Grand Adventures in Tulsa:
Gathering Place with a Toddler
Never again will the words “There’s nothing to do in Tulsa, I’m bored” be uttered in our city. With the opening of the Gathering Place on Saturday (yes, this Saturday, September 8th!!) there will always be something to do in Tulsa for every age and every interest! Because you’ve probably already seen hundreds of media sources covering this once-in-a-lifetime event I won’t even attempt to cover everything there is to do. It would take more than my blog space to fill you in on every wonderful and amazing area in the Gathering Place! My feet got tired long before I covered the entire park, so I’ll be focusing on what the best areas are for toddlers.
I was lucky enough to go on a media tour to get a preview before the crowds hit, and I don’t think I am exaggerating to say I remained in open-mouthed awe the entire two hours. As I walked through the huge stone walled entry and caught a glimpse of the beautiful boathouse I had to remind myself this was indeed the same Tulsa where I was born and raised, and this was the same stretch of the Arkansas river where I rode my horse in the 1970s and rarely saw another person. I loved that Tulsa, and I loved that river, and although change is normally difficult for me to accept, I am embracing this park with eager anticipation! I envision many long visits with my 14-month-old grandson; the only problem I foresee is him never wanting to leave the park! In our beginning visits I plan to start with three toddler friendly areas.
Volcanoville is an area for children 6-24 months old and has safe places a toddler can crawl, walk and run with minimal risk. The surface is soft to cushion a fall, and the structures are the perfect height for little ones to climb. I especially like the fact the area is gated so you have those extra seconds to chase your grandchild down before they escape.
Volcanoville, an area specifically designed for the 6 to 24 months crowd!
I was entranced by the Fairy Land Forest! It’s a magical place with sweet child-size buildings painted happy colors. This is a place they can let their imaginations run as fast as their feet. It has a sandy ground and nice sun shades above. This space will require some adult supervision, as there are stairs your grandchild may not be ready for, but overall it appears to be safe and lots of fun!
The next area I know my grandson will be absolutely fascinated with is Water Mountain! Some of the areas are obviously for older kids, but there is enough to keep a toddler interested for a long period of time. This is where you need to give up and understand that part of the experience is getting wet. There are streams of water, puddles of water and spraying water, and on hot Oklahoma days it’s going to be the most popular place in the park!
This is a small, toddler friendly part of the big area called Water Mountain.
Here are a few tips for grandparents visiting Gathering Place with toddler grandchildren.
- Bring a stroller- This is a big place; when all phases are complete it will be 100 acres, so even if your grandchild thinks they are too old to ride, they may change their minds at some point, and you will end up carrying a tired child. If you have a runner like my grandson you might even consider a backpack leash. I know this is controversial, but my grandson can outrun me, and losing a little one in this place would be very stressful!
- Wear comfortable shoes! This is one of those cases of “do as I say, not as I did.” Learn from my mistake and wear the most comfortable shoes you own. I wore what I previously thought were very comfortable sandal-type shoes, but about halfway through the park those sandals turned into torture devices, and I was longing for my running shoes. Of course, this applies to your grandchild also! Be ready to walk!
- Be prepared to get dirty, sandy and maybe even wet. I can’t imagine a child alive that will be able to resist the water features at Water Mountain, the sandy beach area at Peggy’s Pond and some areas of the Adventure Playground. There are so many valuable opportunities for sensory stimulation for toddlers and well, getting dirty is part of the experience. I plan to bring a wet washcloth, some hand sanitizer and a change of clothes for my grandson, and I’ll have an extra towel in the car just in case.
- Bring a bottle of water and toddler friendly snacks. There will be three dining venues, and I know we will take advantage of those places, but if you have a toddler you know sometimes they need a drink out of their favorite sippy cup and a quick snack. Please obey the rule of no glass containers–I don’t think we need to explain the reasoning behind that rule.
- Bring sunscreen. There are some wonderful shady areas and also great sunshades, but there are also areas of direct sunlight from which you will want to protect your little one’s skin. I’ll also bring a hat for my grandson, although I know it’s a losing battle to keep it on his head.
- Plan to spend at least a couple hours. As I said before, this is a big place, bigger than I imagined, and to do it justice you will need time. I think you’ll have as much fun as your grandkids. My husband and I are looking forward to going without our grandson and renting a kayak at the boathouse.
This blog barely scratches the surface of the wonderful new addition to our city. The groundbreaking was in 2014 and sometimes it seemed it might never really open, but the day is almost here and, after my sneak preview today, I can guarantee it was worth the wait! I can’t end this blog without saying a huge thank you to George Kaiser and all the other generous donors for investing in the happiness and well-being of Tulsans! It will be a Tulsa treasure for generations to come.