Parents, it's finally here. Spring break in Hamilton County schools starts this weekend-and with it come significant challenges.
How will you occupy your children this week? For some working parents, just finding day care is a big hurdle.
The Times Free Press staff has assembled some lists to help you navigate the week and, maybe, keep the kids happy, too.
It's possible that your school-age child doesn't yet know what a spelunker is, but it's easy enough to find out this week. Ruby Falls is one of nine local attractions providing behind-the-scenes family adventures during spring break.
Spelunking at Rock City goes into portions of the cavern not usually accessible to the public, with only the flickering light of a lantern as illumination, to learn about the folklore, geology and history of the cave.
Other Spring Break Safaris are offered at Bluff View Art District (culinary creator and art explorer), Chattanooga Choo Choo (conductor), Creative Discovery Museum (detective), Hunter Museum of American Art (art explorer), Rock City Gardens (RockQuest adventurer), Southern Belle (pilothouse mate), Tennessee Aquarium (Keeper Kids) and Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (conductor).
Most events will last through mid-April (some even longer). You can download a field guide to keep track of your adventures and get complete details on costs and reservations at www.springbreaksafari.com.
• KidsPark, 2020 Gunbarrel Road, 305-1796: KidsPark takes drop-ins ages 2-12 for short periods of baby sitting.
According to Terry Matthews, a KidsPark employee, there is a one-time $25 registration fee, then the hourly fee is $7.50 per child or $11.50 for two children.
"A child may stay up to seven hours one day or up to 14 hours in one week. This does not take the place of day care," she said. "Also, children must wear socks. If the child arrives without them, we sell socks here."
KidsPark hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight Friday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, closed on Sunday.
• Sitter City: Moms needing sitters for longer lengths of time might want to try Sitter City, an online source of local baby sittters.
Log onto timesfreepress.com then click the chattamoms link in the gray bar across the top of the homepage. Scroll to the bottom of the chattamoms page to the yellow bubble that says Sitter City, enter your ZIP code and click.
Up will pop multiple choices of local women ranging in age from teens to retired schoolteachers who are willing to care for children. Their prices range from $8 an hour to $500 per week.
Each entry includes a short profile of the applicant: her age, experience, fees and areas of specialty such as caring for special-needs children or infants.
To check references, moms must register with the site. There is a free trial offer for seven days, or it's $35 per month.
• Parent co-op: If all else fails you might try recruiting several other working parents to form a child-care team this week. Some have pointed out that a series of five "day camps" - Monday through Friday - in five different households can be a good way to patch together a week of supervision. This way, a parent in every household doesn't have to burn a whole week of vacation just to bridge spring break.
• Learn about the site that will become the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District by attending a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 27, near 800 Manufacturers Road. The program, "Waddle & Daub to Warfare," will focus on various periods associated with the site, including the era when American Indians made the bend their home. 706-866-9241 or www.nps.gov/chch/planyourvisit/events.htm.
• Visit the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History on Friday, National Medal of Honor Day, at its location adjacent to Piccadilly Cafeteria at Northgate Mall. The day, established in 1990, honors the recipients of the Medal of Honor and is intended to raise awareness of the medal's importance. See exhibits on Chattanooga-area honorees Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss, and see the featured exhibit on the Revolutionary War. It's open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 877-2525.
• The River Market, a smaller but just as lively version of the Chattanooga Market, will be available for browsing at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Among the more than 40 vendors at last week's opening day was the Freedom Tree Farms, which offered fruit trees for spring planting. Mawre & Company will entertain between 12:30 and 3 p.m. 648-2496 or www.chattanoogamarket.com.
• Walk, jog, run or bike the Tennessee Riverpark, which covers eight miles along the Tennessee River and two additional miles of loops and side trails. Take a day to do the whole thing and see what surprises spring has to offer, or pick one of the parking areas along Amnicola Highway for a shorter outing.
• Take a picnic lunch to the reservoir at the Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant. The area that surrounds the 528-acre water surface is a state-designated Wildlife Observation Area and features walking/bike trails and a visitors center where guests can see photographs, models and talk to a staff member about Tennessee Valley Authority's largest hydroelectric facility.
In theaters now:
• "Mars Needs Moms" - When Martians steal Milo's mom for themselves, he learns just how important she is and vows to get her back. In 3D, with the voices of Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler.
• "Beastly" - A modern day take on 'Beauty and the Beast.' A handsome but unkind high schooler is made ugly by a classmate who is actually a witch. He'll stay this way forever, she says, unless he finds someone to love him as he is now. With Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer and Mary-Kate Olsen.
• "Rango" - A comedy western cartoon about a chameleon named Rango who accidentally becomes stranded in the Nevada desert. Along his way, he meets many colorful characters. With the voices of Johnny Depp, Abigail Breslin and Alfred Molina.
• "Despicable Me" - More adorable than despicable, this animated movie features Steve Carell as the voice of Gru, a Russian bad guy whose heart is softened by three adorable orphans.
• "Ramona and Beezus" - Based on the novels by Beverly Clearly, the story of the world's peskiest little sister comes to the screen for a new generation. Starring Disney Channel star Selena Gomez and precocious newcomer Joey King, it's impossible not to smile at Ramona.
• "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" - Is Percy Jackson the new Harry Potter? In this film, based on the first in a series of Percy Jackson novels by Rick Riordan, pre-teen Percy learns he is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Adventure ensues.