By Jennifer Ward-Pelar 

Something as simple as picking fresh strawberries at Best Berry Farm is worth adding to your bucket list.

My husband was deployed to the Middle East last April, and I headed home to Louisville with my 3-year-old child. We lingered five magical months. South Florida might be paradise for a vacation, but Louisville is a paradise to live. Most everything was free, traffic wasn’t clogged and it wasn’t near as crowded, no matter what event we attended. In Louisville, I felt I spent the summer in paradise, even without a beach.

  • My daughter caught fireflies (instead of mosquitoes) in mason jars. She launched water balloons in a spacious backyard, grass beneath her bare feet.
  • She attended her first musical at Floyd Central High School and witnessed an authentic, small town tap-dance number.
  • We hiked the full two miles through the woods to Tioga Falls near Fort Knox and found out what a tick looks like.
  • She stared in wonder at the transformation of doughnuts through the Krispy Kreme factory window, and plucked fresh strawberries in the sunny fields of Best Berry Farm in Clark County, Indiana.
  • She observed the milking of a real cow at the Kentucky State Fair, and belted out hymns in her first vacation bible school at Valley View Church.
  • She baked shrinky-dinks with my sister and helped my brother wash his semi-truck.
  • She greeted her first policeman at the Meet the Police Event sponsored by Home Depot and visited an Amish auction amid horse and buggies near Cave City.

  • She balanced on the ropes course at the Louisville Zoo and swam at the YMCA Southwest while also attempting, and failing, in karate class.
  • She attended two Back-to-school fairs and ate free breakfasts at the local Valley High School, which provided meals for children under 18 years old, all summer long.
  • She spent hours playing at the J.B. Speed Art Museum and stood in the pitch dark inside Mammoth Cave.
  • She painted the sidewalk, pinecones, and herself with colored chalk.
  • She jumped in bounce houses, blew bubbles, and cooled down in the back yard kiddie pool.
  • She discovered new friends in the Kentucky Science Center and rode a pony at an ice cream social at Riverside Farnsley Landing.

  • She leapt through the water in multiple city splash parks and strolled along the Ohio River Front, swinging on the swing sets after inhaling fish at Mike Linnig’s Restaurant.
  • My three-year-old twirled in her first ballet class and dog-paddled at the Sun Valley Community Center with the next-door neighbor.
  • At the Louisville Southwest library branch, she participated in a dance party, a Lego party, a fairy tea party, arts and crafts, story times and constructed her own “car” out of cardboard and construction paper when the library created a drive-in theatre for the kids. We made full use of Louisville library’s cultural pass through her resident grandma. In the process, we read 500 books, exceeding our goals!

We didn’t frolic at the beach every Friday, but we got out of the house every single day without spending much money. I appreciated not having to fight traffic or don my huge sunhat and long-sleeve shirt to shield from the burning sun. I encountered the most interesting, kind mothers with genuinely good children. Used to the rat race of south Florida, I was amazed at the manners and thoughtfulness of Louisville’s children. It was one of the best summers of my life. My little one laughed and smiled with joy the entire summer, learning something new daily with educational, fun experiences. Louisville is an enchanting city for kids! Get out this summer and see what you can find!