Fall for Merriam!

The leaves are changing, temps are dipping and it’s time to unpack the fall wardrobe in preparation for sweater weather. From Friday night lights to not-so-scary frights, Merriam’s got a great lineup of seasonal activities for the whole family! Check out our fall faves!

  • Take a reflective selfie at Planting the Seeds located at the Merriam Marketplace. Tag @ExploreMerriam so we can like it and love it!
  • Download the Otocast app (free on Google Play or the App Store) to learn about Merriam’s fascinating story. The Interactive Merriam History Tour features engaging content, then & now photos, dynamic narratives and a map to guide you from site to site. 
  • Go Chiefs! Sip some brewskis at Bilski’s, 5831 Merriam Drive. Watch the big game, order the daily special and enjoy Merriam’s friendly neighborhood bar and grill.
  • Make it a movie night at Merriam’s Cinemark—don’t forget the popcorn!
  • Park hop for the day! See how many parks you can visit on a weekend, or check out Merriam’s Waterfall Park to see Hmmm….our newest art exhibit on display.
  • Enjoy KC Destinations newest trips–KC Coffee, KC History and KC Quirky. Learn more at www.kctrips.org.
  • Dress in your spookiest gear and head over to Halloween Happenings on Saturday, October 26 from 2-3:30 pm.
  • Sample the delicious dessert bread at Strawberry Hill Bakery on the West Frontage Road. Try their newest creation, the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffee Cake!
  • Plan a family staycation at one of Merriam’s hotels—the Hampton Inn & Suites, Extended Stay America, Quality Inn and Drury Inn & Suites have great rates at www.exploremerriam.com/hoteldeals
  • Take a stroll along Merriam’s Turkey Creek Streamway Park. Play a game of “I Spy” along the way with the kiddos.
  • Stock up on Merriam swag! We’ve got new long-sleeve tees for $15—stop by City Hall during normal operating hours to purchase.
  • Stop by Merriam Historic Plaza to grab a visitors guide or postcard, snap a pic with the bears or grab a cup of coffee!
  • Geocache your way through Merriam—find hidden containers using clues and coordinates. Learn more at https://exploremerriam.com/825/Geocaching

See you in Merriam this fall! Follow us on Facebook @ExploreMerriam to stay up-to-date on Merriam happenings.

Plan for Vacation Day!

It may seem early to begin thinking of plans for your next summer vacation, but U.S. Travel encourages you to do just that, and here’s why:

  • Last year, more than 705 MILLION vacation days went unused—many of which cannot be regained.
  • Those who actually plan their vacation days in advance are far more likely to use all of their earned time off than non-planners.
  • Taking time off is associated with higher productivity, performance, a more positive attitude toward work, increased happiness, improved mental and physical health, better relationships and social life.
  • Employees who take their vacation time are more likely than forfeiters to have been promoted within the last year (27% to 23%) and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (84% to 78%).

On Tuesday, January 29 (also Kansas Day), U.S Travel encourages you to take some time with your family to plan out your 2019 vacation. Whether it’s an extended weekend or a week-long jaunt across the country, it’s YOUR earned time off and you should be the one in charge of it! Use this handy vacation planning tool to get started!

If Kansas City is on the map of places to consider this year, we invite you to explore nearby Merriam! Just a few short miles from downtown KC, Merriam is ideal for a couple’s road trip , a girlfriends’ getaway or a family-friendly visit. Tree-lined streets, walking trails, parks, flower baskets on town lampposts, striking public art … our landscapes offer an extra measure of delight. And, a surprising number of year-round events and activities deliver plenty of fun things to see and do … for kids and adults alike.

Learn more about visiting Merriam at www.exploremerriam.com or follow us on social @ExploreMerriam! Happy travels.

Behind the Scenes at the Merriam Visitors Bureau…

Summer has come to an end, and while the visitor turnout may slow a bit during the fall and winter season, the Merriam Visitors Bureau is open year-round to welcome and service our guests. From meeting patrons to bridal parties, sports parents to motor coach travelers, the local visitors bureau office is often the first stop for visitors to any community.

Because no two days are alike inside the bureau office, we thought we’d give you a sneak peek into our to-do list and the top five visitor questions we receive from walk-in guests. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse, and we welcome you to come see us on the East Frontage Road in Merriam.

