We've almost smashed through January already and we have some monster trucks here this weekend to help us finish it off. We've also got a good deal at a children's museum, live music at the shuffleboard courts and a great night of star gazing among this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids:
Monster Jam: They're baa-ack. The giant trucks that crush lesser cars and even school buses in competition are so popular here that they schedule two shows here every winter, this being the second go-round for tough trucks like Grinder, Stone Crusher and Wolverine. Go early for tailgating from 2 to 5 p.m. to get a close-up view of the trucks 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. You can see the trucks up close and take pictures with them at free displays around the Tampa Bay area Friday:
• Monster Energy will be at the Walmart Supercenter, 1505 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. 2-6 p.m. Friday
• War Wizard will be at Metro PCS, 21635 Village Lakes Shopping Center Drive, Land O'Lakes. 2-6 p.m. Friday
• Grinder will be at Advanced Auto Parts, 710 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 977-0510. 2-6 p.m. Friday
• Stone Crusher will be at Tire Choice and Total Car Care, 12705 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 549-8968. 2-6 p.m. Friday
• Crusader will be at Advanced Auto Parts, 901 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. (813) 238-7187. 2-6 p.m. Friday; and\
• Wolverine will be at Bill Currie Ford, 5815 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 872-5555. 4-8 p.m. Friday.
Video Games Live: Now this isn't free or cheap but it sounds pretty cool so we are passing this along. The hugely popular Video Games Live show comes to the bay area this weekend in a concert that features the Florida Orchestra and the USF Chamber singers in music from Halo, Final Fantasy, Mario, Zelda, Warcraft, Super Smash Bros. and other popular series. The production also has video screens, razzle-dazzle sound and lighting and interactive segments in which audience members play games while the orchestra performs the music. Video Games Live, conducted by Emmanuel Fratianni, is staged at 8 p.m. Friday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg. $40, $50, with VIP tickets for $150. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286; floridaorchestra.org.
St. Pete Shuffle: The family-friendly scene at the shuffleboard courts in downtown St. Petersburg gets a bonus this week with live music by the bands Spiller, the Stone Eagles and the Pretty Voices. It's all free from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Mirror Lake St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N.
Stargazing in the park: It will be a starry night at the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park on Saturday where telescopes will be set up for stargazers. Dress appropriately for this rugged park, located in Pasco County at 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd. in New Port Richey. It starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. Free.
IHOP's National Pancake Day: You can get a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at IHOP restaurants on Tuesday, and all they ask in return is that you make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. There's a limit of one stack per person and it's only for dine-in customers. Over the years, this pancake campaign has raised more than $10 million to support children's hospitals. The goal this year is to raise $3 million more. See ihoppancakeday.com.
Target Tuesday: It's the first Tuesday of the month, so that means you get free admission to the Glazer Children's Museum this Tuesday from 2 to 7 p.m. That's a break from the normal admission of $15 for adults, $9.50 for kids. Also, Clifford the Big Red Dog will make an appearance at 2:30, 4:30 and 6 p.m. at the museum in Tampa's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza.
Lipizzaner Stallions Training: Bring a lawn chair and find an arena side seat to watch professional trainers put the magnificent white Lipizzaner stallions through the paces to prepare for their summer show tour. These beautiful horses (the stars of Disney's Miracle of the White Stallions) make their winter home here and it's only $5 to watch them rehearse starting at 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. on Saturdays at Herrmanns Royal Lipizzaner Ranch, 32755 Singletary Road, Myakka City. (941) 322-1501. 3 p.m. today-Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday.
Birds of Prey: Several live birds of prey will be shown in this workshop to illustrate predator-prey relationships, adaptations that make raptors good predators, their ecology, history and their important role in the ecosystem. Free (reservations required). Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 453-6500. 10-11 a.m. Saturday
Animal Extravaganza: Kids can ride elephants, camels and ponies at this annual sanctuary benefit with food, drink, a petting zoo and animal superstars from around the world. $18, $7 children. Big Cat Habitat, 7101 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota. (941) 371-6377. 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Breakfast with Dali for Families: Monthly docent-led tours introduce Salvador Dali and the Dali Museum to families with children. The interactive tour highlights Dali paintings and other works that appeal to children. A Spanish-themed breakfast buffet and hands-on activities follow the tour. Reservations required. $21, $10 ages 6-12; $10, $5 ages 6-12 members. Dali Museum, One Dali Blvd. (Bayshore Drive SE and Fifth Avenue SE), St. Petersburg. (727) 823-3767. 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Canopy Tree Climbing: Climbers ages 6 and older can ascend into the heights of a live oak using harnesses and a rope pulley system similar to those used in the Amazon rain forests. $10. Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 328-0300. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Family Fun Day: Bring the family for a full day of entertainment, food, games, bounce houses and bingo. Free. Gardenville Recreation Center, 6219 Symmes Road, Gibsonton. (813) 672-1120. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.
Jungle Boogie: Children ages 3 to 4 can join in the fun with a nature story, crafts and outdoor exploration. $3. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday.
My Doll and Me: You and your American Girl doll can travel through time and explore area history while enjoying crafts, snacks, games and gallery experiences. American Girl dolls not required. $15, $12 members. Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water St., Tampa. (813) 228-0097. 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Park Ranger Nature Educational Programs: Rangers guide children ages 9 to 15, and children at heart, through a variety of fun and informative activities. This week features "Making Homemade Yogurt and Butter." $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-Sunday.
Touch A Truck: Children can put their imagination into gear as they honk, toot, beep and take the wheel of construction equipment, emergency response vehicles, tractor trailers, utility vehicles and a helicopter. $5, 1 and younger free. Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52, Dade City. (352) 585-2122. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Train Weekend: Kids of all ages can ride the miniature trains of Largo Central Railroad. Donations for train maintenance appreciated. Largo Central Railroad, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6775. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Windows to Our Wildest Place: Here's an interactive scavenger hunt to answer questions like "What are the parts of the water cycle?" And, "Who lives in a gopher tortoise burrow?" Answer all the questions and win a prize. Free. Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today.
iWonder Magic Show: Reality and illusion collide in this show that's more than just tricks. $7.50, $6.50 children. Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6793. 11 a.m. Saturday.