Merriam’s Spring Break Top 10!

Photo credit: Jim Russell

Have you been cooped up a little too long? We thought so. Even though some schools have just recently reopened for in-person learning, many are still scheduling the annual Spring Break. If you’re looking for a little break too from remote meetings and digital screen time, we’re sharing 10 great reasons you and your family should explore Merriam during Spring Break.

Merriam is an ideal choice in the Kansas City metro for a Spring Break destination!  Whether you live locally and want to check-out nearby things to do, or are coming to town for a quick visit with friends or family, check out these socially-distanced activities for a fun-filled Spring Break. For your reassurance, our hotels, restaurants, and attractions have set up additional precautions and cleaning procedures, making health and safety a continued priority.

Take a look at the top 10 suggestions to kick-off your Spring Break itinerary in Merriam, Kansas:

  1. Start off with the most important meal of the day–dessert! A delicious sampling of hand-made povitica from Merriam’s local Strawberry Hill Povitica Bakery is the perfect choice and comes in over a dozen flavors.
  2. Grab a stroll or bike along the Turkey Creek Streamway Trail — you’ll pass neighborhood pocket parks on this four-mile paved trail, and you might even see wildlife along the creek!
  3. Explore digitally with your GPS enabled device. The Visitors Bureau has two geocaches placed in our city–can you find them? Learn more at www.geocaching.com and search for merriamcvb.
  4. If history is more your speed, you’ll want to download the Otocast app and take the Merriam History Tour. Download this free app on Google Play or the App Store and enjoy your history lesson about Merriam.
  5. Pick a park and settle in for playground fun, a leisure walk or a lunchtime picnic. Better yet, spend a day park hopping to all of Merriam’s parks–they’re free and open to the public sunrise to sunset daily.
  6. Enjoy an art stroll around town; from beautifully created sculptures to permanent or rotating gallery exhibits, explore Merriam’s public art collection for a fun and new learning experience. Check out Artfully Merriam or visit the latest exhibit at the Tim Murphy Art Gallery!
  7. Take a dip in the indoor Merriam pool at the Merriam Community Center. From the lazy river to fun splash zones, water is a great way to tucker out the littles before bedtime. >>Explore the MCC from A-Z on page 14 of the 2021 Merriam Visitor Guide.
  8. Pupusas to go!!! To finish off the day, stop by Anita’s Cuisine or El Pulgarcito for the very best Pupusas around!
  9. Make it a mini-vacay with an affordable night at one of Merriam’s hotels. You can even score a deal with Merriam’s special offers on lodging.
  10. Capture and share your Merriam Spring Break memories via Instagram–learn more on page 12 at the link >> Merriam Insta Challenge!

Happy spring from the Merriam Visitors Bureau! #ExploreMerriam #InstaChallenge #SpringBreak

Five Valentine Things We LOVE in Merriam…

February is the perfect time to get out and explore Merriam with that special someone in your life! With an entire day devoted to love on Sunday, February 14, hearts, candy, romance and snow are all in the air! If you’re still searching for ideas to surprise your Valentine, despite the challenges of COVID-19, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Merriam. We’ve rounded up our top five Valentine’s Day ideas below–check ’em out!

  1. PUPPIES. Need we say more? Send your love a fluffy, floppy puppygram from Merriam’s Great Plains SPCA. The entire month of February, the staff at Great Plains will deliver a sweet puppy visit to your home, office or home office. Learn more at https://greatplainsspca.salsalabs.org/puppygrams2021/index.html

2. SWEET TREATS. Valentine’s Day equals sweets, and Merriam is chock full of them. Start your day with heart-shaped doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Stop by Russell Stover Candy Co for those famous chocolate dipped strawberries or a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Visit Strawberry Hill Povitica bakery to pick-up a loaf of the famous hand-made dessert bread–try the Cokalada (chocolate), White Chocolate Cherry or Strawberry Cream Cheese flavors. Delight in the Merriam-made Valomilk—a chocolate candy cup with a marshmallow flowing center (available at area retailers and grocers). Or, treat your sweetie to a delicious chocolate shake at Georgetown Pharmacy Soda Shop.

3. WINTER STROLL. Yes, it’s cold outside, but a stroll along Merriam’s Turkey Creek Streamway Trail, or a lap around the lake at Antioch Park are beautiful ways to spend time together outdoors. Bundle up and make snow angels or draw a heart in the snow with your names inside and capture a snowy selfie. Check out Merriam parks here!

