Do you have some family in town for the holidays? Are they driving you crazy already? We’ve got you covered.
Whether it’s family or just your kids at home during the school holidays, you may need some distractions. These are some of our favorites. We pay special attention to those that are free or inexpensive destinations to get people out of their homes and enjoy the local sights.
Nothing impresses those Northern relatives more than a herd of sea cows. lying down They have had a very a tough couple of years in Florida. Thousands of manatees have starved to death on the East Coast due to the loss of seagrass, their main food. And boats continue to devastate their habitat on the West Coast, killing young and old manatees in their wake.
This time of year, the gentle caterpillars love the warmer water coming out of TECO’s Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach. The company’s Manatee Viewing Center is open to the public, with picnic spots, educational exhibits, and a boardwalk, making it a pleasant outing. Note: The center is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, but is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Best of all, it’s free at 6990 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach. See tampaelectric.com/manatee for live webcams.
Sanding Ovations is the annual sand sculpture exhibition on Treasure Island. While the big event with fireworks and music has passed, the artwork remains in the sand for several weeks, making for a nice outing. Visit the 1-mile Treasure Island Beach Trail Park, with built-in benches, illuminated at night with turtle-friendly LED lights. It is a good place for shell hunting. Treasure Island Gulf Front Park, 10424 Gulf Blvd.
Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the shopping season and this year there is a strong desire among shoppers to support local businesses. Small Business Saturday has become a big thing, and credit card companies offer deals if you shop locally. American Express offers points, miles or cash back on its storesmall.com place.
According to studies, for every $100 you spend at a locally owned small business, $68 stays in the community as employee wages, local services, local supplies, charities, and team sponsorships.
Shopapalooza has turned the Black Friday weekend after Thanksgiving into a way to support local businesses in St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park. They will feature almost 300 vendors, artists and businesses with special offers, food and children’s entertainment. 10am-5pm Saturday and Sunday (November 25-26). Vinoy Park, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg.
In it Indie Noir Market: GREAT Festival, You can shop from over 100 Black-owned small businesses while learning about the rich culture and history of “The Scrub” neighborhood. Saturday (Nov. 25) at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, 1201 N. Orange St., Tampa.
In Hyde Park Village, you can easily spend a day among the restaurants and shops that are a mix of local and brand name retailers. As a major shopping destination in Tampa, it offers an open-air lifestyle concept with an open-air design, where you can stroll from outlet to outlet, with many relaxed settings, including a garden and fountain area that it often hosts public events. 1602 W. Snow Avenue, Tampa.
The Tampa Downtown Association winter town returns to Curtis Hixon Park until January 1. The annual event features an ice skating rink, dozens of local small businesses at the Shops at Winter Village, theme nights and street curling, movie nights and a light show every hour from 7-10 p.m. See wintervillagetampa.com for a schedule. 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa.
If you’re out shopping anyway, you can also catch a show at the annual fair Symphony in Lights at The Shops at Wiregrass at Wesley Chapel. The choreographed dancing light show takes place every hour at the mall. The 12-minute show is set to the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and includes falling “snow.” Free. From 6 to 9 pm every day until December 31. 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel.
He Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo has adorned what is already a beautiful boardwalk with nearly 1 million LED lights. It runs every night until December 31; They are asking for a suggested donation of $10. You will find illuminated figures throughout the gardens located alongside large walkways that easily accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Pets allowed on leash. There is free parking in the gardens at 12520 Ulmerton Road and also at 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. It runs from 5:30 to 9:30 every night. flbgfoundation.org.
Sarasota Marie Selby Botanical Garden is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries. It has a 15-acre campus in downtown Sarasota and the 30-acre historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County. The downtown Sarasota campus on Sarasota Bay is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesnerias and ferns, and other tropical plants. Aptly named “The Living Museum,” exhibits and events are planned for both the downtown campus at 1534 Mound St. and the Historic Spanish Point location at 401 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Of particular interest at the Historic Spanish Point location are the large-scale aluminum prints of Clyde Butcher’s iconic photography currently on display of Florida’s plants, animals and habitats among the landscape of the beachfront property of 30 acres. Includes photographs of regional locations, including Myakka River State Park and Casey Key. Admission is $26, $11 for ages 5-17. See selby.org. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For cyclists, see the Pinellas Trail, an urban trail that extends from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. The trail has rest stops and parking spaces along the way, and the county trail guide, located at pinellascounty.org/trailgdIt has maps and even a list of bike and skate rental shops located near the trail.
Play in the snow in the Florida Aquarium on Saturdays and Sundays, from November 25 to December. 24, 9:30 am to 5 pm Bring gloves to immerse yourself in a variety of hands-on winter festivities. The “Snow Fly Zone” will feature a snowball toss and the popular snowball slingshot. There are also paintings about snow, where the snow becomes a canvas. Other frost-free activities will include street curling and snowball cornhole. It is included with the entrance, requiring advance purchase of the ticket. The aquarium will host a Snow Days sensory event on Thursday, December 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. See flaquarium.org.
Snow Cat Crest is a virtual “blizzard” that has hit Central Florida with an ice slide, ice skating, igloo snow fights, Christmas Lane, an Eskimo Outpost and an Alpine Village. General admission includes a two-hour sleigh ride. Upgrades available for unlimited sledding and additional activities. From $26.95 (varies depending on date and time slot). 27839 Saint Joe Road, Dade City. 813-576-1450.
Rent a canoe, bicycle, or even a golf cart to explore the Hillsborough River State Park, a natural park with birds, turtles, alligators and 7 miles of nature trails. The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk at 15402 US 301 N., Thonotosassa. Admission is $6 per vehicle of up to eight people. If you have questions, call the ranger station at 813-987-6771.
He Dali Museum It has the largest collection of art by the surrealist Salvador Dalí outside of Spain, but it also has a current exhibition called “Dalí and the Impressionists.” Explores Salvador Dalí’s deep commitment to the impressionist movement, which played a fundamental role in his early artistic career. You can also see the new dome called “Dalí Alive 360°”, in which animations of the Spanish surrealist’s work are projected from the floor to the ceiling. Melting clocks, fantastic animals and double images swirl in a symphony of light and music. Tickets are a $15 add-on experience to the $29 museum admission ticket. Dalí Museum, 1 Dalí Boulevard. (Bayshore Drive and Fifth Avenue SE), St. Petersburg. 727-823-3767. thedali.org.
Annual Pinellas Creative Arts Expo features over 75 local artists in multiple media participating in this exhibition through December 31. Best of all: it’s free on The gallery at Creative Pinellas at 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. Go to artisanal.org for the details. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.