Joplin Holiday Experience

(Updated 12/14/18: The following is my family’s Joplin holiday itinerary from a recent Christmas. While some of the same events will be held again this year, there are new ones that I’m eager to experience, and I’ve put a link to those at the end of this post. My hope is that, by reading this, you will be inspired to participate in the holiday festivities around town and to make special memories with your own families.)

 

Fahoo Fores. Dahoo Dores.

Welcome, Christmas. Come this way.

Fahoo Fores. Dahoo Dores.

Welcome, Christmas, Christmas day!

 

The chorus of the imaginary Whoville townsfolk resounded in my mind as my family and I joined our fellow Joplin citizens gathered in downtown’s Spiva Park.

 

holiday ex whoville

On this particular night, the park’s center fountain was silent, its pool drained for the season; in its place stood a towering Christmas tree, made from strings of Christmas lights which were not yet illuminated.

 

This is why we had come – to share the experience of welcoming Christmas with our neighbors and friends.

 

And with this snowy fellow.

 

holiday ex snowman

This was the annual Spiva Park Tree Lighting, which is held every year at the end of November.

 

“Look! Cotton candy!” said my daughter, as a vendor balanced fluffy pink and blue clouds of the sweet confection while he navigated through the crowd. “Can I get some?” she asked.

 

“Sure!” I said, caught up in the spirit of the Whos. Why not buy her cotton candy to accompany the hot chocolate and cookies which were being handed out at the event? There’s no such thing as too many sweets in Whoville!

 

Finally, the time came for the lighting of the tree. We Whos stood around in anticipation of the lights that would serve as a beacon, welcoming the holiday season to our town.

 

With the click of a button, the park was bathed in brilliance as the lights of the tree danced along to Christmas music. The magic of the holidays entered the park, swirling through the crowd.

 

holiday ex spiva tree

There have been few times during the Christmas season that I, as an adult, have felt as full of wonder and bliss as I did when I was a kid. This was one of those times. I know it sounds corny. Believe me, I was completely surprised by my emotional response, but there it was.

 

My heart grew three sizes that night, and I understood how the Grinch felt as he witnessed the joy of the townsfolk in Whoville.

 

I made a mental note to bring my parents to Spiva Park the following week when they would be visiting from Chicago. I had a jam-packed schedule for them, full of shopping, eating, and attending Christmas events. I wanted to show them the full Joplin Holiday Experience.

 

 

Thursday

My parents arrived in town late Thursday afternoon. We took them for an early dinner to Mythos, a Mediterranean restaurant that was designed for celebration – and being with my parents during the holiday season was certainly a reason to celebrate!

 

Mythos serves traditional Greek dishes like Moussaka, as well as excellent beef dishes like the Blackberry Filet. We ordered the Kasseri Saganaki, a Greek cheese, and watched in amazement as our server pan seared it tableside, finishing it off with a touch of brandy which caused it to flame in a dramatic presentation. 

 

holiday ex mythos

Warmed up by the delicious food, we were ready to go to our first holiday event: Journey to Bethlehem. Located about ten minutes south of Joplin at Racine Christian Church, Journey to Bethlehem is a free annual production that offers a Christmas stage show indoors, as well as an outdoor walk-through living nativity. A cast of over 200 people, as well as live animals, makes this a one-of-a-kind experience.

 

As we walked along the path outdoors, angels appeared to us to deliver the news that the Messiah would soon be born. I’ll never forget how awed my daughter was by this wondrous scene.

 

Driving back home from Journey to Bethlehem, my girls shared their favorite moments from the evening, and talked about how they couldn’t wait to go again next year. It looks like we have a Christmas tradition in the making!

 

 

Friday

Everyone awoke hungry, possibly due to having dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads all night. After getting the kids off to school, I took my parents to The Bruncheonette, a farm-to-table restaurant housed in a tiny brick building in downtown Joplin.

 

holiday ex brunch

The Garden Bennie

 

Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served here, and the daily specials are as much fun to read as they are to eat, like the Shiver Me Tenders, an English muffin topped with beef tenderloin, sauteed onions, Gruyere cheese, poached eggs, and mustard daze.

