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Museums & Educational Fun

Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI): Admission to MOSI, located near the University of South Florida (USF) includes access to more than 450 hands-on activities! Visitors can learn through play inside Kids In Charge, the largest children’s science center in the nation. Also be sure to check out MISSION: Moonbase (located inside Kids In Charge!) where you can experience life inside a lunar colony. Kids can also brave extreme weather conditions inside Disasterville, featuring WeatherQuest—a 10,000 square foot exhibition on the science behind tornados, hurricanes, and wildfires. Plus, visit Florida’s only IMAX Dome Theatre. The IMAX® Dome motion picture system projects images of unsurpassed size, clarity and impact onto a dome shaped screen playing different movies year around!

Glazer Children’s Museum: Pint-sized fun awaits in this hands-on museum located downtown that lets kids take on many roles at a variety of play stations! The 53,000-square-foot building has three levels and an open terrace; 27,000 square feet of exhibit space; and a 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibit hall. Designed for children ages 10 and younger, the $20 million museum has hands-on activities to spark imagination and curiosity about how the world works. It has 12 theme areas and 170 “inter-activities.” The Museum also features daily programs on Monday through Friday brought to you by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Mornings are just right for engaging with programs designed just for the toddlers to explore and interact through stories, playtimes and more. In the afternoon the Museum offers adventurous programs and demonstrations, designed specifically for the 6-10 year-old crowd. www.GlazerMuseum.org

Ecofest: EcoFest 2014 is a community event organized by Learning Gate Community School, the City of Tampa and the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability to celebrate the many businesses, organizations, and individuals in the Tampa Bay area dedicated to the principles of sustainability – Ecology, Equity and Economy. The 5th Annual EcoFest will be held on the last day of the AAG conference on Saturday, April 12th at the Lowry Park band shell area (just opposite of the Zoo). The event itself is free, but there is a nominal fee for transportation. The significantly reduced transportation fee is made possible by the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability, which is sponsoring the buses. There will be live music, workshops, demonstrations, informational booths, green living products and services. Even some local artists, green businesses, environmental organizations, alternative health practitioners, renewable energy specialists, organic farms and gardens with produce will be in attendance! There will be a fun activity area for children of all ages.

Tampa Bay History Center: The Tampa Bay History Center is located just blocks from the Florida Aquarium and about 4 blocks from the convention center and host hotels. The History Center features both a permanent collection and special events of interest to all ages. There is a Columbia restaurant branch on premises and the museum is close to the Channelside entertainment district. Like the Florida Aquarium, the History Center is accessible by trolley.

Dali Museum: The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is home to the largest collection of Dali’s paintings outside of his home country of Spain. The museum opened in its new location two years ago and incorporated Dali’s spirit into the architecture which serves as its own art, just beyond which await the galleries with Dali’s paintings in different shapes and sizes. The Museum often features exhibits from new and modern artists and is open most days from 10:00 am – 5:30 pm. http://thedali.org/home.php

Great Expectation Children’s Museum: Great Expectations, also located in St. Petersburg, is recognized as one of Florida’s top museums and one of America’s top museums for children. The Museum is located next to the historic Sunken Gardens on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg. Interactive exhibits, a preschool, camps, field trips, workshops for parents and caregivers connect the Museum to a broad audience. Great Expectations is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. No unaccompanied adults are permitted, so bring your children!

Museum of Fine Arts: The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg opened to the public in 1965. Founded by Margaret Acheson Stuart, the museum is an incredible gem whose collections include outstanding examples of art – ancient and modern – from around the world. The museum is located at 255 Beach Drive N.E., near downtown shopping and dining and the St. Petersburg harbor. The museum is open Monday- Sturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (open until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday) and on Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.

Amusement Parks and Animals

Lowry Park Zoo: Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo features 2,000 animals on nearly 60 acres of natural habitats, splash ground water play areas, wild rides, educational shows and interactive opportunities to get closer to wildlife. The Zoo has seven main exhibit areas: Asian Gardens, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Florida Wildlife Center, Free-Flight Aviary, Safari Africa and a children’s zoo. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo also exists as a center for conservation of endangered wildlife both locally and around the globe.

Busch Gardens: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a family adventure park offering an array of attractions based on exotic encounters with the African continent. Visitors to the park can take advantage of the blend of thrilling rides, a zoo featuring more than 2,000 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games. Most recently, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has opened Sesame Street Safari of Fun, with kid-sized rides, water fun and Sesame Street characters in African-inspired shows.

Adventure Island: Located across the street from Busch Gardens, Adventure Island is a seasonal water-theme park that is scheduled to be open during the AAG convention. The park features numerous water slides, pools and other water-based fun. During the season, the park is open daily 10:0 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Florida Aquarium: From playful river otters to intimidating sharks, there are more than 20,000 aquatic animals and plants to see during a visit to the Aquarium. Touch a bamboo shark in Stingray Beach or a sea star in the No Bone Zone on the 2nd floor. An assortment of entertaining and educational shows are offered during the day including some from underwater such as scuba divers talking about the importance of coral reefs while surrounded by really big sharks and face-to-beak conversations with endangered penguins during daily Penguin Promenades. The Florida Aquarium‘s 2-acre outdoor water adventure zone lets the kids cool off while parents relax under the shade of the Cantina bar and grill. Water cannons, geysers and a climbing pirate ship adventure await children of all ages! Like the History Center, the Aquarium is accessible by trolley from the Convention Center.

