A Geeky Family Trip

mudisland_panoramaLast week we visited my sister-in-law who lives in Memphis. Since our kids usually fall asleep in the car, we thought we’d travel at night so they could rest and we could enjoy a few hours of quiet-time to talk. Unfortunately, the kids decided not to cooperate with our brilliant plan, and they cried the entire time. Tired kids are usually a nightmare. Add two tired parents and it might be wise to declare the home a disaster area and send in the National Guard.

mudisland_sweetheartThere is one guaranteed way to end any conflict: Get everybody soaking wet (water-guns are my preferred tool, but we didn’t have any, so we improvised). My sister-in-law recommended Memphis’s Mud Island River Park. The park is a model of the Mississippi River that starts just north of Cairo, Illinois and ends at the Gulf of Mexico. What makes the park great is that you can put the kids in bathing suits and they can wade down the model river. We started at the Kentucky Dam where my son dropped a leaf in the water and then chased it down the river (when I say “a leaf” I mean a hand full of leaves, a few rocks, and a glob of mud).

There are huge stone wall maps that represent the tributaries, and the ground is contoured to represent the different depths of the river. Wherever the Mississippi or its tributaries pass a city, the model includes a street map and any bridges that cross the river.

mudisland_damThe model of the Mississippi tries to match the actual shape of the river, so some areas are deep enough that I’m pretty sure my kids could have drowned in it. Although drowning kids sucks, the accuracy of the model is impressive. The model ends at the Gulf of Mexico and the “delta” includes a pool and water fountain, so if the kids didn’t get wet enough walking down the river they can get drenched here. Apparently, there are even sharks in the delta–I was “attacked” by a 5 year old boy who mistook me for his father 🙂

Since America’s broke, I should mention Mud Island Park is free. If you want to visit the museum or go on a swan ride, you have to pay for that, but after wading down the Mississippi, my kids were pooped, so we all went home and took a nice long nap. We were all in better moods after everyone was rested. And, we agreed not to travel at night anymore.

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