As the winter solstice approaches, the days are shorter, the nights are longer and Winter FUNderland is just around the corner.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Winter FUNderland returns to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History with seasonal favorites (snow and Santa) and something new (The Magic Planet).

Along with 20 tons of snow and free photo opportunities with Santa (from noon to 3 p.m.), Winter FUNderland also brings back Chumash Winter Solstice storytelling by Alan Salazar, nature activity stations and the famous “Santa’s Starry Ride” planetarium show. New to the festival are live music, holiday piñatas and a “Tales of the Maya Skies” planetarium show.

Also new to Winter FUNderland is an exploration of the museum’s backyard, where adults and children can “go outside and play.” To get to the backyard, visitors take the Butterfly Pavilion Pathway, go through the Willow Arches, trek through Boulder Alley and land at the Teepee Forts. There they will find the Water Course, Performance Stage and Trio Tree Stumps. Everyone can be a kid and build a fort, climb a tree, pretend on stage or make mud pies. And unlike snow, the museum’s backyard won’t melt away and is a new permanent nature area for museum visitors.

The biggest and newest element is the museum’s new permanent exhibit — The Magic Planet, a sphere-shaped learning tool that provides a captivating experience with stunning digital media of the Earth and other planets. Mounted in the museum’s Space Lab next to the Gladwin Planetarium, The Magic Planet is a 4-foot globe that appears to float in space in front of visitors. It shows in vivid color and dramatic motion, the atmospheric, oceanographic, geological and planetary processes that affect our Earth and all of us. Drawing from data collected by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, the sphere’s animations illustrate real-world information.

All of the festival activities and new exhibitions are included with general admission to the museum. For museum members, admission and planetarium show tickets are free.

Click here or call 805.682.4711 x170 for a schedule and prices.

— Easter Moorman is the marketing and public relations manager for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.