Free and cheap things to do with the kids
It's not the crazy-busy holiday time just yet, so it might be a good time to check out the ice rink set up in Tampa’s downtown, or the artsy holiday store windows competing for top prize in downtown St. Pete. But if you aren't ready for holiday stress yet, there's a great familiy festival in the park and Comic Con to divert your kids cheaply. Read on for more budget-friendly things to do:
Tampa’s Downtown on Ice, left, is not exactly Rockefeller Center, but you can skate on real ice outside in Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa starting Friday. The temperature should be a lovely 70 or so degrees, but super-duper chillers will keep the surface icy. Each 90-minute session costs $10 and includes skate rental. The rink remains open through Jan. 1. (813) 274-8615. Hours are 4-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday, 4-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.
There was a time when stores everywhere made a big deal of decorating their windows for the holidays. That tradition has mostly died out except in uber-wealthy pockets such as Manhattan’s Upper East Side. So how cool that one of the coolest stretches of retail in the area launches Holiday Windows on Central Avenue on Saturday. The avenue between Fourth and Eighth streets in downtown St. Petersburg is lined with art galleries, shops and cafes, with its indie-central epicenter in the 600 block, and anchored by Florida Craftsmen Gallery at 501 Central Ave. and the Morean Arts Center at 719 Central Ave . They’re all creating window displays for sidewalk strollers and competing for bragging rights for first place in categories such as Most Creative and Best Use of Recycled Materials selected by a panel of judges. Everyone flips the switch on Saturday for the Gallery Walk from 5 to 8:30 p.m. when many venues will remain open after-hours with lots of potential gifts for sale.
Our performing arts critic John Fleming says Peter Pan, which stars Cathy Rigby and runs through Sunday "is an ideal first musical for kids, and the touring show that opened Tuesday night at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts does not disappoint, right from the pleasantly old-fashioned overture." He was wowed. "Rigby’s supreme athleticism is on display as Peter announces himself in the spunky ballad, I Gotta Crow, her rendition punctuated by a cartwheel, handstand, flip and other acrobatic feats. And it is an exhilarating moment when the sprite in green tights and the Darling children, having been sprinkled with fairy dust and thinking lovely thoughts, take off for their aerial quartet in I’m Flying, zooming out the nursery window and upward to the “second star on the right, and straight on till morning.” The speed and intricate movement of Rigby’s flying is breathtaking. The sbow continues through Sunday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Run time: 2 hours, 10 minutes, including intermission. We know this is neither free nor cheap at $38.50-$79.50, but we thought it worth pointing out. (813) 229-7827; strazcenter.org.
The Special Olympics Family Festival on Saturday will be packed with activities at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park, including wall climbing, ice skating, dancing to DJs and live music, arcade games, mini golf, a giant croquet game, arts and crafts, the Lightning Fanland, giant air rides, a bounce gym, prizes and giveaways. It’s from noon to 5 p.m. at the park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. $5; proceeds benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Florida.
This huge Tampa Bay Comic Con convention will have 100 tables of comics, videos, toys, action figures, anime, Star Wars memorabilia, artwork, trading cards and more. Guests include artists Bob Camp (co-creator of Ren and Stimpy), actor Larry Mainland (The Walking Dead, Contagion), veteran artist Bob McLeod (Spider-Man, New Mutants), Paul Pelletier (Fall of the Hulks, Incredible Hulk), Cary Nord (Conan, Daredevil), Alex Saviuk (The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday strip) and actress Sonya Thompson (The Walking Dead, Zombieland). It runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Tampa’s Doubletree Hotel, 4500 W Cypress St. $5, 12 and younger free.
Line up your honey-do list, the Tampa Bay Home Show is at Tropicana Field this weekend. There are 600 exhibits to help you get through your DIY home improvement and landscaping projects. Also includes live entertainment, seminars, demonstrations, giveaways and do-it-yourself ideas from experts. It opens at 10 a.m. Friday through Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Free.
Date night alert! There's a free comedy show on Sunday with veteran comic Tom Rhodes at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. He had his own sitcom in 1996 (NBC’s Mr. Rhodes) for one season and he has filmed specials for Comedy Central. He has traveled the world doing standup, even hosting a talk show in the Netherlands. See him at 8:30 p.m. at the Hard Rock, 5223 N Orient Road, Tampa. Must be 18 years or older to attend. Free.
Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band is an interactive music-infused experience, using catchy rhythms and tunes to teach kids about compassion, understanding and relationships. $8. Ruth Eckerd Hall Murray Studio Theater, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. 11 a.m. Saturday.
The self-guided Discover Wildlife with Children tour has educational nature games and activities to teach children about nature and wildlife. Free (registration required). Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800. Noon-3 p.m. Saturday.