Top 5 questions at the visitors bureau office:

  1. Why are there bears outside? — The bears are a fun play on Merriam’s history during the operational years of Merriam Park (1880s). A mama bear and her baby cubs roamed the zoo grounds that were located inside the park, and the superintendent would have to coax them back to their den in the evening. Interestingly enough, we also have an elementary school in Merriam with the bear as their mascot!
  2. I never knew this building was here. How long have you been here? — Merriam Historic Plaza and Visitors Bureau was built in 2006 and has been serving visitors from this location ever since. However, did you know we have had a visitors bureau office in Merriam since the late nineties?
  3. What is the difference between a visitors center and a visitors bureau? — Slight differences, but mostly in size, staffing and hours. Visitor centers are typically state funded, operated year-round and solely provide visitor service (maps, directions, restrooms, etc.) Some are located inside convenience stores and rest areas, others are free standing. Kansas has only two visitor centers—one in Belle Plaine and one in Goodland. The local visitors bureau is typically managed through the local city, chamber of commerce or contracted independently. A visitors bureau is often funded by guest tax dollars of visitors staying in that city’s hotels. More than just a walk-in facility, the visitors bureau is oftentimes the marketing branch for the destination, and handles sales and service too.
  4. Where do you get your beautiful flower baskets? — This question is our favorite because our Public Works department actually makes them in-house. They also host a basket making workshop in the early spring, so for around $40, you can make one too. We think Merriam has the most beautiful flower baskets in the metro!
  5. What should I do when I’m in town? — This one varies based on the visitor’s interest (and sometimes the weather). From history to art, food to festivals, we can certainly make some fun recommendations for everyone, but there’s nearly always a BBQ request.

In case these questions don’t quite explain what we do here at the visitors bureau office, we’ve also created the list below of what we might be working on any day of the week, but we’re always happy to customize the visitor experience! It’s one of the reasons we’re named a “top tourist-friendly city in the U.S.” by Expedia. So, if you’re looking for super amazing visitor assistance, please give us a shout!

Here’s a sampling of the CVB day in the life:
Restock visitor brochure racks; respond to visitor inquiries for local places to dine, shop and stay; maintain the bureau office, meeting room and historic plaza grounds; assist walk-in visitors with questions, maps, referrals and suggestions; attend meetings (regional, state, etc. that impact the tourism economy and industry); update website and online offers; conduct site inspections with local hotels and area businesses by request; provide step-on greeting for incoming buses and groups; escort motor coach tours; setup and attend industry trade shows; conduct sales calls and visits; design visitor promotions; market local and regional events; manage social media accounts; write travel blog posts (like this one); design and write the annual Merriam Visitors Guide (big job, lots of coffee); participate in City of Merriam events, employee activities and regional promotions; meet with local businesses to encourage visitor discounts and special offers; provide unified voice on issues related to tourism; connect local residents with visitor services for incoming guests; provide speaking engagements for local and regional groups (Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc.); other duties as assigned, and as the day dictates — this week, for example, we are turning our fountains pink for breast cancer awareness and next week is the annual tourism conference in Junction City.

Merriam Drive Live 101

Saturday, October 6 marks the inaugural music festival in downtown Merriam! Merriam Drive Live will kick off the first weekend in October with rockin’ live music, local food trucks, a kids zone with fun activities for the littles, and an adults only area with tasty beverages and yard games.
Whether you’re a seasoned music festival attendee, or this is your first event, check out these tips to make Merriam Drive Live a successful outing for you and your family.
  • Pack for the day. Grab a blanket for the lawn, sunscreen, lawn chairs, bug spray, water, water and more water, and sunglasses. Nothing spoils a party like a missing necessity.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and bring clothing layers that you can add or shed based on the temp.
  • Don’t forget a portable charger. If you like to record acts and share clips, your battery life will suffer, so make sure to have a backup.
  • Even if you plan to delight in the yummy selections of the food trucks on site, it’s always a good idea to bring along a granola bar or a few portable snacks.
  • Bring cash. Some vendors may not have credit card capability, so plan ahead to bring a few dollars with you.
  • Enjoy the show. We tend to watch through the lens of our phones nowadays, so resist the urge every once in a while and truly watch the performances.
  • The kids zone is a great place for family time–from face painting to the balloon guy, and the touch-a-truck event, we’d love for you to share your favorite moments at #ExploreMerriam.
  • Make it a mini vacay! Add in a few more weekend attractions, a reservation at a Merriam hotel and explore the city. Find great rates at www.exploremerriam.com/hoteldeals
  • Most importantly, plan ahead for a designated driver if you plan to imbibe. We want you back at the next Merriam Drive Live!

Learn more about Merriam Drive Live!

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!

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