Big Cat Habitat First Responders Free Admission: Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary offers free admission to local law enforcement officers, firefighters and their immediate families to thank them for their service. The sanctuary is now on its summer schedule and offers Sunset Safaris 4:30-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through October. Visitors can have an up-close view of exotic and other animals at the sanctuary with special encounters daily. Admission: $15 adults, $7 children ages 12 and younger. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is at 7101 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota. Information: 941-371-6377 or visit www.BigCatHabitat.org.
Lowry Park Zoo "WaZoo Beer Fest": Named one of the "10 great beer festivals in the country," the 17th annual tropical taste explosion "WaZoo Beer Fest" will be 7:30-10:30 p.m. Aug. 4. The event will feature 250 beers and beverages from around the world, food sampling from favorite restaurants and live music from local artists. WaZoo takes place rain or shine and zoo animals will not be on exhibit during the event. The zoo is at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue, Tampa. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, with extended hours on select nights during special events. Call for admission prices. Information: LowryParkZoo.com or 813-935-8552.
Bank of America and Merrill Lynch Extended "Museums on Us" Program: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch continue the celebration of our nation's birthday by offering free museum access as part of its Museums on Us program Aug. 4-5 and every first full weekend of each month. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders in Tampa and St. Petersburg will receive free access to the Florida Holocaust Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg and Tampa Museum of Art. Photo ID and a valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch credit or debit card must be presented at the time of visit. One free general admission is limited to each cardholder. For location and hours of participating museums, visit http://museums.bankofamerica.com.
"Island Nights" at Adventure Island: Adventure Island heats up the summer with a family-friendly sunset celebration 5-9 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 11 during "Island Nights," featuring live music, eclectic entertainment, tropical wildlife and island-inspired cuisine. DJs will rev up the energy with music, dancing and games on the beach, while street performers, including larger-than-life stilt walkers, magicians, jugglers, skilled fire performers and a steel drum band keep the celebration going each event night. Park hours during Island Nights are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily and Island Nights activities are included with Adventure Island admission or pass. Adventure Island is at 10001 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa. Information: 813-987-5600 or visit Adventureisland.com.
"Summer Nights" at Busch Gardens: Busch Gardens' "Summer Nights" amps up the excitement through Aug. 12 with extended park hours, special entertainment, high-energy DJs, and the thrill of riding world class coasters in the dark -- including Busch Gardens' new triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt. There will be fireworks nightly; "Let's Get Loud" dance parties, featuring Miami-sound style music, a dance competition, and the award-winning Kinetix show, featuring live musicians, singers, dancers and artists from around the world. Events are held at Gwazi Park and the Desert Grill at Busch Gardens. Park hours for Summer Nights are extended until 9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Summer Nights is included with a day's paid admission or any annual pass. Call for ticket prices. Busch Gardens is at 10165 N. McKinley Dr., Tampa. Information: 888-800-5447 or visit BuschGardens.com.
Universal Orlando Florida Resident offers: Now through Aug. 31, Florida residents can purchase a two-park annual pass and get three more months to enjoy the excitement and adventure of the theme parks, including Universal's Superstar Parade and Universal's Cinematic Spectacular, and this coming summer's Universal Orlando's brand-new blockbuster attraction, "Despicable Me" Minion Mayhem. This special offer must be purchased and activated by Aug. 31, with select Coca-Cola products or a specially marked cup from participating McDonald's. Universal Orlando is also introducing an all-new summer vacation package exclusively for Florida residents. Starting at $95 per adult, per night, tax inclusive, the package includes 3-night hotel accommodations, 2-day base ticket to Universal Orlando theme parks, one-day admission to Wet 'n' Wild Orlando waterpark, access to live entertainment at Universal City Walk, early park admission and more. Guests can book this vacation now through Aug. 31 for travel through Dec. 20. Universal Orlando is at 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando Information: 407-224-4233 or visit www.universalorlando.com.
