Tampa Offers Homeschool Fun
We have just returned from a few days in Tampa, where I was shuttling my sister’s teenagers back and forth to school while she traveled to the west coast. This gave my littles plenty of time to explore a new homeschool playground.
I always viewed many of the learning activities in Tampa as too-pricey for our family to engage in very often. During trips to visit my sis, we’ve occasionally visited the Lowry Park Zoo or Busch Gardens, and we did purchase an annual pass to MOSI last August, however, these are expensive and like many homeschool families we have a budget to maintain.
My goal this past week was to find some innovative, educational outings that would also be affordable.
Can you spell success?
We discovered slam-dunk fun for free at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. Only a 20-minute drive from downtown, this designated sanctuary hosts tons of manatees who return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station.
There is a viewing platform with interpretive signs, which the boys used to identify the various fish and birds. A long tidal walkway gave us an opportunity to sit and watch the circle of life. Afterward, we wandered through the environmental education center before hiking the coquina-laden nature trails en route back to the car.
The next day delivered a hands-on museum that finally lived up to my four-year old’s expectations. He loves the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN which we visit each year during on vacation in Cloudland Canyon, GA.
The Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Pete met his standards and both my kids rocked this museum for hours! Tickets were only $10 per person.
We chose to run off pent up energy at the Sunken Gardens next door first because it was only $5.00 more for all three of us. After a short snack, we then descended upon Great Ex with fervor!
The boys pounced on a series of building blocks before organizing veggies at the make-believe farmer’s stand and milking a pretend cow. Music played in the background as children and adults alike took turns playing a German Glockenspiel and African Balafon. We fought fires, treated pets at the vet and enjoyed a pirate treasure hunt.
Best of all? The pizza bistro, of course! The boys loved creating their very own pizza pies and I was inspired by the amazing materials used to make the ingredients (get ready for a DIY blog coming soon!)
Our final outing was a bit odd, but loads of fun for all of us. IKEA, located near Ybor City, was a half-day delight! Both boys insisted that they push their own shopping cart, which then became transport vehicles in an imaginary game of follow the directional arrows stamped on the concrete floor.
The boys tried out all sorts of bunk beds, selected toys and housewares (!) and took a break in the bargain-price cafeteria. The huge elevator was a treat and walking through the warehouse was novel.
We planned to drop in for 45 minutes and stayed three hours!
If we hadn’t been on our way home, we would have continued our tour into Ybor and checked out the historic Cuban influence.
It’s amazing how homeschooling allows you to take learning with you and do so in a fun, engaging way. Next time, I’ve got my sights set on the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, suggested to me by homeschool mama Keri S.
I’m glad I took the time to look beyond the typical Tampa amusements and find these unique and inexpensive gems. I encourage you to check them out next time you are headed to Tampa Bay.
Happy road tripping!
PS: Send this post along to a friend who needs a little Tampa inspiration!