Free and cheap things to do with your kids this week
It's Labor Day weekend, so here's some things to do that won't squeeze the fruit of all that labor:
Take your teens to check out the new teen Internet cafe and video game hangout space More2Life at Tyrone Mall in St. Petersburg. Paid for by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, it is run New Life Solutions, a faith-based non-profit organization that normally focuses on abstinence and the prevention of teen pregnancy. It’s at the Borders Books entrance to the mall, so it’s a bit off the beaten path, but it’s free, has a Wii room, a PS3 room, a Wii Fit room, four computers in an Internet cafe and a living room that a couple of times a day will host “Hook Up Sessions” (yes, they get the joke). The sessions will be short movies about making good choices, and they promise no preaching or religion, just good advice. Parents also have a space to see movies a couple of times a day on subjects such as how to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees. They are dangling a reward, too. If parents see one 30-minute presentation, they can be eligble to win a free month of rent or mortgage payment worth $2,000. Kids who see at least four of the six presentations can win a $1,000 shopping spree. It’s for kids in sixth through 12th grade and the hours are 1 to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. More2Life only has a lease for a month to test the waters, so if this is an idea you support, now would be the time to check it out.
Good free food deals this weekend! Saturday through Monday, children 12 years and younger can eat free at IKEA in Tampa, choosing from any three kid-sized items to create a meal valued at $2.49. Choices include five meatballs, mac ‘n cheese, PBJ sandwich, kids yogurt, two cookies, chocolate milk, and more. And there’s no adult purchase necessary! (Dine-in only; child must be present to receive offer.) IKEA is located at 1103 N 22nd St. in Tampa. (800) 434-4532. Then this is simple enough: On Labor Day, put on your favorite sports team's logo, go to Chick-fil-A from 10:30 a.m. to close and walk away with a free original sandwich. That's it. You don't need to buy anything or dress up like a cow.
Ride the miniature trains of Largo Central Railroad for free this weekend. Local non-profit groups sell refreshments to raise money for worthy causes. It runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Largo Central Railroad, 150 Highland Ave. SE, Largo. Free, donations for train maintenance appreciated. (727) 587-6740 ext. 5014. lcrailroad.com.
For a little beach fun, check out Beach Blast at Bazzies Beach Bar at Bilmar Beach Resort, 10650 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. This family fun day features live music, a sand sculpting contest, wellness and fitness demonstrations, Hula Monsters, Stand Up Paddling, Hawaiian war canoes, meet Big Nasty, fireworks (9 p.m.) and more. All events take place on the beach behind the hotel. It's free but there is a fee to enter the sand contest, Call (727) 360-4121.
The annual Gulfport Gecko Fest promises lots of family fun with street performances, a community parade (don't forget to decorate your umbrella), entertainment on three stages, food and more. Find this free event it in downtown Gulfport (Beach Boulevard area) on Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. Call (727) 322-5217 for details.
Kids can learn more about equestrian events at Battle of the Barns watching youth and teen groups perform in drill team shows and compete in equestrian events. 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Helen Howarth Park Horse Arena, 6301 94th Ave. N, Pinellas Park. Free (donations appreciated). (727) 644-7761.
Kids can celebrate the long holiday weekend at the All Night Skate. They'll be skating all night long to DJ music with adult supervision. Watch a breakdance battle for $200 cash prize. 8 p.m.-7 a.m. Sun. Astro Skate, 10001 Suite A 66th St. N, Pinellas Park. $14. (727) 546-0018.Load your child into his favorite stroller or ride-on toy and get yourself some exercise at Mommy and Me Skate! as you push them around the floor while you skate from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Wed. at United Skates of America, 5121 N Armenia Ave., Tampa. $3.50 each. (813) 876-5826.
Swaptember is the deal offered to Lowry Park Zoo pass holders can swap for free admission to the Florida Aquarium and MOSI. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily (Aquarium) and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MOSI) through Sept. 30. Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Free to Lowry Park Zoo pass holders only. (813) 273-4000.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sherry Robinson