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.

RSVPaint

There’s a recreational hot spot in downtown Joplin with a curious name: RSVPaint.

 

What do the letters stand for?

 

R = Relax. Ahh, sounds great.

 

S = Sip. Count me in!

 

V = Visit. Actually spend time in person with my friends rather than texting them? Sounds awesome!

 

P = Paint. Um, painting?

 

I do not have one artistic bone in my body (ask my kids about my attempts at drawing stick figures and I guarantee you’ll elicit some hearty laughs).

 

But paint-and-sip galleries are popular now among people, both with and without creative talent. They are filling a new recreational niche. Rather than meeting at a noisy bar, people are looking for alternative places to socialize with their friends, and RSVPaint is one of these places.

 

And, you know what? I found out that you truly you don’t have to possess any artistic skills in order to have a good time there.

 

Here’s how things work at RSVPaint?

 

First, you browse through RSVPaint’s online calendar to see which piece of artwork appeals to you. Make sure you select the Joplin location (there’s an RSVPaint in Springfield, too).

 

rsvp-themes

Themes change according to the season, so the choices are always fresh. The photo above shows some examples.

 

Once you find the piece that you want to paint, you can immediately reserve your space for the session online. While you don’t have to do this, I’d recommend it because the sessions fill up fast (remember, these places are popular now!).

 

On the night of your lesson, you can bring a beverage of your choice (alcoholic or not, it’s all good) or purchase one at the bar in the studio, then find a spot in front of one of the blank canvases at the tables.

 

After a few minutes of relaxing and visiting with your friends, the lesson begins. The instructor breaks everything down for you, leading you through the process one small step at a time.

 

rsvp-people-painting

Usually, all the students in class work on the same image for the night. However, I went to RSVPaint on one of the monthly Paint-Your-Pet nights, so while the process was the same for everyone, we all were painting different images.

 

Sounds intimidating to paint a portrait of your pet, right? Well, RSVPaint made it so simple.

 

First of all, everyone who registered for the session was asked to email personal pet photos to the studio. Here’s the photo of our golden retriever Micky that I sent:

 

rsvp-micky-photo

And here’s what my canvas looked like when I arrived at RSVPaint:

 

rsvp-outline

Those artistic angels at RSVPaint had taken our pet images and sketched their outlines on the canvases. I was so relieved to see these lines because I certainly needed their guidance!

 

Coleman, our instructor, immediately put us at ease by explaining that the acrylic paint we were using was very forgiving, and that we could easily paint over our mistakes. (He was right – I successfully painted over several spots throughout the night.)

 

He began the lesson by showing us how to paint the background for our pet image, which consisted of green grass and blue sky. He said if you didn’t want that to be your background, you could do something else, but following Coleman’s technique felt like the safe thing to do for those of us with low artistic confidence.

 

Then we moved on to outlining the image. I started with the darkest color first.

 

rsvp-in-process

Coleman’s instruction was so relaxed and encouraging, as was the atmosphere among the students in the studio. There was no judgement.

 

As the lesson progressed, I gained more confidence.

 

And while my finished painting is nowhere near museum quality, I feel satisfied by the fact that my kids didn’t laugh when they saw it.

 

rsvp-micky

I enjoyed this girls’ night out experience at RSVPaint because I was able to visit with my friends while also learning something new. (To see their awesome pet paintings, scroll down to the end of this post.)

 

My next task is to convince my husband to come with me to RSVPaint for a date night. On date night, each couple paints an image that extends over two canvases rather than each person painting the same thing. That way, there’s no competing with your beloved about whose painting is better. Brilliant!

 

rsvp-date-night

Date night!

 

By the way, RSVPaint opens its studio to younger painters, too. Painters of all ages are welcome during designated times (Saturday Family Paint and Walk-In Wednesdays), and children (13 and under) can also have their birthday parties there.

 

But it was grown-ups only on the night I went. And while I enjoyed relaxing, sipping and visiting with my friends, it was actually the painting part of the RSVPaint experience – the part that I’d originally dreaded – that made me forget my worries.

 

Because for a few hours that night, so much of my attention was focused on learning a new skill that my mind had no room for other thoughts, and my stress melted away.

 

Now that’s a great escape.

 

Here are the other pet paintings from our girls’ night out (courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page):

 

rsvp-jackie-erin

Jackie and Erin (can you tell that they’re sisters?)

 

rsvp-carrie-donna

Carrie and Donna

 

rsvp-chris-julie

Me and Julie

 

RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website.

 

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