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Pass the time between now, New Year's Eve with cheap fun

It's Christmas Eve and we're tapped out of cash. But we're not out of ideas for things to do, especially if you've got kids out of school and relatives you need to get out of the house. So let us do the thinking for you. We've mapped out a free or cheap event each day to get you to New Year's Eve, plus a pricier option if you're trying to impress visitors (especially if they're paying).

Today

Cheap: As Charlie Brown would say, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" Yes, and you'll find some of those people tonight at your local Christmas Eve church services, many with candlelight, incense and carols. One very Florida option is the service at Calvary Chapel at the old Walmart location on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park. It will be held outdoors, rain or shine, and will include seasonal worship music, testimonies and a special Christmas message. The lobby will be open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. with limited baked goods and hot beverages for sale, or you can bring your own snacks. 6:30 to 8 p.m. at 900 U.S. 19 N. (727) 577-7705; calvarystp.org.

n More: If Northern guests are craving a little fun in the nice bay area weather but still wish they had a touch of home, Busch Gardens offers "Christmas on Ice," in which professional ice dancers bring a winter wonderland to life on an outdoor ice rink through Jan. 1. "Christmas Celebration," a musical extravaganza featuring seasonal songs, tap dancing toy soldiers and more, runs through Jan. 3. Both shows are included with daily admission. Price: $69.95, $59.95 ages 3-9. New "Pick Two" ticket, $79.95; details and Florida resident and advance discounts online. Busch Gardens, 3605 Bougainvillea Ave., Tampa. Toll-free 1-888-800-5447; buschgardens.com.

Christmas Day

>> Cheap: If the weather holds, go to the beach and build a sand "snowman." Snap a photo and you've got your Christmas card for next year. Better yet, post it on your Facebook page to torment friends and family dealing with the other white stuff. Then post another one of you sipping an umbrella cocktail at Don CeSar or another beach hotel.

More: After all the Who Ham and Roast Beast has been devoured, take the family to MindBender Mansion at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, one of the few places open on Christmas Day. Visitors walk through four rooms in the large exhibition hall to solve 40 puzzles and brainteasers and five group activities. Don't miss it because it ends Jan. 3. $23.95, $21.95 60 and older, $19.95 (ages 2-12), $3 MOSI members. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000; mosi.org.

Saturday

Cheap: Take St. Petersburg Preservation Inc.'s walking tour of the historic waterfront and Fourth Avenue NE, then hop on the trolley to the Historic Kenwood neighborhood for a bungalow tour. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Central Avenue and Second Street for a $5 suggested donation, which includes bus tokens.

More: All aboard for the Holiday Lights Cruise, a 1 1/2-hour ride on the Shell Key Shuttle to view light displays from the water. It casts off at 5 p.m. at Merry Pier (of course!), 801 Pass-a-Grille Way, St. Pete Beach. $22, $11 12 and younger. (727) 360-1348

Sunday

>> Cheap: Planning a New Year's soiree? Learn to make festive cocktails at a free class and you'll be the toast of the town. It's at 2 p.m. at the Williams-Sonoma in Hyde Park Village, Tampa. (813) 258-5818.

n More: If you want an adult night out, check out comedian John Henton, a.k.a. Overton Wakefield Jones on the hit Fox sitcom Living Single, a.k.a. Milsap on ABC/UPN's The Hughleys. He performs at 7 p.m. at the Tampa Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave. $14-$16. (813) 864-4000.

Monday

Cheap: If the spirit moves you, slide on over to the Holiday Gospel Skate, rolling to gospel favorites. There will also be games, contests and prizes 7 to 10 p.m. at USA Skateplex, 5313 E Busch Blvd. in Tampa. Admission is free, and skate rental is $2.50.

. More: Take in a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game and score a Marty St. Louis hat (for the first 5,000 fans). They play the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Get tickets at lightning.nhl.com.

Tuesday

m Cheap: Kids driving you crazy yet? Turn off SpongeBob and learn about the habitat of sponges at the Critter of the Week talk at the Pier Aquarium, 800 Second Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. It runs from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and it's $5, $4 seniors and students 7 and older. Ages 6 and younger free.

>> More: Rediscover the Salvador Dali Museum with Dali: Gems, which hooks you in with a group of jewelry rarely displayed. The museum also asked celebrities and other people of note to choose a favorite artwork, so you'll find out why actor Susan Sarandon is enthralled with this gold, diamond, ruby and pearl pendant titled Bleeding World. The museum is at 1000 Third St. S in St. Petersburg. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. $17 adults, $14.50 seniors, $12 students 10 to 18 and $4 kids 5 to 9. salvadordalimuseum.org; (727) 823-3767.

Wednesday

Cheap: Artistically decorated street pianos have been placed throughout Ybor City to beckon anyone who wants to tickle the ivories. Anybody know Auld Lang Syne? But the music comes to an end Jan. 9, and the pianos will then be auctioned off for charity, so catch a tune while you can.

, More: This is the last day to catch Lowry Park Zoo's Wild Wonderland, where you can see real reindeer and penguins, twinkly lights, Frosty's Foam Factory and go on all the rides for free. It's at 6 p.m. and tickets are $13, $11 ages 3-11, 2 and younger free. The zoo is at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa.

Times staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.

Pass the time between now, New Year's Eve with cheap fun 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 3:30am]

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