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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

jacksonspray.jpgAh, summer is at last upon us. Luckily there's some free and cheap ways to cool off in local pools and spraygrounds. We also have some free movies in the park or on the beach, a Spider-Man giveway tour at local Walmarts and more wallet-friendly ways to pass these summer days.

Splash time returns! Largo’s Highlands Aquatic Center, with its corkscrew water slides and zero-depth play and splash area, is back for the summer and bringing special events for different age groups. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9:45 to 10:45, kids 5 and younger get the pool’s splash area to themselves for just $1.50 per person for Itty Bitty Splashtime. And starting Tuesday, the Teen Tidalwave Tuesdays return with swimming, snacks, games and prizes in and around the pool starting at 7 p.m. for $3 a person at the center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo.

Screen on the Green lets you see a free screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark at this new outdoor family event held twice a month in Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Friday. Before you see if Indiana Jones can find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis, the fountains will be on for children to splash around in. Dogs on leashes are allowed. There will be vendors and food trucks on site, but you can also pack a picnic. The movie will start about 8 p.m. at the park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa.

Who doesn’t want to attract butterflies to their garden? At the Butterfly, Herb and Native Plant Fair, you can find butterfly plants, herbs and easy care native plants, plus expert talks, at the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens. A Tea Talk on preparation and samplings is 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by workshops at noon on growing tea plants and on native plants that attract butterflies. There’s also a free children’s activity area. The fair runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5, free for members and ages 12 and younger, at 12210 USF Pine Drive, Tampa.

Sure, the gigantic promotional truck rolling into area Walmarts this week is just a flashy way of promoting The Amazing Spider-Man movie coming July 3, but we love free stuff. The “Secrets Unmasked” tour is turning parking lots into playgrounds of interactive features including a PlayStation3 gaming center, giveaways and, in some locations, a climbing wall. And it’s all free. Click here for locations around the Tampa Bay area. Note that the van will be in place for 4 hours after the start time.

fireworks.jpgStarting Saturday, it’s going to be noisier at night at Busch Gardens. The Tampa theme park’s extended-hours Summer Nights return Saturday through Aug. 12 with a new Miami-inspired Latin song and dance show, and — for the first time — fireworks every evening. The Busch-owned water park across the street, Adventure Island, also has extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., starting Monday  through Aug. 12, all summer long, not just during Island Nights like last year. And speaking of Island Nights, those are returning every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 5 to 9 from June 14 to Aug. 11, when the park will crank up the beach party vibe with music, food and family-friendly beach activities. See and for ticket options. 

The Florida Dance Festival is back, beginning Tuesday and running through June 23 at the University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance in Tampa. The festival brings together dancers, choreographers and teachers, as well as contemporary productions of interest to dance fans. Presented by the Florida Dance Association, the festival this year includes the Brazz Dance Theater’s Cordel, performed June 16, and Kate Weare Company’s Garden on June 22. “Florida Dances,” an annual presentation, kicks off the festival at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Theatre 2, 3829 USF W Holly Drive. The program includes a ballet duet by Carol Erkes of Florida Dance Theatre in Lakeland; a duet and solo by the University of Florida’s Kristin O’Neal and Greg Catellier; and Robert De Niro, a piece by Erin Tracy and Tina Tidwell of Tampa. There will also be a performance in honor of Florida State University’s Lynda Davis, who is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. $10, $15. Tickets available at (toll-free 1-800-982-2787) or at the door an hour before each performance.