 

Our next stop took us just a few blocks away to the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts. Here we viewed the latest exhibits in the three galleries, then browsed through the center’s gift shop, where we found items crafted by local artisans, like this necklace (which my mom bought for my sister).

 

holiday ex spiva necklace

My mom checked off many people from her gift-buying list over the next few hours as we focused our shopping in downtown Joplin. “You have such unique stores here,” she said to me. “They sell things that you can’t find in Chicago.”

 

I was glad to see that my mom recognized what I had known for a while now: Joplin has distinctive local shops that make holiday gift-buying a pleasurable experience rather than just another thing that you have to do over the holidays.

 

holiday ex downtown shopping

Blue Moon Boutique

 

We finished shopping just in time to pick up the kids from school, then we brought the entire family back downtown for an early dinner at Red Onion Cafe, a casual, urban restaurant that has made its home in Joplin since 1995.

 

We ordered the popular Smoked Chicken Dip as an appetizer, and the dishes that my family chose for dinner ranged from the Chicken Walnut Salad (served with Red Onion Cafe’s house sweet vinaigrette), to the Love Me Tender beef sandwich, and to the Penne from Heaven, bathed in a creamy sauce.

 

Since we were pressed for time, we passed up the Red Onion Cafe’s homemade desserts, eliciting groans from my kids who love the sweets here. But we had tickets for an evening performance at Ozark Christian College, just north of downtown, and we didn’t want to be late.

 

Every year, OCC presents a holiday production, and this year OCC partnered with Stained Glass Theatre and College Heights Christian Church to present the musical version of the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 

holiday ex occ wonderful life

We settled into our balcony seats inside the packed auditorium, feeling a bit sleepy from our ample dinner. But when the orchestra began playing, we sat up straight, captivated by the sound of live music so grand that it seemed to consume every inch of space in that cavernous room.

 

Being next to those who mean the most to me while watching a play which delivered the message of gratitude made me thankful for my very own wonderful life.

 

Saturday

My girls were not thrilled to wake up early on a Saturday, but the idea of biscuits and gravy, generously stuffed omelets, and fluffy pancakes (Minnie Mouse ones for the youngest) served as a reward for their lost shut-eye.

 

I’m talking about the homestyle breakfasts at Granny Schaffer’s. We all enjoyed our hearty breakfasts, and my mom raved about the coffee, which is micro-roasted every day in small batches to bring out its aroma and flavor.

 

We stopped at Northpark Mall next. My youngest was giddy with excitement because she got the chance to tell the big guy in red what was on her Christmas list this year. After snapping a picture of her on Santa’s lap, my dad walked the kids to the Tilt Studio, an entertainment mecca located inside the mall, while my mom and I did some serious Christmas shopping for the kids.

 

holiday ex tilt

Later, we met at the mall’s food court for a bite to eat before hitting Kohl’s and Target (great for stocking stuffers!), located just across from Northpark Mall in the North Park Crossing Shopping Center.

 

By the time we had finished shopping, the sun had dipped beyond the horizon, and everyone’s energy was waning, so I thought some fresh air would revive us. I wanted to share Spiva Park’s Whoville experience with my parents, and we were lucky to catch the beginning of the light show, which begins on the half hour. I felt just as joyful watching the lights then as I did at the tree lighting the week before.

 

Magic never gets old.

 

We walked a few blocks down Main Street to check out the decorations in the store windows, which can get pretty elaborate since the business here compete for the title of best display. My dad, a major history buff, chose the turn-of-the-century display at the Newman Building as his favorite.

 

holiday ex window 2

My girls liked the snowman display the best.

 

holiday ex window 1

Our walk had led us to our dinner destination that night: Club 609. My parents, husband, and I ordered Club 609’s signature Key Lime Martinis while we looked through the extensive menu. My favorites here include the Thai Chicken Salad, Chicken Bijan, and any of their burgers.

