Sunday, October 2, 2011

Activity: Camping at Clinton Lake

Location: 798 N 1415 Rd, Lawrence KS. Park Office Phone: 785-842-8562

Cost: Varies depending on what type of site you want. But in general: Under 10 for a basic site, Under 20 for site with hookups. There is also a park registration vehicle fee upon entering the park, $4.

Age Appropriate: Depends upon the child, Dad's call on this one.

KCDADS do like to camp and hopefully I'll be able to put up all the sites we go to on the blog here for future KCDADS so that they will know what to expect. I won't be able to include all that there is to offer but will do my best to tell you about our experiences there.

We have been camping at Clinton Lake several times and have had an enjoyable experience each time. Let's start with the campsites themselves. There are many to choose from and I believe that Clinton Lake has 3 separate campgrounds to choose from. Some may be closed at times so make sure you call if you have your heart set on any specific campground to check availability.

The sites that we have been to I have found to be pretty decent. They are spacious and offer heavy tree areas if that is what you are looking for, which we were. But there are also camp sites that are more open and spacious so feel free to use those. We wanted areas that provided good shade and space and we were easily accommodated. You will also want to check the website for the rules of the campground and hours of operation. But in general, the park closes down at 10pm and quiet time is from 11pm to 6 am. The campsites we stayed at were well drained and offered nice flat levels. I believe that the rule is 2 tents per site max but again, please check the campground and sites.

As for activities, there is plenty to do around Clinton Lake and you wont' be disappointed if you are eager to get your outdoors on. We'll start with the beach because this is one area that I was a bit disappointed about. The beach itself is a bit rocky and access is not easy. It's a pretty good hike to reach it and you have to climb down long stairs to get to it. This makes it difficult when you are trying to lug a cooler out that way. It's not bad but it could be better. There won't be much in the way of building sand castles here though and your feet will get a bit sore after a while.

Clinton lake does offer some great hiking trails that I found pretty decent, maybe around average from what I've seen around her. But there are plenty of them so if you like to hike this is a good place. They offer a little challenge but do give you some great scenic views of the lake. The upkeep is ok, not great, but I don't think that's a bad thing at all considering the number of miles that there are to hike.

If you have a boat, this is a great lake for that. Easy access to the lake which is a must when boating. The lake itself offers some great places to roam around on and the kids will have a great time out on the water. The other boaters are courteous and it makes for a very good time.

Now back to the campsite. Sitting out by the campfire enjoying the stars is what makes this a great place to go. Clear skies and easy going park staff make a night here worth it. If you are looking for an easy experience, this is a good place to start. There are some playground equipment at some of the campgrounds but they are older and not much to write about. The second time we went camping here we didn't even bother with going to them.

As for the bathroom and facilities, I would again say it's about average. Showers are neither hot nor cold but spacious which makes it easy when trying to get a kid to wash off mud. The toilet area can be bug covered so if you have a kiddo, go in there first and kill some bugs and spiders first so that they don't freak out.

Clinton Lake is a good campground for us to go to. It's decently close and offers what we like best: peace and quiet.

Activity: Puppet Show, Downtown Library

Location: Downtown Kansas City Library, the best library in the state. 14 w 10th St, KC MO.

Cost: Free

Age Appropriate: All ages

Once again our children's librarian, Claire, takes care of the KCDADS. I have no idea why she takes such good care of us and our kids, but she does and we are grateful for it. This time, Claire and her library had a puppeteer come in and put on a puppet show for Kansas City. Claire made sure that we knew the date and the time and we offer her our thanks for making sure we were included.

When Claire does bigger events such as this, it's usually not held on the 2nd floor of the library but up on the 5th floor. Keep that in mind if you get lost. And if you remember, this is also where you go to have lunch on the roof, one of our favorite places in all of KC.

Now for the puppet show. It was amazing. There was quite a large crowd there but seating was plentiful. The kids got to sit on the floor in front of the stage and it was easily accessible for the rest of us. The show itself was fun and kept the attention span of both us and the children. The jokes were pretty decent and the kids loved it when the puppets ran into stuff or banged each other with fake swords. The show lasted for about 30 minutes which was a good amount of time to expect the kids to stay still.

One of the best parts though was after the show when the puppeteer came out from behind the stage and answered questions. He also brought the puppets out for the kids to see and gave a short demonstration on how they worked.

Once again, another great free even put on by Claire and the KC Library.

Activity: Ice Skating

Location: There are several ice skating rinks and community centers that offer this activity. We went to: Line Creek Ice Arena. Contact nubmer 816-513-0760.

