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.



Spring Break on a Budget!

spring break image, books, appleNothing is better than a mid-March dash to a sunny spot along the coast for Spring Break.  Unless you’re broke.

Well, very soon, schools all over the United States will pause for the highly anticipated annual Spring Break. This little respite gives students and teachers a smidgen of rest before the last quarter, which is typically full of approaching exams, banquets, spring sports and activities. While many high school and college kids will head to warmer destinations, not everyone can jet off for a tropical party on the beach. Many students stay in town for sport practices, jobs or other commitments and others just can’t afford a mini-vacation.

In our house, we would love to get away for some fun in the sun, but there’s just too much on the calendar, so we’ll be spring breaking at home this year. If you’re in the same boat, don’t despair–rather, think about all of the things to do and places to see in your own destination (or nearby). Even if you can only explore for a day, there’s a ton of options out there if you plan ahead and set aside a small budget to fund your in-town travels.

Right here in metro Kansas City, I could probably build an entire week’s worth of activities and places our family has yet to visit and we’ve lived here since the early 90’s. But, if planning ahead isn’t your thing, you’re in luck! Take a look at the Top 10 Spring Break on a Budget suggestions below to kick-off your upcoming itinerary:

  1. For the foodies–enjoy a dining day out; pick three restaurants you’ve never been to before and plan to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner between the three.
  2. Sports enthusiasts can make a day out of zip lining, disc golf, indoor skydiving or biking the local trails for an adventure packed outing.
  3. If history is more your speed, many area museums are FREE and even if you’ve been before, traveling exhibits rotate frequently, so pick a couple to revisit and appreciate.
  4. Take a road trip in your state. Rather than jumping on the interstate, travel the back roads and make a few stops in tiny towns along the way to your destination. Some of those places have the best kept secrets including places to eat and one-of-kind attractions.
  5. Capture the moments and #hash tag them. Your entire spring break could be a cool insta-hop from attraction to attraction. Sharing your memories with friends and followers is fun and also provides a digital collection of your favorite memories.
  6. Families can stick to a budget by incorporating traditionally free attractions like parks and outdoor recreation. Check with your local parks department to ask about programs and events during your spring break week.
  7. Take an art stroll around town; from sculptures to permanent or rotating gallery exhibits, finding the vast collection in your destination could be a fun and new learning experience.
  8.  Volunteer! Did you know there are entire groups of students who forego a break altogether in favor of helping others? If you’re interested in giving back during your free time, there are dozens of options from organizations who need your help.
  9. Get out and play! Not everyone is amazing at a sport, but if you wrangle up a group of friends and make a day out of bowling, arcade games, mini-golf or group games, you can create a fun day for all–without the need for competitiveness or highly skilled athletes. Wrap it up with a BBQ in the park or a bonfire in the country.
  10. Contact the local convention and visitors bureau to see what’s going on in your community! The CVB is always a great resource and oftentimes, the staff has insider tips, recommendations and destination referrals.

Spring breaking in KC? Check out this one-day itinerary of CVB picks for budget-friendly fun across the metro!

  • Start the day with a delicious slice of povitica from Merriam’s local Strawberry Hill Povitica bakery or try breakfast at a restaurant you’ve never been to. I love the chicken and waffles with jalapeno gravy at McCoy’s Public House in Westport (but FYI, brunch is only available Sat/Sun).
  • Head over to the FREE Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (Voted Yelp’s Best U.S. Museum) to check out the exhibits.
  • Just a few blocks away, spend the rest of the morning on a scavenger hunt  through the Country Club Plaza or do some light shopping among the bunnies.
  • There’s no doubt that you’ve added 10,000+ steps on your fitness tracker by now, so maybe it’s time to slow down and take in a movie at Cinetopia (135th & Lamar) in Overland Park. From comfy, living room seating to a fully accessible restaurant and bar, this place is the ultimate movie-goers experience.
  • To finish off the day, round-up your buddies for a little Frisbee in a local park or play baseball at a nearby diamond. En route home, stop by Anita’s Cuisine in Merriam for the very best pupusas around, but be sure to arrive before closing (Mon-Sat, 7:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Happy Spring from the Merriam Visitors Bureau!


Road Trip Packing List–10 essentials you should have!

AAA estimates a projected 35.5 million Americans will travel 50+ miles from home this Labor Day weekend.  Often dubbed the final road trip of the summer season, if you are one of the millions of travelers hitting the open road this weekend, here’s a quick rundown of the essential items you should have on your packing list.

Road Trip Packing List

  1. Visitor guide to the destination you’re headed. It’s a good idea to call and order a guide or download one online at least one month before traveling.  Coming to Merriam? You can order our free guide here!
  2. Travel pillow – road trips are good for sight-seeing and napping. If you’re riding shotgun, take along a travel pillow to support your next as you drift off.
  3. A Reusable water bottle is the number one item I pack everywhere I go next to my cell phone. I prefer a BPA-free bottle with a leak-proof design and plastic or rubberized coating to eliminate breaking or dents.
  4. Emergency roadside vehicle kit – no traveler should be without the basics to get out of a jam. Keep it in your trunk so you’re covered in the event of a breakdown on the road.  Win one from our tourism partner, AAA/H&A Media here!
  5. A map, GPS or mapping app on your cell phone. I love the convenience of digital mapping, but everyone should learn to read and follow a good old fashioned map. Besides, what happens if you have no cell service or battery left? Knowing which way is north could be helpful.
  6. A lightweight, but compartmentalized tote bag. Beyond the luggage you’ll no doubt pack for the duration of your journey, it’s a great idea to toss in a tote bag to use for day-trips, a quick change of clothes, snacks, a blanket, sunscreen and bug spray. I love the line available from Thirty-One Gifts because they have tons of room, lots of pockets and are easy to wipe down and clean up.
  7. Speaking of blanket, if a concert or outdoor hiking destination is on your itinerary, it’s never a bad idea to bring along something lightweight to toss on the ground for a picnic or relaxing break. Consider one with a water resistant backing so you can stay dry.
  8. A great playlist is a must-have for road trips. Explore new music and artists and allow everyone in the car a few song choices to add to the list. I will never forget the vacations with my parents listening to ABBA on 8-track while playing the license plate game with my brother.
  9. Reservations! It seems silly, but some people actually travel without a reservation and sometimes they wind up finding no vacancy at the inn. Booking ahead not only saves you a little money, but it goes a long way in providing peace of mind…not to mention a better room far away from the elevator or the noisy HVAC system. If you’re traveling to Merriam, we can help you find a hotel or you can choose from this list online.
  10. Food and water for the ride is also a must-have since you never know if you’ll be stranded or get the urge for a snack. Traveling with children almost guarantees this is a no-brainer item to take along as it can be used to negotiate good behavior in the car.

AAA Roadtrip kit

One lucky reader will win the 42-piece premium road kit (left) provided by our tourism partner AAA/H&A Media.  Just click over to, share a comment on the Road Trip post and you’ll be entered to win this cool kit for your next road trip.
*Facebook does not endorse or take part in this contest/giveaway. Winner will be randomly selected from the comments of this specific FB post only. No cash or trade value. Drawing will take place the week of September 14th, 2015.