My Guide to Free Summer Fun - Part One

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

If you are anything like me, you find yourself a month into summer and you're struggling with finding things to do that aren't a strain on the wallet! You've been on or are planning a family vacation, which can cost a dime or two, but the memories and time with family are totally worth it. In the meantime, you still need to get out of the house and do some things to keep you and your little one(s) busy! That's where I'm here to help.

There are so many fun things around the city that don't actually cost you a thing! And, I've created a few of my own things to do that McKinley thinks are registered Kansas City activities! This will be a series of things to do, because some we haven't done yet, but I thought I wanted to share some of the things we've been doing thus far.

Roe Park Splash Pad

We attended the splash pad last year on the day the city shut down. Turns out, there were some issues with the electrical work and some grounding copper that needed to be corrected. It was and it's officially up and running. A fun free water experience for itty bitty's and big ones, there are tons of different spray features and a fun filled playground just across the astro turf! And, just a little ways up from the playground is fun interactive space. A sandbox that's mostly mud from all the water babies at play, a fun cistern where you pump water down the wooden canal, and a little wood discovery area close by. Nice bathrooms and water fountains are additional features. As well as two covered picnic areas. My only complaint about the spray pad itself is the cement play area. Lots of slips, slides, and falls have taken place so just be careful. I insist that McKinley wear water shoes for a little extra grip. I wish it was a padded, but as long as there isn't a ton of running, everyone should be okay!

Overland Park Arboretum

We've been going to the Arboretum for years. It's a sweet getaway in the middle of the city. Filled with gorgeous views, beautiful flowers, covered walkways, and sprawling landscape, it's a must see. And, Tuesday's are a free day! We spent some time there yesterday and McKinley spent the majority of his time in the train garden. I know that comes at no surprise! We always call ahead to see if the trains will be running that day, it's volunteer based, because we've gone on a day where it wasn't running and the mood was rather somber. And when the volunteers are there, the caboose is open for exploration. You really must check it out.

The one thing we haven't done, and something I'm eager to explore, is the Enchanted Forest. What's in the Enchanted Forest? Well, there are homes of gnomes, fairies, elves, trolls, goblins, sprites and other magical woodland creatures on a woodland trail. And new this summer is the magnificent home of the lords and ladies of the Enchanted Forest royalty. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? Let me know if you get there before me!

Deanna Rose Farmstead

I don't think I have to tell you about our love for the Farmstead. We've been taking McKinley since he was one and we go all spring, summer, and fall long! Some of the staff know McKinley by name, if that tells you anything. We went just this week and spent roughly three hours just playing and exploring. McKinley is always the tour guide, this time he was the onsite farmer, and directs us through the farmstead. 

It used to be free during the week, but they have changed their admission prices. From 9:00-2:00 Monday through Thursday, it's $2 per person, kids under two are free. However, after 2:00 Monday through Thursday, the admission is free. We purchase the Friends of the Farmstead season pass and get in free all season long! It's $35 for Overland Park residents and $50 if you live outside OP. With your membership, you get:  

Free admission for your immediate family for one year
Two small drinks
Two pony rides (3 to 10 years old)
Two goat bottles
Two fishing rentals
$1 off Pumpkin Hollow admission (limit 7)
$1 off Night of the Living Farm admission (limit 7)  

Tomorrow night, they are offering free event at the Farmstead. It's a free movie night! Bring a blanket or lawn chair and watch Charlotte's Web with your family! Gates open at 7:30 and the movie starts at dusk!

Country Club Plaza Fountain Tour

This is my made up free activity that McKinley thinks is an actual KC tour! It started in 2014 when I needed to find more things for McKinley and I to do over the summer. At the time he was only three so our activities were limited. So on a hot summer day, we headed out to the Plaza for a fountain tour. We walked the Plaza, stopped at all the fountains along the way, took pictures, and threw pennies into almost all of them (I guess there is a cost if you decided to toss pennies in the fountain). It's a summer staple! We're planning our annual trip for next week! 

And while you're down that way, head over to the Kauffman Gardens. It's gorgeous, peaceful, and a sweet spot in the city.

This is just the beginning of my list of free summer activities. I've got a few more up my sleeve, some of which we haven't done before, and I'm excited to test them out and bring the results to you. What do you think of the ideas I brought to you today? How many of you have done these? Anything we should add to our list? I can't wait to hear them!


