Free and cheap events for the week & weekend
Looking for some fun and inexpensive ways to keep the kids -- and you -- busy this week? Look no further. We got the deals for you.
Calling all Mommas of little engineers! A big model train show is heading to Clearwater this weekend and it's free for kids 12 and under. The Great Train Expo is a national traveling show that caters to model-train lovers, but there is enough fun stuff there for your wee ones who enjoy everything about trains.
The show features more than 200 display tables from dealers offering every kind of model train you can think of, plus die-cast vehicles, books, and of course, train whistles. The show also will feature trains the kids can operate and a train they can ride on. (The Largo Central Railroad in Largo Central Park also has a train that kids can ride on, and a public ride is coming up there on Aug. 2-3).
Tickets for the train show are $7 for adults and free for kids. Parking is free. That admission is good for both days. The show, which is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is at the Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater.
If you feel like taking the kids to the movies this week, three bay area theaters are showing free flicks: In Largo and Crystal River, the kids can see "Mr. Bean's Holiday" and "Happy Feet" on Wednesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, you can check out the animated baseball tale "Everyone's Hero" and "Evan Almighty," starring Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell, in Pinellas Park.
For some inexpensive water fun on Friday night, check out two family-friendly possibilities in Pinellas: Families can come enjoy the slides and diving boards at the Fossil Park Pool in St. Petersburg from 7:30-9 p.m. If you'd rather see a movie while you cool out in the pool, enjoy the Flick 'N Float at the Southwest Pool in Largo. Pool opens at 7:30 so all swimming and splashing can be done before the movie "Mousehunt" begins at 9 p.m.
There are a couple of events happening in Orlando that are cheap or free, although you have to factor in gas prices these days too. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open training camp Saturday at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando. If you take the kids this weekend, you won't see quarterback Jeff Garcia but there should be plenty of other stars there to check out.
Also in Orlando, the Celebrity Mascot Games are Thursday-Saturday. Mascots from more than 30 professional teams, including the Rays own Raymond, will battle it out in gladiator-style games. Tickets are $9 ($15 for reserved on Saturday only) and proceeds help to grant wishes for seriously ill kids.
And if you haven't taken the kids to the fabulous Tampa Theatre yet, this may be the weekend to go. Twelve classic Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig to name a few, will be shown beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for all are $8.
There are so many other good family events to choose from as well. You've really got no good excuse to stay home.
-- Sherry Robinson
[Great Train Expo photo, Universal Studios, St. Petersburg Times]