A Great Mini-Vacation Destination!

As much as I love traditions I also know change is sometimes necessary and can even be a good thing. Every summer I take each of my daughters on a mother-daughter getaway, but this year our annual vacation became a mother-daughter-grandson trip. For our first getaway we decided to stay close to home and visit Bartlesville, a short, easy drive about 45 miles north of downtown Tulsa. In full disclosure, I have a soft spot for Bartlesville, having lived there in the mid-1980s and retaining fond memories of my time spent there. Even after we moved away I took my daughters there many times to experience the Kiddie Park.

My daughters at the Bartlesville Kiddie Park in the summer of ’89. They’ve changed significantly, but the Kiddie Park has remained the same!

A few weeks before our Bartlesville venture, I had spent 16 days in two Scandinavian countries with only a backpack, yet for one night with a toddler I packed as if we were spending the rest of the summer abroad. Of course, we needed a stroller, a pac’n’play, a white noise machine and a fan in addition to all the clothes, diapers and sippee cups. I thought we also might “need” a big bag of Trader Joe’s snacks for the long journey, and in a naively hopeful move, I packed all my workout gear thinking I might sneak a workout in to negate the road trip calories. The car was ridiculously full as we set off for our first multi-generational road trip!

I may have overpacked just a little but we managed to fit this guy in the car, in a car seat of course!

We made the decision to eat at locally owned restaurants only, so my daughter chose a Mexican restaurant based on good online reviews, La Fiesta Mexican restaurant. We met his other grandmother there and had a great meal for a reasonable price. The highlight was the “made at the table” guacamole–fresh, delicious and, best of all, they were willing to put the cilantro on the side since I despise cilantro and Callister’s other grandmother loves it. The restaurant was child friendly. with brightly painted tables and chairs, high chairs and plastic plates for the inevitable toddler food throwdown. We agree with all the great reviews of La Fiesta!

Callister loved LaFiesta’s spinach enchiladas and black beans!

After lunch we headed to Frontier Pool to swim. What a fantastic public pool! Although it’s not a huge pool, it has something for every age group: slides of all sizes, water basketball, a zero-depth entry area, a splash pad area and a lazy river.  The price of admission is four dollars for adults and two dollars per child (swim diapers required for kids four and under), and you will definitely get your money’s worth of entertainment! The lifeguards were attentive, there were some shady areas with comfortable chairs, a nice concession stand with reasonable prices and all the facilities were clean. My only complaint about this wonderful pool is the loud music, but that may be the ranting of a grouchy old lady that prefers the three B’s of music: The Beatles, The Bee Gees and The Beach Boys. Despite the fun we were having, we left after an hour to enable Callister to have a nap so he could stay awake for the evening entertainment.

Frontier Pool is a fun way to spend a warm afternoon

Mental flexibility is a quality that makes life easier, and when traveling with a toddler the ability to go with the flow is essential to sanity. When we went back to our hotel for Callister to take his afternoon nap, the power was out and stayed out the entire afternoon, which meant no white noise machine and no air conditioning, which translated to no nap for Callister. His morning nap had consisted of 15 minutes in the car, so at this point the kid was running on fumes (refer back to what we had for lunch) but thankfully he’s a good-natured kid, so we buckled him back in the car seat and headed out to find supper. The first restaurant we went to had a 25-minute wait and even on a good day, that’s too long to expect a hungry, tired child (or his grandmother) to wait for dinner, so thanks to Google maps we located another locally owned restaurant in close proximity. I controlled my “hangry” in an effort to be a good role model for my grandson, and we proceeded on to Plan B, or maybe we’re further down the alphabet by now?

Sometimes the alternative plan turns out to be the best plan, and that’s how we felt about our meal at Painted Horse Bar and Grill. Don’t hesitate because of the word bar in the name, there were plenty of families there and although there was an enticing alcoholic drink menu (for another visit sans grandchild) there was also an extensive menu sure to please picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions. My vegetarian daughter was very happy with her order of basil pesto pasta with vegetables, which she shared with her son, and my burger with brisket was delicious, or at least I think it would have been if I had any room left after totally pigging out on the appetizer, Brick House Onions. The appetizer menu is so appealing I’m already mentally planning another visit to sample a few more. I highly recommend this causal dining restaurant, and if you need a companion to help with the huge portions, I’m available!

My daughter and grandson patiently (?) waiting for the food.

It was worth the wait!

With full stomachs and amazingly intact happy dispositions, we headed to our main event, the reason many Tulsa families head north on highway 75 during the summer: The Kiddie Park!! The Kiddie Park has been a Bartlesville institution since 1947, a community treasure that verges on magical. Walking in the gates is like being transported into the 1950s with oldies music playing on the speakers and families walking around with cotton candy; I wouldn’t have been shocked to have seen poodle skirts and beehive hairdos in the crowd.  The park has served multiple generations with rides primarily geared towards young children, no big thrill rides but mostly “old school” type rides such as boats that go around in a circle, small bumper cars, a tiny Ferris wheel, a merry go round and a train the entire family can ride. Tickets are only 50 cents and each ride is one ticket, so it’s an affordable evening. I bought ten dollars’ worth of tickets, which turned out to be way too optimistic, Callister fell asleep halfway through the train ride, his very first ride. Although we were disappointed, we weren’t surprised, and my daughter and I still enjoyed the evening sitting on a bench relishing the rare, cool evening breezes while Callister slept in his stroller. We knew we had probably rushed the Kiddie Park experience, as it’s best suited to kids three to eight years of age, but I guarantee we’ll be back! The park is open Tuesday through Thursday from 7 until 9:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 7 until 10 p.m. The park is closed on Sundays and Mondays and will close for the season September 1. Tickets are fifty cents but be aware that no credit cards are accepted at the park, cash only!

A quaint, small town amusement park under the trees. A perfect way to spend an Oklahoma evening!

Bartlesville is an easy, affordable and fun trip for grandparents, parents and kids. Although we spent the night, it’s definitely not a necessity, but it gave us some extra time to enjoy local restaurants, the hotel experience and a park. If you have older kids it would be well worth your time to include a trip to Woolaroc and also take a look at a great example of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at the Price Tower (which is also a hotel!).  Bartlesville appeals to all age groups, but for my one-year old grandson a ride on the luggage cart from the hotel lobby to our room may have been the highlight of the trip! Sometimes the best memories are the spontaneous moments that don’t cost a penny.

The best part of the trip for Callister was stealing my apple and riding the luggage cart!

Categories: Grand Life