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Signing Santa Day at International Plaza

Time: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Reindeer break from 2-3 p.m.)
Date: Sunday, November 23, 2014
Location: International Plaza and Bay Street
Cost: FREE
Info: (813) 342-3790; International Plaza Website; International Plaza Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
All children are invited to experience Signing with Santa in American Sign Language at the Ice Palace at Grand Court. Professional interpreters will be on hand throughout the Ice Palace experience to enhance the enjoyment for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. The Ice Palace features a 30-foot ice dome with falling snow, a light show, and interactive fun for all ages.

This year, the Ice Palace features elements from Disney’s Frozen.

Frozen Ice Palace Banner Image

Signing Santa Day is sponsored by BayCare Health System.

International Plaza and Bay Street
2223 North West Shore Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33607

Santa Claus image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Frozen Ice Palace Banner Image courtesy of International Plaza and Bay Street / Taubman Centers

Sensitive Santa at WestShore Plaza

Time: 9-11 a.m.
Date: Sunday, December 7, 2014
Location: WestShore Plaza
Cost: FREE
Info: (813) 286-0790; If you, or someone you know might have a child that
would enjoy this event, e-mail wspevents@glimcher.com; WestShore Plaza Website

What’s Doing?
This will be a special time — reserved just for children with Autism — to visit Santa. WestShore Plaza will make its Santa area “sensory friendly,” with lower lighting and quieter surroundings. Each family attending the event will receive a FREE Santa photo and enjoy festive giveaways to commemorate this magical holiday season.

Sensitive Santa at WestShore Plaza Flyer

WestShore Plaza
250 WestShore Plaza
Tampa, FL 33609

Sensitive Santa Flyer courtesy of WestShore Plaza / Glimcher Realty Trust.

Breakfast with Santa at Wayback Burgers-Fishhawk Ranch

Santa Claus holding a presentTime: 8:30 a.m.
Date: Saturday, December 6, 2014
Location: Wayback Burgers-Fishhawk Ranch
Cost: Tickets: $10/person age 12+, $5/child age 3-11, and FREE for children under 2. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to receive a FREE picture of your child with Santa. (Tickets will go on sale this weekend, November 15-16, 2014.)
Tickets/Info: (813) 681-2874; Wayback Burgers-Fishhawk Ranch Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Wayback Burgers-Fishhawk Ranch will be hosting a Breakfast with Santa that will include eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, juice, milk and coffee.

Wayback Burgers Breakfast with Santa Flyer

Wayback Burgers-Fishhawk Ranch
5672 Fishhawk Crossing Boulevard
Lithia, FL 33547

Santa image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Wayback Burgers Breakfast with Santa Flyer image courtesy of Wayback Burgers @ Fishhawk Ranch

Our Family Night Out at the NEW Studio Movie Grill at University Mall

Disclaimer: My family received complimentary tickets to see Big Hero 6 in 3D at the New Studio Movie Grill in University Mall on Monday. We were required, however, to pay for our own food and drinks. Given the timing, we opted to eat a full dinner, which for our family of three cost $45, including tax and tip. Although as a rule I do not pay to write reviews for businesses, I decided to share our experience with you anyway.


SMG With a Family Twist!
Toons! LogoSMG offers TOONS! on the big screen. Families can check out popular children’s television and direct-to-DVD titles on the movie screen during this compact, hour-long movie experience for little ones. Toons play at select SMG locations every Friday-Sunday at 11 a.m. Tickets are only $2.

SMG Retro Family Series: Rewind LogoAlso, every third Wednesday of the month SMG offers their Retro Family Series: Rewind featuring a favorite movie from childhood. Tickets are only $2, and they offer a $10 endless 1-topping pizza for this event.


SMG Neon Sign
Browsing the menu at SMGWe have been wanting to see Big Hero 6 since we saw previews for it at the last movie we watched in a theater. We also knew University Mall had a new dinner-and-a-movie theater that opened recently. When I received the offer from SMG to visit their facility and see Big Hero 6 in 3D, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out both. On Monday night, the three of us sallied forth … unsure of what to expect from this new theater, but excited to see this movie.

