Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week
Things are really starting to pick up. The holidays are over, the snowbirds are here, the traffic is heavier. But who can blame them? While the Yankees are shoveling their way out of their driveway, we Floridians are whining about having to wear the heavier sweater. Here's some free and cheap things to do with your kids this week as we all shiver against the 50-degree wind chill. Brrrrrrr
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the city of St. Petersburg has the distinction of being one of the oldest and largest parades in the country, with its National MLK Drum Major for Justice Parade. After the Sunday night Battle of the Bands -- a rompin' stompin' night of some of the hottest, high stepping style marching bands and drum lines -- Monday’s parade is a like a mega family reunion, with vendors filling the air with the smell of barbecue and crowds cheering for high-stepping bands from historically black colleges, marching units, floats and more. It begins at 11 a.m. Monday at Third Ave. S. and Martin Luther King St., proceeding north to Central Ave., east to Bayshore Drive, and north to Fifth Ave. N., disbanding at Vinoy Park. Over in Tampa, things get stepping at noon Monday at 15th Street and MLK Boulevard and ends at Middleton High School. But before that is Tampa’s Black Heritage Festival on Saturday (10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) at Curtis Hixon Park, with headliner and R&B star Jeffrey Osborne (On the Wings of Love) performing Saturday. Free. For more MLK Day events look here.
This is one of our favorite spots to bring visitors, and this weekend the Manatee Viewing Center Celebrates 25 Years. Since 1986, Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station has made it easier to see the large numbers of sea cows who huddle around the warm water of the discharge canal in Apollo Beach. A two-day celebration of the viewing center’s 25th anniversary features Radio Disney, children’s games and activities and programs about manatees and their environments and they are even staying open an extra hour, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center, 6990 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach. Free
The sky behind the Thunderbird Beach Resort in Treasure Island will be filled with dozens of colorful kites -- some as big as school buses -- for the Treasure Island Kite Festival this weekend and even include some serious competition. This year the Eastern League Sport Kite Association will also sanction and judge a competition, bringing expert kite flyers from all over the United States. They will fly kites in a “ballet” to music, and like a figure skater will be scored by their showmanship as well as how well they fly multiple kites. You’ll start seeing some kites out practicing on Friday, but the competition is Saturday and Sunday. Free at 10700 Gulf Blvd. in Treasure Island
Considered one of the top shows in the Southeast, the Florida Classic Clusters Dog Show is an all-breed event features nearly 20,000 dogs competing from around the world. You can bring your pooch along, and RV camping is available. It runs today through Jan. 23 at Florida Classic Park in Brooksville. Free; $5 parking. (813) 480-3975.
In the runup to Gasparilla, the John F. Germany Public Library hosts its annual Pirates and Princesses Party for the wee pirates and princesses, with a magician, balloon animals and crown crafts. Kids are encouraged to come dressed up. It’s at 2 p.m. Saturday at the library, 900 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. Free.
The Black Heritage Festival, a free street festival in Tampa's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday will have singer Jeffrey Osborne as the featured performer on Saturday. Find out more here.
The kids have no school Monday and there's teacher training days next week too, but you have to work! Not sure what to do? Sign up the kids for the St. Pete Beach Community Center’s Day-Out Kids’ Camp. The camp, for kids in grades 1st through 5th, runs from 7:30am to 5:30pm and includes gym games, arts and crafts, park play and tons of fun. Cost for the camp is $30 for St. Pete Beach Residents and $50 for non-residents. Enrollment is limited so call 363-9245 today to reserve your child’s spot or drop by the Community Center at 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. For my ideas on things to do with the kids on their short week, look here.
Got a history buff in your house? More than 1,500 re-enactors will be at the Brooksville Raid this weekend. Held at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation Saturday and Sunday at 11210 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, it includes food concessions, confederate and union camp tours, chair rentals and wagon rides. With more than 1,500 reenactors, 28 cannons, 60 horses and more than 50 sutlers, they claim to be Florida's largest Civil War reenactment. Includes Ladies' Tea at 10:30 a.m., artillery demonstration at noon, music by 97th Regimental String Band at 1:30 p.m., and the Brooksville Raid Battle at 2:30 p.m. Price: $6 adults, $3 ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and younger and scouts in uniform.
You can gloat that your child helped build the Glazer Children's Museum's first Gasparilla parade float if you stop by this week and next. Check out the 5-foot one-eyed octopus named Uno under construction every day with help from kids. Stop by the Art Smart area on Level Two of the museum from 11 a.m. to noon and 3:30-4:30 p.m. daily as they construct Uno out of wire mesh frame with a papier mache. Uno will reside there until the Children's Gasparilla Parade Jan. 22. The following Saturday, even while all of Gasparilla is exploding around it in Curtis Hixon Park, the museum will be open for its regular hours on Gasparilla day, Jan. 29, and they have extended hours for their Tiny Bites Cafe to 9 p.m. for a break from the hustle and bustle. Click here to find all the Gasparilla events. Read our guide to the Children's Gasparilla Parade. For Gasparilla, get our laid-back guide to day
The Science Center's Sci-Fi and Sky Night this month includes planetarium shows (6:30, 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m.), a screening of the film Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaur in the courtyard at 7:40 p.m. (bring lawn chairs and blankets), telescope viewings (7:45-10:30 p.m.) and a lecture by NASA’s George Haddad (6:50 p.m.). Pizza, snacks and beverages available for purchase (7-8:30 p.m.). $3 per person. Saturday 6:30-10:30 p.m. Science Center of Pinellas County, 7701 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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PHOTO: Devin Collins led Tampa’s Blake High School band in the 2008 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice band event at Tropicana Field. [DIRK SHADD | Times (2008)