4. SPEND THE DAY. Make a day out of your Valentine’s date. Start with breakfast at Pegah’s, then venture out to view the new exhibit on display at the Tim Murphy Art Gallery. Shop ’til you drop by perusing the aisles of “must-haves” at IKEA, or explore the alternative and holistic health items at Gemini in downtown Merriam. Gas up and take an “art-drive” around the city to find Merriam’s fascinating public art, then end the day with takeout from a local restaurant. There’s nothing like exploring for a few hours—you’ll always find something special and new.

5. OR SPEND THE NIGHT. We all love to be at home, but this pandemic has us itching to get out. Consider an overnight at one of Merriam’s hotels and pamper yourself with peace and quiet, sleeping in, a great breakfast, and amenities you’ll appreciate. Check out special offers at exploremerriam.com.

Celebrating Galentine’s instead? Celebrate on Saturday with the gal pals. Head to Merriam Cinemark where you can book your own private screening starting at $99 which includes up to 20 guests. Imagine snacking on popcorn, laughing with friends and enjoying your choice of a classic fan-favorite or a newly released movie in the privacy and comfort of your own auditorium. Book a date online–learn more at cinemark.com/private-watch-party

Giving Thanks in Merriam…

As we approach the upcoming holiday season while continuing to navigate this pandemic, there is still so much to be thankful for in Merriam and across the metro region. Things may look a little different this year–gatherings around the Thanksgiving table will be smaller; visits with family may be less frequent and holiday shopping might be a little more online than in-person. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take joy in the little things, create new traditions, or change up the old ones in the name of Thanksgiving. Here’s a few ideas to get you started this November:

BASK by artist Blessing Hancock
  1. BASK in the blessings — New in Merriam this November is the latest public art installment entitled BASK by artist, Blessing Hancock. The artist’s name alone suggests a quick reminder to count our blessings, but once you see these beautiful life-size sculptures in person, you’ll be given hundreds of new reasons to appreciate Merriam. Using the sun and pools as inspiration, this series was created to relate to the surrounding environment and community activities. The three sculptures incorporate public engagement with language collected from Merriam residents. Hancock explores the concept of “inclusive spaces that foster belonging” by merging these works with an eye-catching sequence of elements to invite physical interaction and human connection. At night, the sculptures come alive with color-changing lighting. Visit this new art installation at the Merriam Community Center, 6040 Slater St.
  2. HELP others in need — Perhaps the most genuine way to feel connected to your community is to help those less fortunate. In Merriam, you can do that by donating a new toy or new/gently used coat to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau. Barrels are in place at City Hall and the Community Center through the first week in December. Your donation supports low-income individuals, families and seniors to help brighten their holidays.
  3. CREATE a new tradition — If you’re not hosting family or traveling due to COVID-19 and feeling a little down about not seeing those you love in person, try creating a new tradition that you begin in November. Some fun ideas include: asking everyone to make a scrapbook page for a book you can share at your next gathering; host a virtual family walk-n-talk as you trek a new trail or grab a few steps in your neighborhood; host a virtual pumpkin pie baking contest and eat dessert together over Zoom; create and share an upbeat playlist, then host a virtual dance party at a preset time and date; begin a holiday puzzle to be completed by December 25th; bake seasonal cookies and deliver to a home-bound neighbor.
  4. PRACTICE gratitude — Starting now, place a big bowl somewhere visible in your home. Include pre-cut strips of plain paper and markers. Ask family members to write something they are thankful for each day and place the note in the bowl. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, take turns reading the notes aloud.
  5. BE GOOD to yourself — Self-care is often overlooked but so incredibly needed, especially during stressful times. You don’t need an entire day at the spa to practice self-care. All it takes to be kind to yourself is a few quiet moments soaking in a bubble bath; listening to a new podcast; picking up a crystal or stone from Gemini in downtown Merriam; trying out a beginner yoga sequence; starting a new series on Netflix with all your favorite snacks; diffusing a nice blend of lavender and eucalyptus oils while grabbing a 25-minute nap; or, calling a friend for a fun chat. Breaking the normal routine of to-do’s and errands for a little bit of “you time” each day will quickly become a new practice if you let it.