Welcome to the New Studio Movie Grill Tampa
Studio Movie Grill (SMG) is located on the second level of University Mall above Dillard’s. You can drive up to the second floor of the car park to enter the theater lobby directly, where we were greeted with a smile by one of three friendly and welcoming ticket sellers and invited to wait in the lounge until they were ready for us. The lounge is spacious, offering a bar as well as several loveseat and coffee table spaces, where we chose to wait with our daughter while others mingled.

A few minutes later, the woman who greeted us walked over to let us know we could head to the theater, and pointed us in the right direction. Along the way, several staff people– and by several I mean every staff person we passed – welcomed us, which definitely kicked-off our evening on a positive note.

Classic Cheeseburger at SMG

Classic Cheeseburger with Tortilla Chips

It was also nice that our first step was not heading into a line at the concession stand! Once seated in the theater, we were offered menus that we looked over from the comfort of our seats, which offered ample leg room (because the aisles need to be wide enough for servers to negotiate as well) and tabletops. Because of the timing of the movie, we opted for dinner rather than just our usual popcorn.

My husband ordered the pulled pork sliders, I had the classic cheeseburger with a side of tortilla chips (fries or sweet potato fries were also an option), and our daughter had the kids cheese pizza and a chocolate milkshake. We were all happily surprised that the food was very tasty! Really, the food was … GOOD!

Milkshake at SMGOur daughter ate her entire cheese pizza, and finished the milkshake, which is unusual for her! And my husband and I ate all of our meals as well. Having dinner, however, did make our family movie outing more expensive than we are accustomed to. The next time we go, we will choose an earlier movie ($7/adult matinee, $6/child 10 and under) and and have our usual theater popcorn ($5/regular, $7/large) and drinks ($2-$3.50), which would make the cost comparable to seeing a movie at a standard theater. (Note: The theater does have a service charge, so you will want to purchase at least a drink.)

Kids Menu at SMGThumbs Up
The best part about SMG for me is that I don’t have to walk miles down a hallway and squeeze into a narrow seat past several people with an armload of popcorn and drinks! Everything is brought to you in your seat. And if you should need anything, just push the red button to call for assistance. In fact, we had the opportunity (to my daughter’s delight) to push that button once to check on our missing iced teas. Although our evening was not without a couple problems, they were minor and fixed promptly and courteously, and we have no complaints.

The best part about our experience for our daughter was that even without theater-style seating, she would see the movie just fine – no head in her way. The reason? The screen is placed higher than in other theaters, so no matter how short you are, you get a perfect, unobstructed view of the screen. You can’t get better than that for a 4-foot-tall kid!

And the best part for my husband was that the theater itself was small and more comfortable than usual theaters. There were fewer rows of seats, and every seat looked like a good seat.

So, Will We Go to SMG Again?
Yes. We had a great time out as a family, all of the staff were extremely nice and strove to be helpful, the food was surprisingly good, and the environment was clean, comfortable and relaxing! In my book, that’s a win!

Toons! and Retro Family Series: Rewind Logo images courtesy of Studio Movie Grill.
Photos © 2014 Nicole Doyle / What’s Doing? Tampa Bay.

84th Annual Fish Broil & Mullet Festival

Time: Event and Food: 2-7 p.m., Beach Bonfire and S’mores: 7-9 p.m.
Date: Saturday, November 15, 2014
Location: Hurley Park (Pass-a-Grille Beach)
Cost: Admission is FREE. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. (Note to Parents: Alcohol will be sold during this event.)
Register/Info: Fish Broil Website; Fish Broil Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Watch fresh mullet being grilled, and enjoy a mullet dinner (served from 2-7 p.m.; sides from local restaurants). Local food vendors will also be onsite serving up good eats, drinks and desserts while you enjoy live music by Jahfai. For adults, there will be a silent auction. For the kids (and kids at heart), a Kids Zone will offer inflatable games, bounce houses, giant slide, Gyotaku fish painting, bungee trampoline, gladiator joust, children’s games, face painting, a dunk tank, and more. The evening will end with a bonfire on the beach, complete with s’mores.

