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Fun with the grandkids: Wichita has plenty of intergenerational activities

Kolbe DeGraffenreid pets a lamb inside the American Farm exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo. (April 30, 2015)
Kolbe DeGraffenreid pets a lamb inside the American Farm exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo. (April 30, 2015) File photo

Sitting on a library window seat with my grandson, reading a child’s book about “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Fishing with the grandchildren at a nearby park pond, skipping rocks as much as actually catching fish.

Taking our youngest grandchildren to Pretty Prairie for their first rodeo. “Grandma, that bull kicked slimy mud on me,” our granddaughter said.

I didn’t tell her it wasn’t mud.

Over the years, some of our most precious memories have come from taking our grandchildren on an adventure right where we lived. There are endless things to explore with little ones and big ones.

With the younger ones, sometimes it’s by doing nothing more than taking a walk around the block and talking about all the stuff we see. An overnight camping trip to a nearby state park can be a mainstay with older ones

But there are also zoos, walking trails through the woods and museums to explore. Trips to skating rinks and bowling alleys can be a real adventure.

All right here in the Wichita area.

Most can be very inexpensive, and many are free. Check for senior discounts.

As for fishing within Wichita, lakes at O.J. Watson Park and Sedgwick County Park can be good. Many of subdivision ponds also are great for beginning anglers.

Remember, state fishing licenses are required for all Kansas residents ages 16 to 74 and for nonresidents 16 or older.

Here is a list to get you started on a variety of activities – for spring break or any time of year. Be creative and add your own ideas. The most important thing is to do these things with your grandchildren. Memories await.

Bowling

All five of the Wichita-area bowling centers participate in a national program that allows kids up to age 16 to bowl two free games almost daily during certain hours in the summer, though some start in May and extend into September. Online registration at www.kidsbowlfree.com is required.

Check with the centers for details and for any spring break specials: Derby Bowl, 316-788-0263, 444 S. Baltimore; Northrock Lanes, 316-636-5444, 3232 N. Rock Road; the Alley, 316-618-1000, 11413 E. 13th St.; West Acres Bowl, 316-722-5211, 744 N. Ridge Road; Seneca Bowl, 316-267-7301, 1909 S. Seneca.

Don’t forget, all the centers can pop up bumpers on lanes used by younger children.

Botanica Gardens

316-264-0448, 701 S. Amidon

Website: www.botanica.org.

Regular admission: Under 3, free; ages 3-12, $5; adults, $7; seniors, $6. On Thursdays during the summer, $3 for all ages.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday year-round. Open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer.

A colorful place to explore for grandparents and their grandchildren of all ages. Creative and hands-on things for kids to do daily in the Downing Children’s Garden.

In June and July in the Children’s Garden, kids and their grandparents can take part in a different themed event each day, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-3 p.m. on Sundays. Sometimes it’ll be a science experiment or puppet show and others it’ll be a craft or everyone will plant something.

Family game night is 5 to 8 p.m. as part of $3 Thursdays. There are life-size checkers, chess, dominoes and other games, plus other activities.

To help enjoy blooming tulips, Botanica will hold an event called “Tulips, Fairies and Forts” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on four consecutive Saturdays starting on March 26 and concluding April 16. The event will include a fairy scavenger hunt, face painting and fort building.

Exploration Place

316-660-0600, 300 N. McLean Blvd.

Website: www.exploration.org.

Regular admission for exhibits only: 2 and under free; ages 3-11, $6; ages 12-64, $9.50; seniors, $8. Additional charges to see movies in the Dome theater.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Mondays from Labor Day through mid-March, except when Wichita schools are not in session.

A science museum with 13 permanent exhibits and at least one traveling exhibit, which rotates every three months or so. Lots of opportunities for grandparents and kids to interact together with the exhibits. One of the permanent ones – “Kansas in Flight” – includes two simulators. Also a chance to test your skills in building paper airplanes.

One exhibit teaches how to build an electrical circuit. Another permanent exhibit is for ages 5 and under and is agriculture-based. It includes such things as fixing a tractor and planting a garden. Preschool classes also are available.

Among the upcoming traveling exhibits is “Dinosaurs in Motion,” which starts May 28.

Great Plains Nature Center

316-683-5499, 6232 E. 29th St. North

Website: www.gpnc.org.

Free

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday

Nothing like talking about nature with your grandchildren and even teaching them how to fish. Catch-and-release fishing, using only artificial lures, is allowed at the center’s island pond.

There will be activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for children during spring break March 14-18. Check the website for scheduled hikes and programs.

Some of the regular children’s events include Naturally Crafty from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, storytime at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Little Nature Lovers (for ages 3-5) from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

There are several trails at the center. Your grandchild may check out a backpack to enhance the exploring. The pack will include a thermometer, magnifying glass, field guide and existing wildlife journal so observations can be added.

O.J. Watson Park

316-529-9940, 3022 S. McLean Blvd.

Website: O.J. Watson Park

Admission: No charge to enter park. Charges for pedal boats ($3), miniature golf ($3) and train ($2) and pony rides ($2). All prices per person.

Hours: Park open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily year-round. From March 12 through the end of October, rides open noon-8 p.m. daily. Depending on weather, rides open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. during winter.

The 119-acre city park has a little bit of everything. Take the grandchildren on a picnic using one of the 100 tables or find a rustic spot and sit on the ground. Park includes a bike path, fishing, 32 sand volleyball courts and playgrounds.

The train won’t operate until sometime this spring when the new locomotive arrives. Pony rides are only for ages 12 or younger and those weighing less than 90 pounds.

