Thursday, June 21, 2018

Got $5? Here are 20 fun ways to spend it in Tampa Bay

They say $5 doesn't go as far today as it did 50 years ago. Or even a decade ago. But we're a glass-is-half-full kind of newspaper. We maintain that if you know where to look, you can still find plenty of fun things to do each week for as little as $5. So we started combing Tampa Bay for deals, and guess what? Our cheapskate skills paid off. So if you've got a crisp $100 bill burning a hole in your pocket, it's time to cash it in, because we found 20 great things you can do with a $5 bill.

Walk with the animals

A couple times a year, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo opens its doors for just $5 (a big savings from its usual admission of $23.95 for adults, $18.95 for kids). The next one is May 20. But get there early because it gets crowded for this deal. And keep in mind that you can still empty your wallet buying tickets for special rides, like $4 to ride a camel or spending money on treats to hand-feed a giraffe. The zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Play five hours of pool

Starting at 6 p.m., pool is $5 an hour at Side-Pocket Billiards in Seminole. But from 1 to 6 p.m., you can play all you want for just $5. Considering happy hour ($1.75 Bud and Bud Light drafts) also starts at 1 p.m., that's a more than solid excuse to duck out of work early. 7570 Starkey Road, Seminole (727) 399-0890, — J.C.

Soak in Island Night at Skipper's

It's harder than you'd think to find a regular $5 cover charge for live music in Tampa Bay. But for 23 years, Island Night has been a tradition at Skipper's Smokehouse, with laid-back African and Caribbean jams. For $5, you can get inside to watch local reggae vets Impulse, who sing and harmonize with ear-pleasing force, joking and talking to the audience between songs. Red Stripe beer is only $2 in the Skipperdome, and food specials vary from night to night. The fun starts at 8 p.m. at Skipper's, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. — Jay Cridlin

Ride the streetcar

They say life is the journey, not the destination. But when it comes to Tampa's streetcar, it's a little bit of both. The streetcar's $5 one-day unlimited ride card comes in handy for anyone spending a day in downtown Tampa and Ybor City, especially in the summer heat. The old-fashioned replica trains harken back to Tampa's roots when electric streetcars ferried residents from Tampa Heights to Ballast Point. Intrepid riders can start at Whiting Station and grab lunch at Hattricks. Then hop to the Tampa Bay History Center, the Florida Aquarium or Channelside Bay Plaza. For evening activities, head to Ybor City for dinner and a night out on Seventh Avenue. The streetcar runs every 20 minutes or so until 2 a.m. on weekends. The pass is ideal for downtown and Channel District residents who live along the line and can ride without having to worry about driving and paying for parking. The $5 ride card also covers the downtown HART buses and the In-Town Trolley, which go to downtown's north end past Fly Bar, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and other notable spots. Bring the exact fare because conductors don't make change. — Susan Thurston

Visit Fort De Soto

Locals grumbled when Pinellas County's world-class nature beach began charging $5 per car for admission in January. For the first three months of 2012, attendance dropped nearly 12 percent from the same time period in 2011. But really. We're talking about a park that more than once has been named America's Best Beach. Over the years, I have spotted sharks, stingrays, starfish and sand dollars in these waters, and raccoons and leggy waterfowl in the marshes. Fishing is free if you have your own equipment and license. And on a recent Sunday afternoon, I was swimming in the shallows when a half-dozen or more dolphins started frolicking a short distance offshore. There they were, 300 away from the spot where I swam, then 200, then 100. I half expected one to come up and tow me down to Atlantis. You're telling me that experience wasn't worth a measly $5? Fort De Soto may no longer be free, but it still delivers some experiences money can't buy. — J.C.

Get in some Zumba

In the early 2000s, Zumba exploded onto the scene. Seemingly overnight, fitness studios everywhere began offering this new Latin-based workout routine developed by Beto Perez in Colombia. Today the craze over Zumba continues, even if it's not as big as it once was. Fans and newbies alike can find a Zumba class just about any day of the week in Tampa Bay, and many of them are available for just $5 a class. One such place is the Simone Salsa Dance School (8336 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa), where classes are usually held at 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. and 10 a.m. Saturdays. As class times change they are updated on the Simone Salsa website ( They also have a location in Brandon. To find all the places in your area that offer Zumba, visit and enter your zip code into the search box on the home page. Just be sure to check the prices of any place you find and confirm they are still offering the classes, as some of the entries are outdated. —Ashley Grant

Get lucky at blackjack

It's not obvious, but the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has $5 blackjack tables. Four, to be exact, and only from noon to 7 p.m. daily. Find them tucked inside the Hard Rock Cafe, away from the main casino floor. The tables attract a full house — and not necessarily just for the low minimum. The room is decorated with sexy costumes worn by Madonna and Shakira and video screens showing women in bikinis. The female dealers wear halter tops and big smiles. High-rollers might prefer spending $5 on a single pull of a slot machine. The casino has a high limit slots room with $5 to $100 machines. The room, which has a drum set by Elvis Presley's drummer Ronnie Tutt, is open to anyone, but gawking is discouraged. You can bet up to $5 a pull at various penny machines in the casino but only machines in the high-limit room start at $5. The payoff might be worth a visit. On Tuesday, a lucky player hit a $1,030,767.18 million jackpot on a $5 Wheel of Fortune slot. 5223 Orient Road, Tampa, (866) 502-7529, — S.T.