Cost: Varies depending on where you go. Look for the fee to be under 10 bucks a head. Our cost was 5 bucks for ice time and 2 bucks for skate rental.

Age appropriate: 3 and up. Keep the younger kids at home.

The KCDADS were fortunate enough to have a KCDAD set this up for us which might have made all the difference in the world. He offered to take us and our kids out on the ice and give us Ice Skating lessons. We would like to offer a big thank you to Jimmy for taking the time to do this for us!

With that said, I did find that the staff at the community center very helpful. They took their time with us and helped make sure that we got the right sized skates for the kids. Most of our kids, and some dads, had never been out on the ice before so it was reassuring that we had Jimmy there and the staff to help us make a smooth transition.

As for the ice itself, I have no idea what makes "good" ice and "bad" ice so I will say that it seemed great to me. Another neat little thing that they had was bleachers and a locker room with a glass wall so that you could watch others skate while you tied your own boots on. As you would imagine, this was helpful when some of our kids darting out that way while we were still lacing up.

What made this a great activity for us and the kids though was the home made "ice walkers" that they provided to us. As you can imagine, none of our kids really knew how to ice skate. To avoid a bad experience of noses and butts hitting the floor, we were giving the ice walkers. These were little walkers were made out of plastic tubing and resembled a walker. The kids would grab on to these to maintain balance while out on the ice. We had enough of them as well so that almost every child could have one. And when we were short the kids easily shared between breaks. As you can imagine, this can be a physically challenging task which is good. We need to push our kids at times and this was a good activity to do that.

We were able to skate for about an hour while our KCDAD gave pointers to the kids. As this ice rink was inside, this is also an activity that is good year round. It was a good activity and something that I think we will do again next year. I know that this activity can sound daunting but don't let that deter you from giving this a shot with the kids.

Activity: The Berry Patch

Location: The Berry Patch, 22509 S. State Line Road, Cleveland Mo. For directions see website!

Cost: Varies upon how much you pick. It's free to go and play but you pay for what you pick. I found the prices way, way cheaper than buying blue berries at the store though!

Age appropriate: All Ages

Hours of operation: Varies based on season. Visit website for more details but in general, harvest time are in the months of June, July and August.

Go and pick some blueberries! It's a fun and great thing to do and this is the place to do it at.

For starters, you should check the website provided here for more information on how to get to the Berry Patch and what can be picked at the moment. Crops size and availability will vary from year to year based on growing conditions. Also make sure you check the picking report that is also on the website to see what the harvest will be like.

Now, on to the picking. We went when the it apparently was a "low harvest" and the picking report did not make it sound all that great. I was pleasantly surprised though when we showed up and there appeared to be plenty left to choose from. There are big fields where the blueberry bushes are and there were still some to be had. You had to work for them a bit more than usual apparently, but the group and our kids were up for the task. What we learned was that a 3 foot tall kid is the perfect height to get right up under the bushes for those hard to get berries that most people would skip. After an hour of fun work, and it was fun, my kids and I were able to walk away with a good 2 pounds of blueberries and that doesn't count the ones that they ate directly from the bushes.

The fields themselves were well kept and easy to navigate. Be warned though that you do need to keep an eye on the kiddos for several reasons. 1. blueberries stain. 2. The bushes are high enough that it is easy to lose track of your shorter kiddos. It was also somewhat of a busy weekend when we went as well but I found the entire site well organized, the staff friendly, and the other visitors friendly as well. It made for a good time.

Now once your picking is done, there are other farm like things to be done here. For a small fee (2 bucks a kid) you can have your child ride on their "train" which is a bunch of little cars being pulled by a tractor. There are also plenty of hay bales to climb on which is always a great activity for the kids. Finally, there is a small playground that the kids can run around on. It's a bit run down but still fun. There was a large drainage tube there as well that the kids loved to get inside of while their friends pushed it down a hill. Don't worry, this is intentional and it's not a construction site leftover. It's really fun and there are plenty of places from some great pictures with the family.

Once you have picked your berries, it's now time to pay for them. If it's busy, you are going to have a bit of a wait. You have your berries weighed at the front and then get in line to pay for them. The line to pay for them though is through the actual gift shop, which I'm pretty sure is intentional as they are trying to get you to buy various nick nacks. It works and we walked out of there with some honey sticks and also the best glass of blue berry lemonade that I have ever had. Honestly, it was worth waiting in line just for that glass. I didn't even know there was such a thing. However, if your kids are waiting in line with you be prepared to grab a lot of darting hands here and there. There are a lot of interesting things in the gift shop and they love to grab them when you are not looking.