 

By the end of dinner, you could have stuck a fork in us – we were done. It had been a long, busy day, but it was a good busy. We created lasting memories with my parents while they were in town visiting, and we had the chance to introduce them to the Joplin Holiday Experience

 

holiday ex newman santa

 

For  information about holiday events for this year, check out the Joplin Holiday Experience Facebook page by clicking here, or view the Visit Joplin MO event calendar by clicking here.

 

 Happy holidays!

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Enlight Inn

We all could use some pampering every now and then, taking a time-out from the stressors in our fast-paced lives in order to catch our breath. This pampering may involve a massage or pedicure at the spa, allowing others to take care of us for a few hours so we can relax before being thrust back into our normal routines again.

 

But what if there were a place where you could not only get pampered, but you could also be inspired to live a life of wellness and self-care?

 

I discovered such a place, right here in Joplin, called Enlight Inn. I spent two days sampling the many services offered here (rough, huh?), and the experience not only left me feeling amazing, but it also introduced me to news ways of approaching self-care and stress reduction. It was like my reset button had been pressed, prompting me to become more mindful in my everyday habits.

 

enlight inn sign

Located in a complex of quaint white cottages that once comprised a Route 66 motor inn decades ago, Enlight Inn is the brainchild of Joplinite Christa Tullis. With over 20 years of experience in the wellness industry, Christa wanted to create a center where she could share the tools that she found most beneficial in the journey to restore her own health (which you can read about in her book). In 2017, Christa opened the doors of Enlight Inn, ushering in a novel approach to wellness in the Joplin area.

 

enlight inn cottages

The Enlight Inn complex reminds me of a college campus (but one where you get to attend your favorite classes and automatically pass just for showing up). There are the “classrooms” of experiential learning, which are the spa rooms where you learn about new techniques while getting pampered (a total win); the drive-through “cafeteria” which offers smoothies and healthy snacks; and the “dorms,” whimsical individual cottages where you can spend the night (which is a good idea if you feel like jelly after the spa services, like I did).

 

SPA SERVICES

Here’s an overview of the services I received:

 

Whole body vibration

Far infrared sauna session

Mind spa

Flotation therapy

Fascia blasting

Halotherapy

 

I really didn’t know what to expect from any of these since they were all new to me. Now that I’ve experienced them, I’ll describe what they’re like.

 

Whole Body Vibration

When I first saw the Zaaz machine, I panicked.

 

enlight inn zaaz

Did they want me to exercise? Thankfully, no. All I had to do was stand on the machine and it started vibrating. Before long, I was shaking like J.Lo (or was it jello?), and the unexpected sensation made me giddy. Why make your body shake like a leaf? To increase metabolism and improve lymphatic flow (which helps the body detox).

 

Far Infrared Sauna

My idea of a sauna used to be a small wooden room filled with heat so dry and hot that it’s nearly impossible to breathe. But there are new types of saunas, like this far infrared sauna which heats the body from inside a zippered dome, leaving your head exposed to (blessedly cool) room-temperature air.

 

enlight inn sauna

Before you climb inside, you’ll need to strip down to your birthday suit. Then, you perch your hiney on the towel-covered chair, place your feet on the designated cool plates, set the timer, then zip up the dome from the inside. There are openings for your hands so that you can read, or use your phone, or turn on the portable fan when your body starts getting toasty (I was so grateful for that little fan).

 

enlight inn chris sauna

It’s getting hot in here!

By the end of my session, I was as as soggy as a swamp monster, which is a good thing because the sauna aids your body in detoxifying and improving circulation. Bonus: My skin felt so supple afterward and my daughter even said that it was glowing hours later.

 

Mind Spa

This one really surprised me – in a good way. The mental vacation created by the combination of tools used in the mind spa was downright psychedelic, and it was one vacation from which I didn’t want to return.

 

enlight inn osaki chair

First, I got settled in the zero-gravity Osaki massage chair (aka my new best friend), then I put on brainwave entrainment glasses, which use pulsing lights to stimulate the brain to align to the same frequency as a certain stimulus (faster pulsing to elevate your mood, or slower pulsing for relaxation). Your eyes remain closed while the wearing the glasses so you don’t look directly at the light.

