Get Creative: Weekend Fun Isn’t Just for Kids!

To me, the arrival of the weekend is like savoring a piece of rich, dark chocolate after a day of drinking green smoothies and eating salmon and vegetables. It’s a treat, a reward for all the hard work we adults do at our professional and parenting jobs during the week.


We celebrate our weekend time in a variety of ways. We watch movies, meet friends for dinner, go on trail runs or, conversely, sit on our bums and scroll through Facebook for hours. All of these ways to unwind from the workweek have merit, but we often find ourselves repeating the same activities over and over again.


Then we get in a rut. And somehow the weekend is just not that rewarding anymore.


That’s when it’s time to try something new, something that challenges us and enables us to discover skills and talents that we didn’t know we had. That’s when it’s time to learn.


There are many area organizations that offer weekend programs for adults in art, history, gardening, nature, yoga, and more. Look over this list and see if something stirs your soul to learn, create, and move.





Making peanut milk in the lab at Carver


George Washington Carver National Monument, 646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Just a 20-minute drive south of Joplin, this national park celebrates the life of George Washington Carver, a former slave who became an accomplished scientist, teacher, and philanthropist. The visitor center here offers programs which honor Carver’s passion for nature and learning. Channel your inner scientist at a lab demonstration (I made peanut milk at the one I went to), attend a special program such as Wonders of the Night Sky or the Plant-Based Cooking Workshop, or listen and learn at special presentations such as Women in Carver’s Life or Encouraging the Next Generation. Click here for upcoming programs.


Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

More than just a great place to buy healthy plants (it’s where I buy mine every spring!), Joplin Greenhouse is also a learning center, offering workshops such as Beginning Beekeeping and Hipster Houseplants. Click here for upcoming programs.


Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

In addition to having some of the area’s most scenic hiking trails, Wildcat Glades has a visitor center which contains a nature discovery area and classrooms for special programming. Learn about local nature at Discover Winter Birds or Ozark Chinquapin: A Lost Treasure, or hone your nature photography skills at the Behind the Lens workshop. Click here for upcoming programs.





Painting pet portraits at RSVPaint


Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio, 3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

This laid-back studio invites you to learn how to make pottery at your own leisure at the Saturday drop-in class (read about my experience here), or attend scheduled programs in a variety of mediums, like the Birdhouse Workshop, Watercolor Painting, or Jewelry-Making Basics. Click here for upcoming programs.


Firehouse Pottery, 112 South Main Street, Joplin

This paint-your-own pottery studio makes it easy to individualize a piece of art. Drop in during studio hours, select an unfinished piece of pottery and paint colors, then personalize your creation. The staff at Firehouse will guide you along the way. Bring your special someone for Friday night Date Night, or your BFF for Girls’ Night (which is on Tuesdays, but I’m including this so you can plan a weekday escape, too! Read about my experience here.) Click here for upcoming programs.


Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Yes, Joplin Greenhouse makes the list again! This time, it’s for hands-on workshops where you can create things like Fairy Gardens, Macramé Hangers, and Christmas Wreaths. Click here for upcoming programs.


Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

This clay studio also offers a Saturday morning drop-in class for those who want to learn to make pottery (read about my experience here). For a unique learning and socializing event, come to the Friday Film, where a potluck meal is served, followed by a viewing of an arts-related documentary film, and then a discussion. Click here for upcoming programs.


RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

Here’s another studio where you can create and socialize. Also, at RSVPaint you can imbibe in your favorite drink as you create (bring your own, or purchase one at the studio’s bar). RSVPaint offers a variety of class theme. I’ve been to one where my friends and I painted designs on wine glasses, one where I painted a portrait of my dog (click here to read about it), and a Date Night class where my husband and I each painted a panel that, when put next to the other, made a complete picture (read about it here). Click here (then scroll down) for upcoming classes.


Spiva Center for the Arts, 223 West Third Street, Joplin

Since 1947, Spiva has served as the art hub of the Four States, thanks to the many classes and programs its offers the community. Try Basic Drawing, Fun & Funky Upcycled Hats, Pysanky Egg Decorating, or the Fused Glass Tray class (read about my experience here). Click here for upcoming programs.






soar open jump

Play on trampolines at Soar’s ExSOARcise class

4 States Yoga and Restoration Center, 2615 North Range Line Road, Joplin

In addition to a weekend Vinyasa Yoga class, 4 States Yoga offers Barre and Tai Chi classes, as well as special workshops, like Aerial Yoga and Self-Defense. Click here for classes and programs.


Downtown Yoga, 501 South Wall Avenue, Joplin

If you’re feeling the need to de-stress after a hectic week, try one of the weekend classes at Downtown Yoga, such as Restorative Yoga, Hot Yoga, or Power Yoga (read about my experience here). Click here for classes and programs.


Soar Trampoline Park, 1502 South Madison Street, Webb City, MO

Get a cardio workout while jumping on trampolines! Soar’s 45-minute Saturday morning ExSOARcise class includes jumping and floor exercises, and is open to all experience levels. Click here for more information.


If you’re content with your current weekend plans, kudos to you. But if you ever find yourself in a rut, come back to this list. There’s sure to be something at one of these locations that will beckon you to learn, create, or move.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit


Girls’ Weekend in Joplin: The Great Outdoors

There are times when the planets align and miraculous things happen.


For me, that was last weekend.


My husband went out of town to visit a college friend, and my girls were spending quality time with their grandparents, so I had the house all to myself.


My family sure knows what to get me as an early Mother’s Day gift. I love them so.


For weeks prior to the Miraculous Weekend, I thought and thought about how I would spend my time. I knew I wanted to do something with my girlfriends, but what would we do?


An idea came to me as I was driving around town doing my routine activities. I noticed that more vibrant green leaves had grown on the trees, confirming the fact that spring had definitely arrived. I rolled down the car window to catch a breeze of the changing air, air which promised warm, carefree days ahead.


That’s when I caught spring fever – and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do on my Miraculous Weekend: I wanted to be outside and embrace the season which I’d longed for throughout the cold winter.


And I wanted to celebrate it with my friends.






“Enjoy having the house to yourself,” said my teenager (with more than a bit of jealousy, I might add) as she and her younger siblings marched out the front door and into their grandmother’s car, which looked as magical as Cinderella’s glass carriage to me at that moment.


Since my husband had already left on his trip, I was free – yes, free – to kick off my Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend, so as soon as the glass carriage exited the driveway, I hopped in my car and drove to meet my friend Shanon.


Shanon and I meet occasionally on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end of the work week with a different kind of Happy Hour. Instead of going to a bar and sipping a cocktail (don’t get me wrong – we sometimes do that, too) we’ll meet in the heart of the city at the Frisco Greenway Trail for a stress-relieving walk through through the woods.



On this spring afternoon, Shanon was waiting for me in the parking lot. “You escaped!” she said, giving me a warm hug.


We escaped,” I said, our footsteps falling in sync as our shoes crunched the fine gravel beneath our feet. I felt like a kid at recess, catching up with my friend while enjoying a slice of freedom from our schoolwork.


After our walk, we wanted to keep up the health-conscious theme we had going, so we decided to get ourselves some nutritious smoothies at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company, a hip downtown Joplin coffee house that also serves tea, sweet treats, and healthy food options from a delivery service called Fit Foods.



Shanon ordered the Dirty Monkey Smoothie, made with peanut butter, banana, and mocha, as well as a ready-made Turkey Hummus Wrap to take home with her for lunch the next day. I ordered the Berry Vanilla Detox Smoothie; packed with fresh fruit, protein and chia seeds, it felt like a nutrient infusion, and filled me up to the point to where I decided to just count that as my dinner that night. Yay! No cooking for me.


I went home afterward and lit some candles, put on soft music, and sank into a cloud of bubbles and warm water in the bathtub – a sublime way to end the first day of my Miraculous Weekend.




Another day, another hug from a friend whom I hadn’t seen in months. Johanna had driven in from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and was now at my front door. “Are you ready?” she asked.


“I just need to grab my yoga mat and I will be,” I said. We were headed to a Yoga in Nature class at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center. During this mild time of the year, the yoga class is held just outside the center under a pavilion.


We unrolled our mats and faced in the direction of Shoal Creek.



The area between us and the creek was the chert glade, a rare, desert-like ecosystem that exists right here in southwest Missouri. As we saluted the sun, colorful butterflies danced around the blooming bushes just outside the pavilion, joyously welcoming in the season of renewal.


Instead of hiking the trails at Wildcat that day – which we did the last time Johanna was in town – we decided to walk the trails at George Washington Carver National Monument. But first, we needed to get a bite to eat.


On the way from Wildcat to the restaurant, we passed Grand Falls. “Do you mind if we stopped?” Johanna asked. “I haven’t seen the Falls in a while.”



As the largest continuously running waterfall in the state of Missouri, Grand Falls is one of the prettiest natural attractions in the area, and visitors stop here throughout the year. As Johanna and I navigated our way among the chert (more chert!) outcroppings to get closer to the falls, we noticed that we weren’t the only ones enjoying the view that morning; there were a few men fishing in the creek, and some kids splashing in the shallow pools.


From Grand Falls, we took the scenic roads to Sandstone Gardens, a 50,000-square-foot home interior showroom housed inside a stately French chateau. In addition to offering shoppers a one-of-a-kind experience, it also offered us somewhere to eat.


Located in the east side of the building is the Bistro, a warm and welcoming place for lunch. I had the Chicken Salad, made with fresh, crunchy grapes, and Johanna ordered the Reuben, which is one of the restaurant’s specialties.



Since the desserts at the Bistro are made from scratch on site, I felt it would be disrespectful not to order one, so Johanna and I split a piece of heavenly German Chocolate Cake.


Then, we were off to George Washington Carver National Monument, located twenty minutes south of Joplin in Diamond. We arrived there just in time to catch the end of the lab demonstration where participants were invited to make peanut milk, so we got to join along.



George Washington Carver was an educator and scientist who discovered multiple uses for peanuts and other crops, and he was born in a cabin on the land on which the monument sits. The center houses exhibits which detail Carver’s life, and the trail outside offers a glimpse of the world that Carver saw as a boy meandering through the thick woods and across the blooming prairie.



After hiking the trail, we started back toward Joplin, my appetite growing bigger with every mile we passed. “How about grabbing dinner at the Eagle?” I asked.


“You know it’s one of my favorite restaurants,” Johanna said. “Do they still have the Bison Burger?”


“They do. They also have killer Jalapeno Margaritas, if you are up for some spice.”


We lingered at the Eagle Drive-In, eating burgers and sipping margaritas until the sun dipped behind the horizon, completing a perfect day.




This was it. This was the day I was going big, putting the final dot on the exclamation point of the Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend! My friend Julie and I were going up a creek – with two paddles, on a Shoal Creek float trip.


But first, we needed to fuel up. I picked up Julie and we went to Club 1201 for brunch. I ordered my favorite dish, Eggs Benedict, and Julie tried the Artisan French Toast. We celebrated Float Trip Day by toasting our drink glasses which we customized at the Bloody Mary Bar.




After brunch, we drove just south of Joplin to Water’s Edge, where we got set up with our canoe. For several hours, it was just me, Julie, and the rhythmic sounds of our paddles pushing through the water. Oh, and an occasional turtle.



With just the two of us – no distractions – we were able to discuss all of the things that we had on our mental checklists to talk to each other about whenever we had the chance. And today, we had that chance.


Now we were good for a few more months.


I relished my Miraculous Weekend at home – alone, and I cherished the time I spent with my friends as we explored the great outdoors, reveling in the warmth of the spring air. I felt refreshed and alive, and ready to jump back into my responsibilities as a mom.


Yet, even though I had a phenomenal time with my friends, nothing from that weekend compared to the unbridled joy I felt when I saw my daughters walk through the door Sunday night.


That is, until ten minutes later when they started to bicker…



To read more about my adventures in the area, visit

Nature & History

Doctor Mom Knows Best: 

A mother’s prescription for restless kids involves Joplin’s beautiful parks

by Christine Smith


When cabin fever runs rampant in my house here in Joplin, I become Doctor Mom and order one of the following prescriptions for my three restless daughters, who range in age from 5 to 13: 


Comb through exposed rocks from the creek bottom and find a treasured fossil or arrowhead.

comb through
Wind your way up Bluff Trail and enjoy and a bird’s-eye view of sparkling Shoal Creek below.


wind your
Count the number of turtles you see sunbathing on tree limbs that have fallen into Williams Pond.


count the


The first two prescriptions can be filled at Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, and the final one at George Washington Carver National Monument. As Doctor Mom, I’ve chosen these two centers for restlessness rehab because they are close to home, they offer a variety of remedies for my not-so-patient patients, and they are stunningly beautiful.


