While we *heart* the cute paper valentines and chalky "Be Mine" candies all over the place this week, we also *heart* wallet-friendly diversions that can entertain the kids without breaking the bank. This week the kids can run the bases and high-five Major League players at the Rays Fan Fest, check out the high-flying motocross madness of Nuclear Cowboyz and see astonishing acrobats at three – count 'em three — circus-themed entertainers setting up this weekend. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with kids this week:
The Rays Fan Fest returns Saturday, a hugely popular free day at Tropicana Field where you can see Joe Maddon, Evan Longoria and David Price. And don't forget DJ Kitty. Kids can meet players, run the bases, tour the clubhouse and maybe even have Evan or David phone a friend for you. The Rays Charity Yard Sale returns for a third year, putting game-used jerseys, balls and autographed memorabilia up for sale, dating to the inaugural season. Some items in the past have ranged from as low as $5 to more than $5,000. It runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Free. See raysbaseball.com for schedules and tickets.
Tickets start at $10 for kids, $30 for adults at the high-powered Nuclear Cowboyz motocross stunt show this weekend at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. We could regale you with the plot — something about two tribes battling it out in war-torn Los Angeles in 2150 — but who cares? Bring on the high-flying motocross stunts, when two, three and then four riders flip together. With X Games medalists and finalists such as Ronnie Faisst and Taka Higashino, the show is a flurry of pyrotechnics and lasers, all synchronized to heavy metal, alt rock and electronic dubstep music. We haven't figured out how the alluring Nuclear Cowgirlz dancers fit in, but chances are they aren't a major plot point. Tickets are $10-$20 for ages 2-15; adults $20-$50; VIP $100. Shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500.
Usually we think of the circus as a once-a-year thing, but this week we have a couple of circus-themed entertainers in our midst:
Cirque Zuma Zuma: Described as an African-style Cirque du Soleil, the show at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center includes limbo artists from Egypt, African dancers, traditional gumboot performers, pole acts, Zuma Zuma acrobats, comedians from Africa, Gabonese tumblers, contortionists from South Africa, the Africa Lion dance, percussionists from Zimbabwe, South African vocalists and more. Tickets are $30, $26 members/students, 324 Pine St., Tarpon Springs. (727) 942-5605. 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The New Shanghai Circus: The Largo Cultural Center is bringing in a talented troupe of astonishing acrobats. This show incorporates 2,000 years of Chinese circus traditions, Shanghai's acrobats, jugglers and contortionists who perform with particular flair. Tickets are $24.50-$34.50 advance, $29.50-$39.50 at the door, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. Shows are 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
This weekend is a golden opportunity to satisfy your seafood cravings while enjoying live blues music. The annual Clearwater Sea Blues Festival is bringing in Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who can let his lauded guitar-playing skills do the talking. Hear his grimy and piercing blues-rock riffs as he headlines the festival on Saturday. Sunday features Coco Montoya, Ruthie Foster, Moreland & Arbuckle, Trampled Under Foot and Selwyn Birchwood. Other attractions include jumbo shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, crawfish and gumbo. The concerts are free; reserved seating starts at $25 advance, $30 day of. There's also a Blues Walk kickoff concert in downtown Clearwater's Cleveland Street district Friday night from 6:30 to 10 p.m. with live music and some of the restaurants selling food. The festival starts at noon Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday in Coachman Park. See clearwaterseablues.com.
Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta will have more than 1,000 sailors from across the country and Canada hit the waters of Tampa Bay for three days of competitive sailboat racing in the first leg of a series in which sailors compete for a trip to the British Virgin Islands to race in the championship regatta. Boats will be moored at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and the St. Petersburg Sailing Center. The best spectator viewing is available from the east end of the Pier and from Demons Landing in St. Petersburg. Spectators free. It starts at 9 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
For Black History Month, the West Tampa Branch Library will be showing children and families how those seeking freedom used quilting in the Underground Railroad as a secret code for fugitive slaves. The Freedom Quilts demonstration is at 4 p.m. Friday in celebration of Black History Month. You can also contribute a quilt square for Hillsborough County's urban libraries' freedom quilt project. Free. West Tampa Branch Library, 2312 W Union St., Tampa.
The Florida State Fair certainly isn't cheap but at least kids get in free Monday, and they are off school for Veterans Day. Schools will be handing out the free fair tickets for students this week. The state fair heads into its final weekend with some big-name concerts, more than 80 rides, games, animal exhibits and of course lots of fried stuff that has no business being fried. This year, the fair will be celebrating Florida's 500th anniversary of the arrival of Ponce de Leon to Florida, and Thursday is Senior Day with admission for seniors $8 at the gate and $5 admission for everyone after 5 p.m. Some of the concerts this week include the Gainesville punk band Less Than Jake Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ($10-$15) and country star LeAnn Rimes on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ($25-$35). Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 621-7821. Fair hours vary. Go to floridastatefair.com for details and discount days.
From one fair to another. As the Florida State Fair winds down in Tampa, the Pasco County Fair will run Monday through Feb. 24 to celebrate 500 years of Florida agriculture with midway rides, food, livestock shows, pageants, a professional rodeo, demolition derby, bluegrass/gospel music and a large list of shows. Tuesday, everybody gets general admission for $3. $8, $5 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. Unlimited midway ride wristband: $18 Mon.-Thur., $22 Fri.-Sun. Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52, Dade City. (352) 567-6678. pascocountyfair.com.
Have fun while doing some good at the Walk for the Poor and Family Fun Day on Sunday. This walk is aimed at helping meet the growing need for food and other financial assistance. A path is set up for the walk and there's a family fun festival with food and games in the park. A kid's package includes access to rides, crafts and more. $10 kids' package for rides, face painting, crafts; VIP lunch $25 adults, $10 kids. Register online at svdptampa.org. Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. Noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
Lettuce Lake's Park Ranger Nature Educational Programs this week features "Vermiculture — Grow Your Own Worms!" $5 per child, adults with children free, adult only $5 (cash payment only). Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6204. 10 a.m. and noon Saturday, 10 a.m. and noon Sunday.
As part of the Black History Month celebration, see the puppet show Why Frog And Snake Never Play Together. Children ages 4 and older can learn about friendship and diversity through this African puppet tale. Free. Lutz Branch Library, 101 Lutz-Lake Fern Road, Lutz. (813) 264-3827. 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday; Also at Cyrus Greene Park, 2101 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa. (813) 242-5350. 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Shop a giant yard sale Saturday at the Family Fun Day and Community Yard Sale at the England Brothers Bandshell in Pinellas Park. with more than 50 booths of items, a car and truck show, barbecue cook-off, family activities, a bake sale and entertainment. Benefits five Pinellas County neighborhood family centers. Free; $15 per booth. England Brothers Bandshell Park, 5010 81st Ave. N, Pinellas Park. (727) 528-7891. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.