Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week
The heat is melting our wallets, or is it kids demanding to be entertained? Luckily, we've got some budget-friendly alternatives, such as fun pool parties, free Bucs training camp days, a silly circus and more in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids:
There’s pirate booty hidden in the water for children ages 10 and under to find at Splash’s Treasure Hunt at the Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo on Saturday. All ages can take advantage of a special four-hour swim session and visit with Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita pirates. There will be free hot dogs and Chick-fil-A sandwiches while supplies last, chair massages and lots of door prizes. Cost is $3 with a Largo recreation card and $5 without. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3018.
WHY? Why not? The top-rated PBS series for preschoolers jumps from the screen to the stage with Super WHY Live. The show, which the New York Times hailed as “brilliantly clever” as a reading lesson, centers on the title character “Whyatt,” of Storybrook Village. With the help of his Super Reader friends Pig, Red Riding Hood and Princess Pea, the group enters story books to find clues to solve a problem, earning letters along the way that eventually spell out the answer to the problem such as “Ask first” or “Clean up” or “Keep trying.” In the live show, audiences are expected to shout out answers, sing along, dance — anything but sit quietly in their seats. The show is here for one night only, 5 p.m. Saturday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Tickets are $23.50-$39.50 (813) 229-7827.
The heat outside is stifling. The thunderstorms are daily. And the Rays are slowly bungling their way out of baseball’s playoff race. Oh, thank heaven, Bucs training camp is finally here. The Red ’n’ Pewter’s 2012 campaign begins Friday morning and the public is invited to a series of free practices, with autograph sessions, free parking, a merchandise tent and appearances by the Bucs cheerleaders and Captain Fear. The action is at 1 Buccaneer Place, Tampa. Practices are 8:45-11:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday; see buccaneers.com for extended schedule. And if you want to try to score autographs, here’s a playbook.
1. BRING SOUVENIR AND PEN: Easy-to-sign items like car flags, trading cards or a football are best (leave the life-sized replica pirate ship at home). If you forgot your beloved mini-helmet, souvenir stands — with the new Nike gear — are there for purchases. Players usually are given black Sharpies by the team to sign with, so if you prefer another color, bring your own.
2. BE POLITE: Wait for the autograph sessions to ask for signatures. And keep a roster handy so you know players’ names. Some players have great reputations for sticking around and signing autographs until their hand goes numb. (Cough, cough . . . Josh Freeman.) Just be sure to smile and say thanks.
3. DON’T MISS THE NIGHT PRACTICE: Circle Aug. 4 on your calendar. That’s the annual night practice at Raymond James Stadium. Enjoy $1 hot dogs and sodas — and fireworks! — while staking out your favorite players for last-minute autographs. Nothing like bathing in the lights of an NFL stadium to put even the grumpiest of players in a mood to sign.
Celebrate super-sweet tropical fruit at the Mango Festival, held under the oak trees on the 20-acre Colorfield Farms nursery, which offers fruit trees for sale. There will be mango samplings, seminars, live music and food trucks. It runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the nursery at 8221 SR 674 in Wimauma, near Sun City Center. $5; under 6 or older than 80 are free.
The Fourth Friday Food Truck Festival will bring food trucks, music and extended hours for local merchants along Corey Avenue in St. Pete Beach. It runs 5:30-9:30 p.m. Friday. (727) 498-8778.
A circus hits town this weekend! Piccadilly Circus stakes up their 80-foot, climate-controlled European Big Top at the fairgrounds for a two-hour show including racing camels, a giant catapult launching acrobats, showgirls on stilts, German wheels, Russian swings, African and Asian elephants, Ukraine Olympians, U.S. motorcycle extreme air-daredevils, Cossack riders and more. 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $8-$42. Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. 1-877-373-0477.
For a real feeding frenzy, get a close-up view of the aquarium’s sharks and learn about their care as you enjoy a morning buffet at Breakfast with the Sharks. 8-9:30 a.m. Sunday. $39, $34 children; $29, $24 children (members). Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.
Catch Rays on the sand when the Rays are in Los Angeles playing the Angels. You can go to a Rays Watch Party on the beach at a family-friendly watch party with a giant screen set up on the sand. 620-AM WDAE will broadcast live starting with their pre-game show. The Rays Street Team will also be on hand with giveaways. Get a coupon for unlimited sliding on the giant slide for $10 (normally $30). Proceeds benefit the Rays Foundation. 3:35 p.m. Sunday. Free admission; $10 parking on site. Food and drink additional. Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-6461.
Drape yourself in green and gold and join other Bulls fans for a Preseason USF Tailgate Party, featuring an appearance by head coach Skip Holtz. Watch last season’s video highlights, buy merchandise from Bulls Outfitter, play games and win prizes starting at 4 p.m. Saturday at Capogna’s Dugout, 1653 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 776-6309.
Other family friendly events this week:
Once Upon a Mattress
An adaptation of The Princess and The Pea for middle school students. Advance: $12, $8 members. Day of: $14, $10 members. Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa. (813) 269-1310. 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
Park Ranger Nature Educational Programs
Rangers guide children ages 9 to 15 through a variety of fun and informative activities. This portion features “Venomous Florida Snakes and Water Color Art.” $5 per child, adults with children free, adult only $5 (cash only). Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6204. 10 a.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.
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.
This indoor activity for all ages teaches participants about the fish common to our Gulf Coast area. In this portion, use microscopes to reveal plankton. 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. 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
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.
This special day for children with special needs includes reduced lighting and sound, special programming and resources. $5, members free. Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861. 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Wee-time at Weedon
This portion features Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s book What Lives in a Shell? Includes crafts and games. 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.
Muvico Free Summer Film Fest
Muvico’s SPF 100 summer movie series brings a different children’s movie every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Today features the PG-rated film Madagascar, starring Chris Rock and Ben Stiller. Tuesday and Wednesday feature the PG-rated film Shrek Forever After, starring Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy. Also taking place at Palm Harbor 10, Starlight 20 in Tampa and Centro Ybor 20 in Tampa. Free. Baywalk 20, 151 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 502-0965. 10 a.m. today, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Capitol Classics Family Movie Series
This week features the classic The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy and her dog Toto on the big screen in a tornado’s path. $5. Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. 3 p.m. Saturday.
Friday Flicks in the Park
This week features the PG-13 rated action/adventure Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris. The night begins at 7 p.m. with food vendors and children’s activities. Movie starts at 9 p.m. Free. Treasure Island Community Park, One Park Place and 106th Avenue, Treasure Island. (727) 547-4575, ext. 237. 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Regal Summer Movie Express
Area Regal Cinema Theaters will show select G- and PG-rated movies for $1 every Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the summer. Tuesday features Chimpanzee and Wednesday features Hoodwinked Too. Other locations include Largo Mall 8 and Citrus Park 20. Movie schedules may vary by location. Check individual theaters for information. $1. Park Place Stadium 16, 7200 U.S. 19 North, Pinellas Park. (727) 525-7777. 10 a.m. Tuesday-Wednesday.
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-13-rated film Tron Legacy; Saturday is the PG-13-rated film Thor. No alcohol. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060. Shows start at dusk.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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