From our sponsor: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma City family fun can take you back in time and bring out the best in local culture.
My May calendar is almost full, the days mapped out with milestones. I’m looking forward to fifth grade graduation, school music performances and Mother’s Day. This month always seems to go by too quickly, the end of school being so closely related to family life. Kids can’t wait to be older, can’t wait for summer, can’t wait for the next grade. And yet, as the parent, I feel like I’m pulling the other way sometimes, wishing it would all slow down.
These will soon be my sons’ good old days, before they knew exactly who they were and what they were headed to do. I don’t want to miss out on now, the preamble to all that lays beyond. We’ve modified our schedule to include a few blackout dates where we’ll just stay home and enjoy each other’s company, downtime, but also an event or two that fosters quality time.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Chuck Wagon Festival is Memorial Day Weekend, May 26 and 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. This weekend-long annual event made my Day Designer because it gives parents a way to enjoy the simpler things with their kids. The festival celebrates Western culture and the ways of life that helped shape family living long before the suburbs and smartphones.
If you’re looking for something fun to do with your family that doesn’t cost a fortune or involve a screen, mark your calendar for the Chuck Wagon Festival.
Here are three reasons to attend the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Chuck Wagon Festival:
Get summer off to a great start: My oldest son just turned 11; I want to start the summer with a day that leaves behind headphones and Roblox. Part of the nostalgia older people share about their childhoods relates to outdoor play and there’s plenty of that at the festival. Seeing something different is a huge draw. Kids won’t miss their tablets with hands-on activities like leather stamping and rope tricks. Live music is part of the day too, which I always want my kids to see more of so they can appreciate that too.
Spark an interest: Making history more tangible is one of the reasons the museum hosts the festival each year. Class experiences, like reading related state history and participating in the Land Run wagon races familiar to most who have participated in Oklahoma schools, get more context and come to life at the event. Kids are more likely to engage with school topics when they can relate to a real-world experience and students can find out more about what they see over the summer then take back some of the more tangible elements to the classroom next fall.
Enjoy the day as a family and skip admission costs for the kids: Kids 12 and under are free; adult admission is $15 and can be purchased at the door. Attending is less than the cost of a movie. So much of what our family does depends on who has a commitment where, like sports practices or community obligations. Finding something to do where we’re all the same place and that works for the variety of kids’ ages in our family can be a challenge. My sons are 11, 6, 3 and a brand new baby. We could easily spend a few hours at the festival together with my husband or I could just take the older two for some quality time with me. Either way, the festival is a way to go out and experience the community in a way that’s unique to our state.
And here are three tips to make the most of the festival:
Consider a family membership: They’re for sale at the festival and can be used in place of paying for the two adult admissions. I’m usually the last person to recommend purchasing museum memberships but here’s why this one makes sense: there are so many family events at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum throughout the year that my kids would be happy to attend and admission is free for a family of six with a $75 membership. The festival is one of them. The $30 I would spend for two adults is better invested that way and makes it just $45 to attend practically everything else the museum offers throughout the year. It’s not every membership that covers four children either. More info is available here with what a membership gets you. We’ve visited several times and really appreciate the planning that goes into each family-oriented event; as someone who plans events for a living, I notice when venues really take kids into account and structure events with them in mind. Here’s a Kid Review that explains what’s great at the museum from my oldest son’s perspective.
Come hungry: There are food samples, including beans, biscuits and cobbler, throughout the festival. It’s sometimes hard to know what to expect at an event in terms of available snacks. Your kids won’t leave this one without having at least tried authentic fare.
Know that it’s indoor/outdoor: Wear comfortable shoes and plan on taking a good walk. Strollers are welcome and so are kids of all ages. The event is rain or shine. Although some parts of it do take place inside, plan for a hot day. The event starts at 10 a.m. and you’ll get more out of it if you’re there early to spend the day rather than just coming for part of the afternoon.
May’s usual lineup of school and family events tends to repeat year after year, even as we somehow feel busier each subsequent spring. Adding the Chuck Wagon Festival to what we plan to do makes for a nice family tradition, a reminder to slow down. We have the rest of the summer to do exactly that.
My hope for my family’s summer is to be a little less 21st century and enjoy some of that old-fashioned family time throughout the coming months. We’ll kick it off May 26 and 27. See you there!