New Exhibit & Concerts Rock Mud Island River Park This Summer
I’m feeling that late-summer panic of seeing the first day of school on the calendar and realizing the party’s about to end. In response, I’m treating my kid/research assistant to every last summery hurrah in and around Memphis. Last Friday, that led us to Mud Island River Park.
We typically visit this park just once or twice a season. We should do better. Wading through the River Walk, my daughter’s favorite part, is free. She never tires of it (and, keeping up after her, I never get to read as many of the interpretive signs as I want to). On a pretty afternoon like last Friday, we could have stayed hours longer – her, splashing through the entire five-block replica of the Lower Mississippi River; me, lingering over the stories of each city and skirmish along the path.
We did journey all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, a millionish-gallon pool where you can rent pedal boats and savor this view of downtown Memphis:
But for this visit, we’d received a tip on a new exhibit in the park’s Mississippi River Museum. We worked through the museum’s permanent galleries, a thorough look at the Native Americans, European explorers, Civil War soldiers, steamboat culture and musical styles that have clashed and flowed with the river.
At the end of the 18 permanent galleries (allot a minimum of one hour), we arrived at the new exhibit, a traveling installation known as RiverWorks Discovery®: A Journey of Exploration.
As our tipster foreshadowed, my daughter was THRILLED. She ran from station to colorful station engaging in activities like:
- Touching everything on display, from examples of Native American tools to beaver pelts (used to demonstrate early trading on the river)
- Piecing together puzzles depicting a barge, a steamboat and river animals
- Playing these pipes to the tune of “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”
- Turning a pilot wheel
- Using touch screens to reveal facts about river personalities and to play conservation-themed games (such as helping a fish navigate a polluted waterway)
- Maneuvering a wooden fish through the invasive species milfoil inside a plexiglass aquarium
- Dressing up like a towboat captain (part of the exhibit’s message on river commerce)
More kid-friendliness: At 2,000 square feet, you won’t need more than an hour or so to experience RiverWorks Discovery, and its placement in a bright area of the museum with picture windows overlooking the Mississippi creates a welcoming discovery space. (Fair warning – the permanent gallery’s Civil War vignettes, dark and filled with the sounds of cannon fire, intimidated my almost six-year-old. As an adult, I thought they were pretty cool.)
RiverWorks Discovery will remain at the Mississippi River Museum through Oct. 31, 2013, when Mud Island River Park’s season officially ends. Until then, hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with last admission at 4 p.m. Buy the package ($10 for ages 12-59; $9 for ages 60-plus; $7 for ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and under) for a monorail ride over the Mississippi River to and from the park, museum admission and access to the River Walk. For $4/all ages, you can take the monorail ride a la carte – short but worth it, especially when you consider the free fun on the other side: the engineering marvel that is the River Walk; picnic tables and benches; epic views like this.
Bonus: Summer concerts at Mud Island Amphitheatre
After hours, the park’s Mud Island Amphitheatre hosts open-air concerts: Shinedown and Papa Roach on Sept. 4; Steely Dan on Sept. 6; Fall Out Boy with Panic at the Disco on Sept. 27; The Lumineers with Dr. Dog on Oct. 8. Link here for concert ticketing info.
How do you do Mud Island River Park? Tell us in the comments section below.