Free and cheap family fun
The chill in the air may have nothing on the freeze on your wallet. Fret not, my little candy corns, we have you covered with free and cheap things to do with the kids this week.
A reader from Pasco County sent along this tip about the miniature train that you can ride on in northern Pasco County near the Suncoast Parkway and State Road 52. Called the Central Pasco Gulf Railroad, it is located at Crews Lake Park in Shady Hills. They only ask for a $1 donation for about a 1-mile ride that takes about 15 minutes. Come December, it will be expanding to 2 miles. The public rides are the second Saturday of every month, so you can catch it this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
With the weather tempering, an outdoor movie becomes more attractive, and this week brings a couple of choices. Get in the mood for Halloween with the horror movie parody "Young Frankenstein," shown above, playing at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s river walk at 8 p.m. Friday. Bring a blanket or chair to sit on. Concessions will be available for purchase (sorry, no coolers allowed). On Saturday, return to the ’80s with an outdoor showing of "The Goonies," sponsored by the Tampa Theatre. The movie starts at 7 p.m. at Tower Park, 401 E Bird St., Tampa. Folks start arriving as early at 5 p.m. to picnic, toss a Frisbee and people-watch. Concessions available. See tampatheatre.org. Free
If your kids love fire trucks, Saturday is their day. The St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue 19th annual Block Party at Dell Holmes Park on Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg features firefighting gear and trucks as well as a car fire demonstration, food, drinks and children’s games from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2741 22nd St. S. Farther north, the Largo Fire Rescue Open House at Station 41, 180 Fourth St. SW, will have a chili cook-off, fire station tours, “Jaws of Life” and working dog demonstrations, and more. Donations will be accepted for the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida. It runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Free.
Speaking of fun stuff to ride, bring your nickels Saturday for Streetcar Fest, the sixth anniversary of the TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa's Channel District and Ybor City. It's only 5 cents to ride all day, there will be free lunch certificates for kids 10 and under good at Centro Ybor, free kids' activities outside the Florida Aquarium and $5 off admission there and lots of other activities all over the area.
Also on Saturday, the Tampa Heights Pumpkin Patch in the Park will be from 3-7 p.m. at Fernando Mesa Park, 2105 N. Morgan St. Tampa. The free event will feature live music, games for kids, a hunt for pumpkins, bobbing for apples, storytelling and face painting. Best of all, you can enter dogs and children in the costume contest. Beverages and barbecue will be sold.
There is no charge to attend the OktoberBest Brew-Ha-Ha II, a family-friendly outdoor celebration with live music in St. Petersburg. But you might want to pony up for a handmade ceramic stein or cup at St. Petersburg Clay Company, 420 22nd St. S. The vessels range in price from $15 to $30, but you receive $10 worth of tickets good for food, drinks and kids activities. The party runs from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, and part of the proceeds support the Pet Pal shelter across the street from the clay crafters. See stpeteclay.com. Free admission, fee for activities.
Two Pinellas County nature preserves combine story time with a lesson in the great outdoors. Thursday's free story time at the Weedon Island Preserve northeast of St. Petersburg will be "The Acorn and the Oak," which follows the acorn as it roots and grows into a towering oak tree. The 10:30 a.m. story time is followed by a hands-on craft. It's free but you have to call (727) 453-6500 to save a spot. Over at Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, they'll be reading the popular "Stellaluna," shown here, about a baby bat separated from her mother and adopted into a bird's nest. It's a great story of how differences can enrich us. The free 10:30 a.m. program Thursday also includes a craft or other hands-on activity. Call (727) 453-6800.
And for more family-friendly weekend activities -- cheap and otherwise -- check here.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne