The countdown is on. It's just days before the kids are back at school, back on schedules and back to strict bedtimes. But there has to be a way to celebrate the end of summer. Just one more long night up before it's back to bed just after sundown. We took a look at some of the family-friendly options for one last late-night fling to wring the final bit of fun out of summer:
St. Pete shuffle
This is not your granddaddy's shuffleboard game. On Friday nights, the Mirror Lake courts in downtown St. Pete have 20-somethings on a date, families on an outing and near pros showing their stuff while a killer music mix rocks the sound system. Best of all, it's free (though donations to the club that maintains the place are appreciated). Pack a cooler with your own drinks and snacks, and show up from 7 to 11 p.m. any Friday at 550 Mirror Lake Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.
Hit the beach
Have dinner with a sunset view. Caddy's on Sunset Beach is one of the few places where you can dig your toes into the sand while eating barbecued ribs or fried shrimp — all while the kids burn off energy along the shore. Plus there's a full liquor bar for you. Caddy's on the Beach is at 9000 W Gulf Blvd.; (727) 360-4993. There's also Clearwater's nightly sunset celebration on Pier 60, with street performers, arts and crafts sellers and live music. The sunset isn't bad, either.
Speaking of the beach, here is a fun, kitschy way to end the day. Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf has two locations — 19463 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores, and 15395 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach — that stay open until 11 p.m. And it's easy to play tourist: Feed the live gators, check out the pirate ship and try to get a hole in one on the supersecret hole that will get you a free round. And the best part about miniature golfing? The ice cream treat your kids will make you buy at the end of the round. A round of golf costs $10.99 for adults and $9.99 for children 12 and younger. But if you go to smugglersgolf.com, you can sign up to get coupons for a little off your round.
And they're off
The Grand Prix Tampa is one of the longest go-cart tracks in the country at almost three-quarters of a mile with machines that go up to 25 mph. You have to be 58 inches tall for your own ride, but the family track has two-seaters for parents and kids at least 42 inches tall. They have various package deals for families ranging from $18 to $62.50 that give you game tokens and tickets for racing, bungee jumping, golf, the arcade and batting cages. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with extended hours until midnight Friday and Saturday. The park is at 14320 N Nebraska Ave. in Tampa. (813) 977-6272.
Did you get that e-mail exclaiming Mars will be as big as the moon in late summer? Well, it's a hoax. But still, you can see Mars and other celestial wonders during Skywatch, free telescope viewings at the Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. The next one is Saturday, from sundown until 11 p.m. in the Butterfly Garden, weather permitting.
Baseball & music
Before the school year starts and you start questioning your judgment to let the kids stay up late to watch a baseball game, go see the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field at 7:08 p.m. Saturday. After the game, check out the post-game concert by country music's Big & Rich. Tickets start at $13. And don't forget, to save a buck or two, you can take in your own food. Get more details at rays.mlb.com.
No, that's not a misprint. St. Pete Beach is serving up its last dip and dive movie of the season tonight. It's a chance to use the slides, get wet and then enjoy Surf's Up, about a penguin who thinks he's got the best moves on the waves. Doors open at 8 p.m. Music and contests will be on the pool decks before the movie gets started at dusk. Bring your noodles, floats and lounge chairs. Admission is $2 per person but attendance is limited to the first 180 guests. Refreshments and glow jewelry will be sold. Dive in for fun at the St. Pete Beach Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. (727) 363-9264.
No movie necessary
Friday is the last night for Family Night at Fossil Park Pool. There are water slides, games and prizes from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is $2.50 for kids 12 and under, $3 for anyone over 13, whether or not you swim. 6739 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg.
Lock down the kids
Well, not really a lockdown like Shawshank prison or anything, but Celebration Station in Clearwater has a deal to lock them in before school starts. The Back-to-School Lock In is from midnight Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday for $25, which gets kids unlimited use of go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and video games, plus an all-you-can eat pizza buffet from 12:30 to 3 a.m. If you just want to take the kids for a little later-than-usual fun, the station is open until midnight Friday and Saturday and until 11 p.m. Sunday. On Friday and Saturday after 8 p.m. and on Sunday after noon, buy an unlimited-rides wristband for $10.99. And there areere are coupons on the Web site. Celebration Station is at 24546 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater. (727)791-1799 or go to celebrationstation.com and click on Clearwater for details.
It's a strike
Galactic bowling isn't just for the 20-somethings on a date. Several of the local alleys welcome families to stay up late. One of the best is Ten Pin Lanes, which offers cosmic bowling, but with the lights on so the smallest members of the party won't be afraid of the dark. The music trends toward the '60s with lots of Beatles tunes. The center offers Glow Bowl from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Strike It Rich, in which you knock down different colored pins for a little cash, from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Games are reasonably priced at $2.41 to $4.23 per person. Shoe rental is $3. Ten Pin Lanes is at 1453 Pasadena Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 381-1010 or littlecenters.com.
Sherry Robinson and Sharon Kennedy Wynne write about parenting issues on the blog Whoa, Momma! Sherry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8305. Sharon can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8595.