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10 things to do with kids in October in Tampa Bay

October brings fall festivals and river tours, as well as a famous skateboarding tournament and free concerts in the park.
The first weekend of every month, Largo Central Railroad offers free train rides through Largo Central Park.
The first weekend of every month, Largo Central Railroad offers free train rides through Largo Central Park. [ LUKE JOHNSON | Times (2014) ]
Published Sep. 28

Get out your calendar. Family-friendly activities are lined up in October. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to help you turn off the screens and take the kids out.

1. Train Rides: The first weekend of every month brings a chance to climb aboard an accurately modeled scale locomotive for a 1-mile loop through scenic Largo Central Park. It’s free, but donations are appreciated by the all-volunteer club that makes the trains run. Catch the train from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 2 and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 3. Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. 727-587-6740, ext. 5014.

2. Tampa Bay Teen Lit Fest: The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative is hosting a festival with critically acclaimed writers of young adult fiction in what it calls “a pandemic-safe webinar.” Registered attendees can ask questions, hear stories and win books autographed by their favorite authors. Bestselling authors Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner of the Starbound and Unearthed series kick off the festival Oct. 1. There are discussion panels on topics like real-world issues teens encounter (Oct. 7), magic and myths (Oct. 14) and the changing role of athletes and activism (Oct. 28). Free. Find the lineup and registration information at hcplc.org/TeenLitFest.

3. Hillsborough County Fair: As it closes out its eight-day run in east Hillsborough, the county fair has some special events. For motor enthusiasts, there is a demolition derby at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 and a truck and tractor pull at 7 p.m. Oct. 1-2. Other special events for its final weekend include a gospel jam on Oct. 1 and a pumpkin-carving contest at noon Oct. 3.

There will be a corn maze as well as a pumpkin patch at Sweetfields Farm in Masaryktown on select days in October.
There will be a corn maze as well as a pumpkin patch at Sweetfields Farm in Masaryktown on select days in October. [ Tampa Bay Times (2016) ]

4. Fall mazes and pumpkin patches: It may not be sweater weather around here yet, but you can head to the countryside for a taste of fall. In Masaryktown, south of Brooksville, the HarvestMoon Fun Farm and nearby Sweetfields Farm both have fall setups on select days Oct. 2-Nov. 7. At HarvestMoon, you’ll find a 5-acre corn maze with a cow train, pedal cars, barnyard games, a petting farm, pumpkin patch and tree house. $13.95, 2 and younger free at harvestmoonfl.com. 15990 Stur St., Masaryktown. 727-326-3256. There’s also a corn maze in October at Sweetfields, where they also offer a hayride, a hay play area, crafts, games and a pumpkin patch. $9.75 for age 3 and older at sweetfieldsfarm.com. 17250 Benes Roush Road, Masaryktown. 352-279-0977. In Plant City, the Fox Squirrel Corn Maze will be running weekends Oct. 9-24 with the added bonus of hayrides, horseback riding and a free bluegrass band. $11, $10 ages 3-17. 3002 Charlie Taylor Road N, Plant City. See futchentertainment.com.

5. Light Show: Starting Oct. 1, a South Tampa home turns itself into a computerized, drive-through neighborhood Halloween light show with more than 200,000 strings of lights. Shows last about 20 minutes and feature popular songs like The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Donations for charity are accepted. This year’s event benefits Clothes to Kids. 4412 W Sylvan Ramble St., Tampa. sylvanramblelights.com.

Tampa’s Pirate Ship, Lost Pearl, will have pirate-themed cruises on weekends in October. It includes a cast of swashbuckling pirates, touchless games for kids, possible dolphin sightings and photo ops.
Tampa’s Pirate Ship, Lost Pearl, will have pirate-themed cruises on weekends in October. It includes a cast of swashbuckling pirates, touchless games for kids, possible dolphin sightings and photo ops. [ Yacht StarShip ]

6. River Tours: Spend a weekend afternoon on the river with some fun themes in October. The whole family can dress up for the Pirates and Princesses Cruise aboard the Lost Pearl, which cruises the Hillsborough River. It’s a 90-minute cruise with pirate and princess tales and interactive pirate games for the kids. A cash bar is available for ages 21 and older. $39.95, $34.95 ages 2-12, $14.95 for 1 and younger. Departs from the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. 813-559-1804. tampapirateship.com. If you’re in the mood for ghost stories, the Pirate Water Taxi on the Hillsborough River is putting on Haunted Tours on weekends in October with costumed guides telling tales of Tampa’s haunted past along the waterways. $25, $15 children (included with daily pass). 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. 813-223-7999.

7. Fall Festival weekends: At Horse Power for Kids, a nonprofit that provides a farm and petting zoo, every weekend in October brings a fundraising festival with a pumpkin patch, pony rides, hayrides, face painting, a petting zoo, bounce houses, train rides, live music and an animal show. $12. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in October. 8005 Race Track Road, Tampa. 813-855-8992. horsepowerforkids.com.

8. Tampa Pro: The Skatepark of Tampa, or SPoT as it’s known to fans, is hosting the 27th edition of Tampa Pro on Oct. 15-17. Over the years it has become one of the most important tournaments on the skateboarding calendar, drawing top names in the sport and famous fans like Lil Wayne. $15, or $60 for a weekend pass, at skateparkoftampa.com/tickets. Watch a live webcast of Sunday’s finals at SPoTTampa.com.

Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Hocus Pocus." For parents struggling with what to do with kids on those early-release Mondays in Hillsborough County, Tampa Theatre has scheduled some seasonal family favorites like "Hocus Pocus" on Oct. 18.
Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Hocus Pocus." For parents struggling with what to do with kids on those early-release Mondays in Hillsborough County, Tampa Theatre has scheduled some seasonal family favorites like "Hocus Pocus" on Oct. 18.

9. Mummy and Me Screenings: For parents struggling with what to do with kids on those early-release Mondays in Hillsborough County, Tampa Theatre has scheduled some seasonal family favorites like Hocus Pocus (Oct. 18) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Oct. 25). Presented by After Hours Pediatrics, the shows start at 3 p.m., and tickets are free for kids 12 and younger. For everybody else it is $10. 711 N Franklin St., Tampa.

10. Pops in the Park: Pack a blanket and picnic for free music under the stars, a Florida Orchestra tradition for nearly 30 years. The show features film scores, Broadway hits and symphonic favorites as Daniel Black conducts. Free. The show starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg and Oct. 17 at River Tower Park in Tampa.