The Little House on the Prairie

Thursday, June 15, 2017

As a child, my dad would read to my every night. He would sit propped up on the bed while I laid my head on his chest and listened to his deep voice rattle in his chest. It was our nightly ritual. One of our favorite series to read was the The Little House books. It's still one of my favorite book series. As well as television series. I remember as a child, I would watch one hour of TV a night and once a week it was Laura and the family in our den. (It might have also included The Dukes of Hazard, but that's a different sort of blog post!)

When my husband and I were dating, we visited the home of Laura and Almanzo Wider in Mansfield, MO. If you haven't been, you must! It's chocked full of artifacts from their life together, as well as so many things from her childhood. Including Pa's fiddle! So while we were heading home from Oklahoma this week, we had to stop in Independence, KS to see her little house on the prairie! Set back several miles from the highway is their Kansas homestead. A replica log cabin stands against the prairie winds, much as it did 1800s. Based on the location of Pa's hand dug well, researchers were able to find the location on the prairie of where the Ingalls would have settled in 1869. The family only lived there for a little over a year before leaving. Charles had been told that the location would soon be open to white settlers. That was incorrect. Their home was actually on the Osage Indian reservation and they had no legal claim to the land. They left in 1871 and headed back to Wisconsin. 

Being on this historical site was a thrill! And having McKinley with me this time made it even better. He's now intrigued and would like to start reading the books. I think it's incredibly important for him to understand this time in history. That people fed of the land, lived a much simpler life, lived for the love of family. In the end, family is all we have. 

Below is our time on the prairie. It was so peaceful. Vast. Beautiful. It's hard to believe that in less than 12 miles, we were back among "civilization" after witnessing something so grand as this site. 



Also on the grounds are the Wayside Post Office and Sunny Side School. The post office was not in existence during the time the Ingalls spent in Kansas. It was moved to this site to preserve it's historical status. The one room school house was built in 1871. It was located roughly five miles from the Ingall's cabin. The girls would have been too young to attend the school. The little school house is very reminiscent of the one at Deanna Rose Farmstead.

  If you are a fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder, and find your self on the border of Kansas and Oklahoma, treat yourself to some time on the prairie. It's well worth the trip!!


Thomas the Train - Crown Center Exhibit

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My son has been a Thomas the Train fan for years. However, there was a short time where he seemed to have lost interest. He stopped playing with his Thomas train table at my parents house and he was no longer into the show. Then a tide turned. He has been watching the show non stop on our Kindle and playing with his trains almost daily. He's even adding them to his Imaginarium table at home. Thomas is alive and well in Little McKinley Land!

So when I saw that the newest Crown Center exhibit was a Thomas the Train exhibit, I knew we had to get there as soon as we possibly could. And was a trip last week! McKinley planned the whole day and it revolved around everything train! The exhibit, lunch at Fritz's, a trip to Union Station to see the model trains, a trip to the train bridge to watch real trains zoom by, and a ride on the streetcar to cap off the day. It was perfect!

I can't say enough about the Thomas exhibit. Go! Now! Your little's and your big's are going to love it! You walk right into a life size Thomas who comes complete with all the bells and whistles. And if you don't believe me, climb inside! There are literally working bells and whistles! It's interaction at its best!

Next up, head into the Sodor Steamworks where you can repair a broken down Percy. Hey, James, we see you too! These engines are Steamies and you need to help keep them going! Help fill them with water for steam and coal for fuel.

Knapford station is full of hustle and bustle! Grab your ticket, check to see if your engine is on time, grab your luggage, and head to the dock! McKinley spent so much time here and it was such a joy to watch! He even dressed up from the cute costumes that are available. He arranged the box car several times and carried passengers luggage from the luggage cart to their passenger car. He loaded up books in crates and handed out tickets. I took the sweetest video of him and my favorite quote was "Isn't it busy here on the Island of Sodor?" Imaginative play at its best and I can't thank Crown Center enough for allowing our children the ability to do so!


Lastly, the train layout. McKinley was in heaven! He could have stayed for hours playing on this enormous train layout! I love how children can be in the center of the action, or on the outskirts of play, while sharing the experience with one another. Not one child complained that someone was in their space or not sharing their trains. Everyone played well together and it was so calm!


And if you need a break from all that play, just take a seat on a dock bench and watch an episode of Thomas and Friends! And learn the history of how Thomas came to be. 

Honestly, this has to be my favorite exhibit so far and we've been going for years! It will be open until September 10th. And it's free! An afternoon of entertainment that you can visit and again and again! Like I said earlier, go now! You don't want to miss this one!

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