THE NEW year ushers in a fresh start for many of Philadelphia's cultural institutions. Catch these events before they shutter for good. And don't say we didn't warn you.

Franklin Square

Remember summer? Prolong those sweet memories with one last visit to Franklin Square before the rehabbed park closes up shop until April. The mini-golf course, playground and Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel are all open, despite the weather outside being more frightful than delightful. Kids are treated to their own version of New Year's Eve (sans champagne) on Friday with a countdown to 6 p.m.

Franklin Square, 6th and Race streets; through Friday; 5-8 p.m.; 215-629- 4026, historicphiladelphia.org.

Magic Gardens

Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, the Sonia King of South Street, exhibits his newest work. Similar to Zagar's other pieces that populate the South Street neighborhood, these new works use an eclectic variety of materials, including china plates, Mexican figurines and pieces of tiles covered with words. Also featured are Zagar's straw mosaics - portraits of artists who influenced him - done in collaboration with Mexican artist Luz Maria.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, 1020 South St.; through Jan. 3; Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; $2-$5; 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org.

'Cleopatra'

That elaborately painted amber eye has been staring off SEPTA buses for months, but now "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" is going to leave its home at the Franklin Institute. With the blessings of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, "Cleopatra" delves into the famed monarch's biography and the efforts being undertaken by archaeologists to learn more about her.

Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St.; through Jan. 2; Monday-Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; $19.50-$29.50; 215-448-1200, fi.edu.

'The Nutcracker'

The Pennsylvania Ballet continues its tradition of performing this classic George Balanchine Christmas ballet. The piece never loses its magic, nor do those Sugar Plum Fairies ever lose their sweetness.

Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.; through Friday; Tuesday-Thursday, 2 p.m.; Friday, noon; $30-$139; 215-893-1999, paballet.org.

'This Is the Week That Is'

Like "The Nutcracker," comedic-theater troupe 1812 Productions' "This Is the Week That Is" has become a holiday tradition. Now in its fifth year, this topical show changes annually and features 1812 players riffing on news and politics ripped from the national and local headlines. Local fave Tony Braithwaite holds down the anchor desk, while Philly improv mainstay Don Montrey puts on the head-writer hat. 1812's diminutive (and fearless) leader Jennifer Childs directs. Think of it as SNL's Weekend Update in sketch form.

Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St.; through Friday; Tuesday, Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.; $26-$32; 215-592-9560, 1812productions.org.

'A Fractured Christmas Carol'

The kiddies may not get the political complexities of "This Is the Week That Is," so try Walking Fish Theatre's "A Fractured Christmas Carol," featuring two local kid actors and two pros who turn Dickens' classic into an interactive family experience. Dickens probably would have gotten a kick out of the tweaks B. Someday Productions made in the oft-told tale: Jacob "Bob" Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present from da Hood.

Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave.; through Thursday; 4 p.m.; $5-$8; 215-427-9255, walkingfishtheatre.com.

PAFA's Faces

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts show "Narcissus in the Studio: Artist Portraits and Self-Portraits" explores how artists see themselves, with work from artists as varied as Philly native Thomas Eakins and Southwest-influenced Walter Ufer. While at PAFA, make your way to the also soon-to-closed exhibit "Same: Difference," which explores how artists use similar materials and concepts to very different ends.

PAFA, 118 N. Broad St.; through Sunday; Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; $8-$10; 215-972-7600, pafa.org.