One of the things people love most about St. Petersburg is its sunshine. But even in the Sunshine City, it's important to remember the benefits of staying in the shade. National Stay Out of the Sun Day — today — is about just that.
Protecting yourself from the sun is about more than avoiding sunburn. Kids who get just a few severe burns are more likely to develop skin cancer later in life. And sun damage takes a toll on long-term health, causing skin to age prematurely, potentially creating cataracts and increasing the risk for skin cancer, the country's most common form of cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that 9,199 people in the United States died from melanomas in 2009.
James Spencer, a St. Petersburg dermatologist, advises simple precautions: Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and play outdoor sports before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to avoid the strongest UV rays.
"We live in Florida. We're going to be outside. There's no way around that," he said. "No one's saying live in a cave, but there are small things you can do that make a huge difference."
Spencer said that a lot of the damage that causes skin cancer happens before age 20. "The most important people to reach out to are children and teenagers because their skin is more vulnerable," he said. Parents, he said, can have a huge influence.
Getting sun is essential, but it's important to have the right mind-set. Stay Out of the Sun Day is about making that mind-set a habit. With that, here are some alternate things to do in the shade today:
For a cheap way to while away a few hours, try bowling at Sunrise Lanes, at 6393 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. It won't cost you more than $10 for two games, which leaves you money to blow on snack bar food.
Local lore says Jack Kerouac used to frequent Haslam's Book Store on Central Avenue, which houses an astounding collection of new and used books. (It boasts that it's the largest such store in Florida.) Plus, you never know who you'll run into. Haslam's, at 2025 Central Ave., posted this photo on Facebook when Martha Stewart visited on March 31, 2011. Stop by and see what you can dig up.
Give bar trivia a whirl. It doesn't cost anything to play, so split an appetizer and see if you can come home with bar credit and 30 new, probably useless facts. In Clearwater, team trivia kicks off at Burt's Burgers N Beers, at 2325 Ulmerton Road, No. 3, at 7:30 tonight.
Enjoy the area's museums, from the grand Dalí Museum, 1 Dalí Blvd., and the Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, to the petite but compelling St. Petersburg Museum of History, 335 Second Ave. NE. Or let your kids enjoy hands-on fun at the Great Explorations Children's Museum, at 1925 Fourth St. N.
Get a messy, juicy burger and crispy onion rings underneath multicolored canopies at the Chattaway, 358 22nd Ave. S, where dogs are welcome and bright flowers flank the open-air patio. Plus the Chattaway, always ready to show its love of the motherland, is a great place to celebrate the royal birth.
With a bottle of wine as your inspiration, hone your artistic side with friends at Painting With a Twist, at 2527 Central Ave. After guidance from an instructor, paint away and bring home your new work of art. Experience is absolutely not necessary.
Get creative at home. Build a fort with your kids. Make homemade pizzas or ice cream sundaes or tacos. Break out the board games. Hang out on a shady porch and read the book you've been meaning to.
Claire McNeill can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @clairemcneill on Twitter.