Ah, Labor Day weekend. That melancholic time of year when we say goodbye to summer and hello to more hot air, as in political messages and increased hurricane activity. But it's also a weekend to have fun with the family, and here in North Pinellas, there are plenty of options. Following are five of our top picks to help make the Labor Day weekend anything but laborious.
The city's annual family fun fest is sure to light up the smiles with its waterfront pyrotechnics, rides and carnival games. Parking and admission are free, as are the bounce houses and petting zoo. Pony rides will set you back only 2 bucks. The food is pocketbook-friendly, too, with burgers, dogs, chicken nuggets and sodas priced from $1 to $2. Local artists Sharon and the Boys will present their tropical party best.
When: Saturday. Carnival rides open at noon; city-sponsored activities begin at 5 p.m. Fireworks start about 9 p.m.
Where: R.E. Olds Park, 107 Shore Drive W
Bring: Lawn chairs and blankets.
Info: (813) 749-1260.
Caladesi Island Ferry
What is Labor Day without a trip to the beach? If you're looking for a unique way to get there, hop on the ferry for a 15- to 20-minute cruise aboard a pontoon catamaran headed for Caladesi Island. Once there, you can enjoy uncrowded, sugary white sand beaches, hike nature trails or relax at tree-shaded picnic areas. Showers, restrooms, children's playground and a full-concession are available.
Departures: Ferries depart every half-hour from Honeymoon Island State Park, beginning at 10 a.m. (weather permitting). The last boat leaves Caladesi at approximately 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults $12; children $6 (5 and under free).
Info: (727) 734-1501.
Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team
This team of amateur skiers — winner of the Southern Regional championship — marks the end of summer Saturday with a show paying tribute to the American workforce. But the end of summer doesn't mean the end of shows. The fall series kicks off on Sept. 11 with a patriotic show honoring community heroes.
When: Saturdays 6 p.m.
Where: 190 Burbank Road in Oldsmar, near the Oldsmar Flea Market. From Tampa Road, take Racetrack Road north to Douglas Road, turn left onto Douglas, turn left at the ski site entrance.
Cost: Free; donations accepted. Bleacher seating provided, with grassy areas for lawn chairs and blankets. Concessions available.
Info: (727) 480-9365 or (813) 917-8354
Labor Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Festival
If you enjoy hunting and gathering, head to Tarpon Springs for a three-day arts/crafts/flea-market combo sponsored by the Tarpon Springs Business Alliance. There will be food — barbecue, Greek, Caribbean, American — and drinks including smoothies, lemonade and pina coladas. Enjoy live music while shopping for handcrafted wares, vintage collectibles and antiques, plants, jewelry, furniture, stained glass and more. The kids can receive airbrush tattoos and meet "Gator Crusader" Michael Womer, an evangelical alligator wrestler who will be bringing his reptile friends. Representatives from the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, both human and animal, will be there as well. Free parking and admission.
When: Saturday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Municipal parking lot at the southeast corner of Tarpon Avenue and Alt. U.S. 19 in downtown Tarpon Springs.
Info: (727) 485-6663 or e-mail tsba.jasmine @yahoo.com.
The Armed Forces Military Museum
This 35,000-square-foot museum just celebrated its second anniversary. Lively dioramas take visitors from the trenches of World War I to the flight deck of a Japanese aircraft carrier and on to other wars like Vietnam. The museum is packed with artifacts, uniforms and authentic vehicles.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 2050 34th Way N off Ulmerton Road in Largo.
Admission: $11.95 for adults; seniors $9.95; $6.95 for children ages 5 to 12. Free for active and retired military (with ID) and children 4 and younger. Special rates for disabled veterans, AAA members, and groups. Simulator rides are extra. A dollar-off coupon is available online.
Info: Visit armedforcesmuseum.com or (727) 539-8371