Category Archives: Tampa

Red-hot Birthday Party in Tampa

I wanted to postpone the birthday party madness as long as I could, knowing full well I would spend too much time and money and make myself crazy when something more low-key would mean just as much to the little dude. That theory worked OK for birthdays 1, 2 and 3, when we spent the party money instead on an overnight at the beach, a trip to Adventure Island and an aquarium day with the grandparents.

But then we started getting invited to parties. Really fun parties. And Nate wanted to know when his party was going to be.

I started Googling. It’s really hard to find something different but not crazy expensive. I wanted indoors (August in Florida, enough said) and I did not want to have to clean my house. I remembered a friend’s party a few years ago for her little boy — at the Tampa Firefighter’s Museum. I gave them a call, the price was right and it was available. I booked it.

Nate loves firefighters, so the theme was a good fit, and I liked knowing the fee would benefit the nonprofit. I went a little nuts on the planning, but less nuts than I could have, because the venue really did most of the work for me.

Which is to say, if you have a small child in Tampa with even a passing interest in firetrucks, you need to check this place out. You can tour it on your own, but for birthday parties, it is really magical.

The museum is housed downtown in the former Station 1, built in 1911. It’s a wide open space with exposed brick (automatically making your decorations look better), two antique fire engines, hoses and a play firetruck for the kids, outfitted with hats and jackets. The museum sets up tables for adults and children, as well as an area for you to set up food and gifts/favors. It’s an odd time of day (10-noon) but if you have a small child, it’s not that bad. You’re probably up by then anyway, and you’re done in time for naps. If you’re lucky — we couldn’t convince our birthday boy to nap after all the excitement.

The kids were content to run wild and go on and off the firetruck, and the parents got to relax or check out the displays on their own. But what made it truly special was a trip across the street to a working fire station. The guys were so great with our pack of 4-year-olds, explaining all the cool things the trucks did, putting on their gear for us and even sliding down the pole. We weren’t rushed, and when an alarm did go off (they had to check out a false fire alarm), they had us step aside while the truck pulled out, and then another firefighter finished the tour.

We returned to the museum for “lunch” and cupcakes, and the kids all left with my favors and a huge goodie bag from the museum — complete with a hat, pencil, activity book, stickers and temporary tattoos.

The Tampa Firefighter’s Museum really is a hidden gem in this area and amazing option for parties. And you are free to keep your house as messy as you want.

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Filed under Preschoolers, Tampa

Tampa mom campaigning for more Fit Kids and families

Children ride bikes at a Fit Kids Playground event.

I met Marisa Langford a couple of years ago when I was writing for the Trib and she was hosting her second “Fit Kids Playground” in Tampa. She’s the kind of mom who manages to be both down to earth and inspiring — she gets you excited about what you can do with and for your kids and yet you never feel talked down to.

Marisa is on a campaign for healthy living along the lines of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. For years now, she has been visiting schools to talk to little kids about getting their fruits and veggies by “eating a rainbow” and she sets up shop regularly with “Fit Kids” at farmer’s markets and parks. Now (with her fourth child on the way!) she has secured a grant worth up to $10,000 for programs that will make families fitter, healthier and happier.

It involves some targeted efforts at a school that serves a high population of low-income and homeless families. And it gets out into the general community as well, overhauling a preschool exercise program for the Hillsborough County library system and helping parents who want to start healthy eating campaigns in their children’s school. There’s even a plan to grow crops in the bed of a truck — “Truck Farm” is catching attention in other communities with its mobile demonstrations that you don’t need to have a lot of land to grow crops.

The details are here in a post I wrote for the Tampa Bay Times’ Whoa, Momma blog.

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Filed under Motherhood, Tampa