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Monday, Sep 17, 2018
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13 low-cost ways to keep kids occupied in Tampa this summer

Right about now, two weeks after school let out for the summer in Hillsborough County, August seems awfully far away. Even with play dates and enjoyably lazy days, odds are, your youngster has proclaimed, “I’m bored.”

We’re blessed with a variety of summer day camps and classes in the Bay area, offering animal encounters, cooking lessons, dancing, soccer, even filmmaking. But if your budget’s tight, your kids are too young, or other family issues rule these out, we can understand if you’re wondering just what you can do with your kids this summer besides hitting the beach, the park or the mall.

Here are some free and low-cost options you might not have discovered. If you have a little-known gem or summertime deal in your neighborhood, visit us at TBO.com and share in the comments!



Hillsborough County’s libraries offer story times for wee ones year-round, but the family-friendly shows at the various branches during the summer are a marvel for all ages. One favorite is the traveling wildlife show Wonders of Nature, hosted by Matt Edmunds. Edmunds, a former zookeeper from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, brings his mini menagerie of an owl named Nova, a flying squirrel named Hazel, a hawk named Jedi, and a few other critters to county libraries all summer for a roughly 50-minute show about animal behavior. Each demonstrates a fun creature fact, with highlights such as Jedi and Nova swooping across the room. Edmunds and his animals will appear nextweek at libraries in Tampa, Town ’N Country, Thonotosassa, and Ruskin, plus other libraries through July.

Other library shows include Fritzy Brothers One-Man Circus, a mix of slapstick, juggling and unicycles; performances and dance classes with the Shoes at the Door Dance Company; and the puppet shows “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” and “Heroes: The Event of the Summer,” with magic and music to spotlight storybook and modern-day heroes. To find dates and times plus other events, visit http://hcplc.org and click on “Events & Classes,” then search by your branch under the “Locations” tab.


Pack a picnic supper and enjoy a free concert in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, on July 2 and Aug 6 as part of Rock the Park, the city’s monthly music concert series. Performers have not been announced, but the concert lasts from about 6:30 p.m. until about 9:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. Check www.rocktheparktampa.com/ for details.


Remind your children (and yourself) of your best moves in Street Fighter and how you cleared the screen in Pac-Man with a trip to the Replay Amusement Museum, 119 E. Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs. Open since October, this vintage arcade houses more than 100 pinball machines such as The Black Hole and video games such as Galaga, Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, Tron, Star Wars and Donkey Kong. Best of all, leave the quarters home. Pay $13 per adult, $7 for children ages 7 to 12, and play as much as you like. Visit www.replaymuseum.org/ for hours and info on all the games in house.



Cool off for free at Water Works Park, 1710 N. Highland Ave., at the splash pad open from 9 a.m. until sunset from now through October. Look out for the water bucket that tips over about every two minutes for extra soaking. Other splash pads in Tampa are located at Anderson Park behind the Kate Jackson Center, 821 S. Rome Ave.; Ballast Point Park, 5300 Interbay Blvd.; Giddens Park, 5202 N. 12th St.; Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St.; Springhill Park, 1000 E. Eskimo Ave.; and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive.


Explore trails around collections of fruit trees, palms, ferns, bromeliads and even carnivorous plants at the USF Botanical Gardens, 4202 E. Fowler Ave. The gardens maintain a collection of more than 3,000 plants in natural habitats, including a temperate forest, a shade garden, and a butterfly garden. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 13. See http://gardens.usf.edu/ for hours and details on what’s in bloom.



Michaels stores host crafts for ages 3 and older several times a week during the summer with a nominal cost for supplies (usually $2 to $5 per child). Some are listed under the Kids Club program; others are under the Passport to Imagination program. Examples include a Pie Tic-Tac-Toe Game made from felt, foam prints, tissue-paper art and tie-dyed T-shirts. Visit www.michaels.com and click on “Classes & Events,” then the “View In-Store Classes” button to search by your nearest store.


Climb aboard the World War II cargo vessel SS American Victory at 705 Channelside Drive each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for “Kids Ahoy!” Youngsters participate in a scavenger hunt, create a special arts-and-crafts project and receive a snack and souvenir bookmark. Admission is $10 for adults and $2.50 for children ages 4 to 12. (Because of the ship’s many stairs and narrow passageways, it’s best to leave strollers landside.) Visit www.americanvictory.org/ for information.



The Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza, offers free admission on the first Tuesday of each month (July 7 and Aug. 4 over the summer) from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., thanks to the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Guests can visit with Buddy, the orange T-Rex from the PBS show “Dinosaur Train,” at 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 6 p.m. on both days. The museum currently has a special exhibit featuring “The Wizard of Oz,” where your munchkins can crawl with courage toward the Cowardly Lion, find the Tin Man’s mechanical heart, guide the Scarecrow through brain teasers, capture the Wicked Witch’s broomstick, meet the Wizard and see a replica of Dorothy’s slippers.

The museum also hosts Sunshine Sunday on July 26, when families of children with special needs can enjoy the museum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with fewer crowds and with the lights and sounds dimmed. Admission is $5 per person or free for museum members. Visit http://glazermuseum.org/.


The Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, offers reduced admission each Thursday for adults ($10) and children ages 6 to 12 ($5). What better time to appreciate the spectacular nighttime view when there’s no school bus to catch in the morning? Visit http://thedali.org/ for details on the current collections and a full event calendar.


Clearwater Beach’s “Sunsets at Pier 60,” 1 Causeway Blvd., shows free movies at sunset each Friday and Saturday night in June and July. All films are previous releases rated G, PG, or PG-13. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” where Indy teams up with his dad, plays Saturday for Father’s Day, while “National Treasure” screens on July 4. See the full lineup at www.sunsetsatpier60.com/calendar.html.


Rain or shine, Tampa Bay Markets “Flicks and Food Trucks,” 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., shows free independent films and also features live music on the third Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (July 16 and Aug. 20 this summer). Food is extra, of course. Visit tampabaymarkets.com/flicks-and-food-trucks for info on the food trucks and parking.


The Regal Entertainment Group has family films (rated G or PG) at 10 a.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday from June 9 through August 5. Admission is $1 per person, with proceeds benefiting the Will Rogers Institute. At the Regal Citrus Park Stadium 20, Citrus Park Town Center Mall, upcoming films include “Paddington,” “The LEGO Movie,” “Dolphin Tale 2,” and “Muppets Most Wanted.” Visit www.regmovies.com/Movies/Summer-Movie-Express for a full schedule.


Studio Movie Grill, 12332 University Mall Court, has several family-film options. First, its Children’s Summer Series shows recent releases much like Regal, only for $3 per person. Upcoming films include “Chicken Run” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” Every third Wednesday and Thursday of the month, the theater features Family Rewind, showing movies you liked as a kid, such as “The Goonies” or “The Neverending Story.” Admission is $3 per person. Lastly, the theater offers free screenings of current movies for children with special needs and their siblings on select Saturdays; adults pay the before-noon ticket price ($6). Films are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered, and children are free to move around or talk during the show. Enjoy “Inside Out” at 11 a.m. on June 27, and “Minions” at 11 a.m. on July 18. Visit www.studiomoviegrill.com, then scroll down to “Film Series” in the left margin and click on the headings for more details.

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