Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center

Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center is one of my favorite places in Joplin. It’s a place where you can both learn about and experience the unique beauty of a chert glade in southwest Missouri.


The first stop on a trip to Wildcat Glades is the visitor’s center; a unique building that reflects its desert surroundings (yes, desert, but more on that later).


christmas bird count center facade

The center houses a hands-on learning area, classrooms and a gift shop that sells educational items and earth-friendly items like these earrings made from recycled cereal boxes.


wildcat butterfly earrings

The Missouri Department of Conservation has an office adjacent to the center, and it’s a good place to pick up information about other Missouri parks.


In the middle of the center, visitors can view wildlife native to the area. There’s a 1,300-gallon fish tank and Ozark stream, plus a chert glade terrarium complex that houses snakes and a tarantula.


wildcat turtle tank

A bobcat and a coyote can be found lurking nearby (both are stuffed, thankfully).


wildcat center cat

Stop and say hello to Willow, the female American kestrel (a type of small falcon). Adopted by the center in 2015, Willow is unable to fly, so she now lives safely indoors here at the center.


Isn’t she pretty?


wildcat kestrel

There’s a discovery area where you can listen to different wildlife sounds (such as bird calls), as well as feel the textures of various animal pelts.


wildcat center pelts


There are several classrooms in the building, and the center offers frequent programming for both children and adults, like “Nature Photography” and “Bird Banding” (for adults), and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Talkin’ Turkey” (for children).


Several large events are held at Wildcat Glades throughout the year, like the Shoal Creek Water Festival in summer, and the Christmas Bird Count in December.


Armed with knowledge of the area and its wildlife, you’ll be ready to hit the trails and start exploring. Exit through the rear of the visitor center, and you’ll find the hiking trail that begins on the chert glade. 


wildcat romping on chert

In Missouri the term “glade” is used to describe a place where underlying rock cuts through thin soil to develop its own unique ecosystem. At Wildcat Glades, the rock that cuts through the soil is chert, which is extremely rare and extremely hard, and it breaks sharply. Like flint, chert was used to make spears and arrows, and archaeologists have found many near Wildcat Park (there are some on display in the center).


The chert glade ecosystem is very dry, and plants that are native to arid climates can grow here (yes, that means cacti in Missouri!). These plants also attract wildlife native to arid climates, such as lizards and scorpions (eek!). I’ve personally encountered snakes twice while on the trail.


wildcat girls on path

After crossing the glade, the trail enters the woods and begins following the banks of Shoal Creek. The change in scenery is dramatic: from a dry, sunny glade to a cool, shaded forest.


wildcat peaceful water

The view from the creek bank is breathtaking in places. Tall bluffs jut out from the sparkling water and demand admiration. If you are up for a challenge, there is a trail that follows the edge of the bluffs and offers a fantastic bird’s eye view of the creek; if not, you can safely view the bluff from below.


wildcat cliff reach

If you stay on the trail that leads to the Redings Mill bridge, you can peek into a cave (this is my kids’ favorite trail, for that very reason). We’ve also been fortunate to have spotted a fox along this same trail.


There’s so much to discover at the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center; we find something new each time we go.



Wildcat Glades is located at 201 West Riviera Drive. Click here to visit its website and click here to view its Facebook page.


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

Joplin History and Mineral Museum

Woolly mammoth fossils.




Glowing rocks.


Where in Joplin can you see these cool items?  At the Joplin History & Mineral Museum in Schifferdecker Park.


The museum complex is located just west of the aquatic center. Outside of the entrance, visitors are greeted by a dinosaur sculpture which stands about six feet tall and is made from scrap metal and other items such as license plates. Kids will get a kick out of it.



The complex houses a variety of collections. The exhibit displays are informative and offer some unique items to view. In the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, huge slabs of rocks and minerals are displayed in an area that resembles the inside of a mine shaft.



On the way up to the second floor, there’s a case containing fossil remains of a woolly mammoth and some Native American arrowheads – all discovered in the four-state area.



The exhibit continues upstairs, where it traces the lead and zinc mining history of the area. There are maps of the mining areas and I was curious to see if my house was built over a mine shaft. It wasn’t.


I was fascinated by the exhibit showing which minerals are found in everyday household products.



“Galena: Lead ore used in batteries and detergents. The production of lead leaves bismuth which is used in Pepto-Bismol.”

