A grandparent's guide to entertaining kids on a budget
I got an inquiry recently from a reader looking for things to do with his grandson and as I was crafting my answer to him, I got thinking there are probably a lot of folks out there with this same question. So read on for my suggestions and tips on how to search the rich database of information we have in the Things to Do section of TampaBay.com
My name is Doug and I live in Massachusetts. I have a daughter in Tampa with a six year old son, and this week she gave birth to a beautiful second boy. My wife and I visit as often as we can, but sadly that is not often enough. We will be coming to Tampa the week ending Fathers Day and as always, I am looking for fun and "budget" things and places to go with my eldest grandson. ... I have taken my grandson to the train in Largo, and we visit one of the ballparks, usually to see the Phillies.
Always looking for value and kid friendly things that do not involve sitting in front of the television.
Well first of all big cheers to such wonderful grandparents! Those kids are so lucky to have you, Doug, and there's something just so touching and special about time spent with grandparents. You asked the right person this question because in addition to blogging here, the rest of my day is spent on our Things to Do team, where we cover this kind of thing as a beat. Read on for tips on how to search our database and some links to some popular stories we have run along these lines:
The search box
You can search our database using a keyword or date range. Go to the Things to Do homepage here. You'll see a search box on top that has five different boxes labled Keyword (search by keyword such as "Father's Day") Categories (this lets you search for music or in your case Family or Kid-Friendly as a category) City (If you want to stick close to home, just type in Tampa with Kid-Friendly as a category) and finally the most useful search for someone like you coming here during a set period of time, the From and To boxes. Click on From for the date you get here and then To for the date you leave and then GO to get all the events that will be happening while you are here.
Since you told me when you are coming, I put in a search for June 11-17 and got this result. Once you have hit the GO button on the date range, you can narrow your search further. You'll notice on the lefthand side of the page you can clilck on "$5 or under" or "Free" to find the most budget-friendly events.
Some recent stories
Our writers on the TTD team (that's the Things to Do crew) are always coming up budget-friendly ideas. Check out this roundup of 20 Things You Can Do for $5. One of our favorites on that list is the St. Petersburg Pier Bait House. You can buy a bucket of five bait fish for $5 to feed the pelicans by hand. The kids will squeal as they hand over the slimy fish to the docile birds. It's a hoot.
And here's a roundup of Every Free Event we have in the system right now. One of our favorites is the free planetarium shows at the St. Petersburg College observatory. Director Craig Joseph is a great speaker and really gets the audience excited about the stars during his indoor sky theater show, then you go on the roof and look through their powerful telescopes.
The beach is free, or nearly so. Here's our roundup of all the kid-friendly beaches in the area and why we like them so much. If the beach isn't your scene, how about fishing? We have a round up all the great fishing piers in the area, from the Skyway Bridge to Clearwater's famous Pier 60.
There are lots of spraygrounds in the area that let the kids keep cool on these hot summer days and most of them are free. Check out our list of them here. Some of our favorites include the fountains at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park and the fabulous Dell Holmes Park in St. Pete.
How about some cheap(er) theme parks? Go second-tier and cheesy like Gatorland or Dinosaur World -- both of which have expanded this year and both are hugely entertaining for little ones. I mean, who doesn't like to hear the chomp of an alligator's jaws after tossing a turkey dog into a pit of them? Or take advantage of some of the Florida resident discounts at the big theme parks that we've listed here.
You mentioned taking your grandson to the Phillies game. The minor league teams in the bay area have very affordable ticket prices, often in the $5 range and many have special promotions such as kids eat free on some nights or $1 night where drinks and hot dogs are all just a buck. Here are links to the Threshers (the affiliate to your beloved Phillies), the Tampa Yankees, the Blue Jays, and the Lakeland Tigers. On all their sites, click on Schedule and then click on Promotions to find deals such as a free fireworks show after the game or kid specials.
I hope this helps as you bask in the glow of being a grandfather. It's as close to being a rock star as many of us will ever get. And happy Father's Day to you!
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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