World Oceans Day is Friday and all weekend you can celebrate the ocean and everything it touches through an exploration of its different habitats using special activities, presentations and ocean themed crafts throughout the Aquarium. $21.95, $18.95 for seniors 60+, $16.95 for kids 3-12. Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Other family friendly events this week:

Dia Del Nino (Day of the Child)
The Latin-American celebration honoring children comes to Lowry Park Zoo with family activities and entertainment including live Latin music, bilingual talks, dance lessons and Hispanic food. Included with zoo admission. $23.95, $21.95 seniors, $18.95 ages 3-11, 2 and younger free. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Family Campfire Night
An all-ages evening around the campfire with stories, a short hike and s’mores. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $5. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 7-8:30 p.m. Friday.
Friends of the Library Book Sale
The Friends of the Library’s two-day book sale with thousands of used hardcover, soft cover and children’s books donated by library patrons. St. Petersburg South Branch Library, 2300 Roy Hanna Drive S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7244. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Gadgets and Gizmos
Guests become inventors by using their imagination to create their own contraption. $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, under 1 free. Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.
Going Coastal
This indoor activity for all ages teaches participants about the fish common to our Gulf Coast area. This portion provides an overview of bay scallop ecology. Participants will help to measure and track the progress of caged bay scallops at the preserve. Bring a plain white T-shirt for a fish painting project. Free (registration required). Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 582-2100. 2-3 p.m. today.
Knights of the Square Table
Chess players of all ages and skill levels are invited to join the fun and challenge each other to see who’s the true “Knight of the Square Table.” Free. St. Petersburg Main Public Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 892-5296. 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday.
Lego Mania
The library brings out boxes of Legos for kids to use their imaginations and explore creativity while developing social skills through interaction with other kids. Free. St. Petersburg South Branch Library, 2300 Roy Hanna Drive S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7244. 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Move-It Movement
Show off your skills as you kick, shoot and skate when Cartoon Network brings the Move-It Movement to Tampa. Included with museum admission. $20.95 adults (13-59), $16.95 child (2-12), $18.95 seniors (60+). Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000. Noon-4 p.m. Wednesday.
Palm Harbor Food Truck Food Court
Old City Grill, Sinful Pleasures Dessert Co. and others team up for Food Truck Food Court beginning at 11 a.m. until dinner time. Have lunch under the shady trees, or tour the museum after lunch. On the corner of Belcher and Curlew roads. North Pinellas Historical Museum, 2043 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor. (727) 724-3054. 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Planetarium Shows
Families with children ages 5 and older are invited to the “star theater” that can accurately simulate the night sky at any time or location on Earth. The theme for the current show is “Stars of Summer” and runs through July 20. Telescope viewings from the rooftop observatory after the shows. Free. St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 341-4320. 7 and 8:15 p.m. Friday.
Princess and the Pea
Timeless Tales Theatre presents their version of the classic fairy tale in which a wet and weary princess takes refuge in a castle and passes a test proving she’s a true princess. Free. Safety Harbor Public Library, 101 Second St. N, Safety Harbor. (727) 724-1525. 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Saturdays at the Morean
Free art experiences designed for families with children ages 5 to 10. Instructors will be on hand to assist. Free. Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-7872. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Southwest Neighborhood Summer Kick-off Party
Southwest Pool invites everyone to celebrate summer at a party with floats, inner tubes, diving boards, door prizes, Scuba diving samples and a hot dog lunch. Free. Southwest Recreation Complex and Pool, 13120 Vonn Road, Largo. (727) 518-3126. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
 There’s A Monster Under My Bed
A week of monster themed story times, crafts and slime making. $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, under 1 free. Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
Youth Roller Hockey
Kids ages 4 to 15 are invited to find out what roller hockey is all about and learn some new skills at this open house with two age-specific sessions in all skill levels. Free. United Skates of America, 5121 N Armenia Ave., Tampa. (813) 876-5826. 6-8 p.m. Monday.
Friday Flicks in the Park
Bring a blanket or lawn chair for a screening of the movie Dolphin Tale. The night begins at 7 p.m. with food vendors and children’s activities. Movies start at 9 p.m. Free. Treasure Island Community Park, One Park Place and 106th Ave, Treasure Island. (727) 547-4575, ext. 237. 7 p.m. Friday.
Sunset Cinema at Pier 60
Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Friday features Disney’s Cars 2, rated G, and Saturday features The Muppets, rated PG. No alcohol. Free. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060. Shows start at dusk.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 4:13pm]


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