Plan your weekend
Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza and Parade The G-rated version of Gasparilla hits the streets Saturday at this alcohol-free display for pint-sized pirates on Bayshore Boulevard. They will be wowed by the pirate Jose Gaspar himself (shown on video screens on the pirate ship's sails) before a huge fireworks show at night. Expected to draw 75,000 people, it's a daylong affair, as vendors and children's activities begin along Bayshore Boulevard at 11 a.m. and the parade kicks off at 3 p.m. with a parachute jump taking part in an "air invasion" before the parade. It's free, but you can get reserved seating at gasparillaextravaganza.com. The parade starts at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa, on Saturday.
Monster Jam Go early for tailgating from 2 to 5 p.m. and meet the drivers during the "Party in the Pits." $15-$35. Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. Toll-free 1-800-745-3000. 7 p.m. Saturday.
Parades and more: The holiday is Monday, but events honoring the civil-rights icon run all weekend, including the free Heritage Street Festival, a high-energy dance party in Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park with a performance by Con Funk Shun, girl band Klymaxx and eighth-place American Idol Season 11 finisher DeAndre Brackensick on Saturday. Sunday's gospel-jazz performances include national recording artists Eric Darius and Nathan Mitchell. It runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday at the park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. The Battle of the Bands and Drum Line Extravaganza from historically black colleges and universities brings funky drumbeats, high-stepping moves and acrobatics starting at 4 p.m. Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. $10 advance, $12 at the gate, $15 VIP. The big parade includes marching units, bands, vans and more starting at 11 a.m. Monday in downtown St. Petersburg. It's a raucous party that goes on for hours. There's also a community parade at noon Monday in Tampa that begins at 15th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, travels east to 22nd Street and ends at Osborne Avenue.
Florida Orchestra: Music of Michael Jackson The thrill of bowing to the king of pop: Michael Jackson. Billie Jean. Thriller. Human Nature. Rock With You. The Music of Michael Jackson with the Florida Orchestra is 8 p.m. Friday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. $35, $55 and $75. (727) 892-3337.
Calling all chocoholics
The Festival of Chocolate MOSI's tribute to the treat so good it qualifies as medicine runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at the Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. Tickets to the festival are $21.95, $19.95 seniors and $17.95 kids. Vendor treats are between $1 and $5. Visit festivalofchocolate.com for schedule.
Natalie Merchant Merchant, 49, will bring with her a full symphony and a set list ranging from Maniac hits (These Are Days, Verdi Cries) to songs from 2010's Leave Your Sleep. She performs Friday at 8 p.m. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $35-$75. (727) 791-7400.
Sci-Fi and Sky Night The force is with the Science Center for a retro Sci-Fi and Sky Night featuring telescope viewings, planetarium shows and more. $5. Science Center of Pinellas County, 7701 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 384-0027. 5:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Take the kids
Treasure Island Kite Fest The sky behind the Thunderbird will be a rainbow of colors as kites of all shapes and sizes take flight in a weekend-long show. It's free Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. behind the Thunderbird Resort, 10700 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island.
Kevin Nealon He may be best known for his roles as Doug Wilson on Weeds and as a longtime cast member on Saturday Night Live, but Nealon has always considered himself a stand-up comic foremost. $25. Improv Comedy Theater, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. (813) 864-4000. improvtampa.com. 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday.