Joplin Holiday Experience

(The following is my family’s holiday itinerary from last year. While some of the same events will be held again this year, there are new events in Joplin that I’m itching to experience, and I list 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 2017, here’s a possible weekend itinerary for a Joplin Holiday Experience:

 
Thursday, December 7

The Calmus Vocal Ensemble from Leipzig, Germany, will be performing at Central Christian Center (410 S. Virginia Ave.). No tickets are required for this performance, although donations are accepted. This event is presented by Pro Musica (you can read more about this organization and my experience at one of its previous events here).

 

I’d suggest arriving early, as I’m sure that the 1000 seats in the theater will fill up quickly, especially with the MSSU Chamber Singers performing at 6:30 p.m.

 

Friday, December 8

Time for the grown-ups! Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. is hosting a one-of-a-kind event:  a bourbon tasting. This event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral (505 S. Byers), and guests will also be able to tour this beautiful building. Tickets are $50 per person and include food pairings. If you’re not a fan of bourbon but still want to attend, you can purchase a non-tasting ticket for $25.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. holds events which connect the community to Joplin’s rich history. If you’d like to read about what it’s like to attend one of these events, click here.

 

Saturday, December 9

Thanks, once again, to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. we can peek inside seven homes in the historic Murphysburg District in during the Holiday Homes Tour. Tickets are $20 in advance (you can purchase them here) or $25 on the day of the event at First United Methodist Church (501 W. 4th St.).

 

If you’re not too worn out from home touring, you can catch the 7 p.m. performance of Stained Glass Theatre’s A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas (2101 Annie Baxter). I read every single Laura Ingalls Wilder book when I was a little girl, and sharing my beloved heroine with my own girls would be a memorable experience, especially at Stained Glass Theatre, which is such a gem in our community. If you’re too tired to see the Saturday night performance, you can see the Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m.

 

Sunday, December 10

The MSSU Choral Society will perform its annual Christmas Concert 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (2423 W. 26th St.). The concert will open with George Handel’s Praise the Lord, and will be followed by the lighthearted The Nutcracker Jingles. The major work performed will be Invitation to a Miracle, which includes familiar carols and traditional readings. This is a free event, and donations are accepted. For more information, contact Wally Bloss at 417-208-9654 0r wbloss@gmail.com.

Now that’s a packed weekend! To learn about events happening in Joplin during the rest of the month, click here.

 

Happy holidays!

 

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

Shopping in Joplin

Shop ‘til you drop at boutiques, antiques and specialty shops alongside big box stores

by Christine Smith

 

“What in the world is THAT?”

 

My sister’s eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared out of the car window in disbelief.

 

Her reaction brought a satisfied smile to my face. We’d barely reached the city limits of Joplin and already my worldly sibling from the Windy City was impressed.

 

I’d picked Karen up this morning from the Tulsa Airport. After hopping on I-44, we chatted continuously, passing mile after mile of expansive grassy pastures when—BAM!—there it was.

 

A stately French chateau surrounded by sprawling, well-manicured gardens.

sandstone exteriorSandstone Gardens

 

She couldn’t have been more surprised had she seen a giant jack-in-the-box spring forth from the pastoral southwest Missouri terrain.

 

“That’s Sandstone Gardens,” I told her. “And you can shop there.”

 

I couldn’t wait to show her that shopping in Joplin was more than just stocking up on basic goods at the big-box stores that are visible from I-44.

 

Shopping at Joplin’s local stores offers an authentic and surprisingly sophisticated experience for anyone, even those who have access to the best stores in the world, like my sister.

 

I couldn’t wait to prove it to her.

 

Sandstone Gardens

Our shopping adventure began here. On the outdoor patio, we wandered past tiered lion’s head fountains, classical statues, and decorative cast-stone garden benches, and imagined that we were the ladies of Downton Abbey getting ready to enjoy a spot of afternoon tea in the garden.

 

unique sandstone_thumb_thumb

Sandstone Gardens

Venturing inside the 50,000-square-foot showroom, the sweet scent of honeysuckle potpourri greeted us, beckoning us down a long, narrow hallway lined with candles and richly-scented lotions, and leading us to the grand, two-story atrium where dramatic silk floral arrangements and stately home décor pieces vied for our attention.

 

After shopping for a while, I knew I needed to get some sustenance in her to fuel up for the next store, so I led her to the Bistro.

 

This cozy restaurant is conveniently located in a corner of Sandstone Gardens. My sister ordered a great-looking salad and I ordered the Reuben sandwich (the best in town!) We each ordered cake for dessert: moist German chocolate for her, and tart lemon-berry for me.

 

Boutiques
Bellies full, we were ready to do some clothes shopping. In addition to being a savvy shopper, Karen also studied fashion design, so she has a keen eye when it comes to clothing and accessories.

I knew exactly where to take her: the chic boutiques on Joplin’s historic Main Street.

