Free and cheap family things to do this week
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Outback Bowl and features a matchup of storied teams: Penn State, led by the legendary Joe Paterno, and the University of Florida, in coach Urban Meyer’s last game before he steps down. But there’s lots to do before the big game at 1 p.m. Saturday in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Clearwater Beach Day: Head out to the beach today (Thursday) where the teams, their marching bands and cheerleaders will be next to Pier 60 for tug-of-war and key lime pie eating challenges. The day will also include live music and skydivers. Starts at 11 a.m. Free. Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade: This family- and fan-friendly event features a pep rally with the Florida and Penn State bands, floats, 20 marching bands and school mascots. It’s at 5:30 p.m. Friday along Seventh Avenue in downtown Ybor City. Free.
Next week is the first Tuesday of the month, so that means it's Target Free Tuesday at the Glazer Children’s Museum. You can hit the new children’s museum for free from 4 to 8 p.m. this Tuesday, thanks to Target. The 53,000-square-foot hands-on museum has a ton of activities, from a pretend fire truck with suits and hoses, to an airplane with a pilot screen showing aerial views of Tampa Bay, to a climbing extravaganza that also tells the journey a drop of water takes from the sky to aquifer. The museum is at 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa.
There's loads of New Year's events around the area, you can find a complete list of local events here. The family friendly, alcohol free First Night party in downtown St. Petersburg has loads of music, art, games and fireworks at 9 p.m. and midnight. The big draw this is year is the return of hometown phenom Michael Lynche of American Idol.
You’ve got three chances to pull up a lawn chair for a movie with a waterfront view at the Sunset Cinema at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. In conjunction with Outback Bowl Beach Day today, come out for a concert by the Steve Arvey Horn Band, fireworks and a viewing of the PG-13 film The Blind Side. On Friday night, it’s Kung Fu Panda (PG), and Saturday it’s Iron Man 2 (PG-13) . All start at dusk. Free, with concessions for sale.
The Polar Bear Ride is the Florida version of people ignoring their mother’s advice to come in from the cold. Water scooter fans will load up at the Maximo boat ramp to join the Tampa Bay Jet Ski Club as they shiver through their first ride of the year. This is the sixth year the group has run the waters around Fort De Soto and Egmont Key to mark the new year. The ride is expected to be 50 miles or less, but pack a lunch in case it is extended. Free. Meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at the city boat ramp, 6500 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. See www.tampabayjetskiclub.com.
Blessing of the Fleet and Epiphany: This year marks the 105th Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs, where the Greek Orthodox community there hosts the largest such celebration in the Western hemisphere. On Wednesday at 11 a.m., clergy will gather at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks on Dodecanese Boulevard to bless commercial and recreational boaters and fisherman, their vessels and the water they sail on. Then next Thursday , after an 8 a.m. service at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, dozens of teenage boys will dive into chilly Spring Bayou to retrieve a white cross. The party afterward at 1:30 p.m. will have food, drink, live music and dancing at the Spanos Pappas Community Center’s Theofilos Hall, 348 N Pinellas Ave. Admission is $3.
If you haven't been yet, check out Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park. This jewel of a park is the centerpiece of the Tampa Riverwalk, with a great sloping lawn, fountains, playground and dog park, and for a few more days for your people-watching pleasure, an outdoor ice skating rink in balmy Tampa. The last skate session is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ($10 for 90 minutes, including skates). The action picks back up again next Thursday, when Rock the Park returns for a free concert. You can see Tampa’s bluesy Swamp Logic, indie rockers Brahm Bones and singer-songwriter-guitarist Daniel B. Marshall at the show, which starts at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at the park, 600 N Ashley Drive in Tampa.
Tonight is the last night for the zoo's Wild Wonderland where Lowry Park Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and reopens at 7 for the annual evening winter festival with twinkling holiday lights, live reindeer and penguins, Frosty’s Foam Factory (snow alternative), free rides and more. $13, $11 ages 3-11. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552. Tonight is last night, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Send in the clowns! Starting Wednesday, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus is in town, bringing super stunts, the famous clown alley, The Human Fuse and lots of animals. Beginning 90-minutes before each show, families can get up close with the animals and performers. Tickets are $15-$85. Opens Wednesday 7:30 p.m. and continues through Jan. 9. St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500.
If you have a horse lovers in your house, take a road trip to the Royal Lipizzan Stallions Winter Training site in Myakka City. Visitors are welcome to watch the beauty and grace of the original Lipizzan Stallions of Austria as they are put through their paces in their winter training home. Bring lawn chairs to sit close to the arena. $5 donation appreciated. It's open today-Friday 3 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. Herrmanns’ Royal Lipizzan Ranch, 32755 Singletary Road, Myakka City. (941) 322-1501.
Canopy Tree Climbing is for climbers 6 and older who can ascend into the heights of a live oak using harnesses and a rope pulley system similar to those used in the Amazon rain forests. Organized by Pathfinder Outdoor Education. $10. Saturday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 328-0300.
Gov. Charlie Crist recently declared St. Pete Beach as the Sunset Capital of Florida, and that’s good enough for a celebration. Gather at the Paradise Grille for a ceremonial bell ringing at sunset and free barbecue, thanks to the folks at stpetebeachtoday.com and PEACE: People, Education and Community Enrichment. Free. Saturday 4 p.m., Paradise Grille, 900 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-1495.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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