 

enlight inn meditations

Finally, I chose a meditation which would guide me to a twilight state in which I would receive positive suggestions for an area that I wanted to work on. When these three tools were set up, my session began. (Don’t worry, you won’t have to figure all of this out on your own. Someone from Enlight Inn will be there to walk you through the process and get you settled.)

 

Now, I’ve sat in massage chairs before, but they were nothing like this Osaki, which used a variety of techniques to knead my tight muscles. When the arm compartment activated, it felt like someone was giving me a warm hug. The rhythmic kneading of the chair, combined with the pulsating lights and soothing meditation made me feel like I was in a cocoon. I never wanted to emerge.

 

Across the room from the Osaki chair is an area where you can put on a headset and try out a virtual reality meditation, which will make you feel as though you are physically immersed in whichever setting you choose. This is a fun way for beginners to ease into the practice of meditation.

 

Flotation Therapy

What happens when you enter a tub filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt? You float. Why is that a good thing? When you float, stress melts away and the magnesium sulfite in the water eases muscle aches and pains.

 

The first part of my session in the private flotation therapy room involved taking a pre-float rinse in the shower to help make sure that the tank’s Epsom salt water stays as free as possible from outside contaminants (you float without clothes on, as well). I also grabbed a pair of earplugs to keep the water out, a neck pillow, and a washcloth to wipe off the salt water that would inevitably sting my eyes when I touched my face (which happened several times).

 

Here’s what it looks like going into the tank:

 

enlight inn tank door

enlight inn tank opening
enlight inn tank tub sky 2

 

enlight inn tank tub

 

enlight inn tank starry sky

The tank itself was bigger than I expected. There are three buttons on the wall to the right that control the starry lights on the ceiling, the tub lights, and the music.

 

enlight inn tank buttons

Next to those is an intercom button. Once I was settled into the tank, I pressed this to let the person at the front desk know that I was ready for my session to begin (I could also press this at any time during the session if I needed anything).

 

For the first few minutes, I played around with the buttons to experience the different sensory options. I quickly decided that I preferred to float in silence, and in complete darkness.

 

The most difficult part of floating for me was trying to quiet my monkey mind. But I think this is something that will get easier with each float; the more I get accustomed to the experience, the more I’ll be able to let go.

 

For those of you who may be anxious about staying in a tank for an extended period of time, I want to point out that I was able to get out at any time to take a break or use the restroom. I knew my session was over when I heard the water pumps turn on. I then showered to rinse off the salt residue (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are provided).

 

I felt deeply relaxed after my flotation therapy session, and I desperately wanted to check into one of the cottages and sleep the rest of the afternoon, but reality dictated that I must pick up my children from school. Knowing that I’d be back the following day for more spa services made the transition easier.

 

Fascia Blasting

The following day I returned for a fascia blasting session. Fascia blasting is a technique developed by Ashley Black which uses hard-noduled plastic tools to help break up the connective tissue (fascia) that surrounds our muscles which can sometimes become so tight that muscle movement is restricted.

 

enlight inn fascia tools

Breaking up the fascia allows for ease of movement, reduced pain, and – bonus – a smoother appearance of the skin (see you later, cellulite!).

 

Because fascia is more malleable when it’s warm, each blasting session at Enlight Inn begins with a 15-minute sit in the far infrared sauna. After that, it’s time for blasting on the massage table.

 

enlight inn massage room

Fascia blasting involves moving the plastic tools vigorously across the skin, applying more pressure as needed in areas that are more bound. I wouldn’t say this is a relaxing technique, but it certainly is an effective one. Think of it like deep tissue massage work: it hurts so good (but never to the point of pain).

 

I was so intrigued by this technique that I immediately booked a second session and then went on Amazon and bought a fascia blasting tool to use at home for maintenance. Using it has helped loosen my neck and hip – the areas where I tend to hold tension.

 

Halotherapy

A few friends of mine joined me in the afternoon for a halotherapy session. This service uses a halogenerator to dispense a fine aerosol of salt particles throughout the room in order to recreate the climate of natural salt caves. (The halogenerator is located behind this door.)