If you have planned well, and I'm assuming you did as you are reading this, you have brought a packed lunch. This is a great place to have lunch at on a good cloudless day. There are picnic tables but also bring a blanket and throw it between some trees. We did this and it worked out very well.

This is defiantly an activity that we will do again next year. I'm also hearing that Blackberries will be good to go in 2012. Expect to see the KCDADS in full force.

Activity: Drive in Movie Theater

Location: There are several around time, please use Google. We used the Twin Drive In located at 1320 N. 291 Highway, Independence Mo

Cost: The Price of a movie ticket, about 8 bucks

Age Appropriate: 2 years of age and up. I think the younger kids would be a bit bored.

There are some good things to say about this place and some bad things. The idea was great and the KCDADS and wives got together for a showing of the Smurfs. I won't comment on the movie.

The drive in costs the same as you would pay for a movie ticket so that's a good thing. The facilities though are a bit worn down. There is no grass to lay blankets on and most of the joint is in need of a serious paint job. I can't comment on the quality or cost of the concessions either becasuse we brought our own stuff.

That is one of the great things about doing a drive in movie. Basically, we tailgated. And that's what made this place worth it. We had a whole set up. We had blankets to go over the gravel, coolers that acted as tables with fresh refreshments. We brought in prepopped popcorn and plenty of other snacks.

We found four great little spots in the middle and backed our vans up. We then popped the trunks and the kids could either sit in there (sometimes they did), on the blankets, or in the lawn chairs. It was mostly wives at first but another dad did join us. One of the other things that I liked about doing a drive in, other than reminding me about my own youth, was that if the kids did get bored, they could run around a bit. It wasn't very crowded and they didn't bother anyone and there was enough space to run between our parked cars. This became an issue the later the movie got.

It was like a late night picnic was some easy entertainment. The adults could also catch up and talk and since we were outside, it didn't really bother anyone. The sound for the movie now comes through your radio as well so that was acutally a nice touch.

Finally, if you were so inclined and the smurfs were about to melt your brain, there were 3 other movies showing behind us. I found it fun to turn around and watch 10 minutes of Planet of the Apes to a Smurf soundtrack. This probably explains my last beef with this place: there was some pot smoking going on. I don't know who and I don't know where but I know what doobage smells like. Just a word of caution on this one.

It's a fun activity and we will go again next summer but I'm guessing we might try to find a different place.

Activity: Kansas City Community Gardens

Location: 6917 Kensington, KC MO
Phone: 816-931-3877

Hours: Monday Through Friday: 9am to 5 pm

Cost: Free

Age appropriate: All

From their website: a not-for-profit organization that provides self-help and educational assistance to low-income people, children and community groups in the metropolitan area to grow their own food from garden plots located in backyards, vacant lots, schoolyards and at community sites.

This description just doesn't do this place justice. Yet another KC gem hidden in the rough. For starters, this place is what it sounds like, a community garden. But it is much more than that. It's a place where we can all learn about sustainable growing and have a good time doing. And as usual with most of the places we visit, this place is made even better by the attentive staff that gave us our tour. Our tour guide was patient and worked extremely well with the kids.

The garden is a couple acres big and does have many native MO and Kansas plants growing there but they also have many wonderful fruit and vegetables. In fact, the tour is not just a mindless information only kind of thing. It's highlighted by picking your own peppers, figs, Asian pears and other interesting oddities right off the tree and eating them right there. Our tour guide brought along a small knife and would cut up each sample for us right after it was picked. For the record, fresh cantaloupe that you pick your self tastes very, very good.

The tour did include seeing some of the native plants and our tour guide was great at answering any growing questions that we had. As one of our local farmer boys was with us, this was a great thing to have as we had a lot of questions.

We also got to try some things that we never would have tried before such as French Sorrel (leaves taste like a sour patch), a Mouse Melon (looks like a baby watermelon, tastes like a cucumber) and fresh peanuts that we dug out ourselves. Interesting note about peanuts, they are dry roasted for a reason. Eating one straight out of the ground was not so good. Kind of mushy.

The kids enjoyed all of it though and were very game to try everything from the candy peppers to the purple beans. So with that said, it turns out we were actually healthier just for going.

The tour didn't end there either. Once completed with the outside, we went inside where we planted our own Sweet Basil that we got to take home. For Free. We love free stuff. The kids also got a chance to look at a very big spider that I wanted to smush and to play with a very large Praying Mantis that I wanted to run away from.

In the spring or late summer, make this one of your destinations, you won't regret it.