-Cola Field, where the Buffalo Bisons are celebrating their 25th season at the field this year. The home opener is at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, and there are games the rest of the week with special promotions.

Two children get in free with one adult on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Games start at 1:05 p.m.

Have a budding chef? There are children's cooking classes at Wegmans and Tops Markets.

Don't forget hiking, bicycling, fishing and golfing when the weather cooperates.

Besides going to your neighborhood park or playground, check out nature trails and the playgrounds at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center in West Seneca or the Tifft Nature Preserve, with trails and ponds. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Basom, N.Y., has more than 10,000 acres of wetlands, marshes, hiking paths and overlooks. Or visit a county park or play a round of golf.

>... or learn about the past

Looking for something historical? Go to Old Fort Niagara, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Museum, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, the Amherst Museum and other local museums.

The History Center in Lockport has a program for children that commemorates the sinking of the Titanic. Reservations are needed for the program, which includes trying out Morse code, sampling foods served in each class and trying to get a seat in a lifeboat.

Don't forget the Buffalo Zoo, great in any weather. Niagara Falls is always captivating, even if many of the attractions are not yet open for the season.

Here is a partial list of places to go:

*Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls; 9 to 5 p.m. daily; 285-3575 or visit aquariumofniagara.org.

*Buffalo Bisons, Coca-Cola Field, 275 Washington St.; visit bisons.com.

*Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave.; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m daily; 827-1584 or visit buffalogardens.com.

*Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, Buffalo Place at the foot of Pearl and Main streets; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 847-1773 or visit buffalonavalpark.org.

*Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 896-5200 or visit sciencebuff.org.

*Buffalo Zoo, 300 Parkside Ave.; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 837-3900 or visit buffalozoo.org.

*Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center, 2001 Union Road, West Seneca; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 677-4843 or visit burchfieldnac.org.

*Erie County Parks; 9 a.m. to dusk; visit www2.erie.gov/parks.

*Explore & More, 300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; 566-5131 or visit exploreandmore.org.

*Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda; noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; 693-1885 or visit carrouselmuseum.org.

*History Center, 215 Niagara St., Lockport; 434-7433 or email history11@verizon.net.

*Medina Railroad Museum, 530 West Ave., Medina; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; 585-798-6106 or visit railroadmuseum.net.

*Niagara County Parks; 7 a.m. to dusk; visit www.niagaracounty.com/Parks.

*Niagara Falls State Park; 278-1796 or visit niagarafallsstatepark.com.

*Old Fort Niagara, Scott Avenue, Youngstown; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; 745-7611 or visit oldfortniagara.org.

*Penn Dixie, 4050 North St., Hamburg; open for fossil hunting 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; 627-4560 or visit penndixie.org.

*Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve & Environmental Education Center, 93 Honorine Drive, Cheektowaga; 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday; trails open daily; 683-5959 or visit www.dec.ny.gov/education/1977.html.

*Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.; visitors center staffed 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; 825-6397 or visitwww.sciencebuff.org/tifft-nature-preserve.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com