Community centers are great for visitors, too!

Merriam is embarking on ground-breaking developments – literally! As we celebrate the upcoming groundbreaking ceremony of our new community center on Aug. 30, we thought it would be nice to share how a community center is not only great for our local residents, but also for those who visit our city.

Groundbreaking MCC

Community centers are wonderful facilities that serve as gathering places for fitness classes, recreational programs, dedicated art space, and meetings and events. From daily walking clubs to those who meet up once a month for coffee and a chat, a community center is a hub of activity in any city or town. It serves the needs of various audiences from youth to seniors, business executives to gym goers, and many in between. It’s budget friendly for those seeking affordable recreation and the offerings are always abundant.

But, many times, when visiting a new destination, travelers don’t automatically think of a community center as something they can utilize. How many times have you visited a town and headed down to your hotel’s gym, which may only include a couple of machines and a hanging TV? Maybe you’re a free-weight kind of person or you prefer mat space for a quick yoga sesh. Why not consider the local community center? Yes, it might be more valuable to a local resident who pays an annual membership and frequents it regularly, but there’s no doubt you’ll find a great mix of daily classes, a fully accessible gym with all the latest equipment, weights and floor space, a fancy aquatic center (ours will have a lazy river), and a friendly team of people ready to greet you.

On a trip west last year for my annual conference, the hotel gym was a converted gazebo with two treadmills, an elliptical, and a stack of towels on the water dispenser. It was better than nothing, but my head nearly touched the ceiling and it just seemed thrown together. The workout was just meh. That evening, I called the local community center, and it had a 6 a.m. zumba class the next day – visitors welcomed! It was still dark outside on the drive over, but I was so much happier to greet fellow zumba enthusiasts rather than the boring, squeaky gazebo treadmill again. I paid a rate for a drop-in visitor, enjoyed the hour-long sweat marathon, and headed back to the hotel for opening conference session. Don’t get me wrong – many hotels offer fantastic amenities in their fitness centers, but if you crave all of the bells and whistles, a community center is the ticket.

kitty workout

Let’s explore other community center offerings visitors might enjoy while in town:

  • Access to a wide variety of classes — from yoga to bird-watching, personal finance to nutritious meal prep. You can check out the monthly lineup to see if you can learn something new.
  • Drop-in rate on a special program (bingo, cards, movie matinee).
  • Art gallery exhibits and events — many centers offer public viewing space for rotating exhibits.
  • Meeting space usage — need to work remotely for a few hours or find a space where colleagues can gather? Community center rental spaces are often more affordable options.
  • Walking track — get in those daily steps at the local community center.
  • Aquatic center amenities — take a dip in the pool for a refreshing beginning (or end) to your day.

Merriam’s new community center is on track for construction this fall with a proposed opening in summer 2020. This new facility is just minutes from the hotels in Merriam and will give visitors the same great access that residents can enjoy. Stay tuned on our progress here and, in the meantime, join us as we turn the dirt on Aug. 30.

 

 

Let Freedom Ring

Flag FieldWhile backyard BBQ’s and firecrackers are certainly a staple of 4th of July celebrations across the country, here in Merriam, we honor our great Nation in a more subtle and traditional manner. Flags 4 Freedom, an event started by community volunteers in 2006, continues to offer the most beautiful display of Americana as more than 1,500 flags line the streets of downtown Merriam. This sea of red, white and blue is on display through July 7 and offers a breathtaking feeling of patriotic pride as you visit the perfect rows of U.S. flags at the Merriam Marketplace.

Whether you visit with your kids to share the story of the grand old flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or take a few photos for your 4th of July Insta share, Flags 4 Freedom is a must-see display in the Kansas City region.

New in 2018, five thin blue line American flags flank the entrance of Merriam Marketplace in honor of the five fallen Kansas City-area officers who died in the line of duty in Kansas since 2016. The flags honor Kansas City, Kansas Police Capt. Robert Melton and Det. Brad Lancaster, Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Deputies Patrick Rohrer and Theresa King, and Johnson County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Scott Collins. An anonymous donor paid for the flags and yellow dedication ribbons.

Blue Line

Another new feature in 2018 is the selfie spot locations placed strategically throughout the flag field with a little yellow sun. These locations make for excellent selfies and we’d love to see your smiling, patriotic photos @ExploreMerriam #flags4freedom.

selfie spot
Everyone is invited to stop by Merriam Marketplace on Wednesday, July 4 at 1 p.m. to view the astonishing display and listen to the American Legion Band of Greater Kansas City perform a patriotic concert. The flag display ends at 10 a.m. on July 7.

