Free and cheap family events
After all the eating this Thanksgiving and the potential for lots of spending on Black Friday, you will definitely want to get up and active for as little as possible. So check out these free and cheap family events.
You can be thankful on Thursday that there is some place to take the kids either before or after the big feast. You and the family can check out the festively decorated Christmas trees and homes at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N, Largo. The Trees and Traditions exhibit will be open on select dates through Jan. 4. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. And if you can't get enough of seeing pretty Christmas trees, check out the UPARC Festival of Trees at the Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater. The trees are decorated by artists and businesses and then sold for charity. The festival, which runs through Sunday, started in 1984 and has raised nearly $1.3-million. Fee is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for ages 3-16 and hours vary.
If you want to run off a few calories before the big feed, check out the St. Petersburg Times Turkey Trot, a Thanksgiving tradition in its 30th year that begins at 7:15 a.m. Thursday at Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School, 540 S Hercules Ave. There is still time to pre-register for the run, which includes two 5K runs, a 1K and the 10K. Online registration has ended but you can register at the Turkey Trot Kick-Off Party from 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday night at the stadium. The free party will include snacks, live music, fun and games. If you don't want to run, you can cheer on the participants. I feel healthier just thinking about it.
On Friday, a pair of tree lightings will certainly get your family in the mood for the season. The Enchanted Tree Lighting at Old Hyde Park Village, 742 S Village Circle, in Tampa will begin at 6 p.m. and is free. Santa will be on hand to light the 30-foot tree and there will be musical performances, carriage rides, carolers and children's activities. An hour later at 7 p.m., the jolly tall one, Mayor Ricker Baker, will be on hand to light the holiday tree in St. Petersburg's Straub Park, Fifth Avenue NE and Bayshore Drive. And after you see the tree in St. Petersburg, you can enjoy a free showing of the original Miracle on 34th Street on movie, which will be shown on the exterior wall of the museum. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and jackets.
Continuing on the holiday theme of this week's Free and Cheap, Beginning Saturday through Jan. 4, there will be a Holiday Garden Lights display at the Florida Botanical Gardens, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. The exhibit is open from 6 to 10 p.m. each night and features more than 425,000 lights. It's free so head over and be thankful you aren't paying for the electricity for that display.
Finally, Mrs. Claus gets her due in the Wacky Tales Children's Theater production of Mrs. Santa Saves the Day at 1 p.m. Sunday at the St. Petersburg Little Theater, 4025 31st St. S. Admission is $4 and children under 2 are free.
Now, eat a turkey leg for me and make a wish on the wishbone that all your dreams -- clean house, giving to charity, fun with the kids -- will come true.
-- Sherry Robinson
[Photos: Festival of Trees Web site; Turkey Trot poster; Miracle on 34th Street handout]