Thanks to these resources, I’m proud to say Doctor Mom’s cure rate is 100%. What’s even more exciting is that it works on anyone, even people just visiting Joplin. In fact, visitors may enjoy their dose of nature therapy so much that they’ll feel compelled to return multiple times for follow-up appointments.


wildcate glades


Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center


When the kids need to step away from the television and get some fresh air, I turn off the TV and say, “Let’s go pet Trevor!” They jump from the couch with excitement, ready to pay a visit to the gigantic fluffy bunny that lives at Wildcat Glades.


when the kids

The girls cheerfully chat during the car ride over to Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, located just south of Joplin. The center, which utilizes green technology, offers environmental education classes, children’s nature programming, and a discovery center.


the girls cheerfully
Once inside, each girl becomes engrossed in her own thing: one follows the fluid movements of the native turtles and fish inside the impressive 1,300-gallon tank; another watches in fascination as a native rat snake uncoils its shiny body and begins exploring the perimeter of its terrarium; and the youngest stands in front of the bird exhibit, gleefully pressing buttons to hear various bird calls.


once inside each girl
We regroup and take a moment to pet Trevor before we hit the outdoor trails; there are seven to choose from, and they cover more than three miles of diverse landscape—some of it rather unusual.


We exit the rear doors of the center, and immediately feel like we’ve been transported to Arizona. We see cacti growing along the trail and lizards scurrying across the arid ground. This desert-like ecosystem, filled with an unusual combination of plants and animals, is the last remaining exposed chert glades—in the world. Wildcat Glades also has the only chert cliffs in the world.


we exit

 As we continue along the path, the scenery changes from the dry, sunny glades to the cool, wooded forest by Shoal Creek. My husband and I often hike the mile-long Bluff Trail, which offers stunning views of the creek, but today my daughters unanimously vote for taking St. John’s Creek Trail. Why? Because this half-mile path goes past a cave, and for three young girls, looking in to a cave is practically magical. Though the cave entrance is closed to the public, I still love watching their imaginations run wild together.


as we continue
Imaginations have been sparked among my patients. Doctor Mom smiles, satisfied that the treatment plan is working.



George Washington Carver National Monument

For Doctor Mom, visiting the birthplace of the “Plant Doctor,” is like a pilgrimage; in addition to superior nature therapy, it offers rich historical, educational, and spiritual lessons, as well.


During the short drive south of Joplin to Diamond, my girls ask me questions like, “Who was George Washington Carver?” and, “How come he has a park named after him?”


George Washington Carver was born into slavery toward the end of the Civil War, most likely in 1864, one of many siblings. Soon after his birth, he, one of his sisters and his mother were kidnapped, and Moses Carver, who owned George and his mother, paid an agent to track them down. Of the three only the infant George was located and returned. Moses and Susan Carver then raised George and his brother, James, as their own. Being a sickly boy, he was excused from chores and allowed to wander the woods and prairie instead, during which time he learned about native plants and developed a talent for taking care of them, earning the name of the “Plant Doctor.”


Carver’s thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, and he spent his life exploring and educating, blazing the trail for other African Americans to follow.


To honor the important agricultural and educational contributions that Carver made to this country, the George Washington Carver National Monument was established in 1943. This 240-acre park is part of the National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. It’s also the first national park to be named after a non-president, as well as the first one to be dedicated to an African American.


When we arrive at the park’s visitors center, my husband and I enjoy reading about Carver’s life in the museum exhibit, the kids look at slides of native plant and insect specimens under microscopes in the discovery area, and play teacher in the old-fashioned school room, instructing their students to write their names on the individual slate boards at their desks.


 when we arrive at the park 1          

 when we arrive at the park 2


when we arrive at the park 3
Then we go outside to walk the 3/4-mile nature trail. Near the beginning, we see a replica of the base of the 12′ x 12′ cabin where Carver was born. Doctor Mom gathers her patients inside of it and asks, “Can you imagine if we all lived together in such a small space? Talk about cabin fever!” Their eyes grow wide, and in them I see a new appreciation for their individual bedrooms in our modern house.


The trail, which is nicely paved, leads into the thick woods. As we pause to look at a bronze statue of Carver as a boy, a blue butterfly lands on it. Even the likeness of Carver seems to commune with nature.

the trail which is


We cross the pristine Carver Spring, then loop around Williams Pond, our voices startling turtles on the banks, causing them to dive in the water with loud plunks.

we cross the pristine
After walking through the 1881 Carver homestead, we finally emerge in the prairie restoration area.


I slow my pace, allowing my family to move ahead of me on the path. I watch as butterflies dance around their contented faces. I understand why Carver saw divine goodness in the natural world around him, rising early each day to take a devotional walk in the woods in order to talk “with God.”

i slow my pace


The natural beauty of this area possesses great power; it can raise doleful spirits, entertain the minds of children, and bring smiles to faces.


Just like what Doctor Mom ordered.


Explore the outdoors in Joplin on some of the best trails.

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit