OK, think about your favorite childhood memories. When I ask most people this question they mention things like vacations, movies, ballgames, but also just going to the park to fly a kite or take a hike with a parent or a grandparent. When I think about it, the memories I treasure most didn’t cost my family much money at all.
I love finding fun things to do outdoors with my little one. I love it even more when they fit within my budget. Jack loves nothing more than exploring new places, places he can run unconstrained by walls and boundaries. http://www.kckidsfun.com/outdoor-activities/
This week I’ll share a few of my favorites for exposing your kids to Kansas City’s great outdoors this spring.
Kansas City Zoo. ( www.kansascityzoo.org) We are past the free admission years (age 2 and under), but for less than $20, Jack and I can roam for hours like gazelles — in whatever direction he takes me! There are amazing animals around every turn, including a new polar bear in the Polar Bear Passage exhibit! You just can’t beat the zoo. http://www.kansascityzoo.org/
Deanna Rose Farmstead. ( www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/deanna-rose-childrens-farmstead) This ever-expanding facility on 135th Street in Overland Park is no longer a well-kept secret, but I’m amazed at how many people it can hold and you still have room to play. Ride a pony, catch a fish, feed the baby goats, mine gravel for moon rocks … it’s like a farm animal zoo. Kids can’t get enough of the place. Admission is free Monday through Thursday and for children under 2 years old, $2/person Friday through Saturday.
Overland Park Arboretum. This place is amazing, with some of the prettiest woods and rock formations you’ll find around here. The hiking trails (anywhere from a half-mile to 5 miles) take you through it all, and there’s a great creek running through the heart. http://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/arboretum-and-botanical-gardens/ The admission fee is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.
Loose Park. Is there a better picnic place in the entire city? I don’t think so. Not to mention an elaborate playground and plenty of space to just walk around and people watch.
James A. Reed Wildlife Area. This Missouri Department of Conservation facility in Lee’s Summit is incredible. There are a dozen or more small lakes, thick woods, vast meadows — thousands of acres of them, smack dab in the suburbs — all connected by gravel roads and trails.
For a more controlled environment (or if a spring thunderstorm threatens your day), try the Lakeside Nature Center ( www.lakesidenaturecenter.org) in Swope Park, or the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center east of the Plaza ( http://mdc.mo.gov/regions/kansas-city/discovery-center). Both have plenty to see and do indoors and out for little cost.
I’m just scratching the surface here. We’re very fortunate to live in a city with so many places to enjoy the outdoors and turn our kids on to something richer than video games and gadgets. Put your cell phone in your pocket and just enjoy each other. You don’t have to spend much at all, but you might just create a memory your child will cherish for a lifetime.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or carig for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.