For more information, visit www.flags4freedom.org.

Whether a staycation or vacation, you deserve a break!

Summer Staycation

According to research by Project: Time Off, more than 52% of working Americans leave 705 million earned vacation days on the table every single year. This translates into overworked, overwhelmed and overly tired employees trudging into work because they feel they can’t afford a trip, or miss a day on the job, or their work will pile up, or no one else can do their job….the list goes on. We call these poor, confused people “work martyrs.” Don’t be like them.

Research also proves that taking earned time off can greatly improve your mood, health, sleep and work performance. In fact, vacations help reduce stress, decrease depression and improve heart health—all great reasons we should start planning our vacations now. Senior Author Dr. Eric Schadt states, “on a relaxing vacation, you allow your body to get out of that defensive posture and reduce your levels of stress, which in turn affects the states of cells that are involved in your immune system.”

If all of this vacation talk has you ready to pack up and hit the road, but unsure if you can be gone for too long or afford a cross-country trek, Merriam has launched the Summer Staycation” just in time for your planned days off. Whether you prefer to stay locally and hit up the best attractions KC has to offer, or you’d like to explore more of the sunflower state, our summer offerings pair perfectly with a bottle of sunscreen, a little bit of gas money and an appetite for exploring. From popular local hot spots to favorite road-side attractions, check out the Summer Staycation / Travel Kansas options and have a great trip making memories with those you love!

Untitled design

 

Tourism, Then & Now // #NTTW18

This week, Merriam is celebrating National Tourism Week! This annual event is a time for tourism entities across the nation to recognize those who work in this service industry, and to share with others the vital impact of tourism on our local economy. This year’s theme, “Tourism, Then & Now,”  also gives us a fun opportunity to showcase how Merriam tourism has developed throughout the years. Follow along our ‘then and now’ social posts, or reach out with special thanks to those who work behind the scenes at a hotel or restaurant, convenience store, ride service or retail establishment. Without these individuals serving the visitors to our community, tourism would look vastly different, not only in Merriam, but across the globe.

Take a look at these staggering visitation numbers:

LOCAL / REGIONAL:

  • Merriam’s Pickleball Festival (October, 2017) yielded 135 players from 26 states and four countries and $75,000 in visitor spending over three days.
  • Kansas City welcomes more than 25 million visitors to the region annually.
  • Tourism generated a record $5.5 billion in economic impact for the region, including indirect and induced spending.
  • 23% of visitor spending occurs in Johnson County (47% Jackson County; 6% Wyandotte County).
  • In 2016, tourism to the region generated $380 million in state and local taxes, which in turn saved each area household $550 in taxes.

STATE:

  • 36 million people visit the State of Kansas each year.
  • 14.2 million people stay overnight.
  • Each visitor spends approximately $186 per person, per trip in Kansas.
  • 95,000 tourism jobs in Kansas are supported through visitor spending.

NATIONAL:

  • One in nine jobs depend on travel and tourism.
  • Travel is among the top 10 industries in 49 states and D.C. in terms of employment.
  • Top leisure travel activities for U.S. domestic travelers: (1) visiting relatives; (2) shopping; (3) visiting friends; (4) fine dining; and (5) rural sightseeing.
  • Direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $2.8 million per day, $118.2 million per hour, $2.0 million a minute and $32,800 per second.

This year’s #NTTW18 is more than just another campaign. It’s a movement that positions the travel industry as a primary driver in the U.S. economy, and an important part of our daily lives in Merriam, Kansas.

The Merriam Visitors Bureau gives special thanks to those who work the front lines, behind the scenes, and in any role that services our visitors! Speaking of visitors, we also thank you for choosing our community–your travel dollar supports hundreds of local jobs and allows us to maintain an inviting and enjoyable place for all to live and visit!

 

Turkey Creek Festival Top 10

TCF TOP 10
Merriam’s largest annual festival is approaching, and organizers are gearing up for this highly anticipated family event. The Turkey Creek Festival officially kicks-off the summer event season in Merriam, and is held on the third Saturday in May each year at Antioch Park.

Whether you’re a seasoned TCF pro, or 2018 will be your first festival, you’ll want to be sure to take in all the sights and fun of the day. Gates are open from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., so there’s plenty of time to delight in all things Turkey Creek! To help you enjoy a sampling of the entire festival, check out the Visitors Bureau’s Turkey Creek Festival Top 10 below.