On behalf of the Merriam Visitors Bureau, we wish you a month full of thankful moments. Happy November–may your Thanksgiving be plentiful.

Explore Merriam this fall!

Make the most of cool days and chilly nights with these quintessential fall to-dos’ in and around Merriam!

Pumpkin flavor perks!
A cool fall morning isn’t complete without a Pumpkin White Mocha from Caribou Coffee—hit the drive though on your way to work to savor this delicious fall brew. If coffee is really your thing, check out the KC Coffee Trip by KC Destinations on the Otocast app or learn more at www.kcdestinations.com.

Delight in a symphony…at the park.
Head over to shelter #4 in Antioch Park on Thursday, October 1 for an evening of classical music. Sit back and enjoy the tunes as musicians from the Kansas City Symphony perform in neighborhood concerts in parks throughout Johnson County. For more dates and locations, visit https://www.jcprd.com/1575/Symphony-in-the-Park

Peep the fall foliage.
There’s nothing better than strolling along the Turkey Creek Streamway Trail in October and taking in all of the beautiful colors of autumn. You might even spot a deer along the water’s edge.

Go vintage for the day.
Vintage Market Days® is an upscale vintage-inspired indoor/outdoor market featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, home décor, outdoor furnishings, consumable yummies, seasonal plantings and a little more. Visit this 3-day market Oct. 23-25 at Merriam Town Center (tickets required).

Take a history tour.
A perfect way to learn about Merriam’s history is through the Otocast app—download on Google Play or the App Store and explore 13 historic moments throughout Merriam. Learn more at Merriam’s History Tour.

Make a seasonal craft.
Did someone say crafting and wine? Come out to DIY Holiday Décor and Wine on Thursday, Oct. 15 from 5:30-8:30 at the new Merriam Community Center to make an adorable and reversible fall and winter decoration. Sip wine while you craft and create your take-home piece. Registration required at the link above.

Geocaching: Trick or Cache.
Try a new activity this Halloween that the entire family will enjoy! Trick or cache is a fun and safe outdoor activity held at Antioch Park on October 23. Search for caches hidden around the park grounds using Global Positioning Systems (GPS). GPS units, a tutorial, and meal are included during this modern-day scavenger hunt. Register at the link above!

Shop the local scents of fall.
At Merriam’s Mixture, the fall-inspired scents abound. From Pumpkin Spice to Fall Harvest, or even Apple Crisp, your home or office space will be smelling super seasonal. Shop the Mixture outlet M-F from 10-4 or visit online https://madebymixture.com/shop/fall/#shop

Read a good book.
Grab a feel-good fall read or a classic horror novel and spend a few hours reading outside with a mug of hot cider. Not sure what you want to read? Ask a Librarian at Merriam’s Antioch branch of the Johnson County Library or click here for picks by JCL staff.

Partake in some Povitica.
Whether you prefer the classic English Walnut or Apple Cinnamon Povitica, or want to try the new pumpkin cream cheese coffeecake, a trip to Merriam’s Strawberry Hill Povitica is in order this fall. Pick up a loaf for dessert or grab one to share with neighbors and friends. One thing’s for sure…you’ll be back. Here’s a little incentive discount for you to meander on over to 7226 W. Frontage Road. (Povitica is not serving samples at this time, but product can be purchased in-store or online at www.povitica.com).

Road Trip to Merriam

Plan your next summer road trip to Merriam…next door neighbor to Kansas City!

Tired of being stuck at home? Did you have to postpone or cancel the only vacation you planned for 2020? While it’s still a good idea to practice healthy distancing habits, it’s never been a better time to explore somewhere new. Did you know that although millions of Americans have canceled or postponed travel plans, recent travel sentiment studies show that more and more people are already reconsidering their travel plans to include a summer road trip?

What are you waiting for? Grab your keys and gas up the car, bring your social-distance supplies and your appetite for travel, because we’ve got your next summer road trip all mapped out in Merriam, Kansas! Here’s a few items from our jam-packed itinerary:

  • Book your room — discounted rates available.
  • Hit the trails for a leisurely stroll along Merriam’s beautiful Turkey Creek Streamway Trail. This paved path is a great place to see wildlife, grab some steps and connect with nature.
  • Download Merriam’s Sunshine Scavenger Hunt here —snap a selfie when you find the sunshines and tag @ExploreMerriam on social media.
  • Feed the hungry road-trip warriors! Merriam’s got a plate for every palate from handmade tamales at Anita’s, to delicious wraps and burgers at Hurricane Allie’s, to an affordable sit-down dinner at Pegah’s Family Restaurant. Click here for our restaurant selections.
  • Stroll the aisles at IKEA to find home furnishings, décor and essentials, or discover inspiration on the upper level with rooms and rooms of ideas. Don’t forget to grab a tray of cinnamon buns on your way out!

