101 Fun Things to Do: Family Fun

Friday, June 1, 2012
Cape Girardeau Conservation and Nature Center

20. The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center at 2289 County Park Drive, Cape Girardeau, showcases the rich cultural history and diverse natural resources of Southeast Missouri. Indoors, the nature center features hands-on exhibits for all ages, including the Corbin Collection of American Indian artifacts, freshwater aquariums, wildlife viewing areas, classrooms and an auditorium. Outdoors, explore the White Oak Trace, which has two miles of trails winding through stands of poplar and oak trees, sinkholes and a small man-made swamp.

21. Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, at 19620 State Route B near Ste. Genevieve, Mo., is a 55-acre estate that is home to four Bengal tigers and one lion. Each year the sanctuary offers several festivals featuring children's games and activities, complimentary food and drinks, live music, a raffle and half-price or free admission. This year's free admission day is July 7. The sanctuary is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with tours given every hour on the hour.

22. Tunnel Hill State Trail, extending from Harrisburg to Karmak, Ill., follows an abandoned railroad right of way dating to 1872. Scenery along the bike trail ranges from flat farmland and lush wetlands to the dense Shawnee National Forest, and is home to countless species of wildlife and wildflowers. The trail even includes 23 trestles and a 543-foot tunnel.

Southeast Missourian Jr. Parks and Rec Day

23. Held July 15 at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau, the Southeast Missourian Jr.'s annual Park and Rec Day is a free day of fun just for kids. The event has fun games, activities and prizes.

24. Messy Morning is an event held in April that gives kids a chance to get down and dirty with things like an obstacle course, shaving cream slides and more. The 2012 event was held at the Show Me Center and benefited the Southeast Missouri Food Bank. Keep an eye on semissourian.com and semoevents.com for news about the 2013 edition.

25. Cape Girardeau Parks Department summer programs offer a variety of fun activities and classes to keep children of all ages happy, busy and learning throughout the summer.

26. Public libraries are more than a place to check in and check out -- they're a destination for children's story time, book clubs for teens and adults, summer reading clubs, materials for genealogy research, workshops and educational talks, movie and game nights and more. The Cape Girardeau Public Library opened its newly renovated facility in May 2009 with comfy indoor and outdoor reading areas, a coffee bar, meeting rooms and special areas for kids and teens, complete with cool and colorful seating. Riverside Regional Library has locations in Jackson, Scott City, Benton, Oran, Altenburg and Perryville, Mo. There's also Sikeston Public Library in Sikeston, Mo., and Keller Public Library in Dexter, Mo.

Discovery Playhouse Children's Museum

27. Discovery Playhouse Children's Museum at 502 Broadway, Cape Girardeau. The fun, hands-on learning and play center opened in April 2010 and has exhibits for children of all ages.

28. A replica 1870s Old West town, Black Forest Village in Cape Girardeau, offers two special craft shows, held annually, and ghost town tours in October.

29. From the gridiron to the hardwood, Southeast Missouri's high schools claim some stellar athletes. Be sure to catch the Cape Central vs. Jackson football game for an intense and hard-fought battle. The Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament is always a highlight of the basketball season with some of the top teams in the area -- including defending state champions Charleston and Scott County Central -- taking the court. Head to semoball.com for complete schedules for all local high school sports.

30. Water parks in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff and Farmington, Mo., offer summer fun for families, including water slides, lazy rivers and more.

31. The Bootheel Youth Museum in Malden, Mo., features family-focused events and activities for children of all ages, including an antigravity mirror, crawl-in camera and other exhibits.

32. See a football game at Houck Stadium or check out basketball at the Show Me Center and cheer on Southeast Missouri State University athletics.

33. Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Burfordville, Mo., is a four-story, stone and brick water-powered mill that dates to around 1867. The 140-foot Burfordville Covered Bridge crosses the Whitewater River, which powers the mill. Cornmeal is ground as part of the mill tour. It's a perfect place for a picnic.

Summer baseball

34. You can't get more American than a summer baseball game with hot dogs and popcorn. And there are plenty of summer baseball leagues to get your fix. The Plaza Tire Capahas formed in 1894 in Cape Girardeau, and they'll play again this June and July at Capaha Park. Another option are the Southern Illinois Miners in Miner, Ill. Catch their home games at Rent One Park. Many communities also claim American Legion and Babe Ruth League teams made up of young athletes.

35. Get lost at Pinecrest Azalea Gardens, where thousands of azaleas, jonquils, daffodils, rhododendrons and other gorgeous flowers bloom from March through May. The gardens, started in 1963 near Oak Ridge, are open for free visits during the daylight hours of spring.

36. Fort D Days at Fort D Historic Site in Cape Girardeau offer Civil War re-enactments and other activities at the historic earthworks fort in south Cape Girardeau.

37. Bark in the Park, a fundraiser benefiting the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, is an annual picnic held in the late summer/early fall at Capaha Park in Cape Girardeau.

38. You've probably seen Bald Knob Cross from afar -- it stands on a hill 1,000 feet above sea level in rural Union County, Illinois. It's worth the winding drive up the hill, where you'll see the gigantic cross up close and enjoy a panoramic view of the Shawnee National Forest and Illinois Ozarks. Locals began raising money in 1953 to build Bald Knob Cross, meant to be a place of worship for people of all denominations. The cross was completed in 1963 with more than 900 steel panels, a porcelain veneer and 40,000 watts of lighting. A sunrise worship service is held at Bald Knob each year on Easter Sunday.

39. A 10-hole disc golf course opened at Cape Girardeau's Capaha Park in May 2011, and work is underway for an 18-hole course at Cape County Park North. The sport -- like traditional golf, but with rubber discs or Frisbees and a metal basket -- has quickly become a hit with people of all ages. Even better? It's free! There are also disc golf courses at Pere Marquette Park in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., and Engler Park in Farmington, Mo.

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