84th Annual Fish Broil & Mullet Festival Flyer

Proceeds from this event will benefit the St. Pete Beach Public Library, the Gulf Beaches Historic Museum, and the host schools, Montessori by the Sea and St. John Vianney.

Hurley Park
1501 Gulf Way
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

84th Annual Fish Broil & Mullet Festival flyer image courtesy of the Mullet Festival

Nights of Shimmering Lights: A Drive-thru Holiday Tradition + Breakfast with Santa

Breakfast with Santa
9-11 a.m.
Date: Saturday, November 29, 2014
Location: Hillsborough County Fairgrounds (Main Pavilion)
Cost: $5 for breakfast, $7 for breakfast and pictures with Santa.
Tickets/Info: (813) 389-6858; Nights of Shimmering Lights Website; Nights of Shimmering Lights Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Join other families in the main pavilion for breakfast and a chance to meet Santa! Festive holiday attire is encouraged, and families are invited to take a picture with Santa.

NOTE: You are not required to participate in the Jingle Bell 5K to enjoy the breakfast.

This event kicks off a new year of Nights of Shimmering Lights, and gives back to the community. NOSL has partnered with Brandon Swim and Aquatic Center (BSAC) as part of their Give Back program this year, and a portion of the proceeds raised at the Holiday Kick-off 5K and Breakfast with Santa will benefit BSAC and their quest to continually enhance the lives of people in our community by providing fitness, character and athletic programs for persons of all ages and abilities.

NOSL Breakfast with Santa Flyer

Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
215 Sydney Washer Road (On corner of SR 60 and Sydney Washer Road.)
Dover, FL 33527


Nights of Shimmering Lights Drive-thru Event
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Date: Saturday, November 29, 2014 through Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Location: Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
Cost: Weekend 1-Night Car Pass (Journey Thurs.-Sun.): $20; Weekday 1-Night Car Pass (Journey Mon.-Wed.): $15
Tickets/Info: (813) 389-6858; Nights of Shimmering Lights Website; Nights of Shimmering Lights Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Nights of Shimmering Lights provides over 2 miles of dazzling displays, illuminated tunnels, and dancing LED lights. Weave past more than a dozen themed areas and drive through more than 2,000 beautifully sculpted light displays while listening to holiday tunes on your radio.

The party doesn’t stop after you are done driving through the light tunnels. NOSL offers an entire Christmas Village for you to explore with your family. Park the car and wander through this Christmas wonderland. Drink hot chocolate, watch holiday movies, take a picture with Santa, join in various kids’ crafting projects from vendors, and even ride a toy train through the village.

Nights of Shimmering Lights Flyer

Hillsborough County Fairgrounds
215 Sydney Washer Road (On corner of SR 60 and Sydney Washer Road.)
Dover, FL 33527

Holiday string lights image courtesy of Clipart Guide / Pamela Perry
NOSL flyers and logo images courtesy of Nights of Shimmering Lights

5th Annual Shopapalooza Festival at South Straub Park

Time: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Date: Saturday, November 22, 2014
Location: South Straub Park
Cost: Admission is FREE and open to the public. No tickets necessary, but register in advance to be entered in a special raffle.
Register/Info: Shopapalooza 2014 Registration Page

What’s Doing?
Shopapalooza, Tampa Bay’s biggest shopping event of the year, is back for a fifth year with extended hours, a new beer garden, artists’ village, extensive kids’ zone, and deals from more than 100 locally-owned businesses.

The 2014 Shopapalooza Festival takes place at South Straub Park in downtown St. Pete and features:
– Kids Zone by Great Explorations Children’s Museum
– Retail, restaurant and art vendors, plus community organizations
– Local entertainment
– Giveaways and raffles
– Gift-wrapping station

Entertainment will include specially choreographed performances by Dance Central, Hot Pepper contest by Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, and the Trop Rock Junkies band.

The Children’s Zone, sponsored by Great Explorations Children’s Museum, will feature plenty of activities and crafts, as well as local businesses offering clothing, toys, gifts and services for parents, babies and children.

Shop-a-Palooza 2014 Flyer

Note to Parents: Alcoholic beverages will be sold during this event in the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg Sunset Beer Garden.

South Straub Park
198 Bayshore Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Gift box image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Shop-a-Palooza 2014 Flyer image courtesy of localshops1.

“Donkeys Are Special” Book Signing & Photo Opp at Bookswap of Carrollwood

Time: 12-2 p.m. (Story reading at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.)
Date: Saturday, November 22, 2014
Location: Book Swap of Carrollwood
Cost: FREE. Books available for purchase.
Register/Info: (813) 963-6979; Book Swap of Carrollwood Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Book Swap of Carrollwood invites you and your children to come meet Farmer Tom and his donkeys. Farmer Tom will read from his book Donkeys are Special … and So are You!, and the donkeys will be available to visit and for pictures with your children.

Donkeys are Special Book Signing Event Flyer

Book Swap of Carrollwood
13144 North Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33618

Miniature donkeys image courtesy of Author T.W. Krueger, (Farmer Tom).
“Donkeys are Special” Book Signing Event Flyer image courtesy of Book Swap of Carrollwood.

2 FREE Karate Classes Plus a FREE Uniform at PRO Martial Arts Wesley Chapel

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

Martial arts, the ancient method of training the mind, body and spirit to act as one, can also benefit a child in many other aspects of their lives, including at school and at home.
– Fitness: The movements of the martial art helps to keep children toned, flexible, physically fit and active.
– Self Defense: Martial Arts teaches children to defend themselves in a variety of different ways, and many martial arts schools also teach street-smart techniques.
– Self Discipline: Martial arts helps children learn mental focus, giving them the ability to concentrate on a task and see it through to its conclusion.
– Self-Esteem: Confidence comes with achievement. Every time a child learns a new move and earn a belt, their self-esteem is boosted.

What children learn in the dojo – listening, cooperation, respect – does not remain in the dojo, but rather follows your child out into the world, helping them to navigate the academic and social aspects of school, and positively influencing them as they grow and make decisions.

Give the Gift of Confidence Banner

PRO Martial Arts Classes Especially for Children:
– Little Rhinos Program: For pre-school and kindergarten-aged children, Little Rhinos is an introduction to the karate program and will teach students the basic moves, curriculum and protocol.
– ARMOR 9 and under: Bullying Prevention teaches children to recognize bullies and not become their victims.

What’s the Deal?
PRO Martial Arts Wesley Chapel is making it easy for families to give martial arts a try. They are offering 2 FREE Karate classes plus a FREE uniform for new students! Call the dojo at (813) 991-0462 for more details and restrictions on this offer.

PRO Martial Arts FREE Trial Banner

PRO Martial Arts
30024 County Line Road
Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Give the Gift of Confidence Banner image courtesy of PRO Martial Arts
PRO Martial Arts FREE Trial Banner image courtesy of PRO Martial Arts

Learning Express Toys’ Santa Cookie Party with “Frozen” Characters

Santa is arriving at Westfield Citrus Park on Friday, November 14. Visit him in his Toy Shop near Dillard’s. Meet Santa Claus and make the holidays special with Santa-and-me photos. Pre-order your photo package online and make your Fast Pass reservation.

Santa Gingerbread CookieTime: 1-3 p.m.
Date: Saturday, November 22, 2014
Location: Learning Express Toys of Citrus Park
Cost: FREE (registration is required)
Register/Info: (813) 926-9380; Learning Express Toys of Citrus Park Facebook Page

What’s Doing?
Join friends at Learning Express to celebrate Santa’s arrival with a cookie party with Santa, as well as with Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, and Olaf from Disney’s hit movie Frozen!

Learning Express Toys of Citrus Park
Westfield Citrus Park
7814 Citrus Park Town Center Mall
Tampa, FL 33625

Santa gingerbread cookies image courtesy of nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge when I publish each event. However, event hosts can reschedule, change or cancel any event at any time. Consequently, I highly recommend both calling ahead and having a back-up plan.