By Andrea Brown Ross
Photography copurtesy of Andrea Brown Ross, Phillip Van Zandt, and Tennessee Safari Park
Mid-South families looking for family friendly and affordable spring break destinations have a variety of nearby options.
Tupelo Buffalo Park
This small zoo with farm and exotic animals will not be an all-day adventure. However, the Tupelo Buffalo Park is great short excursion for limited-attention spans and for families with limited time.
For an extra $3 per person, visitors can ride a tractor-pulled trolley to the outlying zoo and buffalo area. The covered trolley allows visitors to get off their feet, feel a breeze, and relax as their tour guide relays information about the pastured animals.
“Seeing and feeding the buffalo was definitely the best part for my family,” said Julia Luther of Sarah, Mississippi.
And if you’re worried that one of your little buckaroos might get that spark in his eye and hop the fence to ride a buffalo like a rodeo bull, you needn’t be. The park has a protocol they follow when allowing visitors to enter the feeding area including high fences. The tour guide also supervises the feeding.
“My nephews really enjoyed feeding the buffalo, even though they live on a farm and are used to being around large animals. This was a once in a lifetime experience for them,” shared Luther.
The buffalo ride takes approximately an hour. Families can expect to spend about two hours at the buffalo park. A shaded picnic area is available. Parents, be warned, entry and exit require going through the gift shop. Plan accordingly. General admission is $11. Besides the buffalo tour, the park offers other outdoor activities, such as ziplining, for a minimal additional fee. Check the website for details.
Children’s Museum of Memphis
If you’re looking for a few hours or a full day of fun, consider the Children’s Museum of Memphis. With a variety of activities for all age levels, the whole family is sure to enjoy the experience.
Ramona Johnson, the museum’s Public Relations and Marketing manager, said, “Come enjoy your spring break at CMOM. Ride our newly restored 1909 Memphis Grand Carousel with 48 horses and two chariots (one ADA-compliant). Sit in the pilot’s seat in an airplane cockpit, climb to the top of a skyscraper and learn about the power of wind. And, that’s just the beginning.”
The museum hosts an array of special events throughout the year. For example, The Wonderful World of Signing will be held on March 13, from 1-3 p.m. Children will be taught specific phrases they can use in specific exhibits. Children also will be rewarded for their efforts, according to Johnson.
The Easter EGGstravaganza will be held on March 24 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. This will include a pancake breakfast, a photo with the Easter Bunny and a themed craft. Also, stay for the lavish Easter Egg Hunt that will include deluxe candy, chocolate bunnies and plush toys. Cost is $15 for members and $18 for non-members (excludes the museum and carousel).
The museum’s befitting motto “where learning is play” allows children to be hands on with the exhibits. Emily Blair Brown of Hernando, agrees.
“My young girls love to come here. In fact, we have an annual family membership. Each time we visit, it seems they discover something new,” she said.
Admission is $15 and carousel rides are an additional $3. Parking is $4 for non-members.
Casey Jones Village
Conveniently located near Interstate-40 about an hour east of Memphis, the Casey Jones Village allows families to learn more about Jones, the railroad engineer who became an internationally known folk hero after he saved many lives on his last ride in April 1900.
Entry to the museum begins with a brief video of his story and the significance of his sacrifice. Following the video, guests meander through the exhibit looking at historical pieces that show Jones’ influence on 20th century culture. Visitors can board a train stationed on the track outside the museum to blow the whistle as well as see the Jones’ home. The tour ends in the gift shop where young children can play with train sets while parents browse. Admission is only $6.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids, ages 6-12.
The village also has shops, mini-golf, a small farm, and other attractions. Perhaps the other most popular attraction, and definitely the best tasting, is the Old Country Store restaurant. Lunch buffets are $9.95, adults, and $4.95, children.
“I loved the food! With such a huge buffet, it was easy to satisfy my three grandkids,” said Bonnie Brown of Coldwater, Mississippi. “The restaurant was busy, but we were seated immediately. They kept the buffet well stocked. It was well worth it.”
Tennessee Safari Park
While in Jackson, why not make the quick drive to Alamo, Tennessee? The Tennessee Safari Park boasts over five miles of dirt roads. Guests can view and feed animals from all over the world in the comfort and safety of their own vehicle. Admission is $14 for adults and $10 for kids 2 -12 years. Be sure to check out the website for important information before your trip. Cash only is accepted at the gate, and the family pet will have to stay at home on this trip. No outside animals are allowed.
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