Free and cheap family fun
If you're like us, your wallets are empty after a month of big meals, trips to see relatives and lots of gifts. So we all could use a little free and cheap fun to get 2010 off to a good start. Try these events on that could help keep your wallet from being flat. And make sure you bundle up to beat the cold.
In a pre-Martin Luther King Day event, students in second to fifth grades are invited to come to the Senior Reader's Passing the Non-Violent Torch Reading Program at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg. During the free program, retired teachers will read to students to educate them on King and his legacy. And students will receive a free book for their participation. Students and their parents are urged to choose any one-hour block on Saturday: 11 a.m.-noon, noon-1 p.m., 1-2 p.m. or 2-3 p.m. Call the museum, (727) 323-1104, to register a child for the free program. Each child must have a parent, guardian, older sibling or representative in attendance in order to participate. Children must be registered prior to the event to receive the free books. The museum is at 2240 Ninth Ave. S, St. Petersburg.
If you can brave the cold, the city of Oldsmar is set to show Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs at R.E. Olds Park, 107 Shore Drive W. The free show is set to start at 7 p.m. Friday but you might want to call the city at (813) 749-1260. If the weather does wash it out, the movie will be rescheduled for the following Saturday. Don't forget your blankets, lawn chairs and Snuggies!
I had fun chatting with some of the performers at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is running through Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. And the show celebrates the 200th anniversary of P.T. Barnum's birth in Barnum's FUNundrum, showcasing classic circus acts that audiences have long associated with the Greatest Show on Earth. It is neither free nor cheap but who can resist cotton candy, peanuts and those loud motorcycles in the cage of death? Shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $21-$97.80. Call (813) 301-2500.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 62 years since Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, paving the way for such greats as Willie Mays, Rod Carew, Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson. Now the stories of countless black players who played the game before and after Robinson are being told in the bay area in the exhibit “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” at the John F. Germany Public Library, 900 N Ashley St., Tampa. The exhibit examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players and features documents, artifacts and photographs. The exhibit is free at the library, which is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon.-Wed., noon to 8 p.m. Thurs., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sun. Call (813) 273-3652 for more information.
For your pretty princesses, take them to see the play Cinderella at the Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. Tickets are $8 adults, $7 children or a family four pack for $25. The play is at 11 a.m. Saturday. Call (727) 587-6793 for details.
Arrrrrrrre you ready for a night of pirating? Well, you best be putting on your eye patches and puffy shirts for the Pirate Family Fun Night-Dinner and Show at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the St. Petersburg Little Theater, 4025 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. The Academy of St. Petersburg Little Theater Pizazz Song and Dance Troupe will perform and the Whacky Tales Children's Theatre will present Peter Pan. Tickets are $15 adult and $10 students for dinner and the show; $7 adults and $3 children for the show only.
Finally, one of my favorite days is on Sunday at during $5 Day at the Zoo in Tampa. You can see the cute little Queensland koala in Wallaroo Station (does he have a tiny sweater?), check out the bearded pig in the Asian Gardens and Sulawesi Aviary habitats and see the Florida panther in the Florida Boardwalk habitat. Animal nirvana! Rides, like the Overland Express or the Tasmanian Tiger Family Coaster, cost extra (you can buy tokens or an unlimited ride wristbands — $15 for zoo pass holders, $20 for nonpass holders) but think of the money you save on admission. No food or drink is allowed inside but you can dine at one of the zoo restaurants or get your hand stamped, go eat your picnic lunch at the car and come back in. Go early because the parking lot fills up fast. Free extra parking is available next to the Tampa Greyhound Track, 8300 N Nebraska Ave., with free shuttles running continuously from that lot to the main gate from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Lowry Park Zoo, at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (813) 935-8552 for more information.
Have fun and stay warm.
-- Sherry Robinson
[Photos: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Columbia Pictures; Bundaleer the Koala, Special to the Times]