Most public school students in Tampa Bay are off until Jan. 8, and we also happen to be experiencing some pretty chilly temperatures for the remainder of vacation. Here are some suggestions to keep the kids entertained and stay warm at the same time.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium has a treat included with admission: a new 4-D Theater now screening Polar Express. The 4-D experience combines the screening of a 3-D film with bubbles, wind and scents. Shows daily through Jan. 11. $28.95, $26.95 seniors, $23.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. Tickets are generally about $2 cheaper if you buy them online. (813) 273-4000. flaquarium.org.
The once-giant science center is in the process of moving to downtown Tampa so in the meantime, it has cut ticket prices in half and moved most of its attractions to one wing of the building. It’s full of hands-on science exploration and a new digital exhibit. There is also a zip line and Sky Trail Ropes Course ($7) that’s open Friday-Sunday, and the Saunders Planetarium with daily shows ($5). Free parking. Admission $12.95, $10.95 seniors, $7.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000. mosi.org.
Star Wars and the Power of Costume
The visiting exhibit at St. Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Arts has perfect timing, coming on the heels of the blockbuster The Last Jedi. It features more than 60 original costumes from the Star Wars films. The special exhibition requires a timed ticket of $25, $18 ages 7 to 17, free children 6 and younger, which includes admission to the other galleries. It remains on display through April 1. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-2667. mfastpete.org.
While school is out for winter break, there will be free activities at seven of the city of Tampa’s park and rec centers from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 2-5. Benito Playground Activity Center; Copeland Park Community Center; Gwendolyn Miller Community Center; Jackson Heights Center; Loretta Ingraham Complex; Port Tampa Community Center; Wellswood Center. Four community centers will be open from 6-10 p.m. the same days for "Stay and Play" for teens with rec cards. Copeland Community Center; Jackson Heights Center; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center; Springhill Community Center.
Looking for a way to wear kids out in addition to having some fun family time? Here’s some ideas:
• Consider the huge trampoline arenas to burn off energy. Most kids are thoroughly worn out within an hour of literally bouncing off the walls. The Boing Jump Center, 622-624 Ware Blvd., Tampa, has extended its hours from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. until Jan. 6. (813) 341-4897. boingjumpcenter.com. Also check Airheads Trampoline Arena, with locations in Carrollwood and Largo, (813) 247-4323. airheadsusa.com.
• Skatepark of Tampa: A good chunk of this well-known skateboard facility is actually indoors, with mini-ramps and street courses for all levels, including its famous bowl. 4215 E Columbus Drive, Tampa. (813) 621-6793. skateparkoftampa.com.
• Escape rooms: Players in groups of two to eight must work together to find clues, crack codes and solve puzzles to escape the room before time runs out. There are numerous choices in the area, such as the Great Escape Room, 300 Madison St., Tampa, thegreatescaperoom.com; and the Tampa Bay Escape Room, 625 Cleveland St., Clearwater; tampabayescaperoom.com.
• Xtreme Adventures Family Fun Center near Land O’Lakes is a two-level, 6,000-square-foot center with laser tag, "human foosball," an arcade and a cafe at 24810 State Road 54, Lutz. For the winter break the fun center will be open early on weekdays. xtremeadventures4fun.com.
• Vertical Ventures indoor climbing gym has locations near Tampa International Airport and in St. Petersburg, offering huge walls of man-made rock obstacles. verticalventures.com.