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.

Love is in the air…10 things to do across Kansas City on Valentine’s Weekend!

Sweet, sweet February 14th–same day every year, yet planning ahead for Valentine’s Day seems to sneak up on us. In 2016, this traditional lovebird holiday falls on a Sunday which means you can probably celebrate Saturday or Sunday without last-minute, after-work dinner reservations and daycare shuffling.

To help you prep for a special and memorable V-day, the Merriam Visitors Bureau has compiled a list of 10 things to do on Valentine’s weekend in Merriam and across the Kansas City region. Pick one or be ambitious and shoot for all 10—but, whatever you do, don’t be the person standing in the picked over Valentine card section at the local grocery store on February 14th.

valentine's image

  1. Sample the newest flavor of Merriam’s favorite dessert bread at Strawberry Hill Povitica! The White Chocolate Cherry is the perfect gift to share over dessert coffee or champagne. Stop by the store to pick-up or order any of their 12 delicious flavors online—and, click here for the CVB discount so you can save a little on your purchase!
  2. Lock up your love on the Old Red Bridge in Minor Park (Kansas City). Bring a padlock, whisper sweet nothings and pick a special place to secure your lock on the bridge.
  3. Celebrating with the littles: enjoy Merriam’s Daddy Daughter Soiree on Saturday, February 13th. For $50 per couple, your little lady will be over the moon (or the Eiffel Tower) to share this special event with you. Learn more details here!
  4. Take a cooking class together. The Culinary Center of Kansas City offers weekend classes for couples that are sure to spice up your love of cooking—and, each other. Check out the class listings here.
  5. Hanging out at home? Sway to the tunes of a great playlist on Spotify, nosh on gourmet popcorn from Velvet Crème and sip a bottle of bubbly while watching romantic movies in your PJ’s (our pick: Dirty Dancing).
  6. Visit the Russell Stover Candy Company at 10100 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Merriam to sample chocolates together and then buy your favorite for each other!
  7. Splurge on a fancy restaurant! FEAST Magazine just published the Top 10 Romantic Restaurants in Kansas City. Choose from the list for an impressive start to an evening full of good food and plenty of ambiance to set the mood.
  8. Feeling adventurous? Fly above the trees on a zip line in Bonner Springs at Adventure Zip KC. Check out their website for hours, options and pricing.
  9. Wine tour in Kansas City, anyone? If you’ve got a palate for red or white, the KC region offers an abundance of local wineries to sip and savor. KC Wine Co. is hosting “Love is in the Air” on Valentine’s Weekend.
  10. Wanna get away? If jetting off to somewhere tropical isn’t in the Valentine budget, stay local! Merriam has five affordable hotels and is nearby plenty of shopping and dining venues, attractions and romantic spots across the metro. You can enjoy a staycation right here in KC.

Happy love day to our friends and followers—we heart you and we hope you make this Valentine’s weekend one to remember.

xoxo—The Merriam Visitors Bureau!