Learn more information about Merriam’s road trip! Here, you can book a discounted hotel reservation, download the 2020 Visitors Guide, print our sample itinerary and map directions to Merriam!

Merriam is a road-trip ready destination just waiting to welcome you! Check out our summer road trip package—we’ve got it all mapped out for you!

Working From Home During COVID-19

The world has shifted. A health crisis is on our doorstep and unknown territory lies ahead. We’re told not to panic. Instead, it’s suggested we arm ourselves with factual, relevant information, shut down the news after a bit, and try to focus on things we can do to practice distancing, self-care and to enjoy productive, happy days.

If you’re one of the millions of workers finding yourself in a tizzy to create a make-shift office from your dining room table with files in a tote bag and a messy kitchen nearby, you are not alone. For those still blessed with sustained employment amid COVID, at-home or remote working might be new, but it doesn’t have to be magazine-style perfect. Let’s take a peek at how to create a successful remote working environment – whether your dining room table, a spare bedroom, unfinished basement, or patio corner. Check out these tips:

  • Designate a space. Claim it, set it up, and prepare your work space so you’re ready to go. Hang your nameplate if you need to, but let your at-home peeps know this is your kingdom. For greater comfort, put out some fresh flowers, light a candle, and throw on your favorite playlist or podcast. Make your area “you.”
  • Make sure you’re connected. You’ll need important tools to connect with your company’s network: Zoom or other conferencing platforms; calendars; data files; cloud storage; etc. – waiting until you need it could be disappointing if things don’t work or connect correctly.
  • Maintain a routine. Go ahead and “get ready for work.” If you hit the gym at 6 a.m., modify your workout at home or take it outside, but keep the same schedule. Changing from nighttime pajamas to daytime pajamas 20 minutes before it’s ‘go time’ might not yield the most effective workday.
  • Take breaks. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve lunch, a mid-day walk, or a break. Stepping away from your computer for a little fresh air is necessary and can help with perspective and focus.
  • Close the kitchen. This is my personal challenge. You don’t snack all day at work, you certainly don’t need to at home. Designate lunch and snack breaks and then step away from the refrigerator.
  • Connect with people. Cats are cute and dogs are loyal coworkers, but you need to connect with other humans – besides your family. Schedule a weekly virtual meeting or happy hour with your team. Conduct a department staff meeting so everyone can connect. Speaking of connections…peep the virtual beauties we created for you below – don’t let yourself be a potato!

With the increase in virtual meetings on Zoom, we created a host of backgrounds for those who love Merriam to download and use when conducting online meetings. We hope you enjoy these beautiful images of Merriam and we encourage you to invite others to come visit when the time is right.

For the complete collection of Merriam Zoom virtual backgrounds, click here.

Quick instructions for downloading and using images in Zoom (must be done on desktop, not mobile):

  1. Click link to Google Drive; select image you prefer and click the three stacked dots (right upper corner); choose download. Image should save to your downloads folder.
  2. Open Zoom on desktop and sign-in. Click on settings (gear beneath your profile pic).
  3. Select virtual background and then click the + sign next to choose virtual background to add images (select the folder where you saved images from Google). Select the image of your choice and click open. Once the image appears in the box, click the X in the upper right corner. The image you selected should now be your virtual background on Zoom.

    Tip: if there is text on your image, deselect “mirror my image” so the text does not appear in reverse.

Happy zooming–be safe out there!

Local Love

How to love your community while social distancing!

A couple of months ago, had anyone asked me if I believed we’d be smack in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, I would’ve told them we’d have a better chance of unicorns falling from the sky. Today, I am in disbelief of the massive, seemingly overnight change in our world. We are in an uncharted and uneasy time as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Shelter in place orders are now in effect across the world, millions of Americans are either out of work or working in an entirely new capacity, grocery store aisles are barren at times, and the toilet paper crisis continues. Coronavirus has become the center of all discussions, news reports and social media posts.

