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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



wakeboard.jpgWe have a new play area in the Brandon mall, a skate jam in the skatepark and it's free to watch wakeboarders, left, compete or to watch teams battle in the mud. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with your kids.

Hundreds of the best wakeboarders in the world will descend on Tampa for the Red Bull Wake Open starting at 4 p.m. Friday for the two-day Red Bull Wake Open, a new international competition with three different wakeboarding events to crown the best overall wakeboarder. Using the skills of waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing, competitors try to avoid a gnarly fall behind a boat and launch off a 50-foot ramp to see who can pull the best trick. It’s free for spectators to watch at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, a half-dozen area skaters will compete all at one time at the Skate Jam for best trick, while local bands play live skater rock. It’s free at the Brandon Skate Park, 5720 Providence Road, Riverview.

On Friday, the Westfield Brandon mall will hold a grand opening of a new play area themed after Busch Gardens’s Sesame Street play zone called the Safari of Fun. Busch Gardens animals and Safari of Fun characters will be on hand for the public kick off at 10 a.m. when Westfield Brandon opens. Located in the shopping center’s newest wing near Gymboree, the 1200-square-foot area will feature a 16-foot treehouse with Sesame Street characters in their safari attire and beneath several African animals to climb on, play with and explore.

Set you alarm clock Wednesday for the Sunrise Sale and Pajama Party because next Thursday there will be special deals and sales starting at 6:43 a.m. in the shops of downtown St. Petersburg. Wear your pajamas for extra deals, and donate new pajamas or new books for children in need for more discounts. Follow the trail of yellow flags and yellow and orange balloons to participating locations around Beach Drive and Second Avenue N.

icecreamday.jpgGrab a free sample of Blue Bell Ice Cream’s newest flavor, Summer Strawberry Pie, in honor of National Ice Cream Day at MOSI from noon until 2 p.m. Sunday. Because this is a science museum, MOSI’s InterActors will demonstrate the science of freezing with a cryo freezing demonstration using liquid nitrogen in the lobby. It’s all included with admission to the Museum of Science and Industry, $20.95 adults (13-59), $16.95 child (2-12), $18.95 seniors (60+) at 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000.

Get a feel for what grows best in our tropical environment at the Tropical Plant Fair this weekend at the USF Botanical Gardens. Shop for rare and unusual fruit trees, plus hundreds of blooming tropical and colorful exotic plants and ferns to create your own backyard oasis that can withstand the summer heat. There will be garden advice from the Rare Fruit Council and Fern Rainforest. Plant sale proceeds support the gardens. It runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at 12210 USF Pine Drive, Tampa. Price: $5, kids under 12 and members free.

The Gulf Maritime Festival showcases Gulf Coast maritime folk life from Cortez to Apalachicola — with a special emphasis on the local sponge industry of Tarpon Springs. Demonstrations include sponge diving and processing, making diving helmets, sponging equipment, fishing, clam farming and boat building. The event also includes Greek-influenced music, dance and food associated with maritime cultures. Free. Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, 20 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs. (727) 942-5605. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Tampa-Area Chick-fil-A restaurants will offer free meals to customers who dress like a cow on Friday for Cow Appreciation Day. The more bovine the better. You can simply print out a starter kit from this site and get a sandwich or go full-on In“Cow”gnito and get a full meal. You can feed the whole herd! (OK, I'll stop now, mooooving on. Really. Done.) Nearly 600,000 people participated in this last year. Head to for a preview of the Chick-fil-A iPhone app, details on this year’s costume photo contest and even some printable cow spots.

You can get a jump on things Thursday when the Tampa Bay area celebrates with “Invasion of the Cows” today (Thursday) a herd will ride atop one of Gasparilla’s largest pirate floats to pass out free Chick-fil-A chicken Bbiscuits at Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 410 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa at 8 a.m. Thursday and cow-themed giveaways at Clearwater Marine Aquarium,  249 Windward Passage at 1 p.m. Kids at All Children’s Hospital will receive a private visit from the Cow brigade in honor of Cow Appreciation Day.

Outside of Rays Fanfest, when was the last time you got to hang out with a local sports hero? Or meet  his celebrity wife? Dare we even mention the free autographs? Stop hyperventilating and just circle Tuesday on your calendar for the Ben and Julianna Zobrist Autograph Party. The free event at the Trop begins at 1 p.m. and stars Christian pop singer Julianna Zobrist and her husband, Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist. The couple is staging an autograph session at the Trop’s Tampa Bay Rays Store in celebration of her latest release, Say It Now. (Our advice? Pick up one of those new, crazy-cool retro Rays shirts or hats at the store and get their autograph on that too!)