I went straight for her Achilles heel (sorry for the pun) by taking her to Sophie, the “candy store for shoe addicts.” I gave her some space as she paid reverence to the offering of footwear presented before her: rhinestone-studded cowboy boots, flirty ankle boots, daring stilettos, comfortable wedges, playful flats – you name it.

 

While she tried on pair after pair, I browsed through the rest of the store and was suddenly faced with a dilemma: Did I dare show my sister Sophie’s wide selection of fashion jewelry and scarves, as well the boutique clothing section? If so, we might never leave. If not, she’d miss out on some unique finds.

 

I chose to be a good sister (or enabler—however you look at it) and led her to roam freely.

 

Once I was able to corral her, we crossed Main Street and stopped at Upstairs Boutique. Because it’s a designated Brighton Heart Store, Upstairs Boutique carries an expanded selection of the brand’s items, from jewelry to luggage, so it was the ideal place for Karen to look for a new charm to add to her Brighton bracelet.

 

Our next stop was Blue Moon Market, “a modern boutique with a vintage soul.”

 

Cleverly-placed vintage door frames and signs on the exposed brick walls create a whimsical backdrop for the merchandise here. On the floor, trendy necklaces and bracelets hang like ornaments from home décor pieces that are displayed on vintage dressers and tables—which you can buy, too!

 
“How fun is this place?” Karen asked as we worked our way to the boutique clothing section. By that point, even my hands were filled with wonderful treasures, like a smooth leather wrap bracelet and an antiqued metal sign sporting a sassy saying that I know my friend will love.

 

Next door at the equally playful Six Eleven Boutique,  Karen immediately noticed the brightly-colored umbrellas dangling from the antique copper ceiling and said, “You’ve got some pretty funky stores here in Joplin.”

 

In her world, that’s a colossal compliment. As a seeker of cutting-edge clothing and accessories, my sister had just put her stamp of approval on Joplin as a shopping destination.

 

That was huge.

 

As I tried on a flirty, ruffled tunic dress from Lazy Noiz I could hear her talking excitedly with the salesperson, but the only word I could make out was “Oprah.” When I came out of the dressing room, I walked over to the display where she was slathering some lotion on her hands.

 

boutiques blue moon mix_thumb

Blue Moon Market

“These are on Oprah’s list,” Karen said, excitedly pointing to the bottles of Farmhouse Fresh products in front of us. “This is the only place in Joplin that carries them.”

 

It was fun watching how quickly my sister became an ambassador of the Joplin boutique scene. I couldn’t wait to show her more, like the Pink Door Boutique (with its great selection of hats and scarves), and Mystique Boutique (where I always find unique casual dresses).

 

Next stop, a treat for the palate.


Local Flavor

We drove just a few blocks to Candy House Gourmet. Inside, the air was infused with the scent of sweet cocoa, causing us to practically drool as we painstakingly looked through the selection of handmade chocolates. Karen finally chose a chocolate toffee while I savored a decadent sea salt caramel.

 

I told Karen that we’d have to come back to Candy House Gourmet to take a tour of the factory when we had more time. Then, we’d be able to watch the candy-making process in action (and try some samples!).

 

Driving back to my house, Karen asked if there were places in Joplin that sold healthy food (we strive for a balanced diet, and the more healthy food we can eat, the more chocolate we can savor). I assured her that there several.

 

If she was craving a bite of what’s in season, we’d check out the local fruits, vegetables, honey, and other edibles at the Joplin Farmers Market and the Webb City Farmers Market, or at the Marketplace at Joplin Greenhouse, where there’s a nice selection of organic items, too.


Vintage Finds

On our next shopping outing, we’ll explore Joplin’s vintage shops and flea markets for more uncommon finds. I know Karen will swoon over the chic, repurposed items sold at Simply Vintage (like an orange-painted distressed vintage phonograph cabinet), and she’ll certainly get a kick out of the primitives at Country Pickins Antique Mall (like a lampshade crafted from an old stovetop toaster).

 

Candy-House-Case_thumb

Candy House Gourmet

 
For a hefty dose of thriftiness and quirkiness, we can scour through rows of booths at traditional flea markets like Fancy Flamingo Flea Market and  Rangeline Antique Mall. Items I’ve found in the past at these places include superhero collectibles, milk glass pieces and a peculiar bust of Elvis Presley (which I just can’t get out of my mind).

 

Northpark Mall
Of course, if Karen wants to shop at more familiar stores, we can stop at Northpark Mall, where there are more than 100 retailers, including Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney, and T.J. Maxx, or at other national chains located near the mall, like Pier One Imports, Kohl’s, and Target (with a fresh grocery section and a Starbucks inside).

 

But right now, I’m going to get some rest.

 

Because I know that my early-bird sister will wake me at dawn tomorrow, anxious to discover more local treasures.

 

And that makes me feel so proud of my little city and the people who have chosen to open up their businesses here. Because of their originality, character, and friendliness, our local stores impress even the savviest of shoppers.

 

I can attest to that.

 

Check out Joplin shops for inspiration on your next shopping outing!
 
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.