The dog days of Coronasummer are upon us here in Texas, and if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling the fatigue of being on lockdown or semi-lockdown, while trying to raise well-adjusted children (often while swatting back your own roller coaster of emotions). Anyone else hot, tired, and stir-crazy?
Although I’m desperate to get out and enjoy summer activities with my family (man I miss Crayola Factory on a hot day), the problem is I still don’t feel super safe in most places. So I’d like to share with you some ideas we have tried for beating the heat while still following our version of doctor and state recommended guidelines. I know everyone’s comfort level is different these days, so for the sake of this post, I’ll focus on my family’s own personal safe space: local outdoor and drive-through activities where my family can easily social distance.
One of the things that we’ve enjoyed the most so far is hiking and exploring at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. If you go, get there early. Like super early. 7:30 if you can. Wear sneakers or hiking boots and stick to the unpaved trails. The trees offer great coverage from the sun and not nearly as many people walk those trails compared with the paved ones. You don’t really need a plan or an activity – just explore. Try asking your kids questions like, “What do you see?” or “What did you find there?” You’ll be done by 9 when the crowds start to show. Just don’t go on Wednesdays as they are closed in the morning for maintenance. We like to head over to Earnest Donuts afterward for a treat. Order in the car, and they’ll bring your donuts, coffee, or bagel sandwiches out to you.
Arbor Hills Trail
We’ve also enjoyed going to Rosemeade Rainforest. Now I was skeptical of this at first, but with their COVID-19 policies in place, I felt comfortable. We booked online for 10:30am, the first session of the day. Even with a season pass you need to reserve a spot now for a particular 1.5 hour session. There were plenty of empty tables for our stuff (including our packed snacks and drinks), and it was empty enough that we could easily social distance (as in only 1 or 2 other families shared the entire toddler area). Plus, all 3 of my children were highly entertained the whole time. Between every session the venue closes to deep clean, and if you live in Carrollton, a season pass is only $80 for the whole family.
Finally, I’d recommend driving through the Carrollton Public Library. I know this sounds boring, but it’s all about presentation. Put on your Don Draper hat and advertise the heck out of it. I mean, if you think about it, getting a library book is basically like getting a present. And going to the library is even better if it’s just the first stop of a mini-adventure. Think drive-through hopping. So here’s what we do: I reserve books for each kid, we go pick them up at the library drive-through window, then the kids read them while we drive to our next stop. Usually it’s Starbucks for vanilla bean scones, but sometimes we go to Wendy’s for frostys. Then, we find a place to enjoy it all. You could go anywhere. If it’s overcast or cool, try reading in the park or someplace outdoors. If it’s extra hot, set up an indoor picnic. Eat that frosty and read those books from a blanket on your floor. Making an event out of it reminds me a little of the pre-corona days when we’d go to Barnes and Noble to get a coffee and browse the kids section.
While we’re on the topic of the library, I feel the need to plug their summer reading program. If your kids are reading anything at all anyway, it’s worth logging it. And if they’re not, this is a great way to get them to start. They have programs for all ages, and my kids love racking up points by reading books and completing activities on a bingo card to earn prizes. You pick up your prizes (which are actually pretty good) at the Josey Ranch library via drive-through.
Anyway, I hope you can find some inspiration here to keep you sane during this strange, strange summer. The neighborhood walks and sidewalk art that got us through Spring lockdown aren’t happening nearly as much in the July heat. So get creative, market your activities to your young audience, and for goodness sakes, try to get out of the house.
If you’re so over being local, here are a few other places to try:
- Pure Land Farm in McKinney: Follow them on social media to reserve a slot to pick your own fruits and veggies.
- Blase Family Farm in Rockwall: Pick your own blueberries. Follow them on Twitter to reserve a slot. But do it quickly because blueberry-picking season is almost over.
- Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose: Drive through the safari and then head over to Dinosaur Valley State Park to see actual fossils.
Pure Land Farm
Carrie Thomas is a mother of 3 (Hailey 2, Caleb 4, and Jackson 7) and has been a CECPTA blue and yellow group member for almost 2 years. She moved to Carrollton from New Jersey in the winter of 2018 when her husband accepted a job at UTD. She is a middle school English teacher in Carrollton and loves spending time with her family, reading dystopian YA novels, and unwinding with a glass of wine and one of the well-written Netflix shows.