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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with your kids



boats.jpgChristmas week has rarely been called cheap, but there is a lot that we need to remember that doesn't cost a dime. Have family and friends in town or bored kids you need to entertain? We have some ideas for you

Get one more burst of lights reflected on the water at the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Tampa today. Boats will head out from the Davis Islands boat launch, and the best viewing spots are Channelside, the SS American Victory ship, Davis Islands, Harbour Island and the Convention Center. Prizes will be awarded. It starts at 6:30 tonight (Thursday). Free. (813) 404-3471.

Looking for something fun to do with the kids over the holiday that is free and helps out a great cause? There will be itty-bitty, velvety bundles of energy at Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Discovery Center in downtown Sarasota on Tuesday (Dec. 28) for Puppy Hugging, 10 a.m. to noon. We checked and the organizers are eager for kids to come out down. “Having the public come and handle our puppies

when they are 6 to 9 weeks old helps with the socialization process – it gets them used to different sights and smells which will then make them confident when they are guides” stated Patsy French, director of development for Southeastern Guide Dogs. Southeastern Guide Dogs, headquartered just north of Sarasota in Palmetto, is one of only 12 accredited guide dog schools in the United States and the only one in the Southeast.  The Discovery Center is at 1618 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 953-2892.

Before the Gators and Penn State take to the field on New Year’s Day, you can watch the Outback Bowl teams compete off the field with interactive video games on Wednesday or in silly games on Clearwater Beach the next day. The players’ night at GameTime is Wednesday with the teams only from 6 to 7:15 p.m., but the doors open to the public at 7:15 at 1600 E Eighth Ave., in Ybor City. On Dec. 30, the marching bands and cheerleaders will be at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort next to Pier 60, with music, skydivers, a tug-of-war and other contests from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.

Now it’s the dog’s turn to enjoy the holiday lights in the garden.  Sunday at 3 p.m. the Florida Botanical Gardens is inviting the family pet for a holiday walk through the glowing garden of tropical plants, fruits and more lit by more than 400,000 twinkling environmentally friendly lights. It’s $10 to enter the costume contest, but just $2 if you want to take the pooch on a stroll at 12211 Walsingham Road in Largo.

It’s a special Wednesday night showing of the Sunset Cinema at Pier 60's series of free movies on Clearwater Beach this week. Bring a lawn chair and watch We Are Marshall at sundown at Pier 60. There will be concessions for sale.

Sports fanatics can find signed NFL football helmets, sports jerseys, framed autographed photos and more at the Sports Memorabilia Expo by Legends Sports and Games at Tyrone Square Mall, running through Friday at the mall at 6901 Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg.

iceskate.jpgThey’ve figured out how to make an outdoor ice rink in balmy downtown Tampa at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, and the rink is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 4 to 10 p.m. on Christmas Day. Skating costs $10 for 90 minutes, which includes skate rentals. Don't forget your tall socks.

And a word about the theme parks. Sure they’re all open, but how’s your crowd tolerance these days? Check the crowd levels at sites like and decide which park you want to visit on which day. For example, according to the “Crowd Calendar,” the crowds last Sunday were ranked a 1 out of 10 in annoyance. It rose to 6 out of 10 the next day all the way up to 10 out of 10 from Wednesday  to Jan. 1 at Disney.

The parade of Nutcrackers is winding down. Today’s 2 p.m. performance of the Great Imperial Ballet The Nutcracker features lavish costumes and sets, New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Jonathan Stafford and more than 100 students from the Patel Conservatory. Tickets start at $22.50 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. (813) 229-7827; After Christmas, the Moscow Ballet does the Great Russian Nutcracker at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. $27.50-$87.50. (727) 892-5798.

For Wild Wonderland, the zoo closes down at 5 p.m. and reopens at 7 p.m. for the annual evening winter festival with twinkling holiday lights, live reindeer and penguins, visits with Santa, Frosty’s Foam Factory (snow alternative), free rides and more. $13, $11 ages 3-11. Today and Sunday-Wednesday 7-10 p.m. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.

Play the latest video gaming systems at Palm Harbor Library on Wednesday.  Games2U Entertainment will bring its 32-foot-long Mobile Game Theater and a truckload of video games for players ages 11 to 18 to enjoy. Inside are six HDTV’s connected to the latest gaming systems, enhanced quality surround sound, laser lights and next-generation graphics. Up to 24 people can play against one another, in teams, on six different games at once. Free (registration required). Wednesday 1-4 p.m. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor. (727) 784-3332, ext. 3006.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 9:06am]


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