Spring break has sprung.
And while the recent weather has been freakishly warm enough to make it feel like the start of summer vacation, we're really only talking about a one-week respite from classes, homework and the usual school routine.
But for parents who may have to endure whiny refrains of, "There's nothing to do" from restless youngsters, that can feel like an eternity.
Not to worry. There are plenty of family-friendly options for getting the kids out of the house and busy with fun, engaging and even educational activities. Some of them are even free.
Here are a few of the possibilities:
MAGICIANS, jugglers, clowns and assorted zany entertainers from across Canada will ensure there's plenty of goofing off at The Forks Market during the 12th annual Festival of Fools, which runs from today to April Fool's Day.
This year's entertainment lineup at the free indoor event, put on by the Winnipeg International Children's Festival, includes Ontario's The Silly People and B.C.'s The Underground Circus and Mike "Yes, I'm Clearly" Battie.
Juggler Robin Chestnut, magician Ryan Price, Flyin' Bob, Mr. Mark, The Majake Show and Gustavo the Impossibilist will also be part of the fun. Performances take place daily between noon and 3 p.m.
The festival -- which has been extended by one day this year -- also features face-painting and free hands-on workshops at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. daily (and 2:30 p.m. on weekends). New this year are trapeze workshops, where kids can try out the high-flying art for themselves (on Saturdays and Sundays only). Participants must register at the Festival of Fools General Store.
On Friday at 11:30 a.m., the whole family can don red noses, goofy wigs and big dancing shoes and join Fred Penner and other special guests at the first-ever Clown Hop.
This year day-care centres may pre-book seating for lunch (four times blocks available each day) by contacting Angela Reimer at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 958-4730.
For more festival info, visit www.theforks.com or call 957-7618.
Free fun at the library
NEVER mind books. There's a whole slate of cool -- and free -- stuff for children, tweens and teens to check out at the Winnipeg Public Library branches during spring break.
Think music, magic, crafts, creative writing... the Hunger Games.
Mago the Magician, Métis storyteller Ted Longbottom, origami instructor Bob Frayer and creative writing coach Karin Adams will be visiting branches across the city to offer hour-long workshops for children and their families.
Tweens (ages 9 to 12) can take a workshop on how to make a collage, a mini felt mascot and a sock puppet, or they can join a Wii gaming tournament or a Dungeons & Dragons game.
For teens (ages 13 to 17), there's a workshop on designing and making your own jewelry on Tuesday, and a Hunger Games Party on Thursday for fans of the post-apocalyptic survival franchise.
The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra will be visiting various library branches for a series of hour-long performances -- with an emphasis on fiddle music -- and to explain how the instruments make the sounds they do.
For info and to pre-register for programs, check out the March/April newsletter or visit winnipeg.ca/library and click on Library Programs & Events.
Day at the Museum
The recently renovated Children's Museum -- a $10-million makeover doubled the number of galleries and added 3,500 square feet of space -- is offering a whirlwind week of activities guaranteed to protect the little ones against I'm-So-Bored Syndrome.
Each day has its own theme and special guest, with activities taking place mostly between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The lineup includes comedic magician Ryan Price (March 26), improv artist RobYn Slade (March 27), Prairie Exotics reptiles (March 28), Taiko drummer Phoebe Man (March 29), University of Manitoba classical music program (March 30) and Art with Art City (March 31).
Programs are free with regular $10 museum admission. See www.childrensmuseum.com.
The circus is here!
CLASS clowns may be on a break, but some professional ones are coming to town -- along with a contortionist, a silk artist and a fire breather --to give audiences a "traditional circus experience."
Circus Mondo will also have some elephants, lions, camels and baboons in tow when it performs four shows at the MTS Centre March 30 and 31.
The Montreal-based traveling circus will perform at 7 p.m. on March 30 and at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 31. Tickets are $18 and $33.50 at Ticketmaster. (One free children's ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket.)
The circus is there!
KIDS of all ages are invited to run off and join the circus at the Manitoba Museum, where they'll also learn about some of the science behind those amazing feats
Not only is this your last chance to see the interactive touring exhibit Circus: Science Under the Big Top, which ends on April 8, the museum will be offering special circus-themed shows in the planetarium auditorium throughout spring break.
Linzsanity, a "fire-eating, hoop-dancing, human blockhead" with a propensity for walking on broken glass and lying on a bed of nails, will be roving the exhibit and foyer daily from 1 to 2 p.m. She'll perform her Circus Science show at 2:30 p.m. on March 24, 25, 30, 31 and April 1.
Chris Without the Hat will also be roving to wow spectators with his juggling skills while explaining the science behind them. He'll perform in the auditorium at the same times as Linzsanity.
Don't miss the Cabinet of Curiosities -- weird, odd and just plain wrong artifacts, including a two-headed skink and a cow hairball --which circus animators will be showing off to visitors.
In the museum galleries, experience a fur trade adventure, take a Natural History Challenge, step aboard the Nonsuch, and dive into the Ancient Seas animated underwater observatory.
The Planetarium has three daily shows to choose from: In My Backyard with Fred Penner, To the Moon (join narrator Ace Burpee on a lunar adventure) and Manitoba Skies, a live tour of the celestial phenomena visible in the Manitoba skies.
The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., today to April 1. For more info, go to www.manitobamuseum.ca or call 956-2830.
Catch a funny bus
MANITOBA Theatre for Young People continues its tradition of programming an especially exuberant show during spring break with The Number 14, a wild, antics-filled encounter with public transportation that's said to deliver a busload of laughs.
The Vancouver-based Axis Theatre production, which last stopped at the theatre at The Forks in 2007, employs mime, clowning, acrobatics, masks and skits and commedia dell'arte to gently send up commuters.
The Number 14 rolls out public matinée and evening shows until April 1. For times and tickets, see www.mtyp.ca or call 942-8898.