Bright colors, delightful costumes, a play kitchen — Medieval style! — and one very cool dragon await visitors at the Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center now through Jan. 2.
The Amazing Castle Exhibit, on loan from the Minnesota Children's Museum, has returned to the area due to its popularity two years ago, bringing an immersive experience for children to learn about Medieval life and work from royals to peasants. Play stations demonstrate the jobs of a court jester, blacksmith, woodworker, a cook, a seamstress, and a farmer, where littles get to try it themselves and even dress the part!
I brought my kids to the first exhibit, and I was excited that they enjoyed it even more now at 4 and 6. My son especially enjoyed the Blacksmith station where he could pound horseshoes (with padded hammers) on the anvil, while my daughter stayed busy at the building station, putting together tables and chairs. Together they had a wonderfully messy time "cooking" in the pot over the glowing fire in the kitchen station.
But the dragon was their favorite part.
The castle station features an interactive game where guests match the character with the tools of their trade (both English and Spanish text are featured). After a successful matching, a friendly-looking hot-air dragon magically rises from the top of the tower.
(You might imagine that we did this a couple times. Or 20.)
I enjoyed doing everything with the kids, but as a mom I loved the books that accompany the display. I'm learning that it's one thing to take my kids places without a lot of context, and another if a story is included. Spoiler: It's always better if we have a story! We giggled over Tomie DePaoloa's The Knight and the Dragon, Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess, and the punny classic Good Night, Good Knight together, and had a chance to chat briefly about Medieval life's differences from our own — no electricity, different clothing, and different stories.
We stayed for nearly an hour and a half during our visit, and thanks to the variety of things to do, we could have stayed longer! Yay! A great indoor play option for winter! I was also happy to see the coloring walls have returned to the center for busy, artistic kiddos, so coupled with the climbing walls downstairs and the activity center with craft supplies and ideaas, there's even more reason to stay.
Ready to go? If you haven't discovered SOAC yet, you'll LOVE the Amazing Castle Exhibit, but you'll also find plenty of other reasons to visit again and again. Check out these fun programs coming up this month and be sure to keep an eye out for more holiday events coming up!
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Storytelliing Workshop
10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
All ages; SOAC admission
Wild Wednesday: Invasive Species
All ages; FREE
Early Learners: Got Bones?
2-6 years; $2
Wild Wednesday: Exploring Our Solar System
Early Learners: Halloween Fun!
2-6 years; $2
About Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center
Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center is located at 100 Sam Ridley Pkwy East, Smyrna. Hours are Sunday 1- 6 p.m., and Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Child admission 2-12 is $3 or $5 with climbing rooms; Adult admission is $4 or $7 with climbing. Save with a pass! Annual memberships start at $75, with all-inclusive family memberships capping at $200 (includes climbing). Learn more at townnofsmyrna.org/departments/outdoor-adventure-center and follow their Facebook page for the latest program updates, or call 615-459-9710.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer and homeschool mama who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two bouncy kiddos. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram.