Where in the World is Cape Girardeau? The center of family-fun, that’s where.

Prior to becoming a mom, I lived in urban areas full of helicopter police raids, 3 a.m. siren brigades and occasional gunshot banter. Back in those heydays, I wasn’t worried about clean parks and safe schools. I was more concerned about choice restaurants, slammin’ hip hop dance classes and whether or not my friends and I would get bounced from the line of Brittney’s night club of the week. Those days, my friends, are totally—over.

I left the big city behind and moved to Cape Girardeau because it’s a fantastic community to raise my son and chock full of big-hearted folks, quiet churches and scenic farmland. Plus, it’s 110 percent safer than LA, Denver, Chicago or Tucson. But, when I told my closest friends that I was moving to Cape, that news was always followed with the question, “Cape what? Where is that exactly?”

After telling them that it was in southeast Missouri, two hours south of St. Louis and three hours north of Memphis, they would slowly shake their heads. “Oh—there.” The silent understanding being, “You’ll die of boredom. We’ll pray for you.”

Hardly.

Okay, I’d be lying if I said Cape Girardeau is action-packed full of fast-paced drama and thrills. That’s just not what it has to offer. It has loads of scenic charm, historic river heritage sites and great access to the mighty Mississippi. But, it also has something that I really hadn’t counted on. What it has recently developed is affordable family-friendly attractions that are easy to find, easy to access, easy to enjoy and most importantly easy on the wallet.

Even better, all of these attractions are brand new (or have been built in the last five years) which means one thing to mamas everywhere:  sparkly clean bathrooms.

So, without further ado, I give you the:

Top 5 List of Family-themed Attractions in Cape You Won’t Want to Miss this Summer

1. Cape Splash

Caple Splash Park Family Aquatic Center

Located next to the Osage Community Centre, Cape Splash provides 3.5 acres of family water park fun. The park features a lazy river, a play pool, a leisure pool, a toddler area, a bathhouse, tube slides, lap lanes, concessions, and a zero-depth entry for easy accessibility for all ages and abilities. Call for admission prices.

Address: 1565 North Kingshighway

Phone number: (573) 339-6342

2. Conservation Campus Nature Center

The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center is located within

Conservation Campus Nature Center

Cape Girardeau’s North County Park and showcases the rich cultural history and diverse natural resources of Southeast Missouri.  The Nature Center features a 160-seat auditorium, three classrooms, hands-on exhibits for all ages, a scientific research laboratory, freshwater aquariums, and an indoor wildlife viewing area.  The “White Oak Trace” features two miles of nature trails, allowing visitors to traverse rolling river hills marked by sinkholes and deep hollows and to explore ravines covered with prominent stands of Tulip poplar and oak.  The trails also connect to Wood Duck Swamp and Maple Hollow Trail.  Native plants featured in the Nature Center’s landscape provide habitat for hummingbirds, butterflies and other wildlife species.  The nature center’s gift shop features a variety of educational books, DVDs and nature-related items.  Programs are offered for all ages, ranging from monthly age-specific programs to large special events. FREE.

Address: 2289 County Park Drive

Phone: (573) 290-5218

3. Jones Heritage Farms

Gerry Jones, owner of Jones Heritage Farms, with a passel of hogs

Located on 90 acres of pristine farmland, Jones Heritage Farms is a family-owned farm that prides itself in adhering to old fashioned environmentally-friendly farming methods. All of the animals are raised outdoors and fed an all natural diet of grass and grain, and the farm is open to public visitors all year round. Visitors to the farm can tour the grounds, peek inside the barns, feed the baby animals, and buy Jones Heritage Farms products at the on-site Market. The farm does not practice industrial agricultural practices such as animal confinement, the feeding of animal byproducts and the use of antibiotics and growth hormones to maximize production. Instead, Jones Heritage Farms supports healthy, happy animals and quality food. FREE tours.

Address: 5739 State Highway W, Jackson, MO 63755

Phone: (573) 332-PIGS (7447)

4. Lazy L Safari

Perched on the banks of a slow-moving creek, Lazy L Safari Park is

Vicki Lantz, owner of Lazy L Safari, holds a baby ostrich chick

not your typical zoo. The park was initially established in 1988 as a family-owned and operated alternative livestock ranch. After years of fielding questions from local people about the animals, the family decided to open the park to the public and allow visitors to enjoy the animals in a comfortable, safe and natural setting.  Filled with hundreds of exotic animals and more than 20 different species, visitors are offered a completely self-guided experience. Visitors can walk through the main barn, petting zoo, animal nursery and park grounds in their own time and at their own pace. Take a stroll along the creek while gazing into the fields to watch zebras or antelope graze. Go on “safari” and feed the pygmy goats, watch baby animals, peer into the reptile aquariums, or check out the emu eggs in our incubator. You won’t want to miss the wallabies, kangaroos, tortoises, deer, zebras, camels, llamas, donkeys, porcupines, ibex, aoudads, antelope, sheep, alpacas, rheas, ostrich, birds, reptiles & more! You’ll find several benches to use for quiet reflection or animal watching, a gift shop, a picnic shelter, and a snack shop. Call or check the web site for more information about group tours, birthday party arrangements and admission prices.

Address: 2763 County Road 618

Phone: (573) 243-7862

5. Discovery Playhouse: A Children’s Museum

Kids in action at Discovery Playhouse

The Discovery Playhouse inspires the child in everyone and provides an entertaining family experience.  Through the love of play, the 7,000 square foot museum offers a world of opportunities to learn through hands-on exhibits, play stations and interactive models.  Permanent exhibits include:  a kid-sized village complete with grocery store, bank, and fire station.  Also a health and fitness trail, water exhibits, art stations, toddler play area, and large-scale musical pipes will thrill your kids.

Existing exhibits from museums or science centers are regularly rotated so that every visit is a chance for a new discovery.  The Discovery Playhouse also offers workshops and programs incorporating science, history and other topics. Birthday parties in the fun and spacious party room and special events can be arranged by contacting the museum. Check the web site for admission prices.

Address: 502 Broadway

Phone: (573) 335-7529 (PLAY)

If you’ve had a chance to see any of these attractions or just have questions, please leave a comment below about your experience! For more information, contact the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-777-0068  |  info@visitcape.com.

Capewoman, AKA Stephanie Lynch, is the Director of PR and Marketing for the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a featured blogger on VisitMOBistro.com. You can also find her at theslynch.com and at http://www.semissourian.com/blogs/capeCVB.