Shopping and Markets

St. Petersburg Farmers Market: The Saturday Morning Market Pete in the “heart” of St. Petersburg and a place where people feel a strong sense of joyful connectedness and creative community. The market runs every Saturday from 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. in downtown St Petersburg where actual farmers, great food, interesting crafts and lively music all come together to create the wonderful market environment. This market is the largest outdoor fresh market in the southeast United States with over 200 vendors each week and has one Creative Loafing’s Readers Choice Award for “Best Farmers Market” from 2010 to 2013! SaturdayMorningMarket.com 

Outlets and Plazas: The Shops at Wiregrass is a shopping plaza located in the upscale Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel, only a few miles from Interstate 75. Enjoy Tampa’s weather while you experience this favorite shopping destination. A great bonus: Every Wednesday at 10 a.m. The Wiregrass Ranchers Kids Club hosts live entertainment for you and your children to enjoy. Your kids can learn to count, dance and exercise with their certified entertainers. The International Plaza, located in the Northwest district of Tampa and adjacent to Tampa International Airport, is the most distinctive shopping and dining destination of Florida’s West Coast. The mall contains three fashionable department stores, over 200 specialty shops from around the world and access to Bay Street, an open-air village of fine restaurants and small boutiques. Alternatively, you could visit one of the most diverse and cherished neighborhood hubs, Hyde Park Village, which spans seven city blocks of street retail and dining in the heart of the Hyde Park Historic District, one of Tampa Bay’s most desirable residential neighborhoods. The Village is home to a unique mix of national, regional, and local retailers who together form the special fabric of these streets, which draws a loyal customer base. Saturday, April 12, The Village will host a Kids Nite Out event at Color Me Mine with will include movies and snack, RSVP at the link here.

Outdoor Adventures and Recreation

Dinosaur World: Dinosaur World, located in Plant City – just 20 minutes from Tampa on I-4, is an outdoor museum where visitors can see up close, in life size, the amazing creatures that once ruled the Earth. Life sized models of dinosaurs welcome families and classes to learn, have fun, or just enjoy a quiet encounter with the lifelike animals. The dinosaurs models, up to eighty feet in length and based on the latest scientific discoveries, are made of fiberglass, steel, and concrete. The dinosaurs are arranged in groups of as many as eleven of a single species, in a variety of settings. A highlight of the park is the Fossil Dig. Here, children age 3-12 can sift through sand in a paleontological setting in search of authentic fossils and may keep three fossils as a memento of their trip. Dinosaur World Florida is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Manatee Viewing Center: Each winter, several species make the migration to Florida seeking warmth on Apollo Beach, a popular spot on Florida’s west coast. This area plays host to the Big Bend Power Station, whose constant billowing steam and warm waters draw crowds of manatees and spectators alike. A water temperature of 68° in the Gulf of Mexico is the magic number when manatees come to warm up in the power plant’s warm discharge waters and spotting the sea cows becomes a sport. Even if the manatee count is low, the education building on site is a destination to learn more about what threatens the manatee while still having fun. Games and exhibits captivate audiences of all ages. Admission is free and TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at night through April 15. 

 

Beaches: Travel to Clearwater Beach, which boasts the Jolley Trolley, a great way to explore different areas of the expansive beach which features outdoor showers, pavilions near Pier 60, umbrella rentals and volleyball nets all across the sand. There’s no shortage of things to do at this beach from exploring sundials, to finishing of Pier 60, to catching free movies on Friday nights! Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island are the perfect places to watch the sunset when schools of dolphin come to both locations white sandy shores. Caladesi Island, one of the last undeveloped barrier islands left in Florida, can only be accessed by boat or ferry and Honeymoon Island has miles of natural trails, a dog beach, and a Nature Center! The family-friendly beach is great for walking and shelling and gift shop and cafe where bicycles and kayaks can be rented. Other cools beaches to investigate include: Treasure Island, Anna Maria Island, Fort De Soto Park, and St. Pete Beach!

Hiking: The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD, of “Swift Mud”) manages numerous hiking trails in its land preserves. Most trails are located on old roadbeds and have a natural surface that changes with weather and soil conditions. Hikers should expect trail conditions that may be wet or dry. Check ahead with SWFWMD about access and “enjoy the beauty of west-central Florida at its best by hiking on miles of natural trails.”

Sports

While in Tampa, why not enjoy a game? For instance check out the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, April 6 at 1:40 p.m. vs the Texas Rangers or take in a Tampa Bay Lightning game. There are three games during AAG week: Tuesday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. vs the Toronto Maple Leafs, Thursday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. vs the Philadelphia Flyers, and Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. vs the Blue Jackets.

AAG Organized Field Trips

There are a myriad of other organized activities organized by the AAG for groups and individuals to take part in! These include canoeing and kayaking on the Hillsborough River, visiting the beach in Ft. Desoto Park, and taking a trip to Clearwater. At the Clearwater Beach one can go on a fishing expedition, explore the shores solitarily, or perhaps take some time to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is home to many famous dolphins. Guests can also join group visits to Florida Aquarium in Tampa where there are options to take a wild dolphin cruise, see the Hurricane Hunters, and take a tour of the NOAA WP-3D plane. The AAG is also planning a visit to the coastal Everglades. Finally on the final day of the conference, check out Ecofest which is a free family friendly event, as discussed above. Please check the AAG field trip page for more family friendly activities and excursions, some of which have just been added.

Discounts

Download the “Delegate Discount Program” brochure for a list of family-friendly businesses that have offered discounts to our members during the conference. Additional offers include:

  • Glazer Children’s Museum: 50% off discount on tickets
  • Airheads Trampoline: Buy One Get One offer for our conference attendees and their family members
  • Legoland: AAG members and their families receive Buy One Get One Free

These organizations have the discount code “AAG” set up in their systems but they also recommend bringing this article OR the conference badge to ensure a smooth purchase process.

—Shaza Hussein, Jennifer Collins and Robert Austin