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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



It seems like the little things are adding up, the gift cards, the cookies, the endless shopping. It's time to take a mental health break without breaking the bank. Here's some things to do with your kids that won't turn you into a grinch:

lego-robotics.jpgAh, kids today with their high-tech solutions. At the LEGO Robotics Tournament, more than 20 teams of kids ages 9 to 14 were given the task identifying a medical problem, providing a solution to the problem and building a robot that can complete the most assigned missions. And they have to do it in 2.5 minutes. See how it turns out Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at the Hillsborough Community College Brandon campus, 10414 E Columbus Drive. Free.

The Platt Library marks its 10-year anniversary with a celebration featuring storytellers, mimes, paper making and printing displays, a demonstration of the Net Library and guest speaker Jan Platt, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library, 3910 S Manhattan Ave. Free. Call (813) 273-3652.

Think of the Shut Up and Paint Live Art Battle as ultimate fighting champions, only they have acrylic paints or a watercolor palette as their weapon instead of a sweeper kick. About 20 bay area artists battle it out for cash prizes. They will have four hours to complete their work and they can do it in acrylic, graffiti, mixed medium, whatever works. The audience will support and judge the work, and Offshore Riot will perform an acoustic set during the battle, with DJ Shock to the System. Kids are welcome. It starts at 5 p.m. Saturday at Jollimon’s Grill I, 941 Huntley Ave., Dunedin. The $5 admission includes a raffle ticket.  Phone: (813) 446-3763

Alligators in Florida: Times writer Jeff Klinkenberg, the best-selling author of Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators, is a big fan of the mysterious alligators that haunt the canals and back bays of old Florida. Hear why at a free talk Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve where the Florida native uses video, music, photos and even post cards to trace alligators from European encounters in the 1500s to the golf courses of today. If you want to bone up before Klinkenberg’s talk, take an Alligator Walk on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the preserve, where a guided hike will show you the swamp king’s habitat and likely come up close to the park’s many gator residents at 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. The hike is $3, $1.50 children. Phone: (727) 893-7326

flower.jpgDo you have a gardener on your gift list? The Florida Botanical Gardens will hold a special day-long Gift and Plant Sale Sunday in the formal gardens with more than 35 vendors selling an assortment of plants and “gifty” items like unique clothing, outdoor creations, food, crafts, jewelry, candies and knick knacks with a horticultural flair. The sale is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the gardens at 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. It’s free admission during daylight hours (Come back at night where $2 gets you in to see the gardens lit up in a spectacular holiday display.)

On Saturday you can see the 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed with a festive crowd outside on the Riverwalk at the Straz Center. The free showing is on the riverwalk at 1010 N MacInnes Place at 8 p.m.

Celebrate the second Friday of the month at the Dunedin Wine and Art Walk with more than 40 vendors offering art, wine tastings, food, a live blues jam and merchant specials. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at Pioneer Park, Main Street and Douglas Avenue, in Dunedin. A $10 wristbands gets you extra discounts and drink specials. Or head to downtown St. Pete for the second Saturday art stroll known as the Downtown Artwalk. It's a great place to find unique gifts and ornaments at participating galleries from 30th Street to the Pier starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

If you ride a bike, do you like a leisurely tour or a challenging off-road ride? You can either on Saturday when Boyd Hill Nature Preserve hosts a 9 a.m.  Bike Safari: Adventure Trek and a more laid-back Leisure Ride at 10:30 a.m. using the parks many trails, both paved and off-road, to explore the 245-acre nature preserve. Bring your helmet, some water and a snack. Price: $5 at the preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg.

For those weary of traffic, Saturday is a welcome day for the John's Pass New Bridge Dedication Free continental breakfast at 9:30 a.m.; ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. at the east side of the bridge. Afterward there is a Gator Toss for Tots Fundraiser at Gators Dockside at 1 p.m., with Santa at the bell tower noon to 4 p.m. and lighted boat parade in the evening at the  John's Pass Village & Boardwalk, Madeira Beach. 

See Allstar Weekend, a talented quartet of teens was selected to participate in Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing” program. Special guests include Stephen Jerzak, the Scene Aesthetic and Action Item Friday at 6 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Price: $15.  Phone: (727) 791-7400

The whole family can enjoy the The Polar Express movie -- including well-behaved pets -- at the Sunset Cinema showing on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. This traveling outdoor movie series is presented by Tampa Theatre in HD on a 50-foot inflable screen. Starring the voices (many times over) of Tom Hanks and Daryl Sabara it is free at  Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St., Tampa.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010 2:02pm]


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