Free and cheap things to do with the kids
Go on, put off doing your taxes and take the kids somewhere. Here are this week's offerings of relatively cheap diversions:
Former educator Geoff Akins performs all over the country with his soap bubble creations, and you can see him at 2 p.m. Sunday at a free Bubbble Wonders Show at the Clearwater Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave. If you want a sneak peek at what does you can preview it at his Web site. For more information, call (727) 562-4970.
Tuesday is the fattest Tuesday of all, so take the kids to Mardi Gras on Main Street, a free street party in Dunedin. Mardi Gras is the traditional day the Cajuns party like rock stars before giving up such sins for Lent. Dunedin’s annual celebration is from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday with music by the Gumbo Boogie Band (5:30-7:30 p.m.) and surf rockers the Vodkanauts (9-11 p.m.). A parade begins at 7:30 p.m. at Knology Park and moves along Douglas Avenue.
Another Mardi Gras tradition is pancakes, to use up the eggs and milk you were to avoid during Lent. IHOP is using the occasion for Free Pancake Day to offer a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on Tuesday in exchange for a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. Since the inception of National Pancake Day in 2006, IHOP has raised nearly $2 million dollars for local children’s charties.
Absurdly huge trucks will leap over school buses, crush lesser cars and even crash onto a motor home until it’s nothing but tiny bits. What’s not to like? Monster Jam returns Saturday at Raymond James Stadium to crush junk cars and eardrums. Tickets are $15 general admission and $30 for club seats through Ticketmaster (handling fees are extra) and the box office at Raymond James Stadium. Get $3 discount coupons at Dairy Queen. The World’s Ultimate Pit Party is from 2 to 5 p.m. Meet the racers and get a close-up look at the monster trucks. Free pit passes are available at Tampa Bay area Southern Ford Dealers. You can also take a free Monster Truck Ride from 1 to 7 p.m. with a pass from participating Advance Auto Parts stores.
At $16.95 per adult ticket, the Bay Area Renaissance Festival isn't exactly cheap, but huzzah! It can be fun chomping on a turkey leg strolling among hordes of costumed revelers (yes, average people dress up and go, so it's hard to tell who's paid to be there). The jousting tournaments are not to be missed and there's lots of entertainment, from comedy to fairies and a marketplace with a hypnotist show, strolling musicians and acrobats. It takes place Saturday through April 5 at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave. Village gates open at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; $16.95 for adults, $8.95 for ages 5 to 12 and free for 4 and younger. Parking is free. The event's Web site says there are discount coupons at Walgreens, Circle K and Sweetbay.
Happy blues and jumbo shrimp — the oxymorons pair up nicely at the third installment of the Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival this weekend. The event boasts a variety of Gulf Coast seafood and nearly a dozen acts from the cheerier side of the genre. Jonny Lang headlines Saturday night’s festivities with the nutty guitar solos and raspy, soulful vocals that once pegged him the teenage blues wunderkind. (Incidentally, his kid sis is Jesse Langseth, an American Idol finalist.) Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials do Chicago blues with fervor and fancy hats, gaining avid followers dubbed “Ed Heads.” Best of all the concerts are free and Clearwater's lovely Coachman Park on Cleveland Street and East Avenue.
Civil War re-enactors take Fort De Soto Park back to 1863 this weekend for the Battle of Ballast Point. The weekend encampment will feature military music, a mock military trial and execution, artillery demonstrations and more. There will be re-enactment battles at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The camp is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. Check here for a complete schedule.
And if you're looking for discount coupons to other attractions around the bay area, check here. Now go out and have some fun.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne