The Tampa Bay area is a great place for affordable family fun on the weekend. With everything from puppet shows to exploring the Sunshine State’s history in an entertaining way, this city by the bay is designed to please.
Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy St.
Tampa, FL 33625
(813) 920-4130

Take your family for a real walk on the wild side at Tampa’s 67-acre Big Cat Rescue. One of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats is home to over 100 rescued lions, tigers, leopards, cougars and other big felines including some that are endangered and even extinct in the wild. Seeing these magnificent creatures in this setting is an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Remember to call first. Reservations are required.

Bits ‘N Pieces Puppet World
12904 Tom Gallagher Road
Dover, FL 33527
(813) 659-0659

A world of fantasy and wonder awaits the whole family at Bits ‘N Pieces Puppet Theater. Giant puppets bring classic children’s stories to life giving them new meaning in everyone’s imaginations. After the show, visitors can go to the puppet building studio and see all kinds of magical creations from the giants of the stage to hand puppets, marionettes and even shadow puppets. Call for showtimes and ticket information.

American Victory Ship
705 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 228-8766

The SS American Victory offers a rare opportunity to see what life was like for World War II sailors. One of only four fully operational WWII ships in the county, the American Victory is a world class maritime museum with three gigantic cargo holds and nine decks. Visitors can see everything from living quarters to weaponry as it was back in the day. Also on exhibit are rare artifacts, uniforms medals and photographs. Call ahead or check the website for hours and admission information.

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Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
6131 Commercial Way
Spring Hill, FL 34606
(352) 592-5656

River boat cruises, animal shows and mermaids can make for a fun and exciting day at Weeki Wachee on Tampa’s Nature Coast. The boats cruise down the beautiful Weeki Wachee River where visitors can experience its natural beauty. The animal shows allow you to get a firsthand look at native wildlife like snakes and alligators. There is also canoeing and kayaking and, if you time it right, there’s a world class underwater Mermaid show. Still not tired? Then get wet and wild on Buccaneer Bay’s water rides.

Heritage Village
11909 125th St. N.
Largo, FL 33774
(727) 582-2123

Experience Florida as it once was at this 21-acre living history museum. Learn how early settlers lived everyday life. As you stroll through the village, you can get hands-on with activities like pine needle and palm frond weaving and see how settlers did laundry and cooked. Or maybe you’ll visit the village blacksmith. But whatever you choose, Florida history won’t just be words on a page anymore. Admission is free.

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Maryann Tobin is an award-winning writer based in Tampa, Florida. She has appeared on the History Channel’s ‘DECODED’ series, and her investigative reporting on animal welfare issues led to a WTSP 10 News Investigators report. Her work can be found on