Saturday, June 23, 2018
Events

Column: School's back in, but the fun doesn't have to stop

My primary memories from those long, lazy days of summer vacation involve waking up around noon and watching back-to-back episodes of The Price Is Right, Supermarket Sweep and Charles in Charge.

However, occasionally the family would bust out and go somewhere thrilling, like a theme park. Add up everyone's "occasionally" and you have a Mouse House full of elbow-to-elbow fanatics, wearing out the finals days of freedom from academics.

That time, once again, is upon us.

Students in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties went back to class this week, rendering the streets relatively empty of youthful glee. Gone are the summer weekends of running amok through parks, chowing down on ice cream and generally keeping late, carefree hours.

The structure of the school year may mean the fun slows down for families, but it also provides a good opportunity to get into places that are crushed during the summer months.

Frommer's suggests to start hitting theme parks the week after Labor Day, Sept. 5 this year. This slower vibe lasts until about mid December, so if you can head down I-4 for a long weekend, the time is nigh.

This year, seasonal pricing for single-day tickets went into effect at Disney World. A "peak" day at the Magic Kingdom costs $124 during holidays and certain weekends. Value days, which start this season on Aug. 22, are $105 for Magic Kingdom, $97 for other Disney parks. Right now, we're in "regular" season, which means $102-$110 per day.

Of course, childless fans of theme parks may find crowd control more valuable than cost savings, anyway. Go during the week for max elbow room. Our resident Disney expert, editorial assistant Kelly Stefani, suggests downloading the My Disney Experience app on your phone or tablet, which provides fast passes to speedily get through lines. Lower crowd volume helps you use your first three fast passes quickly, she said, so you'll be able to get additional passes swiftly if you have the app handy.

If you want a more affordable way to mellow out while the kids go back, consider rethinking the local beaches you've been avoiding since temperatures turned gnarly and summer showers became a regular thing. Visiting families will be packing up, leaving our sandy shores much more inhabitable.

For a spell, I worked weekends and had Mondays off. My favorite thing to do Monday mornings was head down to Sand Key Park in Clearwater and walk along the beach alone. It's a pretty serene place when empty.

If you can finagle a day both away from work and away from family as school starts again, I highly recommend taking advantage. We can all use some reset time.

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