The holidays! That time from Thanksgiving to New Year's is a hectic mash of shopping and decorating, wrapping and baking. With all that's going on, families need to make sure they take time out and have fun during this busy season. Kids of all ages - from toddlers to teens, moms and dads - will find plenty to brighten the season through a wide variety of new and returning programs.

Teens are the first to get into the spirit of things with a "Thanksgiving Dinner Warm-up" at the STC Underground on Friday, November 17 from 6 to 10 PM. STC Underground members ages 11 to 18 can practice cooking - and eating! - for the big day as they help staff prepare a Thanksgiving dinner with some classic dishes and then get to feast on the fruits of their labors.

Holiday meals and cookie bake-offs can pack on the pounds, but avid pickleball players know they have a sure fire way to keep the ounces at bay. The "Thanksgiving Pickleball Tournament" on Sunday, November 19 from 11 AM to 5 PM should burn up enough calories to leave players in good shape for the holiday meals to come. This 1-day round-robin scramble is open to all skill levels, but registrants should provide their IPF player rating when registering. Lunch will be provided.

But for those who want to spend time in the kitchen without having to prepare a holiday meal, the popular "Trim the Kitchen" program at Primrose Farm is an ideal way to tap into some traditional holiday spirit. Primrose Farm's Summer Kitchen will be a hive of holiday activity on Saturday, December 16 from 3 to 5 PM. Families can learn about the kinds of decorations farm families of the 1930s might create to show some seasonal spirit. Participants can help string popcorn or craft paper ornaments to go on the tree or decorate holiday cookies and help themselves to hot cocoa. Even the Primrose Farm sleigh will be decked out and participants can end their day by taking the sleigh out on its first holiday run. Lots of photo ops available in the newly trimmed kitchen or on the sleigh ride!

And speaking of decorating for the holidays, Hickory Knolls will host its annual "Woodland Santa's Holiday Workshop" on Sunday, December 3, from 10 to 11:30 AM. Watch Santa on his sleigh pulled by his team of huskies (the reindeer are back at the North Pole in training for Christmas Eve). Kids can write a letter to Santa and make an ornament to help him get ready for the Big Day and even pose for a photo with the Big Guy himself! Breakfast snacks are included.

Santa doesn't only travel by sleigh, you know. He also loves trains and families can ride with him on the Polar Express Storytime Train that runs from the LaFox Metra station to Wheaton. It's a magical experience as Santa shares his favorite holiday story, "The Polar Express." Program fees of $29 for residents includes round-trip train ticket and meal at Gino's East in Wheaton. Four runs will be made: Friday, December 1, Saturday December 2, Sunday December 3, and Saturday, December 9. Trains depart at 10 AM and return on the 1:36 PM train.

And for families that just can't spend enough time with ol' Saint Nick, the new "Breakfast with Santa" event gives one more chance to see the jolly guy. Come to Alexander's Caf?t 1650 West Main Street on Tuesday, December 12 from 9 to 11 AM and enjoy a breakfast buffet while Santa visits with each guest. After breakfast, participants will make a holiday craft to take home.

For more information about these special holiday events, visit the St. Charles Park District web site at www.stcparks.org.