Balancing the kids' return to school, winter sports, and all the other responsibilities the new year brings can be tough. To find out how the professionals do it, check out the Red Panda Acrobats, a San Francisco-based troupe of Chinese clowns and contortionists who make the balancing act involved in shuttling the family around look like child's play. Professionally trained in Shanghai, the troupe has been astounding audiences with unbelievable feats like the Barrel Contortionist Act, the Pagoda Bowl Balance, and the Rice Bowls Balance for more than a decade.
The act's current show celebrates the Chinese New Year as well as the storied tradition of Chinese acrobatics, which dates back over 2,500 years to the Western Han Dynasty. Of course, they didn't have Cub Scouts and Little League back then. The tumbling begins at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. daily at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds (at Murray), Sausalito. Admission is $13-15; call 339-3900 or visit www.baykidsmuseum.org. -- Jack Karp
Ah, a day in the park: birds twittering, frogs croaking, salamanders -- what is it salamanders do? Hear it all on the "Free Family Discovery Hike," a guided nature stroll beginning at 10 a.m. in Golden Gate Park, Middle & MLK, S.F. Admission is free; call 750-7143. -- Joyce Slaton
New in Town?
It may seem odd to create a musical about Eastern European Jews fleeing persecution in the early 1900s, but that's just what the Young People's Teen Musical Theatre Company sings about in Rags, the full-length drama playing in town for two weekends only. The show follows a Russian immigrant and her son as they move from Ellis Island to a New York City sweatshop in search of the family patriarch, who left his loved ones behind when he preceded them to the United States. Be uplifted by the downtrodden tonight at 8 (and through Feb. 22) at the Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), S.F. Admission is $7-9; call 554-9523 or visit www.randallmuseum.org. -- Joyce Slaton
This weekend, why not let your 5- to 10-year-olds stay out all night long? What? Don't panic, parents -- we're talking about "Kids' Night Out,"a safe, supervised overnight party hosted monthly at the Presidio Community YMCA. Each outing begins with a sporty activity like a hike or swimming, after which attendees watch a movie and snuggle into sleeping bags. The high-pitched giggling begins at 7 p.m. at Funston & Lincoln, S.F. Admission is $25; call 447-9622 or visit www.ymcasf.org. -- Joyce Slaton