Why it's cool: This exhibit takes an in-depth look at a question to which we hardly ever give a second thought: Where does music come from? Through creative headphone-based listening stations, "Wild Music" draws a line connecting nature and what we define as human music, inspiring children and adults to stop and hear what's really going on in the world around them. It also explores the intricacies of sound -- how it's created and what its waves look like in the concrete world.

What kids like: Most of the displays offer intuitive, easy-to-use interactive components, with big buttons and dials a kid can't resist pushing. The kids we took most enjoyed sitting in front of a tank of water and trying out various tools such as a miniature boat propeller to change the sounds coming through their headphones. Also popular was the soundproof jamming room, with a microphone, percussion instruments and other electronic sound-makers -- all setting the scene for a raucous ad hoc musical romp.

What parents like: This exhibit certainly guarantees at least one hour out of your day when you tell your kids to listen and they will. You'll also want to tune in. The sounds are beautifully done, and you get a chance to witness many moments in nature that would otherwise go unheard by a human ear. From the baconlike snapping noise of a shrimp flexing its "wrist" underwater to the crack of deep ocean arctic ice or the flute-like trill of a thrush, you'll find the show a welcome respite from the din of holiday cash registers.


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For younger ones: There's a zone for the 6-and-younger crowd offering cool neon green soft building cubes, a wacky concave mirror ("Hey, Mom, I'm upside down!'') and a ball maze that will keep the tots engaged.

Afterward: Check out the museum's gift shop, which is packed with educational toys, visit the Bay View Cafe or step outside to gaze at the Bay and beyond. There are many other exhibits, classes and shows offered throughout the museum. The university neighborhood is always hopping, with trendy boutiques and eateries all along College and Telegraph avenues. (College is probably a little more kid-friendly.)

-- Kari Hulac, staff writer

the basics

  • WHERE: Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley, at the top of Centennial Drive past Botanical Gardens, through Jan. 6.

  • HOURS: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Biology Lab and Holt Planetarium offer extended days of operation from Dec. 26-Jan. 4.

  • ADMISSION: $10 adults; $8 students/seniors/disabled; $5.50 kids 3-4; free for members and children under 3. (Note: Prices will increase on Feb. 9.)

  • CONTACT: http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org; 510-642-5132.

  • PARKING/TRANSIT: Pay lots close by. Also accessible via the free UC Berkeley campus shuttle and AC Transit.