Free and cheap things to do with the kids
Let the holiday madness begin! But first we have visiting relatives to entertain and bored kids out of school. Luckily there's lots of free and cheap ways to get them all out of your hair.
The Clearwater Beach Sunsets at Pier 60 will be hopping Thanksgiving day and through the weekend if you are looking to entertain out of town guests. Celebrate the sunset and start your holiday shopping with hand made gifts from local artists. Open Thanksgiving Day (weather permitting) 4 to 8 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m with a free showing of the movie Gremlins. Saturday 11 a.m.to 8 p.m. with a free showing of A Christmas Story. The hideous leg lamp, the tongue frozen to the pole, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” it’s all still there in this beloved favorite. Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach. Concessions for sale. No alcohol. The movie starts around dusk.
Live music at St. Pete Shuffle is a great way to entertain the whole family, all ages, in town this weekend. The weekly St. Pete Shuffle is always a fun night out. It won’t be quite so laid-back this week, though, as local punk groups Flexxehawk, the Peabodies and Dead Sound will provide entertainment. This also marks the first full-band gig in five years for the Peabodies, a local alterna-pop group whose lineup includes two prominent former pop music critics: Gina Vivinetto and Curtis Ross of the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune, respectively. The shuffleboard fun starts at 7 p.m. Friday at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N, St. Petersburg. Free, donations appreciated. stpeteshuffle.org.
The arts center in downtown St. Petersburg's Saturdays at the Morean has a free art experience designed for families with children ages 5 to 10. But there’s another bonus: There’s a gorgeous glass art tree there that’s perfect for Christmas photos. They also have a Christmas scene painted on another wall, so bring along your camera and you’ll get two errands out of the way. The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for free art exploration with open art stations and take-home projects with instructors on hand to assist at 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.
Happy Thanksgiving! Which brings us to ... Merry Christmas! How convenient that now you can stay up for Black Friday sales tonight and have more time for Christmas lights on Friday. Here are some options for that first shimmer of the season:
Hyde Park Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony
A 30-foot Christmas tree comes to life in Hyde Park Village from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, with carolers, hot cocoa, entertainment, kids activities — plus beer truck and cigar stand for Mom and Dad — and Santa’s arrival. Children and pets can visit Santa in his cottage during the tree lighting and on select days through Christmas Eve. Free. 1621 W Snow Circle, Tampa. (813) 251-3500.
St. Petersburg Tree Lighting
Mayor Bill Foster flips the switch to light the tree and displays along the downtown waterfront, with festivities from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. Entertainment includes Radio Disney, the St. Petersburg Community Band and the Lutheran Church of the Cross Vesper Bells Choir. Free at North Straub Park. (727) 893-7441. (Tell the kids that Santa arrives in the park after the Santa Parade on Dec. 3.)
Ybor Tree Lighting
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn lights the 34-foot tree in Centro Ybor accompanied by live carolers and a visit from Santa at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Free. (813) 242-4660.
Brandon Nights of Shimmering Lights
This new event is like the craziest over-the-top neighborhood without the nutty neighbors. Drive through a light and sound show with more than a half-million lights, larger-than-life scenes, tunnels and dancing lights at Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. It opens at dusk Saturday and then runs Thursdays through Sundays through Jan. 7. $20 per car; buses extra. Corner of Sydney Washer Road and Highway 60, Brandon. (813) 389-6858.
Kresge Mega Light Display Opens
It’s like the craziest, over-the-top neighborhood all at one house. The annual Oakdale Christmas display (also know as the Kresge house) began in 1977 and now includes
10 trailer-truck loads of lights, an 18-train HO scale model railroad, inflatables,
hands-on games, bubble machines, a 70-foot tree, two large mirrored balls that
give a snowflake effect and Ernie, the tightrope-balancing bear. Starting Friday,
it’s open nightly 6-10 p.m. through Jan. 3. Free. 2719 Oakdale St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-6500.
Holiday Lights in the Garden
Stroll through a garden of palms and tropical plants glowing with more than 500,000 twinkling lights, plus a variety of dancers, musicians and choral groups, at the Florida Botanical Gardens. It runs 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly, starting Friday. See a video at www.flbg.org. $2, 11 and younger free. 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. (727) 582-2100.
Holidays at the Crosley: Festival of Trees
The restored, historic Crosley Estate transforms into a glittering holiday wonderland with decorations, live entertainment, afternoon teas, rides on Sarasota Bay and wine tastings.
$10, 12 and younger free. Opens at 11 a.m. Wednesday
and runs through Dec. 7. One Seagate Drive, Sarasota.
Candlelight Processional at Epcot
This lovely show is part of Holidays Around the World and retells the Christmas story with a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir. Mira Sorvino narrates Friday-Sunday and Michael W. Smith takes over Monday through Dec. 1 It starts Friday at 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. and runs nightly through Dec. 30. Included with daily admission: $85, $79 ages 3-9, 2 and younger free. Go to disneyworld.disney.go.com for best prices. Epcot at Walt Disney World, 1515 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 934-7639.
Holiday Tree Lighting Festival
Ooh and ah over the tree lighting all you want, but the kids will head straight for the snow slide rides. There’s also a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, musical entertainment, carnival and inflatable games, holiday arts and crafts and food next Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square, Kennedy Blvd. and Morgan St. Free. (813) 276-2677.
Take the kids or make it a date night to see the Holiday Glass Show by Susan Gott held at the Phoenix Glass Studio and Gallery in Tampa includes an exhibition of glass art and glassblowing demonstrations throughout the weekend. The opening reception Friday is at 6 p.m., with a “Casting with Glass” performance by Susan Gott and her team of glass artists at 7:30. The glass art exhibition continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with daily glassblowing demos and an open house at the studio, 811 E Knollwood St., Tampa. Free.
The Tarpon Springs Thanksgiving Weekend Art and Craft Festival is in its 21st year for this holiday favorite along Tarpon Avenue, an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to shop for their gift-giving needs. Tarpon Avenue is closed to cars to allow for foot traffic at this the two-day event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Tarpon Avenue between Alt. U.S. 19 and N Ring Avenue.
Why get up early ? The 600 Block of Central Avenue in St. Pete is offering Black Friday deals from 1 to 4 p.m. at a variety of stores . There will be sales and giveaways, including $5, $10 and $15 boxes of merchandise. Then on Tuesday, many of the same stores will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. for a “Girl’s Night Out” fundraiser for Metropolitan Ministries. Look for in-store models, free cocktails and raffles, plus gift cards for those who bring an unwrapped toy. See facebook.com/the600block.
Stargaze and search for owls, bats and alligators on a New Moon Hike at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. It will be a moonless November night, starting at 6 p.m. $3, $1.50 children. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Elmo’s Super Heroes come to town. When Super Grover loses his superness, it’s Elmo and his team of superheroes to the rescue. Your favorite Sesame Street friends will explore exercise, nutrition, sleep, energy and hygiene through song and dance — all in a quest to put the “super” back in Super Grover. Many of the tunes are renditions of songs you’ll recognize: Old MacDonald, Splish Splash and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. $12, $16 and $22, some $27 Gold Circle seats and $55 Sunny Seats available. St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500. 7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Before the show hits Tampa, kids can dress as their favorite superhero and meet Cookie Monster for storytelling and arts and crafts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa. $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, under 1 free. Kids in superhero costumes get in for $5. (813) 443-3861.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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