The 12 days, Florida style

By Ecton Theriot, Ester Venouziou and Robert Sitten, Times Staff Writers
Published December 3, 2007

We all know The 12 Days of Christmas. (At least, the "partridge in a pear tree" and "five golden rings" parts.) While the words are classic, some of the ideas (maids a-milking?) are dated. So, to impress your true love - without the mess of geese a-laying - here are some ideas with a Florida flair. And you can sing them!

12 beach guys drumming

By the 12th day you've probably stretched your Christmas budget to its limit, so this one's perfect: It's free! At the weekly Treasure Island Drum Circle, Sundays from roughly an hour before sunset until 10 p.m. on Treasure Island Beach, you can make a lot of joyful noise indeed. Bring a drum if you've got one, buy one nearby at Other Worlds, 722 Pasadena Ave. in St. Petersburg, or ask, "Hey, anybody got a spare drum?" Someone will.

11 tourists tanning

Yes, you usually can go to the beach and bake in the sun during Christmas season in Florida. All it'll cost you is a towel ($9.59 and up at Target) and some sunscreen (go for Bullfrog SPF 36 and up, the mist is around $7.49 at CVS). And calling your friends in Syracuse to tell them you're sunbathing in December? Priceless.

10 boats a-sailing

If you want to learn how to sail, try doing it with private lessons. Smooooth Sailing School (smoothsailingschool.com), 435 Causeway Blvd. in Dunedin, offers lessons to individuals and couples. Rates vary depending on which class you take, so we'll just point this one out: a four-hour class for $125 a person.

9 dolphins flipping

Take advantage of living on the Gulf of Mexico and check out one of the many dolphin cruises. Or for an added bonus, try the four-hour excursion offered by Tropical Island Getaway ($30 adults, $20 children under 12; 801 Pass-a-Grille Way, St. Pete Beach). Your trip from St. Pete Beach to Egmont Key not only gets you the dolphin cruise, but snorkeling and shelling, too. For reservations, call (727) 345-4500.

8 grills a-grilling

Throwing the Yule log in a pit and grilling food over it would seem more Christmassy, but this is Florida and it's unlikely anyone's ever SEEN a Yule log, so go grill-shopping. For $258 at Home Depot, you can get a stainless steel Charmglow 4-burner gas grill, with 48,000 BTUs, 675 square inches of cooking space, a side burner and a powered rotisserie. A rotisserie!

7 swimmers swimming

If you want a present that offers a kitschy feeling of old-time Florida, check out the mermaid shows at Weeki Wachee Springs (6131 Commercial Way. That's U.S. 19 in Spring Hill.) The park's Web site says the performers present Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. Other features include animal shows and a river cruise. Daily admission is $13.95 for adults and $10.95 for children ages 3 to 10. It's free for 2 and younger.

6 turtles nesting

Now "turtle" doesn't have to mean "great big tortoise" or any of the kinds that snap. For $14.99 to $19.99 at Animal House, you can get a yellow bellied slider or a map turtle. They're cute, with colorful markings, and small, capable of living in a 10- to 15-gallon aquarium for about five years. They need something to climb up on in the tank, which the store can set you up with. Or you can get a piece of driftwood - they're not picky. And the yellow bellies climb up on each other's backs, so you get a leaning tower of turtle. Very cool.

5 manatees

Okay, you don't get to bring it home. But for about $50 you can swim with manatees. Your best bet: Citrus County. Check out visitcitrus.com and follow links to manatee watch for organizations that offer manatee encounters. Another option: Lowry Park Zoo's Manatee & Aquatic Center. You can even adopt a manatee. A $75 donation helps care for these animals, plus gets you your very own (plush) manatee and invitations to zoo events. To learn more, go to lowryparkzoo.com

4 swimming pools

Personal and anecdotal experience puts the first estimate of an inground pool at about $40,000. Here's one alternative. The Web site for Leslie's Pool Supplies (locations throughout the bay area), has an above-ground pool. It's 42 inches high and 18 feet round and listed at $349.99.

3 pounds of grouper

First off, make sure you're getting the real thing, not tilapia or some other substitute. Cost is often listed as "market price," and it depends on what's available. At the Colonnade Seafood Restaurant (3401 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa) a grouper sandwich will cost you $10.99. At Mid Peninsula Seafood (400 49th St. S, St. Petersburg) a cooked pound of grouper filet goes for $17.99; uncooked, $15.99.

2 pink flamingos

The cheap plastic yard stakes just won't do it. Instead, we suggest a pair of metal ones we found at Domain ($40 each; 3129 Beach Blvd., Gulfport). Or head up the street to Nice for flamingo-inspired merchandise, including finger puppets for 50 cents. (3007 Beach Blvd., Gulfport). If you're looking for the real thing, head to Sunken Gardens (1825 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg) or to Busch Gardens (10001 N McKinley Drive, Tampa).

And a parrot in a palm tree

Parrots and palm trees come in all sizes, varieties and prices. We liked an African gray from Animal House ($1,300; 950 34th St. N, St. Petersburg). For the palm tree, we're going with a 12-foot foxtail. (About $265; Jene's Tropicals, 6831 Central Ave., St. Petersburg).