 

enlight inn halotherapy

When inhaled, the particles act like a gentle brush, moving mucus and bacteria through the airways and improving respiration.

 

enlight inn halotherapy group

What I liked about our halotherapy session is that I got to catch up with my friends in a relaxing environment while doing something beneficial for my body.

 

THE CAFE

After our session, we stopped at the Cafe and I ordered a Bulletproof Coffee (made with Bulletproof beans, MCT oil, and grass-fed butter), and my friend Carrie ordered snacks which included veggies and Zummus (hummus made with zucchini), and Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding.

 

enlight inn food

Christa’s experience as a raw foodist has influenced the selection of healthy menu items, which also includes a variety of smoothies.

 

enlight inn drive through

With Enlight Inn’s convenient drive-through window, it’s easy to eat clean while on the go.

 

PRIVATE COTTAGES

These cozy cottages provide a convenient crash pad when you’ve had a day filled with spa services and don’t want to drive anywhere. They’re also a unique option for out-of-towners who can take advantage of Enlight Inn’s services while visiting Joplin (overnight guests receive discounts on spa services, too).

 

enlight inn guest room

The beds in each cottage are also equipped with grounding mats, which have a negative charge. As we go throughout our day, we build up a positive charge in our bodies, and having contact with a grounding mat can even out this positive charge and return our bodies to a neutral state. When you sleep at Enlight Inn, your body is restored in more ways than one!

 

Not only did I receive pampering during my visit to Enlighten Inn, but I also earned my degree in self-care. I learned that the things that I do for self-care shouldn’t be departures from my daily routine; they’re essential to the foundation of a life lived to the fullest.

 

I guess you could say I’ve become enlightened.

 

Enlight Inn is located at 3817 North Main Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, or click here to follow it on Facebook. Christa Tullis is also an instructor at Precision Pilates.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Joplin Avenue Coffee Company

Friends was a popular TV show when I was in college, and I’ve always wanted to hang out with my own friends at a place as cool as Central Perk.

 

I recently found that place, and it’s called Joplin Avenue Coffee Company.

 

The second I stepped inside this coffee shop, I felt hip. The interior is an eclectic mix of local art, festive twinkling lights, and whimsical vintage items (like coffee pots and a retro TV – you know, the kind where you have to change the channel manually).

 

coffee jac front

The place was abuzz with activity, yet it was still quiet inside. People were either working on their laptops or talking to each other in hushed tones.

 

JACC’s extensive menu is written in colored chalk on a board behind the counter; there’s a variety of latte drinks with playful names like the Lucky Leprechaun, as well as non-espresso drinks (great treats for kids), smoothies, teas, and regular old joe.

 

coffee menu

I ordered the Marilyn, one of JACC’s most popular lattes. The combination of white mocha and sweet caramel went down smoothly, and instantly warmed me up. I also enjoyed crunching on the chocolate-covered espresso bean that was served with my drink – what a fun treat with my coffee.

 

I ordered a chai tea latte for my husband (he doesn’t drink coffee – weird, right?), and it had a nice balance of cream and spice.

 

After fueling up at the counter, JACC customers can find a spot to plug in and enjoy free wi-fi. There are tables in the sunny front room, plus this single table in this incredible nook.

 

coffee nook

There’s also a large room in the back that has lounge seating (perfect for conversing), and high tables near electrical outlets (perfect for studying and working).

 

coffee wifi

The focal point in the back room is this bar – a curious site in a coffee shop.

 

coffee bar

Apparently, this back room is used when JACC hosts private parties and concerts (click here to see what’s happening on JACC’s Facebook page).

 

With its hip, relaxed atmosphere and steady flow of regular customers, JACC is Joplin’s Central Perk.

 

 

Joplin Avenue Coffee Company is located at 506 S. Joplin Avenue. Click here to see its Facebook page.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill

It’s laughable, really.

 

To think that you could have one of the finest seafood meals you’ve ever tasted inside a plain building next to a Sav-A-Lot grocery store, which is located in a landlocked town that’s situated over 1,000 miles from both the West Coast and the East Coast seems, well, preposterous.