Meanwhile, my kids were fixated on the display of fluorescent minerals. Here’s what they look light with a standard light on them.



Here’s what happens after they are exposed to a long-wave light.



No wonder my kids kept pressing the long-wave light button; it was so mesmerizing to see those seemingly ordinary rocks transform into glowing, alien-like formations.


On the other side of the museum complex, the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum houses a variety of collections that focus on the history and culture of the Joplin area. Highlights of this section include artifacts from the House of Lords, a famous saloon from Joplin’s mining days.



This roulette wheel from the 1890s was in the second floor of the House of Lords.

And jewelry that was recovered from Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin hideout in 1933.



Other exhibits at the complex include the Joplin Sports Authority Sports Hall of Fame, the National Historical Cookie Cutter Museum, and the Merle Evans Circus Tent #27 Miniature Circus (my daughter spent about twenty minutes staring wide-eyed at this miniature circus that fills an entire room).



Every citizen in Joplin should make at least one visit to the Joplin History & Mineral Museum to gain a sense Joplin’s rich history.


Oh, and to see the cool glowing rocks, too.



 The Joplin History & Mineral Museum is located at 504 S. Schifferdecker Avenue. While you’re there, say hi to Percy, the museum’s official furry greeter.



Don’t let his death stare fool you – Percy is quite friendly.

I just don’t think he wanted me to  take his photo at that moment.


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


Lazer Force

Today I was a hunter. My mission was to track down and eliminate my enemies while working my way through a labyrinth cloaked in shadows.


I did succeed in taking down my targets, and my mission would have been a complete success had it not been for my adversary Starburst – he beat me by 1100 points.


No, this wasn’t the Hunger Games (if it were, I wouldn’t be here to write about it). Today, my mission as Kit Kat was carried out during a session of laser tag in a two-story arena right here in Joplin at Lazer Force.


Lazer logo

Laser tag?


But isn’t that for kids?


Sure, laser tag is a fun activity for kids, but it’s also a blast for adults. Being able to release frustration in a safe and playful setting is a great stress reliever. When you’re in the arena, you don’t have the chance think about the worries in your everyday life because all of your attention is focused on sneaking up on your opponents while simultaneously trying to avoid becoming a target yourself.


Basically, laser tag is a glorified game of hide-and-seek.  Each player wears an electronic vest and carries a laser gun. Your mission is to shoot your enemies and avoid being shot at yourself.


Lazer vest back

To tag people, you aim at your enemies’ vests and pull the trigger of your laser gun. If the laser beam hits a vest, that person’s vest will darken for 5 seconds before reactivating. During that time, the downed person is unable to shoot at anyone else.


You accumulate points by successfully hitting your human targets, plus finding and shooting the bonus beacons that are stationed on the first floor of the arena.


Lazer hunt flash

With the black lights and pumping music, each 13-minute tag session is an adrenaline rush. And each session is unpredictable. Sometimes you will snake your way through the zig-zagging walls on your own, and sometimes you will find yourself forming alliances so that you have a better chance of taking down the biggest threat. The dynamics of the game make laser tag a great choice for developing team-building skills in the workplace.


Lazer team

In the 6,000-square-foot maze of the arena, I felt like I was in an entirely different world, assuming a completely different persona. I’d back up against a wall with my laser gun drawn, peer out to make sure everything was clear, then dart to the next wall for cover. I felt as deft and light-footed as Katniss Everdeen.


Lazer labyrinth

But my fantasy was short-lived. There were times when I’d get tagged, turn a corner, then immediately get tagged again. During those times, I started to reevaluate my survival skills in general.


My clunky shoes didn’t help me, either, because you can’t sneak up on your enemy if you sound like a herd of elephants. Be sure to wear sneakers when you go.


When the session is finished, you can instantly see your score on a monitor outside.


Lazer tv

You are identified by the name that is located on your electronic vest. I didn’t come in first during my latest round, but I did beat Mountain Dew (my husband), and that was enough of a victory for me. 


If you don’t want to leave after one round, you can purchase multiple games. You can play arcade games in between tag sessions, or reserve a party room. You can event rent the entire facility.

Lazer arcade

Lazer Force offers something fun for adults as well as kids. So, instead of meeting your friends or coworkers at a bar, meet them at the arena.


And may the odds be ever in your favor.


Lazer Force is located at 408 S. Northpark Lane. Click here to visit its website.


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