Free and cheap things to do with kids this week
I hate to break it to you, but Christmas events are already popping up, but on the bright side they are fun and usually free. We also have some fun fall festivals this week and lots of wallet-friendly options this week as you try to block out the coming holiday season from your memory banks:
We’ve barely had time to put away the plastic skeletons and vampire teeth and lo and behold Santa arrives at many of our local malls, and two of the most popular holiday events are getting under way this weekend. It’s the first week for Disney’s after-hours Christmas celebration, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This separate-ticket event has a Christmas parade, fireworks show, holiday characters and “snow” on Main Street. It’s $53.95-$67.95 at Walt Disney World at 7 p.m. Friday and Monday. And if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, the ice sculptures and real snow in the 9-degree splendor of Ice! at Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando is as close as you’ll get to a winter wonderland in Florida. It features two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures by artists brought in from China and 40 tons of real snow creating a North Pole Carnival attraction with a Madagascar theme. It runs Saturday through Jan. 1. $22.99-$27.99, $20.99-$25.99 seniors, $13.99 ages 4-11, 3 and younger free. Gaylord Palms Resort, 6000 W Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee. (407) 586-2000.
This weekend's Pasco EcoFest is packed with activities for outdoor activists and nature lovers, with kayaking, bird watching, hiking, riverboat rides, fishing, a swamp tromp, drum circles, an EcoMart, educational workshops and talks, pet adoption, a geo-caching challenge, concerts and an art show. Activities take place in six different Pasco County parks and various other locations. Check the website pascoecofest.com for a complete schedule of activities and their locations. Free from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.
Rarely does an arts event offer something for everyone but the Eckerd College Art Celebration in St. Petersburg does just that on Saturday during an all-day celebration of the arts. A visual arts show, musical performances, poetry and fiction readings and Legally Blonde, The Musical will be on the campus and it’s all free. Students, faculty and staff have come together to present a rich selection of creativity that will tempt you to stay for the day on the college’s lovely campus at 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. The only event requiring tickets (though they’re free) is Legally Blonde, which will be available throughout the day while they last. See www.eckerd.edu/news/cra.php for a schedule.
Holiday Gift Market The Junior League of Tampa heads up a big weekend for bargain hunters and the passionate arts and crafts crowd with its annual Holiday Gift Market on Friday, Saturday and Nov. 11 at the Florida State Fairgrounds. More than 140 merchants from Tampa Bay and around the nation will be on hand. Special events include Breakfast with Santa, celebrity chef demos and a Man Cave. It runs 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 11. The cost is $8 at the door, $6 for parking.
Opa! Celebrate Greek heritage, culture, Mediterranean cuisine, wine, shopping and dancing in the spirit of Greece at the Tampa Greek Festival. That means spanakopita, baklava and traditional costumes. Proceeds benefit the church and LifePath Hospice. $1 advance, $2 at the door; 11 and younger free; everyone free 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday; military with ID free. St. John Greek Orthodox Church, 2418 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 876-8830. It runs 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Though it had some bumps because of a lack of insurance, Cirque Italia a European-style, big top circus, has resumed its scheduled run through Dec. 2 at MOSI ($25-$40 for adults, $10-$35 for children 2 to 12; mosi.org). But the big name in the cirque circuit — Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza — opens this weekend runs through Dec. 9 under the Grand Chapiteau in the parking lot of Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg. Tickets are $43.50-$143.50 for adults, $33-$104.50 for children 2-12. For info, see cirquedusoleil.com.
See a national touring flying tribute to the Memphis Belle bomber and to the crews of bombers and fighter aircrafts including the WWII Vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the Memphis Belle. Come touch a piece of history or take a 30-minute ride for a real life bombardier experience. Hourly flights take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ground tours 2:30 p.m. to sunset. Reservations required for flights. Tours free; $450 Flight. Tampa Executive Airport, 6582 Eureka Springs Road, Tampa. (918) 340-0243. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
This weekend you can learn a lot at the Egmont Key Discover the Island Day. Shuttle boats leave from the pier at the park to Egmont Key taking passengers to see costumed Civil War re-enactments, children’s games, interpretive sites on the island’s wildlife, as well as its history of military involvement, it’s natural appeal and the culture of the old lighthouse. Food, water and souvenirs available for purchase. Last shuttle leaves for island at 2 p.m. and returns to mainland at 4 p.m. Benefits the Egmont Key Alliance. $18, $5 ages 6-11, 5 and younger free. Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. (727) 524-6595. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Other family events this week
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. 6-7:30 p.m. Friday.
One grandparent gets free admission with one paid child’s admission. $14.95, $11.95 ages 3-12, $12.95 seniors. Dinosaur World, 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City. (813) 717-9865. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
World Drumming Festival
A day of drumming activities, performances and hand drumming in well structured drumming circles. Free (donations appreciated). John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St. S., St. Petersburg. (727) 893-2400, ext. 2121. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Kidz and Rigz
The family event includes vehicles of all shapes and sizes including semi-trucks, monster trucks, race cars, children’s activities, vendors and food. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Shriners. $5, $3 ages 4-12, 3 and younger free; maximum family total $25. Hernando County Fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., Brooksville. (352) 596-1114. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
The mall throws a celebration that includes live music, acrobatics, a fire eater, scavenger hunt, pet rescue groups, an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog and prizes. Free. Fountains Plaza, 34824 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor. (727) 787-6173. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Fairy and Earth Festival
Explore magical realms at this festival with musicians, storytellers, readers, speakers and fairy and Earth vendors. $5, 4 and younger free. Sacred Lands, 1620 Park St. N, St. Petersburg. (407) 704-2320. 11 a.m. Sunday.
Later next week...
Sanding Ovations Meet the Masters
Meet the sculptors of the Sanding Ovations Masters Cup competition, which begins Wednesday but really takes shape next weekend. At this special event beer tasting and meet and greet, there will be samples of Great Bay beers and hors d’ oeuvres from Sloppy Joe’s. $5. Bilmar Beach Resort, 10650 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. (727) 547-4575. 7 p.m. Wednesday. The sand sculptures will start taking shape behind the Bilmar through next Sunday.
Emmy-winning nature conservationist Jeff Corwin returns to USF’s University Lecture Series next Thursday, Nov. 15, to talk about his work for the environment such as hosting Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin, and discovering regional foods that celebrate cultures on Extreme Cuisine. A question-and-answer session follows the talk. The event is open to the public but it’s a good idea to arrive early; seating is limited and it usually fills up fast. USF students with an ID, plus one guest, will receive priority seating at 7:30 p.m.; doors open to the general public at 7:45 at the University of South Florida Marshall Student Center, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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