Family fun from summer to summer in Clay County, Missouri
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Family fun from summer to summer in Clay County, Missouri

Years of Summers

Creating priceless memories as a family, with activities including Gladstone Theater in the Park, Missouri historical sites, PowerPlay North, and more. Discover things to do in Clay County, MO as a family.


Summer is the best! I love the long days, the warm, starry nights and—above all—the abundance of sunshine. My husband and two kids share my enthusiasm for the season. Over dinner one night, we were talking about our upcoming summer vacation, which led to a lively discussion recounting some of our most memorable summer adventures in nearby Clay County, Missouri.

Music and fireworks

A memorable outing that particularly stands out was when Will and I took the kids to the annual Kearney Fireworks Celebration at Kearney Amphitheater in Jesse James Park. It was the first time Claire, who was around four years old at the time, had ever seen fireworks. The concert beforehand was amazing. We danced to the music, especially Claire, who was entertaining everyone around us with her signature dance moves.

When the fireworks started, we weren’t sure how Claire was going to react. At the first boom, she leapt into Will’s arms and stuffed her fingers into her ears. But when she saw the colors light up the night sky, she said, “Oooh, sparkly,” which has now become our family’s catch phrase anytime there are fireworks around.

Making a splash

The kids’ top pick, hands down, was when we visited the Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun waterpark. Claire, who turned six years old that summer, loved splashing around the geysers and splash pads in Crocodile Isle. And we could barely pull her away from the water playhouse at Paradise Falls. It was a child’s tropical dream with water gushing down slides and plenty of fountains to dash through. Every five minutes, we would find a grinning Claire standing beneath the giant bucket that sits at the top of the playhouse, waiting for it to dump 1,000 gallons of water on top of her.

Harry, nine years old at the time, was (and still is) our little thrill seeker. He was right there with my husband, Will, plunging down high-speed drops on slides such as the Predators’ Plunge and Sharks’ Revenge. We all loved riding the high tide at the Surf City Wave Pool, and we ended our wet and wild adventure with a relaxing float down the Caribbean Cooler’s lazy river. I have to admit, that trip might be one of my favorites, too. There’s nothing like a water park for fun in the sun.

Theater under the stars

An essential summer to-do for our family is to see a play. In Clay County, we got to do that at an outdoor theater. Will and I are both big fans of the theater, and we’ve tried our best to pass that love along to the kids. Last summer we went to Gladstone Theatre in the Park.

There’s something about an outdoor setting that gives a stage production added impact. Lying back in our camp chairs on the cushiony lawn under the stars made it feel like we were one with both nature and the play itself. The setting and production was very much a community atmosphere—like we were all involved. And it was free, which is always a welcome bonus for family fun! This year they are showing 42nd Street and Tarzan.

Adrenaline rush

One summer, we visited Kansas City’s hub of fun for families, PowerPlay North. Complete with indoor arcade games, laser tag, and a go-kart track, my family and I had unlimited options to keep us busy. Will and I teamed up to race the kids, who, now young teens, were more than eager to compete.

I tightened my helmet strap, gripping the wheel as I gave Will a quick nod. Harry and Claire revved their engines, ready to take us on the track. I almost spun out a few times on a few turns, and stalled my engine more than once.

“Gotta keep up, Mom!” yelled Claire.

With the results tallied, the kids both crushed us on the last lap. Harry and Claire both made it onto their age groups’ leaderboards and were grinning from ear to ear.

“I still haven’t beat my score to this day,” said Harry, now approaching his seventeenth birthday. It was hard to believe how old the kids were getting, with even Claire turning fourteen soon.

As we cleared away the dishes from the dinner table, Will said, “I have an idea for this summer. Let’s do a greatest hits tour with all our favorites.”

The kids immediately chimed in with, "Yeah!" and "Can that include…?"

“Sounds like a plan!” I answered grinning. Clay County has been the source of many family memories and I couldn’t wait to make more.


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