We've got lots of parties this week, from Mardi Gras to the lighted night parade in Ybor City to a birthday party for an opossum. There also lots of other wallet-friendly diversions like trucks to climb on and a kids art show in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with kids:
Clowns and trucks will be in abundance for Touch-A-Truck and Florida Clown Day, shown above from last year. Kids will be able to climb on an assortment of vehicles while more than 100 clowns from the Uptown Clown Alley entertain the family. Visit the Community Business Expo featuring services demonstrations, free samples and promotional materials. Free (some attractions additional). Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
This weekend is fat with events leading up to Fat Tuesday, with Mardi Gras celebrations throughout Tampa Bay through Tuesday, which is supposed to be one last party before Lent:
At the Cajun Cafe On the Bayou, Saturday's celebration encourages costumes for fiery, accordion-driven dance music by J.B.'s Zydeco Zoo. Admission includes a Cajun dinner of crawfish, cornbread, roast pork, red beans and rice, whiskey bread pudding and jambalaya. $15 advance, $20 at the gate (includes food). 5 to 9 p.m. 8101 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park. (727) 546-6732.
Ricky P's is celebrating with a "P" theme. Come dressed as anything representing a word starting with a "P" — think pope, pretty lady, Packer fan, pirate, police officer or princess. Everyone in costume can join a second-line parade starting at Ricky P's, stopping at Taps 'n Tequila and ending at Ferg's Sports Bar. There's also plenty of crawfish and music. It starts at 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Mardi Gras party comes to a grand finale with a free Fat Tuesday party with beads, king cakes and a Dixieland jazz band. Ricky P's Orleans Bistro, 1113 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 821-4061.
Dunedin's Mardi Gras is a loud and raucous street party. Cut loose along Main Street with this celebration and "Big Mama's Ya Ya Etouffee" parade, featuring colorful floats with beer, wine and food for sale. And beads. Live music starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, with the parade at 7:30. Free.
Sure the Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade is known as a much more raucous version of the Gasparilla parade since it's at night and in Ybor City, but organizers swear that kids and families are encouraged and enjoy themselves. Alcohol is not sold on the street here like it is in Gasparilla, only inside the restaurants and bars. If you go, celebrity TV talk show host Steve Wilkos (a former Jerry Springer bouncer who developed a fan base of his own) serves as grand marshal for this parade featuring more than 100 illuminated floats, marching bands, krewes and their royalty. Wilkos has had cameos in The Wayans Bros., The Simpsons and in the Austin Powers movie The Spy Who Shagged Me because Springer fans love the chrome-domed tough guy. You can meet him Saturday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 5223 N Orient Road, Tampa, where he will be greeting fans from 1 to 3 p.m. before the parade. The beads and floats start moving through Ybor at 7 p.m. Saturday at Seventh Avenue and Nuccio. It moves east on Seventh to 23rd Street, the parade's end. Free. Bleacher seats available for $24 at KnightParade.com.
See the collaborative work between the "big kids" — USF St. Petersburg Graphic Design students — and the "little kids" — students from Symmes Elementary School in Riverview — in the Big Kids Art Show. The school kids drew their favorite character, from Minnie Mouse to wrestler John Cena to SpongeBob, mostly in crayon, then the graphic design students enhanced the drawings on a grander scale. The artwork from the elementary students will be on display next to the artist's work that it inspired. See them at the opening reception at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-6620. Free.
Clowns and trucks will be in abundance for Touch-A-Truck and Florida Clown Day. Kids will be able to climb on an assortment of vehicles while more than 100 clowns from the Uptown Clown Alley entertain the family. Visit the Community Business Expo featuring services demonstrations, free samples and promotional materials. Free (some attractions additional). Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Celeberate the Chinese New Year at Glazer. Children can learn about Chinese culture and welcome the Year of the Snake. $15, $12.50 military/seniors, $9.50 children, under 1 free. Glazer Children's Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. (813) 443-3861. 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
See kids' shows come to life when The Doodlebops, Caillou and Strawberry Shortcake and her friends share an interactive musical play date that has families dancing in the aisles. 6 p.m. $25-$37.50. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400.
Happy birthday, Barley! Kids can wish Barley, the opossum mascot of East-West Animal Hospital, a happy first birthday at a party with food, cake, drinks, door prizes, giveaways and a raffle. 6 to 7:30 p.m. Free. Tropical Village Plaza, 1524 Land O' Lakes Blvd., Lutz. (813) 948-6534.
Other family friendly activies this week:
My Black is Beautiful Pageant
In celebration of Black History Month, this modern beauty pageant shows youth ages 7 to 18 the activities and opportunities available to them at the theater and give them the opportunity to showcase their talent and abilities in an effort to win the title. $20. St. Petersburg City Theatre, 4025 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 768-1654. 4 p.m. Sunday.
Kids take a walk in the preserve to explore nature through crafts and activities. Best for ages 4 to 7. $10. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Organic Gardening for Children
Children ages 7 to 11 can learn the basic of organic gardening, create art and choose seeds to take home for their own garden. $15. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 1-4 p.m. Sunday.
Parent's Night Out: Kid's Night Pioneer Style
Mom and Dad can go out on a date while kids are entertained with pioneer fun and a campfire with s'mores. $15. Pinellas Pioneer Settlement, 2900 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 6-10 p.m. Saturday.
Park Ranger Nature Educational Programs
This week features "Sandhill Cranes and Woodstorks — Our Tall Birds." $5 per child, adults with children free, adult only $5 (cash only). Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6204. 10 a.m. and noon Sunday.
School's Out, MOSI's In!: Amazing Bugs and Butterflies
Children in grades K-5 can form teams and hunt for hidden treasures within the insect world. Learn where insects live and find out how to disguise yourself to become invisible and see nature up close. $33, $25 members. Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.
Sunset Cinema at Pier 60
Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Friday features The Little Rascal's and Saturday features I Hate Valentine's Day. No alcohol. Free. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060. Shows start at dusk which is approximately 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Model Train Show
The H.B. Plant Railroad Historical Society annual show includes model railroad items for sale and trade, operating layouts and Lego trains. $6, 17 and younger free. Plant City Campus of Hillsborough Community College at the John Trinkle Building, 1206 N Park Road, Plant City. (863) 412-3090. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Teen Valentine's Semi Formal
The TASCO teen program throws this annual semi-formal to formal Valentine's Day party for youth in grades 6-9 that includes DJ dancing, live entertainment, a Wii competition, photo booth, games and a best dressed male and female competition. $10 (includes dinner). J.W. Cate Recreation Center at Northwest Park, 5801 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. (727) 892-5060. 7-11 p.m. Saturday.
Valentine Parties for Kids
Children ages 5 and younger can celebrate Valentine's Day at this party with "tiny tot socialize" time, crafts, snacks and interactive games. $5 advance, $8 day of. Southwest Recreation Complex and Pool, 13120 Vonn Road, Largo. (727) 518-3125. 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday.
Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic
Fans are expected to travel from across the U.S. and Canada to catch this action-packed event featuring eight professional teams competing in pre-season soccer tournaments. See DC United vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies at 8 p.m. Saturday and vs. Montreal Impact at 3 p.m. Wednesday . $20 single double-header; $30 two double-headers; $99 eight double-headers. ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, 700 S Victory Way, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 939-4263.
Lego Friends Weekend
A daytime party for girls that includes a Lego Friends building event, entertainment, games, activities and a chance to meet your favorite character. $75, $65 seniors and ages 3-12. Legoland Florida, One Legloland Way, Winter Haven. (877) 350-5346. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.