TCF2.jpg

  1. Get your early morning workout in by joining the Turkey Creek Festival 5K. This family friendly route through some of Merriam’s prettiest neighborhoods will earn you the daily 10,000 step count in no time. Learn more here!
  2. After 3.1 miles, you’ve probably worked up a good appetite…satisfy those hunger pangs at the Lions Club pancake feed in shelter #1 at Antioch Park.  From 7:30-11:30 a.m., for the low, low price of $6.00 ($4.00 for kids 12 and younger), you can feast on pancakes, sausage, coffee and orange juice until your heart is content.
  3. Right inside the gates, you can interact with Merriam’s first responders! From touring the fire truck to chatting with police and EMS, Merriam welcomes you to stop by and say hi.
  4. Stroll the artisans expo in search of the perfect home decor piece, hand-made jewelry bauble or other fabulous find.
  5. Tackle a little woodworking project with the kiddos at Home Depot’s building area in the park shelter.
  6. Take a lunch break on the beautiful park grounds! Choose your favorite concession fare–turkey legs, gyros, ribbon curl fries, hot dogs–the menu options are endless!
  7. Sway to the tunes during one of the live concert performances. From country to rockabilly, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fine-tune your two-step!
  8. Ride the train…it’s small, but mighty, and will give you a tiny reprieve traveling from one space to another if you need to rest your legs while giving the kids a fun activity.
  9. Once your legs have recovered, the kids will ask to take the boat ride. Warning…you’ll be pedaling, hence they are called pedal boats. They’re a lot of fun, but make sure you’re prepared to pedal across the small lake and back.
  10. Star Wars characters will be strolling the park grounds. If you’re a character chaser, bring your autograph book and a pen! May the force be with you!

    pedal boats

TCF helpful resources:
Festival video
TCF information
Artisans Expo
5K Run/Walk & Youth Sprint

Trek The Steamway Trail!

Turkey Creek Streamway Trail (9)

The sun is shining, you need to reach your daily step count, the dog is all leashed up, and those new sneakers are begging for a few miles. It’s never a better time to hit the Streamway Trail in Merriam.

This four-mile path will guide you along wooded areas, industrial business centers, residential neighborhoods, public parks and Merriam’s newest art installations, Still Time and Planting the Seeds. Winding along Merriam’s Turkey Creek, the Streamway Trail begins on the south end of Merriam at the 75th Street access point and finishes up near Waterfall Park at 51st and Merriam Drive on the north end of town. The trail also offers access points at Chatlain Park, Campbell Park and the Merriam Marketplace. Serious trail blazers can keep moving along Streamway Trail into Overland Park via Antioch Road.

If you’re ready to lace up and head out for a beautiful day of trekking the trail, be sure to check out page 17 in the new Merriam Community & Visitors Guide to learn about all the sights to see along the way. We’ve even included a tasty homemade trail mix recipe from our Parks & Recreation Director Anna Slocum.

Recipe (1)

More trail tips & helpful info:

  • Trail markers are available every 1/2 mile and emergency 911 markers are available every 1/10 mile.
  • The entire trail is paved.
  • Dog-friendly waste stations are available along the trail.
  • Hop off the trail to enjoy lunch or dinner in downtown Merriam.
  • Grab a JCPRD Trail Guide at the Merriam Visitors Bureau at 6304 E. Frontage Road.
  • Share your trail pics with @ExploreMerriam on Instagram.

 

Happy trails from the Merriam Visitors Bureau!

 

Holidays…KC style!

NEWSROOM Image
Maybe I’m a little biased, and I’m sure most people feel the same about their hometown, but Christmas in Kansas City is magical. Everyone should come here to experience the most wonderful time of the year. From Santa sightings in every corner of the metro to musical performances not to be missed, Kansas City is the place to be for the holidays. If you find yourself on the road or in the sky en route to KC this December, I hope you’ll take the time to add in at least one quintessential Kansas City holiday must-do! Here’s a nice list to get you started:

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all things holiday in Kansas City, it’s a great start when looking for something holiday-ish to-do. What is your favorite holiday tradition in Kansas City? My family’s favorite is driving the neighborhoods to see the light displays (shout out to Candy Cane Lane in Prairie Village), grabbing hot cocoa and ending at the Crown Center shops to select a new ornament for our tree.

Happy holidays from the Merriam Visitors Bureau!