It’s true we must be steadfast and resolve to do our part to lessen the spread of this terrible virus. Staying at home, washing our hands, distancing at least six feet and disinfecting surfaces are all excellent daily practices. And, while the news can be stressful and scary, it’s also a time for us to take stock and reevaluate what’s important. Remembering what we love about our homes and our communities is what will keep us going. Yes, having the kids at home to learn virtually can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Yes, there will be more laundry, a higher grocery bill, and, at times, people will get on each other’s nerves. It’s times like these that we just need to put ourselves in a time-out. Five minutes to breathe, meditate, eat a cream cheese danish–whatever will calm the nerves.

Business wise, travel and tourism has taken a hard hit. Experts predict our industry numbers could be six times worse than that of 9/11. Here at home, our own restaurants are trying to survive on curbside orders, and hotels are down to a skeleton crew, if open at all. We don’t know when things will rebound, or if all of our tourism partners will recover. It’s similar in many industries. We’ve shifted our messaging from bringing in group tours and family reunions, business meetings and sports tournaments, to daily dining-at-a-distance options for our residents to continue supporting our local merchants (and enjoy a break from kitchen duty). We don’t have all the answers and we don’t know when things will get better. We do, however, stand by ready to help our merchants by promoting their online offers, pushing out their messaging and lending an ear as needed. We’re in this together—we are a community.

To that end, we created a local love challenge. Similar to bingo, we think it will be a fun idea to try at home with your family while you shelter in place. See if you can cross off all 12 spots, and then, create a few of your own. The goal here is to be mindful of helping others–whether that is continuing to support local businesses or making a neighbor smile.

Down the road when the virus is wiped out and it’s safe to explore again, we hope you will be able to travel to help reignite the economy. If your budget doesn’t allow a destination far from home, we invite you to explore Merriam…outside of your own home! As always, the Visitors Bureau is a great resource in planning your itinerary in Merriam, Kansas! Until then, stay safe out there and show some love for your local community–at a distance!

Travel Green!

Top 10 tips to reduce your travel footprint.

Happy St. Patty’s day to everyone! March, 2020 has certainly brought about a lot of uncertainty in the world regarding our health, the economy, and the unknown steps ahead. While we switch to a keener awareness of social distancing, abundant hand-washing and a kinder approach to caring for ourselves and others, we’re also hopeful to see a shift towards recovery due to the swift decisions made by leaders at the local, regional and global level.

This month’s blog post was originally slated to discuss traveling green! We believe it’s still a pertinent topic and one that we can all implement while planning our travels ahead–travels we hope can be a reality sooner than later! Some items below are easy, no-brainers that we should already be applying to our everyday lives. Let’s take a look at how to travel green for your next excursion:

  • Bring your own water bottle and remove the plastic bottle surge to our oceans and landfills.
  • Consider a local staycation — learn about your own town, discover historic sites, visit local shops, walk or bike to attractions.
  • Turn off lights when you exit your hotel room; cancel housekeeping and reuse bedding during your stay; hang up towels and use more than once.
  • Bring your own totes—forego the plastic laundry bag at the hotel and store your items in a reusable tote bag instead.
  • Limit showers to five minutes–that’s plenty of time to get clean. Also, turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  • Switch to chemical free travel products–many companies offer green-friendly options from shampoo to body wash and more. If you use the products provided at a hotel, take them with you as they are thrown away if opened, therefore wasting the remaining product.
  • Automate your thermostat while you travel. There’s no sense in keeping your home at 72 degrees when you’re gone for a week.
  • Road-trip ready: make sure your tires are properly inflated; avoid running the air-conditioning; keep filters clean of dust and debris; remove extra weight in the trunk (pack what you will use); turn on the cruise control.
  • Support local everything when you travel–the local coffee shop, the local boutiques, restaurants, clubs, etc.
  • Go off the beaten path–walk a trail, visit a park. Anything you can do to turn off the engine and reduce vehicle emissions.

And, last but not least. If travel continues to be restricted for the weeks or months ahead, go online to explore new destinations. Zoos, museums, historic sites and popular attractions are increasingly offering FREE online virtual tours. While it may not be or feel the same, you can still learn and explore right from the comfort of your social-distanced environment.

Happy travels everyone–whether in person or online!