Easter egg hunt and Easter bunny appearance are set for 10 a.m.-noon March 19. Admission for this event is $5 per carload.

Other Wichita city parks

About 130 parks scattered throughout the city come in all types and sizes. To get a full list, go to wichita.gov/parkandrec. Click on “Parks” and select one of four city directions to get a list of parks in that area. Click on a specific park for more detailed information.

An interactive splash park is under construction at Buffalo Park, 10201 Hardtner, near Central and Maize in west Wichita. It is expected to open late this summer.

Numerous parks offer hiking trails that venture into wildlife habitat areas. One of those is Pawnee Prairie Park, 2625 S. Tyler, which has paved and dirt trails that wind along Cowskin Creek. Others include Swanson Park, 1011 N. Maize, and Chisholm Creek Park, 3228 N. Oliver.

Old Cowtown

316-350-3323, 1865 W. Museum Blvd.

Website: www.oldcowtown.org.

Regular admission: Under 4, free; ages 4-11, $5.50; ages 12-17, $6; ages 18-61, $7.75; seniors, $6.50.

Hours: Winter hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. From mid-April to late October, it’s open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Kids and grandparents can travel back to the 1880s in this open-air museum that was established in 1952. Tour old buildings in a re-created setting from Wichita’s early years. Interact with interpreters and watch gunfights in the dusty streets. Workshops are also held during the summer. Check the website for details.

Sedgwick County Park

316-794-2774, 6501 W. 21st St. North

Website: www.sedgwickcounty.org/sg_park

Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

There’s no admission fee for the park that has everything from fishing, bike trails and basketball courts to horseshoe pits, softball fields, barbecue grills and tennis courts. Also enclosed and open shelters and playgrounds. Four-fish limit at the lake.

Sedgwick County Zoo

316-660-9453, 5555 Zoo Blvd.

Website: www.scz.org

Regular admission: ages 2 and under free; ages 3-11, $9.95; ages 12-61, $14.95; ages 62 and older, $11.95. The zoo has $3 admission on Wednesdays during the winter, November through February.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily March 1-Oct. 31; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Nov. 1-Feb. 28

Elephants are coming, elephants are coming. With the expansion of the elephant exhibit to 5 acres, six elephants will be added to the zoo’s current one. The revised exhibit opens Memorial Day weekend.

The award-winning zoo has 400 different animal species, totaling nearly 3,000 overall, from around the world. The facility covers 247 acres, including about 110 that have been developed, so there is plenty of space to roam. Lasting memories can be created from feeding a giraffe.

There are activities throughout the day, with some involving training animals. Hands-on experiences include milking a cow.

Tanganyika Wildlife Park

316-794-8954, 1000 Hawkins Lane, Goddard

Website: www.twpark.com

Regular admission: ages 2 and under, 90 and over, free; ages 3-11, $11.99; adults, $16.99; ages 60-89, $13.99 plus sales tax

Hours: Opens March 12; 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily March 12-20 and March 25-27; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May-Labor Day; 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday in April, September, October and first weekend of November

Privately owned zoo just west of Wichita featuring exotic animals. There are hands-on exhibits and chances to interact with some animals, including feeding areas for giraffes, ring-tail lemurs, pygmy hippopotamuses and Indian rhinoceroses.

Wichita Library

Central Library: 223 S. Main, 316-261-8500. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Branches: 3447 S. Meridian, 316-337-9119; 3051 E. 21st St., 316-688-9580; 2244 N. Rock Road (inside Dillons), 316-688-9350; 2601 N. Arkansas, 316-303-8181; 1901 S. Kansas (inside Linwood Recreation Center), 316-337-9125; 5939 E. Ninth St., 316-688-9361; 8515 Bekemeyer, 316-337-9456.

Website: wichitalibrary.org. Check the website for library hours and for spring break events March 12-18.

The library is a terrific place for grandparents to interact with their grandchildren and plant the important seeds of learning. There are ongoing activities at the central library and the seven branches. On the website under “Events,” the items that start with “family fun” are geared toward an intergenerational experience. There are special computers designed for young children. Grandparents can sit with their grandchildren and help them while they listen to the story read aloud or play a game related to the story.

Ulrich Museum of Art

316-978-3664, on Wichita State University’s campus north of 17th Street on Fairmount, which is just east of Hillside

Website: wichita.edu/ulrichmuseum

Free

Hours: Gallery open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Looking at art helps improve cognitive functioning, Ulrich spokeswoman Jennifer Lane said. She suggested that grandparents ask open-ended questions of their grandchildren: What do they think of the colors? How does the art make them feel? Grandparents and grandchildren can also taking a walking tour of the 76 pieces of outdoor sculpture placed throughout campus. Maps are available in the museum’s lobby or on its website.

Wichita Art Museum

316-268-4921, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.

Regular admission: No charge all day on Saturdays. Other days: under 5, free; students with IDs and ages 5-17, $3; ages 18-59, $7; ages 60 and older, $5. Students with an ID get in for $1 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. March 15-18 for a spring break event called Artcation.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Website: wichitaartmuseum.org

Art museums can be an adventure. This one has numerous family-friendly events, including Family ArtVenture held the fourth Saturday of every month except August. The one on March 26 has a disco theme (no doubt grandparents can relate). It will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s no charge for the events.

The museum’s Living Room is an interactive gallery for young and old to explore. There are make-it-and-take-it activities. The museum also has an annual summer birthday bash and ice cream social, which is held indoors.

Wichita Ice Center

316-337-9199, 505 W. Maple

Website: www.wichitaicecenter.com

Regular admission: $7, plus $3 for skate rental. Monday and Tuesday, skating sessions may be $2. For public skating times, check the website.

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