Feeling zippy? MOSI has added a new 700-foot zip line to the climbing and play area just outside of its Kids in Charge play zone. Saturday is the grand opening of the zip line as well as a birthday party for the Kids in Charge area, which turns 7. MOSI is throwing a party with mummy-themed activities, games and birthday cake from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.  Admission is $20.95 adults (13-59), $16.95 child (2-12), $18.95 seniors (60+). It costs $15 per person for the zip line or $20 for a combo ticket for the ropes course and zip line.  You don't have to get MOSI admission to use the zip line or ropes course. Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000.

The mermaids of Weeki Wachee have been entertaining audiences since 1947. This three-day 65th Anniversary Mermaid Reunion includes special performances with current and former mermaids at noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Saturday only. $75 mermaids, guests additional (reunion events). Reunion hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Regular admission: $13, $8 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. (352) 592-5656.

Other family events this weekend:

Monopoly Tournament
Each player plays three rounds in an all-day Monopoly marathon with prizes up to $250. Proceeds benefit the Largo Summer Camp Scholarship Fund. $25, $20 students/military, $100 team of six. Highland Recreation Complex and Family Aquatic Center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3016. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Discovering the Estuary with Your Child
Bring your child to the open classroom to learn about how pollutants affect our bay and other waterways. Free. Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 453-6500. 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
Food Truck Rally and Family Fun Night
The parking lot at Harbor Hall will be filled with activities including a touch-a-truck, bounce houses, rock wall climbing, bungee trampoline, face painting, sidewalk chalk art, DJ music, street dancing and a food truck rally. Free admission. Harbor Hall, 1190 Georgia Ave., Palm Harbor. (727) 787-4700. 4-9 p.m. Friday.
Ghostly Tales Book Club
This month’s featured scary story is Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story. In the book, young Heather is obsessed with a small tombstone bearing her own initials. Geared for children in fourth grade and up. Free. Clearwater Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave., Clearwater. (727) 562-4970. 2-2:45 p.m. Sunday.
Going Coastal
This indoor activity for all ages teaches participants about the fish common to our gulf coast area. Today provides an overview of bay scallop ecology. Participants will help to measure and track the progress of caged by scallops at the preserve. Saturday, learn with the Enviroscope about how pollutants can affect our bay and waterways. 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, 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
I Love H2O
This week’s themed event features educational activities about the importance of water and includes a song and dance about the water cycle. $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.
Itty Bitty Splashtime
Parents can mingle while their children ages 5 and younger enjoy the pool’s splash area. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. $1.50. Highland Recreation Complex and Family Aquatic Center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3016. 9:45-10:45 a.m. Friday, Monday and Wednesday.
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 Main Public Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7724. 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Light Up the Night: Storytime Series
Children 3 and older can put on their pajamas and bring a flashlight, pillow and blanket for a story time with activities focusing on night time animals, bedtime silliness, stars and space travel. Free. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor. (727) 784-3332. 7 p.m. today.
Nature’s Elements
Kids take a walk in the preserve to explore nature through crafts and activities. Best for ages 4 to 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.
Passport Adventures
Children will learn how early homesteaders, fishermen and sailors lived and worked through songs, games, a take-home toy-making project and other hands-on activities. This is a teen volunteer docent lead two-hour program. $3. Heritage Village, 11909 125th St., Largo. (727) 582-2125. 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. today-Friday and 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.” 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.
Play With Your Food
Covers the importance of fueling up on health foods and includes recipes for creating nutritious snacks. $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.
 Teen Laser Tag
Kids ages 9 to 16 see who’s king of the laser tag course. Includes hot dog, chips, drink and game room activities. $10. New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, 6630 Van Buren St., New Port Richey. (727) 841-4560. 6-9 p.m. Saturday.
Teen Tidalwave Tuesdays
Teens and tweens ages 11 to 17 can hang with friends and enjoy swimming, snacks, games and prizes in and around the pool. $3. Highland Recreation Complex and Family Aquatic Center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3016. 7-9 p.m. Tuesday.
 Wee-time at Weedon
This portion features Wendy Pfeffer’s book What’s it Like to be a Fish? Includes story related crafts, games and other hands-on activities. Best for ages 3 to 5. Free (registration required). Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 453-6500. 10:30-11:15 a.m. today.
Youth Shuffleboard League and Family Night
It’s family night at the shuffleboard courts. Teens and tweens break into age-appropriate shuffleboard league play. Groups are ages 10 to 14 and 15 to 18. Meanwhile families and younger kids can also play on the courts. Ice cream will be served each week. $3, members free. Mirror Lake St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-2083. 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday.


[Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:37pm]


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