Free and cheap family fun this week
If your pockets are lined with tinsel instead of coins, you can still find some affordable diversions this week.
Like the popular First Friday block parties, the Last Friday Concert Series aims to highlight downtown St. Petersburg’s unique features, in this case the Williams Park bandshell at First Avenue N and Fourth Street with a free concert. It will feature a Family Fun Zone, an upscale Hurricane Alley Beer Garden sponsored by Chappy’s Louisiana Kitchen, a VIP Lounge for $50, a collection center for food and clothing that benefits Pinellas Hope, and a number of art exhibits. This month it’s The Tempests, shown at left, from 6 to 10 p.m.
The Outback Bowl brings lots of free entertainment with it. You can see the teams -- the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Iowa Hawkeyes -- their marching bands and cheerleaders at the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Tuesday at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be live music, skydivers, a tug-of-war and other contests. Then on Wednesday you can check out the New Year’s Eve parade and a pep rally by the college marching bands and cheerleaders. The parade will feature floats and 20 marching bands starting at 5:30 p.m. along Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. And if you are of a mind, tickets are still available for the game at 11 a.m. New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.
This is time of year to grab a basket and start checking out the many you-pick farms for veggies and berries. One that caught our eye was the U-Pick Produce hydroponic farm in Hudson. They grow plants vertically, so there’s no bending. They have strawberries, blueberries in the spring, plus bok choy, green beans, tomatoes, squash, peppers, lettuce and more. Picking times are Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 12429 Denton Ave. in Hudson. Produce prices from $1.69 per lb. to $4 per lb. Call (727) 808-2561 or see their web site for directions.
The Beach Theatre continues its free movies for kids on Saturdays. This week it's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- the musical with Gene Wilder, not the creepy. dark version with Johnny Depp. The 1971 film starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Beach Theatre, 315 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach. (727) 360-6697.
Every Sunday, local musicians are given a prime spot on the waterside courtyard at the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg to entertain the crowd for free at the Music Fest on the Water. This week, Flashback performs songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s from 1 to 4 p.m. at 800 Second Ave. NE.
Show your kids and any lingering holiday guests the wonder of photography Saturday when the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts presents Twice Exposed, an exhibition that explores the many ways that artists manipulate photography into different mediums. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the museum, 200 N Tampa St., Tampa; $4. Call (813) 221-2222.
At the free Santa Horse and Rodeo Games on Saturday you can watch riders compete in Christmas-themed rodeo games, and have your kids’ picture taken on Santa’s Horse for $2. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Helen Howarth Park Horse Arena, 6301 94th Ave. N, Pinellas Park. Proceeds benefit the Saddle Up Riding Club’s Therapeutic Horse Program for mentally and physically challenged adults and children.
Though this isn't cheap, the Lowry Park Zoo's Noon Year’s Eve party featuring Radio Disney a very cute, bedtime-friendly party from 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday at Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. Tickets, which include games, art and crafts and a juice toast, are $18.95, $17.95 seniors, $14.50 ages 3-11. (813) 935-8552; lowryparkzoo.com.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne
[Photos: The Tempests -- groups Web site; you-pick farm and Saddle Up Riding Club -- Times files]