Local attractions also have some new play areas and special parties planned this summer. Among them:
Museum of Science and Industry
Yes, MOSI is moving near downtown Tampa, but probably not for a few years. In the meantime, the Tampa science museum has a summer of space-themed activities planned around the 352-pound meteorite it recently acquired, plus some "escape room" experiences for kids and teens.
This weekend brings An Evening in Space from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday ($15, $10 for MOSI members) with MOSI space programs director Antonio Paris leading an interactive presentation and unveiling the meteorite that smashed into Earth 5,000 years ago. The iron meteorite that's about the size of a large microwave oven was unearthed in Argentina and is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old. Go ahead, touch it. There isn't a firm date on when this will become a permanent part of the museum, but museum workers are in the process of building a display stand for it. Other space-y activities this summer include the IMAX film A Beautiful Planet, which will be shown every day through Labor Day in the museum's domed theater. It shows images captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. MOSI's new Ignite! Science Games bring "escape room" experiences to kids and teens the third Friday of each month (June 17, July 15, Aug. 19) to use science skills to solve the puzzles and find your way out.
If you go: 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $26.95, $25.95 seniors, $20.95 ages 3-12; 2 and younger free. Separate pricing for IMAX-only admission; $15 for the zip line only, ropes course $10. Parking is $5. (813) 987-6000. mosi.org.
A new water play area called the Splash Pad opened in March to help beat the heat. It's rainforest themed with water dump buckets, spray zones and a designated water play area for toddlers. Next up: some new dry elements for kids to climb on. On June 11 and 12, the aquarium celebrates World Oceans Day with a weekend of special activities and presentations on the aquarium's efforts to help protect the ocean and ways you can help. The Discovery Channel's Shark Week returns for its 28th year June 26-July 3, and the aquarium plans to show off its six different species of sharks with shark-themed activities.
If you go: 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $24.95, $22.95 seniors, $19.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. Prices are generally about $2 cheaper if you buy them online. (813) 273-4000. flaquarium.org.
Glazer Children's Museum
The interactive children's museum is calling its series of summer programs Dandelion Days, to plant the seeds for a successful school year. Among the summer activities included with admission are a special summer music series of children's artists June 4 and July 2. A Week of Making, celebrating makers, builders and doers across the country, is June 17-23. Movie nights are $5 members, $8 general to watch a family film after the museum closes on June 30 and July 23. The Summer Olympics get a museum salute Aug. 6-20 with daily programs.
If you go: 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, younger than 1 free. (813) 443-3861. glazermuseum.org.
The children's museum has a number of summer activities including Parents Night Out ($25-$35) June 10 and July 8. Kids can play in the museum from 6-10 p.m., watch a movie and get pizza while their parents have a date night. Registration required at greatex.org/programs/parents-night-out. On July 16, kids can explore messy art and science for The Great Mess-ploration, included with admission from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kids will have fun with catapults, pendulum painting, slime and "oobleck" and learn the science of soda geysers and film canister rockets. On the Fourth of July, admission will be free to all members of the military (active and retired) and first responders from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
If you go: 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. $10, $9 seniors, one and younger free. (727) 821-8992. greatexplorations.org.
The water park across the street from Busch Gardens brings back Island Nights this summer, a Thursday to Saturday sunset celebration June 16-Aug. 6 with live music, eclectic entertainment, island foods and extended hours until 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 p.m. weekends. The water park is spread across 30 acres, with a family-friendly lazy river, kids' play areas and lots of slides. Last summer brought the new Colossal Curl water slide, a 622-foot-long thrill slide with a "weightless wave wall." You're allowed to bring in coolers (no larger than 15 inches tall or 16 quarts total) or use the picnic pavilion just outside the entrance. The park also offers a Cashless Wristband, a waterproof park wristband spending system. Any unused cash is refunded at the end of the day at guest relations.
If you go: 10001 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. Tickets start at $44. (888) 800-5447. adventureisland.com.
Lowry Park Zoo
This year the zoo introduces a new Summer Sunset Celebration for family time or date night, running July 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30 and Aug. 5-6 from 4-10 p.m. Stroll the park as the sun sets and enjoy the wildlife, discover special experiences in scenic areas, groove to live music and encounter a range of roving entertainment. A beer and wine garden will feature enhanced dining options. The night ends with a light show. The event is included with membership or the ZooperPass that lets you pay for a day and come back all year.
If you go: 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. $29.95, $27.95 seniors, $22.95 ages 3-11, 2 and younger free. lowryparkzoo.org.
Tampa Bay History Center
A special exhibit this summer celebrates an icon of childhood. Golden Legacy: Original Art From 65 Years of Golden Books opening June 4 through Aug. 14 will have such picture-book classics as The Poky Little Puppy, and The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse. Launched in 1942 as the U.S. plunged into World War II, the Little Golden Books made high-quality illustrated books available for the first time at affordable prices. The museum will have 60 pieces of original illustration art chosen from the vast Random House archive in the most extensive public showing ever from the history-making book series. The exhibit is presented by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. Speaking of history, you can celebrate the Fourth of July at the History Center with $5 admission. Meet costumed re-enactors representing several eras of American military history. Interpreters will share hands-on displays of artifacts, uniforms, crafts and music. It's also a good spot to see the Channelside fireworks after the museum closes.
If you go: 801 Old Water St., Tampa. $12.95, $10.95 seniors/students with ID, $7.95 ages 4-12, 3 and younger free. (813) 228-0097. tampabayhistorycenter.org.
Florida's only spring-fed water park has a live mermaid show, a sandy beach, flume rides, beach volleyball, river rides, kiddie pool area and Buccaneer Bay. The water slides, kiddie pool, and lazy river are now open for the 2016 season on weekends only and will open daily beginning June 9. The swimming area is open daily all year long.
If you go: 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. $13, $8 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. (352) 592-5656. weekiwachee.com.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The aquarium near Clearwater Beach doubles as a working animal hospital and is home to perhaps one of the world's most famous dolphins, Winter, whose story was told in Dolphin Tale, starring Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. Other aquarium residents featured in Dolphin Tale 2 are getting star treatment, too. A new exhibit, Mavis's Rescue Hideaway, is set to open in June featuring the resident green sea turtle named Harold (but called Mavis in Dolphin Tale 2). Harold and some of his friends are getting a brand new habitat. Also coming this summer, the actors from the Dolphin Tale movies including Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and Phoebe (Austin Highsmith) will have question and answer sessions and photo ops. Dates of appearances have not yet been announced. If you haven't seen the flicks, the movies are being shown daily in the aquarium's theater. Kids can also get limited edition, autographed collectible movie posters this summer featuring animal stars from the Dolphin Tale movies. Right now Mavis posters are being giving out through June 5, followed by the dolphin Hope from June 6-26. Seewinter.com/moviestarmadness has the lineup.
If you go: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater. $21.95, $19.95 ages 60-older, $16.95 ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. (727) 441-1790. cmaquarium.org.