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament: Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is inviting guests to travel back to the 11th Century with its new show. While some of the most popular traditions remain such as live jousting, sword fights, horsemanship and falconry, the show offers many new elements and a new story, battle scenes, costumes, new horse dressage, equine presentations by pure Spanish horses, Quarter horses, Friesians and Menorcans, a new musical score and an upgraded menu for the utensil-free meal. Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is at 3707 Edgewater Dr., Orlando. For a full schedule, hours and ticket prices, call 888-935-6878 or go online at www.medievaltimes.com.
Florida Maritime Museum to Participate in Blue Star Museum Program: Florida Maritime Museum announced the launch of Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 1,800 museum across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families through Sept. 3. Since the Florida Maritime Museum does not charge an admission fee, a gift of a Florida Maritime Museum hat, donated by a museum volunteer, will be given to active duty military. A complete list of participating museums is available at www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums. The Florida Maritime Museum is at 4415 119th St. W., Cortez. Information: 941-708-6120.
"Mummies of the World" Story telling contest: The "Mummies of the World" exhibit, with its astounding collection of 150 specimens and objects, is the largest exhibit of real human and animal mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. Inside every mummy is a story waiting to be told. Now through Aug. 12 MOSI will be hosting a story telling contest that engages exhibition visitors on a whole new level. Interested participants will be asked to select their favorite mummy and write their own version of the mummy's life story. The contest is open to the public. Entries should be limited to 500 words or less and can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org through Aug. 12. Three winners will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of museum representatives and the exhibition producer based on originality and cultural accuracy. On Aug. 28, the first, second and third place honors will be announced and winners presented with special prize packages during a special awards presentation. The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 3. MOSI, a nonprofit educational institution and the largest science center in the southeastern United States and home of the only IMAX Dome Theater in Florida, is at 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. Call for admission prices. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Parking is free. Information: 800-995-MOSI or www.mosi.org.
"Rock The Universe": Tickets are now available for "Rock the Universe 2012," Florida's biggest Christian music festival happening Sept. 7-8 at Universal Orlando Resort. Guests can rock out the entire weekend with the "Rock Your Weekend" ticket, which includes admission to both nights of the event and three days admission to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure. This year's lineup features some of the most popular names in Christian rock. More than a dozen hit bands will take the stage, including Skillet, Newsboys, Jeremy Camp, tobyMac, Switchfoot, Relient K, and many more. Three-day individual tickets are $109.99 and must be purchased by Aug. 31. Guests can enjoy a Fan Zone, autograph sessions with the bands, karaoke and band merchandise. Guest can also experience a Saturday night candle lighting service featuring Tenth Avenue North. Call for a full schedule and ticket prices. Universal Orlando Resort is at 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando Information: 407-224-4233 or visit www.universalorlando.com.
Kennedy Space Center 50th Anniversary: NASA is offering visitors rare access to several key areas of Kennedy Space Center during its 50th anniversary year featuring an array of authentic attractions showcasing the space program and opportunities for up-close viewing of ongoing rocket launches. A special Kennedy Space Center Up-Close Tour, giving visitors an insider's view of the space program from launch preparation to liftoff, has been extended through the end of 2012. A "Cape Canaveral: Then and Now" guided tour has been added, guiding visitors through the cape's 50-year history of space exploration. Photo ID is required for guests ages 18 and older. International guests must present valid passport to participate. Tickets for each tour: $25 adults, $19 children ages 3-11, in addition to admission. Included with admission is the regular bus tour, which explores the history of the Apollo moon and space shuttle programs. It includes a shuttle launch experience, astronaut training experience, live space launches, an astronaut encounter, lunch with astronauts, and a visit to the "Rocket Garden," the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and an interactive exploration space exhibit. It provides visitors with panoramic views of launch pads, and stops at several key areas such as the Apollo/Saturn V Center and gives access to all exhibits. Call for operating hours. Kennedy Space Center is at State Road 405, Kennedy Space Center. Information: 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.