COLD FRONT: Snow Days at the aquarium
Once again, the Florida Aquarium is bringing back its popular Snow Days to help fill the activity gap between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Opening at noon daily, Monday through Dec. 31, it features tons of manufactured snow (a.k.a. ice through a wood chipper) for kids to play in and an ice slide. Gloves and closed-toed shoes are recommended. It's included with admission: $24.95 adults, $22.95 seniors, $19.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.
TOUR GUIDE: Where to take visitors this week
With Christmas and Hanukkah coinciding this year, chances are good you've got some relatives in town. Here are some tried-and-true ways to get those people out of your house and bragging on Facebook about how awesome your city is:
See the manatees:
Nothing impresses relatives from the North more than a herd of manatees lolling about. This time of year, the gentle lugs love the warmer water coming out of TECO's Big Bend power station. The company's Manatee Viewing Center is open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Best of all, it's free at 6990 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach. tampaelectric.com/manatee for live webcams.
Our white sand and calm waves have landed on lists of the nation's best beaches so often that some (Fort De Soto in St. Petersburg, Caladesi Island in Clearwater) had to be retired to let other beaches have a shot. Clearwater's Pier 60 has a nightly sunset celebration with crafters, entertainers and a great view. Don't be surprised to find sandy "snowmen" cropping up along the beach and kids making sand angels. It's a great way to taunt chilly relatives up North.
Take a ferry ride:
The new Cross Bay Ferry is testing the waters, and for $10, you can take a 50-minute boat ride between downtown St. Petersburg and the Tampa Convention Center. On the Tampa side, take a scenic stroll on the Riverwalk along the Hillsborough River. On the St. Petersburg side, the ferry docks next to the St. Petersburg Museum of History on the city's downtown waterfront. crossbayferry.com. And the Clearwater Ferry offers a way to avoid parking hassles on Clearwater Beach and get a boat ride to boot. Instead, park for free in downtown Clearwater, then hop on a boat that stops on North Beach, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Clearwater Marina. $4, $2 for children. clearwaterferry.com.
The past few years have seen an explosion of urban murals on walls throughout Tampa Bay, especially in neighborhoods like Seminole Heights and South Tampa's SoHo. St. Petersburg upped the ante the past few years by commissioning artists for its Shine Mural Festival. The Central Arts District hosts regular Walking Mural Tours, starting at Florida CraftArt. The next walking tour will be at 10 a.m. Dec. 31, but groups can arrange special tours any time. $19, $11 for children ages 6-18, 5 and under free. (727) 821-7391. firstname.lastname@example.org. Design your own tour using the interactive map at stpetemuraltour.com.
Miniature golf with live alligators? That's just so Florida. Check out the two on the north Pinellas beaches at Smuggler's Cove Adventure Golf, 15395 Gulf Blvd. in Madeira Beach and 19463 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Shores. For $2.99 you can even feed the gators. smugglersgolf.com.