Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week
We've got a deal day at the zoo, a free day of baseball fun at the Rays Fan Fest, a special train exhibit to mark Amtrak's 40th and the Florida State Fair had us at "Lawn Mower Races." Read on for more wallet-friendly diversions with the family this week.
Look here for insider tips on how to enjoy the free Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. The team has promised even more kid-friendly activities this year, including Reading with the Rays, high-five stations, batting cages, clubhouse tours and running the bases.
Are you high on grass? Are there any three sweeter words in the English language than “Lawn Mower Races?” The Florida State Fair has added this odd little attraction to its 2012 edition this weekend. It’s conducted by the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association, which has rules, but they’re way too complicated to get into. And unlike your dad’s Yard King 2000, these suckers fly (though thankfully the blades are usually removed). Best part? Nobody has to bag grass afterward. The races are Saturday and Sunday in the equestrian center. Admission to the fair is $12, $6 ages 6-11 (Sat.-Sun.); $10, $5 ages 6-11 (Mon.-Fri.). The fairgrounds are at 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 621-7821. The fair runs through Monday. floridastatefair.com.
Load up the kids and get to the Lowry Park Zoo early, because the $5 Day at the Zoo deal only comes along a couple times a year and it’s hugely popular. The crowds are often three times their usual size because everyone gets in for $5 — instead of the usual $23.95 adult admission — on Sunday starting at 9:30 a.m. You still have to buy tickets for some rides and experiences, like feeding a giraffe or riding a camel, that range from $1 to $5 each. The zoo is at 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Amtrak, the public is invited to tour the
Amtrak traveling exhibit train
displaying memorabilia such as vintage advertising, menus, dinnerware and period uniforms, plus a train-themed kids area. It’s free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Union Station, 601 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa. (813) 221-7601.
The dudes at Skatepark of Tampa are respecting their elders Tuesday — meaning those 25 and older — with free pizza and skating, and a special Old Man Appreciation Bowl Jam starting at 5 p.m. We know how those 20-something seniors like their early-bird specials! At Skatepark of Tampa, 4215 E Columbus Drive.
Have a dance fan in your house? The CoMotion and Friends Dance Concert on Friday has St. Petersburg College CoMotion Dance Theatre combines with Hillsborough Community College Dance Program for a night of modern dance choreography. Guest choreographers from around the Tampa Bay area bring innovative moves to the stage. It’s $5 admission at the door at 8 p.m. Friday, free for SPC students and staff. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg.
Spice up your Saturday and sample winning entries, and vote for a people’s choice award at the
Grand Central Chili Cook-off. There will also be arts and crafts, live entertainment and other food and drink vendors. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Grand Central District Association and St. Pete’s Helping Our Troops. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Free admission; $15 advance, $20 day of for chili tastes. Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Pete. (727) 828-7006.
Inspired by the thematic importance family had throughout the career of African American artist Romare Bearden, the folks at the Tampa Museum of Art are hosting a Bearden Family Day. Join them for hands-on art activities, performances by the Kuumba dancers and drummers of Tampa Bay, gallery explorations and children’s storytelling. 11 a.m. Saturday. Free. Tampa Museum of Art, 120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 274-8130.
You can wheel and deal at the Bicycle Swap Meet on Sunday. Save money as you trick out your bike. Pick up an array of closeout items from bike stores, as well as used gear and affordable bicycle parts and accessories, then stay for live music by the Chocolate Mushroom Gravy Band. 11 a.m. Sunday. Free; $10 for a space to set up bike gear to sell. Taco Bus, 2324 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 322-5000.
Nearly 200 sailors from 16 countries compete on gulf waters just off Pier 60 during the four-day Laser Midwinters East International Sailing Regatta, beginning Wednesday. Lasers are a 13.8-foot one-design boat carrying one main sail. Heats are broken down by sail size. Noon-8 p.m. Wednesday. Spectators free. Clearwater Community Sailing Center, 1001 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 447-6000.
Hear ye, hear ye! Say huzzah to the wizards, warriors and commoners who populate the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, a replica of a 16th century village with entertainment, street theater, live armored contact jousting, human chess matches, art, craft and other vendors, fire-eaters and more. This weekend’s theme is Highland Fling with Highland games, a Celtic village, kilt competition, meatball eating competition and more. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $15.95 advance, $7.95 ages 5-12 advance; $18.95 at the gate, $14.95 seniors at the gate, $10.95 ages 5-12 at the gate; $10 per pet (pet registration form required for entry). Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 983-0111. The festival continues weekends through April 1.
Other family-friendly events this week:
Sunset Cinema at Pier 60
Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Friday features the PG-rated film Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, and Saturday features the PG-13 rated film The Blind Side. Concessions for sale. No alcohol. Free. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060. Shows start at dusk.
Join the St. Pete Astronomy Club for a telescope viewing of Jupiter. $3, $1.50 children. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 6:30-8 p.m. Friday.
Bearden Family Day
Inspired by the thematic importance family had throughout the career of African-American artist Romare Bearden, the folks at the Tampa Museum of Art are hosting a family day. Join them for hands-on art activities, performances by the Kuumba dancers and drummers of Tampa Bay, gallery explorations and storytelling with the children’s librarian from John F. Germany Public Library. Free. Tampa Museum of Art, 120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 274-8130. 11 a.m. Saturday.
Create a Superhero Workshop
Create a new superhero, then model your costume and tell us about your mission to save the universe. $25, $20 members. Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000. 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
Family Fun Day
With inflatables, entertainment, arts and crafts, family competitions and food (while it lasts). Free. Tomlinson Park, 1820 55th St S, Gulfport. (727) 893-1068. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Fold and Fly Paper Airplanes
Dean Mackey, author of Fold & Fly Paper Airplanes and curator of the Online Paper Airplane Museum, will help children fold and fly their personalized paper jets. Free. Safety Harbor Library, 101 Second St. N, Safety Harbor. (727) 724-1525. 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Happy 75th Anniversary Dr. Seuss
Join the Simon Kidgits Club to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s first published children’s book, And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Children can pose for photos with the Cat In the Hat, listen to a story, watch the PBS special The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That, and decorate bookmarks and crowns. Free. Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 Tyrone Square, St. Petersburg. (727) 347-3889. 2-4 p.m. Saturday.
Kids take a walk in the preserve to explore nature through crafts and activities. Best for ages 4-7 $10. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Pioneer Music Jamboree
Local musicians perform folk, rock, new grass, gospel and Americana at this jamboree with craft vendors, hay rides and old-time activities. $5, $1 kids. Pinellas Pioneer Settlement, 2900 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
A monthly program for girls in grades 4-6. Participants will play games, make crafts and build friendships while incorporating important issues girls are facing today. This month’s topic is “Friendships.” $12.50, $10 residents. Highland Recreation Complex and Family Aquatic Center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3016. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday.
This mud race for kids ages 4-14 takes them on a quarter to half mile course with more than a dozen obstacles and a mud pit crawl to the finish line. $25. Walter Fuller Park and Center, 7891 26th Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 580-1278. 9 a.m. Sunday.
Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival
Endorsed by famed ocean-explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, the 30th annual festival in the historic waterfront fishing village location includes live music and dancing, marine life displays, nautical arts and crafts and seafood. $3, 11 and younger free. Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W, Cortez. (941) 722-4524. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Pasco County Fair
The annual fair returns with midway rides, food, livestock shows, pageants, a professional rodeo, demolition derby, bluegrass/gospel music and a large list of shows. $8, $5 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. Midway wristbands: $18 Mon.-Thur., $22 Fri.-Sun. (admission additional). Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 S.R. 52, Dade City. (352) 567-6678. 3-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.
San Gennaro Festa
The Italian American Women of Today host this family-style street festival featuring live entertainment, children’s activities and games, strolling street performers, exotic motorcycles, grape stomping, bocce, genealogy, meatball and cannoli eating contests, food vendors and craftsmen. $5; 11 and younger free. Safety Harbor City Marina, 110 Veterans Memorial Lane, Safety Harbor. (727) 724-4045. 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
St. Stefanos 2012 Greek Festival
Celebration highlights Greek traditions of food, music and fresh baked Greek pastries . Free (food/drink additional). St. Stefanos Greek Orthodox Church, 3600 76th St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 345-823. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
Withlacoochee Living History Primitive Art Festival
Take a trip back in time at this event with flint-knapping demos, living history encampments, fur traders, food, drink and craftsmen from across the country. $2, $5 carload, 12 and younger free. Withlacoochee River Park, 12449 Withlacoochee Blvd., Dade City. (352) 567-0264. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne,
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