Treat mom, save money this weekend

Mother’s Day is an opportunity to spend quality time with your mom, grandmother, spouse or anyone who best fits that “mother” role.

It’s a day to do something special.

But it’s not a time to be irresponsible with your finances. Sure, you could spend a bunch of money on expensive flowers and take her to a fancy lunch. But what message would you be sending? That you’re not watching your money? That you’re not the kind of person who looks for good deals?

You won't be the only mother-child pair at the zoo on Mother's Day.  (Courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo)

You won’t be the only mother-child pair at the zoo on Mother’s Day.
(Courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo)

Mom taught you better than that.

No, if you want to really impress mom, show her that you’re responsible when it comes to your wallet. Show her that you can have a good time and be smart with your money, too. Let her see how much time you spent finding great values that you can both do on a budget.

Actually, you’re not really spending a lot of time looking for deals. You’re just reading this column. But she’ll be impressed either way.

The truth is that you can have a great time with your mom all weekend and save a lot of money. A few different places have Mother’s Day specials that make it easy to spend the weekend doing fun things. Here are some ways you can spend time with mom, without spending a fortune:

  • Museum of Science & Industry, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. Mom gets in absolutely free with a paid child or adult admission. You can check out all their regular exhibits that cover areas like astronomy, robotics and other modern technologies. That includes a special exhibit on 3-D printing and a large area called “Disasterville,” which simulates the effects of natural disasters such as tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes. They also have “The Amazing You,” “Mission; Moonbase” and other interactive exhibits to keep everyone entertained. Outside they have a butterfly garden and forest preserve, too.

If mom likes science and technology, this is a great place to take her. There’s a lot to do, and it’s always changing. So if you haven’t seen and done everything, put this on your Mother’s Day agenda.

By the way, this deal also includes an IMAX movie and a Planetarium show. That’s a great deal, and saves you around $23.

  • Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa. If seeing live animals appeals to mom, she gets in free at the zoo with a child or adult admission. And we have a good zoo in Tampa: “Parents” magazine named Lowry Park Zoo one of the top 10 zoos in the country for kids. And whatever’s good for kids is probably good for moms, too.

The zoo is split up into different areas. Safari Africa and Ituri Forest is the place to see cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and many other animals. At the Asian Gardens and Sulawesi Aviary, there are tigers, crocodiles, komodo dragons and leopards, not to mention more than a dozen bird species at the aviary. There’s also a free-flight aviary with even more birds.

The Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center is not only a place to see underwater animals, but the world’s only nonprofit manatee hospital. Primate World has primates (naturally) and Wallaroo Station has a goat petting station, water play area and koalas.

(The koalas don’t play in the water area, but it would be awfully cute if they did).

The zoo also has regular feedings the public can attend, a special “Spirits of the Sky” show featuring birds of prey, and animal keeper talks throughout the day. It’s a full day of diverse animal exhibits and attractions. And most of it is outside, so if the weather is nice, it’s a great place to walk around. Finally, if you or mom like photography, it’s hard to find a better place to bring the equipment and add to your collection. Plus you save about $28.

  • Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive in Tampa. “Parents” magazine also likes our aquarium, naming it a top-five kid-friendly aquarium. And they have a lot of things to see, and moms are free with a paid admission.

The aquarium is a lot more than giant tanks with fish swimming around. Outside, they have a 2-acre water play area for kids. The Wetlands Trail explores Florida’s ecosystem, while the Journey To Madagascar focuses on the wildlife from that island. They have a giant coral reef exhibit, a special penguin area and a number of shows throughout the day.

Just creating a habitat for all the different types of sea life is impressive.

The aquarium, which has been a part of the area for 20 years, features both educational and interactive exhibits, offering lots of ways to appreciate the thousands of animals and plants that live there.

If you or mom has a special affinity toward the water, this is a great place to take her for Mother’s Day. This special saves you between $22 and $24, depending on where you buy the ticket.

Now, you might think that three fun places is simply too much for just one day. And you’re probably right.

But the great thing about these promotions — aside from saving a lot of money, of course — is that they’re good both Saturday and Sunday. So you can take mom to one of them the first day, and visit the others the next day. Or whatever your schedule will allow.

Besides, why should celebrating mom be limited to just one day? Go ahead and make a weekend of it.

On a budget, of course.

So while other people are emptying their wallets on flowers that will be thrown out in about a week or an expensive lunch that will be forgotten by dinner, you’ll creating a weekend of memories with mom.

Which plan is she more likely to remember?

Besides, if you’re worried about food, McDonald’s usually has a free breakfast for mom on Mother’s Day. It’s not fancy, but it’s just the place to plan out your fun day together, and talk about how much money you’re saving.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Published May 6, 2015

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