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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with the kids



cookies.jpgTake a break from all the shopping, wrapping and baking and find some wallet-friendly ways to enjoy this time of year with your family. We have a great road trip idea for star gazers, a museum deal, Hanukkah fun and an ice rink flooded with rubber ducks for a hunger fundraiser and more.

The late-rising moon on Friday makes for an ideal night of Stargazing at the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve in Citrus County. The evening begins with a laser show of the fall constellations and several large telescopes will be available for viewing the bands on Jupiter and its moons. Arrive before sunset at 5:30 p.m. Bring a flashlight and bug spray. The preserve is at 1001 Old Rock Road, Yankeetown. (352) 447-5439.

hanukkah.jpgHanukkah runs Tuesday evening through Dec. 28, and the Chabad of St. Petersburg kicks off the eight nights with a giant menorah lighting in Straub Park at 5:30 p.m. in St. Pete, with an acrobatics show by Liang Patti. That same night the free Hanukkah on Ice party for families brings classic Hanukkah songs to the Countryside Mall ice rink in Clearwater, as well as doughnuts, latkes and a giant menorah lighting at 6:30. The skating is free but you have to RSVP at or call (727) 789-0408. Other community events include a menorah lighting at Hyde Park Village in South Tampa Wednesday at 6 p.m. and a giant popcorn menorah, with dancing, singing, a juggling show and food on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Surf Style Mega Store, 311 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach.

At Art on the House, admission to the Tampa Museum of Art’s galleries is free on Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. instead of the normal $10 admission. The museum is now exhibiting work by photography pioneers Berenice  Abbott and Larry Silver, as well as Janet Biggs, the New York video and performance artist who is an important figure in the world of video art. Tampa Museum of Art 120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (Note: This is for this week. The next two Fridays the museum closes early because of the holidays).

$5 Last year’s Lucky Ducky Derby on Ice, a fundraiser for Feeding America, had almost 20,000 rubber ducks released in Garrison Channel, creating a sea of yellow. This year’s derby will take to the ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park. Purchase a duck for $5, then watch as children skate around and pluck the ducks from the ice to win prizes such as club seats at a Lightning game or a new TV. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at at 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. Adopt a duck ahead of time online at or call (813) 254-1190, ext. 210.

tucker.jpgDo you have a struggling reader? Have them Read to Tucker, right, the cuddly Welsh springer spaniel who has been trained to listen impartially. He’ll be at the St. Pete Beach Library on Tuesday and Thursday and also on Dec. 27 at 4 p.m., 365 73rd Ave., St. Pete Beach. Free.

The Beef 'O’ Brady’s Bowl is Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, but the festivities start Sunday. For details on these and more, see Beach Bash: Watch players make a splash as players from Marshall and Florida International slip and slide with beach games. 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday Free. Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-6461.  5K: Pound the pavement on Monday to benefit Athletes for Hearts and the Mike Alstott Foundation. Finishers get a free ticket to Tuesday night’s game. Kids’ race starts at 5:30 p.m., with the 5K at 6 p.m. Register online. $10-$25. Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Pete. (727) 543-2794.
Block party: Get fired up with food and beverages. 5 p.m. Monday. Free. Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, 1320 Central Ave., St. Pete. (727) 822-4562.  Tailgate Extravaganza: Get ready for the big game with a traditional tailgate party outside the Trop. 2 p.m. Tuesday. Free. Tropicana Field, St. Pete. (888) 326-7297. The game: Watch the FIU Panthers take on the Marshall Thundering Herd. 8 p.m. Tuesday. $20. Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Petersburg. (888) 326-7297.

George Bailey is kind of like the Tim Tebow of the Christmas season. When everything looks bleak, does he give up? Heck no. He calls on the power of positive thinking. And that’s why It’s a Wonderful Life will lift your spirits. Every. Single. Time. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the Tampa Theatre has four showings of the 1946 film with James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore on the big screen (7:30 p.m. Friday, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday; $11). Plus, there are two radio/stage versions:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Production Actors will bring the story to life for the audience, complete with sound effects produced on stage, at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $15, two for $25. Venue Theatre, 9125 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park. (727) 437-2363.
  • Live Radio Theatre Project Be part of the studio audience at 7 p.m. Monday for this broadcast, featuring the It’s a Wonderful Life Lux Radio Theater script, the radio play Chatterbox Club by Jim Rayfield and a holiday singalong. Broadcasts air on WMNF 88.5 FM each week. Free. Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Pete. (727) 895-6620.

And the antidote to all those feel-good holiday classics (see It’s a Wonderful Life, above): Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s hilariously bad. The plot, if it matters, involves Martians kidnapping Santa to give presents to their children, who are obsessed with Earth TV. Look for little Pia Zadora in her first movie. She’s like 10 years old, so don’t get excited, guys. It’s screening at 6 p.m. Sunday at American Stage, the same folks who brought you the similarly horrible The Room, and are proud of it. Pay what you can at the door, $15 advance. 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-7529.

With more than 350 dealers from across the country, the Tampa Railfair and Model Train Show is heaven for train geeks. See model items, railroad antiques, working layouts, Lego trains and more, plus Santa Claus bringing gifts to kids. There will also be a display of “rail buff” collectibles including dining car china, lanterns, switch locks and keys, calendars, timetables or any other artifacts used by the railroads. It runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. $8 (good for both days), 11 and younger free. Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 949-7197.

Families with children ages 5 and older are invited to Planetarium Shows in the star theater, which can accurately simulate the night sky at any time or location. The theme is “Yuletide Skies.” Telescope viewings from the rooftop observatory after the shows. Free. St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 341-4320. 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Friday.

The following aren't free or cheap, but they are worth noting this week:

shrekmusical.jpgThere will be a one-day performance of Shrek the Musical at the Mahaffey Theater on Friday. See the Broadway musical about the mean green ogre who learns to love. Full of fairy tale characters with a playful twist, the show is here for today only at 8 p.m. at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. $42.50-$62.50.

Have you seen the crowds at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium lately? Everybody wants to see Winter, star of Dolphin Tale. So no wonder the aquarium has opened a new exhibit, Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure, in the Harborview Center (right) to take you behind the scenes of the successful movie. It includes movie sets and props, interactive games and theaters for showing extra footage. And a retail store, of course. Tickets can be purchased on site or at the aquarium a couple of miles away (there’s a free shuttle). The exhibit is $11.95, seniors $10.95, kids 3-12 $9.95, with combo tickets for both attractions available. Weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater. (727) 441-1790.

The Laurie Berkner Band, the heroes of “kindie rock”  for the preschool set,will have a pig on her head, as will her fans no doubt, when the group performs at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. $28-$38. (727) 792-7400.

Mummy’s the word at the Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, beginning Saturday  when a big beautiful show of Egyptian antiquities opens. “Ancient Egypt — Art and Magic” has 100 splendid objects spanning more than 4,000 years on loan from the Fondation  Gandur pour l’Art  in Geneva, which is considered the best private collection of its kind in the world. And this is the first time they have been in the U.S. The exhibition has an easy-to-understand arrangement, too, illustrating how many things Egyptians created — this adorable hippopotamus, for example — served a primary spiritual purpose rather than as a decorative object. The show continues through April 29. (727) 896-2667 or Admission is $17, $15 seniors, $10 students.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 11:41am]


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