Free and cheap family fun
We're down to the wire on the holidays. Hanukkah has already begun. Christmas is just a week away and then Kwanzaa starts the next day. Now that the kids are out of school and you've finished up all your shopping and wrapping -- yeah, right! -- you can get out and have some fun. Here are some ideas to get you out of the house.
The Royal Lipizzan Stallions are back in the bay area for their winter training. You can find them at the Hermann Lipizzan Ranch, 32755 Singletary Road, Myakka City. See the trainers put them through their paces. Best of all, it's free. See them each Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day -- the ranch will be closed) and Saturday at 10 a.m. through April 30.
Time is running out to see MOSI's Mindbender Mansion, a wonderful opportunity for kids and parents to solve puzzles, math quizzes and use a little elbow grease to work out solutions together. Here's a story I wrote on the exhibit. My kids and I had a blast. And here's another good thing: MOSI is open Christmas Day. So it you're looking for something to do after the toys have worn out, this might be good to try. It's not free or cheap, but it's fun. Tickers are $23.95 for adults, $21.95 ages 60 and older, $19.95 ages 2-12 and $3 for MOSI members. Go the MOSI Web site for more information or call (813) 987-6000. And when you go, take a teddy bear and get a free child's admission through Dec. 21.
As you might expect there are lots of holiday events this weekend before Christmas -- and they fall into whatever price range you want. You can check out the holiday lights throughout the bay area. That will just cost you a tank of gas. There's a free Holiday Movie Series at North Straub Park in St. Petersburg showing Miracle on 34th Street on Friday (although check the weather to see if this one will still be scheduled) and It's a Wonderful Life on Saturday. At USA Skateplex in Tampa, there is a crazy snowball fight using ping pong balls on Friday that costst $8. If a snowball fight isn't your speed, the Skateplex will also host a Princess Holiday Ball at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for $5. For $40, your kids can participate in a holiday baking class at Let Them Eat Cake in Tampa on Friday or Saturday. If you're in the mood for a holiday parade, go to the free Hillsborough River Holiday Boat Parade or the Madeira Beach Lighted Boat Parade, both on Saturday. However, the Downtown Tampa Attraction Association has canceled the Boat Parade of Lights on Friday due to safety concerns surrounding the weather. Check here for the complete list of holiday events.
Got a model train conductor in your house? Then the Train Show at the Florida State Fairgrounds at 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday might be the perfect place to get some last-minute shopping done. There will be 350 tables of model trains and supplies on display. The cost is $8 but kids 11 and younger are free. Call (813) 949-7197 for more details.
Need to get out of the house and play Santa Claus without prying little eyes tagging along? Then the annual Lowry Park Zoo School Holiday Drop & Shop event will help you find your inner St. Nick. Parents can enroll kids ages 3-12 (must be potty trained) in this Zoo School holiday program. There will be Zoo hikes, an animal encounter, holiday crafts, hot cocoa and cookies. 9:30-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Fees are $30 for the first child; $25 for each additional child. Register at the zoo's Web site or call (813) 935-8552 ext. 268.
Did you know that there is a college football bowl game in St. Petersburg this weekend? Yep, the
If you have a budding girls volleyball player in your midst, then you might want to take her to the Under Armour All-American Vollyeball Tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Twenty-four girls high school first-team All-American players will compete in the tourney and in a series of individual skills competitions. The cost is $7.25. Call (813) 301-2500 for ticket and more info.
At the Magical Holiday Wonderland at Hire A Pony in Tampa, the season will be celebrated with a live nativity, Santa in his sleigh, petty zoo, cow train, pony rides, hay rides, bounce house, live animals and more. The cost of $6 for adults and $10 for kids includes a hot dog and drink per person. The event benefits bay area needy families. Call (727) 943-0077 for more information.
The weather is supposed to be cooler and gorgeous this weekend. Got out and have fun with the family.
-- Sherry Robinson