Something for Everyone at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - MetroFamily Magazine
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Something for Everyone at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

by Miranda Steffen

As someone who stands firmly in Camp Rock and Roll, I didn’t think a cowboy-themed museum would be up my alley. However, when I saw they were offering free admission every Wednesday through Nov. 15, my hesitation was overruled by my quest for a great deal. After our visit, my only complaint is that I didn’t visit this place Sooner (Okie joke!). Along with free admission for Wide Open Wednesdays, the museum will be offering fall break activities, a Halloween event and so much more throughout the fall. For more information, visit their website. Here are highlights for every age group.

TODDLER/PRESCHOOL

The Children’s Cowboy Corral is a hands-on educational play space for your young buckaroos. Kids can dress up in cowboy garb, hop on a saddle and parents can snap some incredibly cute photos. Head over to the chuck wagon for a delicious imagination meal your kids can serve up as you learn about the real cowboy diet of yesteryear. Sit down and enjoy a puzzle together, listen to a story and have fun without an internet connection, just like “the olden days.” Outside of the Cowboy Corral is a beautifully-landscaped garden. After a loud play time, walking around the paths, enjoying nature and talking about the sculptures was a perfect way to transition into the quieter parts of the museum.

ELEMENTARY

Elementary-aged kids will enjoy The Children’s Corral with the younger ones and they will have fun checking out the rest of the museum with older kids, but their minds will be blown away by Prosperity Junction. When my 6-year-old walked in, he audibly gasped and asked if we had time traveled. When you walk in, the rest of the museum disappears behind you. The lights give the impression that it’s very early morning or creeping toward dusk. Background sounds are set up so children can fully immerse themselves in this world. Families can walk around in this charming old wild west town and explore the schoolhouse, train depot, chapel and much more.

TWEEN/TEEN

My older kids had a blast checking out the Western Performers Gallery. Walk through and see a variety of cowboy and western memorabilia, including personal items of John Wayne’s. Near the center of the gallery there is a set-up that looks like an old movie theater, including old western movie posters. Patrons can walk in, take a seat and learn about the history of cowboys in film. If your tweens or teens are comic book kids, be sure to check out some of the current exhibits. The Chisholm Kid Exhibition runs through Sept. 17 and celebrates the first African American cowboy in comics. If you miss this one, that’s okay! There is also an exhibit running through April 1, 2018 called Cartoon & Comics: The Early Art of Tom Ryan. I found this exhibit to be especially important for my older kids as is showcases drawings that Tom Ryan made as a teenager himself before becoming a celebrated western artist. It gave me a chance to emphasize to my kids that the smallest passion can lead the way to their biggest dreams.

SPECIAL NEEDS TIPS

The entire museum is fairly quiet during the week while school is in session. If you homeschool, take advantage of this! My teen with autism had fun in the Cowboy Corral with his brothers, but he did need his headphones a few times. The museum has a lot of natural sunlight and many of the galleries have the lights dimmed. Still, if your kiddo gets overstimulated, take advantage of the gardens. Paths will lead you to different sculptures benches, and thoughtful spots giving your child time to comfortably regroup.

[Editor's Note: If you don't make it to the museum on a free Wednesday, take advantage of the museum's coupon on our Kids Pass Deals page.]

Miranda Steffen is part of a blended family with four sons ranging from 3 to 18 years old. She has an associate's degree in child development and family studies and a bachelor's in sociology. Now a stay-at-home mom, her work experience ranges from daycare director to ABA therapy instructional assistant for young children with autism.