Free and cheap events for the family
Ah, January in Florida. It’s what people spend thousands of dollars to come visit, and we get it for free. We're lucky because many of the visitors who were here for the holidays have gone home and we have these great events to keep us busy.
There are a couple of free events specifically for the animal lovers in your house. On Thursday, the Florida Classic Clusters Dog Show begins its run at 8 a.m. at Florida Classic Park, 5360 Lockhart Road Brooksville. The AKC-sanctioned, all-breed dogs shows, obedience trials and rally trials. Behind-the-scenes show tours will be given and rescue organizations will be on site with adoptable dogs. Kids' Day is Sunday and Seniors' Day is Jan. 12. Admission is free but parking is $5. The shows run through Jan. 18. On Saturday and Sunday, you can enjoy the wonders of sea cows at the Manatee Festival in downtown Crystal River beginning at 9 a.m. each day. Highlights include seeing manatees in their own environment, a craft show, boat and kayak tours and a Jimmy Buffet contest. It cost $2 to attend and parking is free with a shuttle.
Take a jacket to the Weedon Family Night Hike at the Weedon Island Preserve 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday. As children explore the trails of preserve, they are introduced to the special animals that take advantage of the dark. Hikers will look and listen for nocturnal animals. Parts of the hike occur on rugged trails and are not suitable for strollers. Recommended for families, suitable for children ages 5 - 12. Pre-registration is required. Call (727) 453-6500 to register and for more information.
Check out the Central Pasco & Gulf Railroad, a large-scale model train along the lines of the Largo Central Railroad, is offering rides to the public on Saturday and the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Round-trip rides take about 10-15 minutes. Suggested donation is $1 per person. Find the railroad at 16739 Crews Lake Drive, Brookesville. For information, call (727) 569-2289.
The Green Machine: Kids’ Expo 2009 will feature a day of planet preserving activities, including stories, crafts and entertainment. Featured act is Didgeridoo Down Under, an Australian-themed show combining environmentalism, culture and music. Children who make an earth-saving commitment receive a prize. Catch it from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Largo Public Library, 120 Central Park Drive, Largo. Call (727) 587-6715 for more info.
Did you realize there’s even a holiday for this general “the holidays are over, time to get back to work” feeling we all have? It’s call Roc Day, and the Pinellas Weavers Guild is celebrating this traditional time in European cultures for women to put away their holiday baking pans and get back to their needle work. The Pinellas weavers will have mini-classes at 1 and 2 p.m. with demonstrations throughout the day, exhibits and information for new spinners and weavers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N, in Largo. Free. (727) 582-2123. Also at Heritage Village on Saturday from 1-3 p.m., enjoy the
Brag to your squeamish friends that you are going all Crocodile Dundee on ‘em at the Alligator Walk this Sunday at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Learn about the natural history of the alligator, its habitat, eating habits and babies in a park that is crawling with them in Lake Maggiore. Chances are good that you and a prehistoric eating machine will be within spitting distance of each other. The talk is at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and the preserve also has a nice picnic area and alligator-free playground at 1101 Country Club Way S in St. Petersburg. Cost is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children. Call (727) 893-7326 for more info.
Sunday is $5 Conservation Day at Lowry Park Zoo. The Walmart-sponsored event lets you visit the zoo on the cheap (it’s normally $18.95 to step into the jungle) and learn about endangered wildlife at what Child magazine ranks as the No. 1 family friendly zoo. Bring water shoes for the splash area, and be ready to shell out more dough for some of the extras such as the train or camel rides or feeding the giraffes by hand. That will cost you $2 to $5 each. The zoo is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa. Read here for the best way to enjoy the visit while battling the crowds.
And even though this is early, these classes fill up fast so put this in your day planner to register for the Kids in the Kitchen class. Learn interesting facts about the foods you eat and gain skills to create quick and healthy meals the whole family will love. This is a free one-night family seminar open to families and kids 8 years old and up. Kids will have the opportunity to prepare and taste test a fun and healthy recipe. The class is from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29 at All Children's Hospital, Education and Conference Center, 701 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg. Space is limited so call (727) 767-6923 today to register.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sherry Robinson