Shuttle boats will be on hand for Egmont Key Discover the Island Day Leave the park to Egmont Key for costumed Civil War re-enactments, children’s games, interpretive sites on the island’s wildlife/military involvement/history/nature/culture and the old lighthouse. Last shuttle leaves for the island at 2 p.m. and returns to the mainland at 4 p.m. Benefits the Egmont Key Alliance. $18, $5 ages 6-11, 5 and younger free. Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. (727) 524-6595. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Pinellas Pioneer Settlement's Family Fun Day and Chili Cookoff lets you sample chili and enjoy old-fashioned games, sack races, horseshoes, kids activities, arts and crafts, a hayride, and visit the General Store. Free admission, $5 wristband for chili tasting. Pinellas Pioneer Settlement, 2900 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
In Land O'Lakes, the Fighter Town Military Fly-In is an annual fly-in features remote-controlled planes representing military aircraft models from World War I to the present. $3 (donation appreciated). Conner Preserve, 22500 State Road 52, Land O’Lakes. (813) 995-0545. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Professor Smart and Dr. Knowitall take a fun look at scientific principles in Let’s Go Science. Topics include matter, gravity, air resistance, pressure and static electricity in this fast-paced, interactive and comedic show. $7.50 adult, $6.50 children, $22 Family four pack. Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive. (727) 587-6793. 11 a.m. Saturday.
An afternoon of old-time fun and an evening around the campfire marks Pioneer Nights. Best for ages 7-13. $25 (advance registration required). Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 2-9 p.m. Saturday.
Take a hike to discover the diverse Birds of Brooker Creek See the many bird species found in the preserve. Close-toed shoes, water and binoculars required. Free (registration required). Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800. 8-10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Friday features the G-rated film The Princess Diaries. Saturday features the PG-rated film October Sky. Concessions for sale. No alcohol. Shows start around dusk. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060.
Opa! The Tampa Greek Festival will celebrate Greek heritage, culture, Mediterranean cuisine, wine, shopping and dancing in the spirit of Greece. That means gyros, baklava and traditional costumes. Proceeds benefit LifePath Hospice. $1 advance/$2 door; children 11 and younger and military free; free admission 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday. St. John Greek Orthodox Church and School, 2418 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 876-8830. 11 a.m. Friday-Sunday.
Veterans Day Friday is Veterans Day, with ceremonies and deals for vets around Tampa Bay. Here is a sampling. For more, go to tampabay.com/things-to-do.
Bay Pines VA Veterans Day Ceremony This will be one of the biggest ceremonies, with keynote speaker retired Army Col. Mike Prendergast, who is executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Includes a firing salute, taps performance, music by Keswick Christian High School students and a military vehicle display. Free. Bay Pines VA Medical Center National Cemetery, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg. (727) 398-9426. 10 a.m. Friday.
Veterans Boat Parade The 15th annual Veterans Boat Parade honors veterans and active duty men and women in all branches. Decorate your boat with red, white and blue and come join the daytime parade. The route starts just north of the Tom Stuart Causeway and heads south to the Treasure Island Causeway and back. Free. McDonald’s Restaurant (Maderia Beach), 650 150th Ave., Madeira Beach. (727) 742-8442. 11 a.m. Saturday.
Here comes Santa If you lived in the North Pole, you’d head to Florida, too. So it’s no surprise Santa is arriving at some area malls this weekend. Here are a few; check your local mall for more.
Ice Palace at International Plaza International Plaza transforms into the Ice Palace, a 22-foot dome with a snow and light show and polar bear footage from BBC Earth. Entertainment includes roaming Snow Princess characters, visits with Santa, Santa Paws pet pictures and family photos on the Ice Throne. The Ice Palace will be open during mall hours daily through Dec. 24. Free gift for every child while supplies last. Free. International Plaza and Bay Street, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa. (813) 342-3790. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. today.
Santa’s Arrival and Tree Lighting at Tyrone Children can greet Santa and parade with him from the food court to Santa’s North Pole in center court for the tree lighting with music by the Salvation Army Band. Free. Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 Tyrone Square, St. Petersburg. (727) 345-0126. 6-9 p.m. Friday.
Santa’s Wake-Up Call Kids can help wake up Santa and have breakfast by Chick-fil-A before a special meet and greet with him. Limited to 100 children registered at guest services in the mall. Free (reservations required). Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 Tyrone Square, St. Petersburg. (727) 345-0126. 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.
Santa Arrives at Gulfview Square
Santa and his elves arrive to signal the start of the holiday shopping season at the mall. Personal cameras are not allowed. Photo packages available for purchase. Free. Gulfview Square Mall, 9409 U.S. 19, Suite 781, Port Richey. (727) 848-3858. 5 p.m. Friday.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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