After four weeks of crews putting up concrete barriers and chain-link fences to turn downtown St. Petersburg streets into an IndyCar track, Firestone Grand Prix weekend is finally here. The festivities kick off tonight with the Illuminated Night Parade at 7:30 p.m. at Central Avenue and Fifth Street N, followed by fireworks. Then, bring on the noise! Practice gets started about 8 a.m. Friday leading to Sunday's big race that will be broadcast in 200 countries, the season opener for the IndyCar Series. The waterfront course is 1.8 miles long and contains 14 turns, providing lots of beautiful background glimpses of St. Petersburg. Don't forget earplugs. Besides racing, this year also includes:
A "Hero Zone," a very challenging, free interactive obstacle course designed by the military for kids to test their skills, included with race admission.
A huge 105-foot Ferris wheel for $5, benefiting Alzheimer's research.
The Wishes for Heroes 5K at 6:30 p.m. Friday that lets runners hoof it on the actual race track.
The Brighthouse Network Speed Zone will have a mechanical bull, gyroscope, power jump, rock climbing wall, pit stop challenge and boxer jocks, costing $5 per ride.
Grand Prix tickets are $30-$55 general, $70-$135 reserved at gpstpete.com.
For tips on parking, where to sit and more, watch the Play Tampa Bay video above.