Free and cheap things to do with the kids
This time of year brings with it lots of free and cheap diversions, from the Streetcar Fest, where you hop a trolley for a quarter, to lighted boat parades and more.
Ybor will be jumping on Saturday, and you’ll be able to hop on Tampa’s historic streetcars for 25-cent rides all day for Streetcar Fest. There will be tours of Ybor Station streetcar barn and Ybor Arts in the Park, a day-long juried art show in Centennial Park.
It’s good to be a fuzzy creature right now. The Muppets are back on the big screen (manah manah!) and Yo Gabba Gabba Live is bringing the party to the revamped Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg (that new coconut mango scent — so yummy, so yummy!). In fact, the Yo Gabba Gabba Live stage show is where all the cool kids — and parents — will be Friday for music, animation, games and lots of dancing. Case in point: Recently in L.A., celebs Jamie Foxx, Tori Spelling with hubby Dean McDermott and Gwen Stefani all took their wee ones to see the furry gang made famous by the Nickelodeon TV show. Spelling even busted quite a move on stage with Muno the cyclops, Foofa the pink flower bubble, Brobee the cheery green creature, Plex the yellow robot and Toodee the blue-cat dragon. And don’t forget energetic DJ Lance. There are two shows, 3 and 6 p.m. Friday. $25-$45. (727) 892-5798.
We have an armada of boat parades this weekend. And in downtown St. Pete, there will be a Boat Parade and Chili Cook-off. The Spa Beach and Pier-approach area of downtown will have a lively day of activities leading to the nighttime illuminated boat parade Saturday. There will be a food truck rally, and the St. Pete Chili Challenge will begin at 3 p.m. Admission is $5, $3 ages 11 and younger (includes tastings), and it benefits the Children’s Dream Fund. Want to watch the boat parade at 6 p.m. but not interested in the festival? There are still plenty of places to watch for free, including along the Vinoy Basin sea wall, at Demens Landing and on the Pier approach and Pier, 615 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg. For a look at all the lighted boat parades in the Tampa Bay area this weekend, see Page 14.
Watch the hockey game among friends at the Lightning Watch Party tonight (Thursday). Bring blankets and chairs to Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa at 5 p.m. today for an outdoor tailgate party before the Tampa Bay Lightning face off against the New York Rangers. (The game starts at 7 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum.) There will be live entertainment and prizes. Free.
The playroom and pizza place known as GattiTown will celebrate its grand opening Dec. 9 and 10 with a free buffet lunch and 30 minutes of free game time for the first 100 kids in line when doors open at 11 a.m. both days. The Texas-based pizza palace once dubbed “Chuck E. Cheese’s on steroids,” made its first move into Florida when it opened its doors in Clearwater last month at the Bayside Bridge Plaza at 1560 N McMullen Booth Road. The buffet-and-bumper-car “eatertainment” venue features arcade games and party rooms attuned to families, youngsters and their friends in a 16,200 square foot town-themed dining and entertainment center serving pizzas, pastas and salads.
Hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday - Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. See gattitownclearwater.com or call (727) 753-9982.
The live painting event Art Against Hunger will let you see art being made before your eyes in the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. The aim is to support families in transition and Pack-a-Sack for Kids, a program that sends food home with kids for the weekend. More than 60 local artists are participating. A $10 donation gets you in the running to take home a painting, with more than 50 to choose from. There will also be a silent auction and live music, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Sixth Street and Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. Free.
Wild Wonderland returns to the Lowry Park Zoo this weekend. Live reindeer! But don’t worry, Santa keeps them grounded for Lowry Park Zoo’s annual evening winter festival with holiday lights, penguins, visits with Santa, Frosty’s Foam Factory (like snow, but not) and free rides. 7-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday, and select nights through Dec. 30. $13 adults, $11 children. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.
This year’s Pinellas Park Holiday Parade is themed “Fabulous Fifties,” with bands, floats, soldiers, dancers and equestrian groups. 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Free. Pinellas Park Parade Route, Park Blvd. and 58th St., Pinellas Park. (727) 547-8050.
Play in the cold at Safety HarborSnowfest The annual Elena Tresh Foundation Snowfest features a giant 20-foot snow hill, live entertainment, carnival games, food, arts and crafts, snow activities and visits with Santa. 4 p.m. Saturday. $1 admission; $5 for unlimited rides. Safety Harbor City Park, 940 Seventh St. S, Safety Harbor. (727) 210-1019.
Dunedin's Old-Fashioned Christmas and Parade will have floats and bands followed by Santa’s arrival at the Old Fashioned Christmas festival, which includes snow flurries, holiday music, carriage rides and children’s activities. 4-9 p.m. Saturday. Free. Main Street, Dunedin. (727) 812-4530.
it's not real ice but it's a really authentic-looking St. Nick when you visit Santa and Ice Skating in the Park Kids can visit with Santa before taking a spin around the artificial ice skating rink. 6-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Santa: free. Skating: $5 for 30 minutes. Straub Park, at Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7441.
Amid the hullabaloo of the holidays, how about some Gregorian chant? In what has become a tradition, Florida Pro Musica presents its ninth annual program of chant in the suitably spiritual setting of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa. A schola — Latin for liturgical music group — of seven men chant the Mass for the third Sunday in Advent as it might have sounded 1,000 years ago. Music director Larry Kent leads the concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at the church, 509 N Florida Ave. Past concerts have drawn capacity crowds. Seating takes place from 3:30 to 3:55 p.m. $10. (813) 494-4709; floridapromusica.com.
Get outside for some Fishing Fun on Saturday. Free fishing, with poles and tackle available. Registration required by today. Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve North, 423 Lafayette Blvd., Oldsmar. (813) 749-1273. 8-11 a.m. Saturday.
Need some shopping time? The library is hosting Parents’ Day Out so parents can take a break and drop off children ages 4-9 at the library for an afternoon of games, crafts, movies and refreshments. $4. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor. (727) 784-3332. 12:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday.
A great free night of star gazing and learning is available at St. Petersburg College's Planetarium Shows. Families with children ages 5 and older are invited to the “star theater” to view the “Yuletide Skies.” Telescope viewings on the rooftop observatory after the show. Free. St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 341-4320. 7 and 8:15 p.m. Friday.
Train lovers can chug on over to the the Suncoast Model Railroad Club train show. It has set up more than 100 tables with operating layouts in all scales, plus train memorabilia. $6, $1 ages 12-17, 11 and younger free. Minnreg Building, 6340 126th Ave. N, Largo. (813) 436-4182. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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