 

But don’t let the absurdity of this idea keep you from seeing for yourself, because if you did, you’d miss out on dining at one of the best restaurants in Joplin.

 

And that’s no laughing matter.

 

Like a beacon in a sea of meat-and-potato cuisine, Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill beckons those who yearn for the taste of fresh seafood in Ozarks. It’s one of the restaurants where I take people who are visiting Joplin because I want to impress them. After all, just because our city is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t have gourmet restaurants.

 

At the helm of Crabby’s is owner Chef Damien Tiregol, who received the honor of Chef of the Year in 2017 from Feast Magazine, a publication that covers the culinary scene in Missouri and southern Illinois. I’m glad to see that Chef Damien’s creativity and talent are being recognized by someone other than his loyal patrons because he’s an incredibly skilled chef.

 

My husband Travis and I recently dined at Crabby’s, and I’m still thinking about the meal (which is making my stomach growl as I’m typing this). Actually, it’s not just the meal that was memorable – it was the experience.

 

crabbys exterior (1)

The restaurant’s simple, windowless exterior belies the sophisticated urban atmosphere inside.

 

crabbys interior

The small, softly lit dining area is separated by a full-service bar, which you can sit at if you need to wait for a table (reservations are recommended during the weekend).

 

crabbys artwork

The work of a local artist Josie Mai currently adorns the walls, creating a unique wallscape which changes regularly to feature different artists (the pieces are for sale, too). The feeling inside is cozy, but still busy enough to make you feel like you are out and about in a big city.

 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.

 

crabbys crab cakes

This signature Crabby’s dish was served with a smoky roasted red pepper ragout, and the refreshing sauvignon blanc I was drinking provided a nice contrast to the dish. Crabby’s drink menu offers a variety of wines to pair with your meal, as well as cocktails to sip on while you socialize (the Raspberry Lemon Drop Martini is my favorite).

 

Our entrees came with the choice of soup or salad.

 

crabbys salad

I normally choose the House Salad with Crabby’s light and refreshing Honey-Lavender Vinaigrette, but since the Butternut Squash Bisque had just returned to the menu for the fall season, I felt conflicted. In the end, I made the right decision: I chose the salad with a cup of the bisque.

 

crabbys butternut

The creamy bisque was slightly spiced, and lightly sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and molasses. This dish says, “Welcome, Fall,” and is a treat that I look forward to each year.

 

Travis chose an item that’s on the menu year-round: Seafood Chowder. The hearty chowder’s richness was accented by a dash of spice and smoky bacon.

 

Steak, pork, chicken, and duck dishes are alternative entrée options for those who want to order something besides seafood. However, Travis and I ordered seafood dishes because when in Rome…

 

crabbys sea bass

I ordered the melt-in-your-mouth Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, which was topped with mirin sauce and served on a bed of wasabi mashed potatoes, along with grilled asparagus. The combination of Asian-inspired flavors in this artfully plated dish make it a popular menu item.

 

crabbys shrimp

Travis ordered the Grilled Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp, a Cajun-influenced dish served with smoked Gouda grits and bits of spicy andouille sausage. This is another one of my favorite dishes here, as it reminds me of the food I enjoyed when I lived in New Orleans.

 

You would think that we’d be stuffed to the gills by this point – and you’d be correct. But I felt that it was my duty to order dessert so that I could do a thorough job of describing the Crabby’s experience to those of you reading this. What a sacrifice, right?

 

We ordered the Signature Bread Pudding and the Creme Brulee, which were both delicious in their own ways. The hearty bread pudding was buttery and boozy, and a favorite of Crabby’s customers.

 

crabbys bread pudding

The fruit-topped Creme Brulee made an elegant dessert, with its dense custard contrasting nicely with the layer of crisp, caramelized sugar.

 

crabbys creme brulee

Crabby’s is a restaurant to visit when you want more than a meal. It’s where you come when you want an experience. And tasting Chef Damien’s creative fresh seafood dishes in landlocked Joplin, Missouri, makes that experience one of a kind.

 

Crabby’s serves lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch. It is located at 815 West 7th Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.