Feed some pelicans

When you stroll down St. Petersburg's Pier, chances are good a tubby, happy pelican will check you up and down for fish, then waddle on by. It's just a tease to the dozen others a little farther down, lining up like soldiers and waiting. They want noms. Bad. The grand birds come to the pier en masse many afternoons because they know it's a sure thing. The folks at the Pier Bait House have long been letting tourists and regulars get personal with the birds. For $5, you can buy a bucket of five bait fish to feed the pelicans by hand. The managers offer daily specials, often throwing in twice the fish. Once armed with the goodies, you can perch on a stand and drop the delectable morsels into their beaks. Pelicans are pretty docile creatures who can live for 30 years, said Pier Bait House manager Bonnie Heeman. They don't rely solely on the pier to get food, so many of them come and go. But a few always return. Heeman and other employees give them names. Coco, a brown female oldster, has been coming to the pier for 20 years. She knows how to break into the bait bin. She bosses around the baby pelicans. It's adorable, yes, but fight the urge to pet these fluffy guys. They're not mean, but if you stick your mitts anywhere near them, they assume you have fish and will go for it. You'd probably do the same. The Pier Bait House is at the end of the St. Petersburg Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE. It's open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Visit or just stop by. — Stephanie Hayes

Spin some tunes at the Hub

Five dollars gets you 18 songs on the Hub's jukebox. That's a lot of music and plenty of time to drink enough PBRs to forget your next selection. The jukebox is a sacred staple of the downtown dive bar. Matthew Vigil keeps watch of the 1996 Rowe Venus dinosaur, which has 100 CDs from Billie Holiday to the Beastie Boys. Play Billy Idol's Rebel Yell, and daytime bartender Jeannie Robinson might break into a yell of her own. After 25 years working the bar, she has heard it a time or two. Rebel Yell was the Hub's fourth-most frequently played song, as of last week. The top tune? Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. No. 2 was Roxanne by the Police followed by Elton John's Bennie and the Jets. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit came in fifth. Good ol' Hub. Always keeping it real. 719 N Franklin St., Tampa, (813) 229-1553, — S.T.

Catch a Capitol Classic

Clearwater's Capitol Theatre is plotting a multimillion-dollar expansion that should increase capacity and give people a little breathing room in the lobby. But there's still plenty of time to catch a classic movie in the 81-year-old theater, playhouse and concert venue. The downtown venue's Capitol Classics film series charges only $5 for admission. Start on May 11 with Ferris Bueller's Day Off, then look out for E.T. The Extraterrestrial at 3 p.m. June 2 and The African Queen at 7 p.m. June 7. 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Bonus: Show your ticket stub for a discount at several downtown businesses, including Metro 528 (buy-one-get-one entrees) and Tony's Pizzeria and Ristorante (one free beer after any show). — J.C.

Shop at the Art-o-Mat

In the lobby of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg sits an Art-o-Mat, an old cigarette machines that has been converted to deliver palm-sized works by an array of crafty artists. Since 1997, about 100 of them have sprung up nationwide. You can get photographs, paintings, jewelry, fan pulls, books, sculptures, boxes, bags and other myriad trinkets. Each one costs just $5, and makes a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Not knowing exactly what you're going to get is half the fun.— J.C.

Go golfing

Don't own a set of golf clubs? Doesn't matter. At Ace Golf, which has driving ranges in Brandon and Riverview, you can get a small bucket of balls for $4, plus you can rent a club for $1. So any time you get the urge — or you're feeling particularly stressed from an afternoon meeting at work — you can swing by there and swat nearly three-dozen dinged-up Wilsons with the club of your choice. No greens fees needed. See — J.C.

Become a cocktail connoisseur

These days, you can't spill a cup of sloe gin without getting some on a retro-style cocktail bar. But getting Prohibition-era drinks at nearly Prohibition-era prices? That's a rarity. Enter Zom Hee Chinese Restaurant, which offers a big menu of dozens of delightful old-school cocktails, from old-timey classics to kitschy signature specialties, and not a one costs more than $5. Yes, that includes the tart St. Petersburg Sling ($4.75), which comes in a tiki-head glass and a pink paper umbrella; and the pina colada, which comes in a faux-coconut mug. Throw in an array of rickeys, fizzes and sours, and after your next round of szechuan shrimp, you may decide to skip the fortune cookie in order to rush back to the bar. 9015 Park Blvd., Seminole. (727) 391-8393, — J.C.

Go for a moonlight canoe

Imagine a quiet romantic night under the stars on the Hillsborough River with your significant other. Now imagine being able to enjoy that date for just $5. The University of South Florida Campus Recreation Department offers moonlight canoeing for $5 per person with a USF ID. Students may purchase up to four tickets with their ID through the Campus Recreation website. Only a moonlight canoeing ticket is allowed to be used for moonlight canoeing, so make sure you check the name of the ticket you're buying before you purchase it. Every person that is planning to go will need to bring a form of ID in addition to the student ID to rent the equipment. Boat launch times are 8:50 and 10:50 p.m. on the nights that moonlight canoeing is available. The next available date is June 1. For more information on moonlight canoeing and all other programs offered by the University of South Florida Riverfront Park, visit — A.G.

Strap on your skates

Willy Wonka once said, "If the good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn't have invented roller skates." He should have added that roller skating isn't just for young kids. Adult skates are that magical time when the skating rinks are only open to big kids ages 17 and older . No crying, spitting up or worrying about whether or not the youngsters have to go potty. It's just you and your pals on the rink, skating to the beats. United Skates of America (5121 N Armenia Ave., Tampa) offers a $5 adult skate every Thursday from 9 p.m. to midnight. Regular skate rental is an additional $2, so bring your own skates if you have them. Can't skate? No problem! Stop by Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Park or Bradenton the Saturday before adult skate night at United Skates of America for a quick $5 lesson. Beginner lessons start at 11:45 a.m. and go until 12:15 p.m. Be there by 11:30 a.m. to get your skates and register. Skate rentals are included with the lesson fee. — A.G.

Try some cornhole

If you like cornhole but prefer the air-conditioned comforts of the great indoors, then check out the Round Up on Monday nights. The honky-tonk in Oldsmar offer free cornhole as part of the $5 cover. It also has free mechanical bull-riding and beer pong, provided customers haven't walked out with the balls. The bar used to have dodgeball on Mondays but recently nixed it because of too much damage to the ceiling and fixtures. Instead, the bar has Mix and Match Mondays with the games and a DJ playing all kinds of music, not just country. The $5 admission gets you $1 well drinks and $2 domestic bottles. Make it an evening by hopping next door to Peggy O'Neill's, which has Karaoke from 9 p.m. to close. The Irish pub goes McMexican on Muy Bien Mondays with $1 tacos, $2 Coronas and $3 margaritas. Pitchers of beer are always $5. Both bars don't get going until late, even on a sleepy Monday. The Round Up, 13918 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 855-1464,; Peggy O'Neill's, 13910 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 749-7192, — S.T.

Tour a brewery

The first thing you need to know about the Cigar City Brewery tour is that it's not in Ybor City. It's in Tampa, off Spruce Street, a fact many people overlook. Once there, you'll see the entire operation, from the tasting room to the production building where the beer is brewed, bottled and packaged. The tours, which run hourly from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, cost $5 and include a beer and a Cigar City glass to take home. That's a great deal considering a pint in the tasting room goes for $5. Bob Lorber leads the tours, usually with a beer in hand. He describes the beermaking and shares quirky facts about the 3-year-old brewery. If you're lucky, he might even hand out free beers from the room-sized cooler. 3924 W Spruce St., Tampa, (813) 348-6363, — S.T.

Go behind the scenes

Capitalizing on its motto "It never gets old,'' the Tampa Theatre offers $5 walking tours twice a month. The balcony-to-backstage tours last about 90 minutes and include a demonstration of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. The tours delve into the history and architecture of the Tampa city landmark, which dates to 1926 and appears on the National Register of Historic Places. Believe in ghosts? Ask about the theater's supernatural history. Check the theater's website for upcoming dates. Admission is free for members and $2 for children ages 2 to 12. 711 N Franklin St., Tampa, (813) 274-8981, — S.T.

Feast on a cuban

There's been a lot of talk around town lately about Tampa's role in the creation of the Cuban sandwich. And yet you'd be surprised how hard it is to find a good one for less than $5. Thankfully, there's always the Floridian restaurant in Tampa, which is consistently cited as serving one of the best in town. Its 7-inch version sells for $4.99 (so do a host of other sandwiches) and is worth every penny. Bonus: you can order a diet version minus the salami, cheese and mustard/mayo that's less than 500 calories. 4424 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 287-6663, — J.C.

Play some laser tag

On an average day, $5 gets you 7 1/2 minutes of laser-fueled mayhem at Terrace Sports' Lazer Tag Arena. On Wednesdays it stretches further, with unlimited games from noon to 6 p.m. for early birds and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the late crowd. With unlimited rematches for just a few bucks, it's the perfect opportunity to hone your skills . 5311 E Busch Blvd., Tampa; (813) 988-1127, — Justin Grant

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