Tiny surprises tucked into faery mailboxes, garden tea parties, indoor campouts, and watching Perseids meteor showers from a blanket in the backyard. Such enchanting activities during a summertime visit to a grandparent’s home can create memories to last a lifetime.
Those activities and more, which cost little or nothing, are detailed in author and illustrator Sharon Lovejoy’s 205-page book, Camp Granny, published by Workman Publishing in New York.
Lovejoy was a contributing editor for Country Living Gardener magazine for 13 years, writing a regular column called “Heart’s Ease.” Her column was distributed by The New York Times Syndicate to member newspapers through the United States and Canada. She has been a guest on Today on NBC, The Victory Garden on PBS, and numerous shows on HGTV and The Discovery Channel.
For Nannas and Paw-Paws looking for creative ways to entertain and engage youngsters during a prolonged visit, Camp Granny is a go-to guide. Featuring photos of Lovejoy’s own grandchildren, the book even includes activities for rainy days.
Hosting a grandparents camp is doable, even for those who don’t consider themselves particularly creative. It just takes a bit of planning and energy. Those with multiple grandchildren, especially very young ones, might want to consider lining up some help.
Want to take the kids exploring rather than spending the whole week at home? Consider yourself lucky to live where you do. Granbury and the surrounding area offer plenty of fun things to do, including squeal-inducing day trips.
Between the ideas in Camp Granny and all the fun things to see and do in and around the lake community that was thrice voted Best Historic Small Town in America, a fantastic, jam-packed grandparents camp can be created to fit virtually any budget.
Need some entertainment that’s free? Hitch a ride on the city’s iconic green trolley used by Visit Granbury to ferry visitors to and from their hotel and the historic square. Or visit Granbury’s popular City Beach Park for an afternoon of sandcastle-building and swimming.
Also free: Visit Granbury’s do-it-yourself walking cemetery tour featuring the final resting places of local historic figures.
Don’t have access to a swimming pool? Yes, you do. The city-owned and operated Dana Vollmer Municipal Swim Center is a public pool open to everyone for a modest admission fee.
There is so much to see and do that some grandparents might feel overwhelmed at the thought of planning their own grandparents camp.
Lovejoy’s advice? Keep it simple.
She quotes the words of poet Richard Henry Dana: “In heart be a child.”
“Just remember how everything is intriguing to kids,” she said. “Get them away from the screens.”
In other words, turn off the TV and put away the phones.
At Lovejoy’s home in San Luis Obispo, California, she and her husband Jeff Prostovich have a basket where their five grandchildren have deposited their cell phones upon arrival. The relinquishing of phones is not a punishment, Lovejoy stressed. It’s simply a commitment to focus on what’s important: each other.
Instead of reading social media posts, the couple’s five grandchildren have perused a basket full of old family photos. They have learned favorite family recipes passed down through the years, and heard stories of how Lovejoy’s grandfather, John Clarke, was the last living ranger in Arizona, chasing bandits through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. He died in 1982.
Some might find it hard to believe, but Lovejoy said her grandkids loved playing the old-school games of Old Maid, Go Fish, Pick-Up Sticks, Tick Tac Toe, and Hang Ten during their summer visits.
Grandparents camp at Lovejoy and Prostovich’s California bungalow has included dress-up play, arts and crafts, nature-inspired activities, and fun in the kitchen creating eggplant penguins, bell pepper baskets, and caterpillars assembled from sliced cucumbers and carrots. The children have made their own English muffin “moon pizzas” baked in a makeshift cardboard solar “oven” and have sampled edible flowers.
If dining out with the grandkids is too expensive, try Lovejoy’s idea: Teach them how to prepare a meal and then let them cook it for you. Give each of them an apron and let them serve you the meal as if they are running a restaurant.
“I say, don’t spend a lot of money,” Lovejoy advised. “Our values are such that we don’t want kids to equate grandparents with easy gifts. We want values and traditions and memories and joy. You know, things you cannot buy.”
Camp Granny was published in 2009, 14 years ago. Lovejoy’s youngest grandchild, Moses, is no longer the adorable toddler pictured in his grandmother’s book sampling a luscious strawberry and peeking through the door of a playhouse constructed by granddad from a large appliance box.
Lovejoy knows that her summertime camps impacted the lives of her grandchildren.
“I think the best indication is that they like to be with us,” she said. “Even though they’ve grown up, they still talk about, oh, remember when we did this?”
Oh, the places you’ll go!
Here is just a sampling of fun excursions grandparents can take with their grandkids during a summertime grandparents camp.
DISCOVER GLEN ROSE
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
2299 County Road 2008
A variety of tours are available. Visit fossilrim.org for ticket pricing and booking.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
1629 Park Road 59
Adults $8, kids 12 and under are free
Lifesize “dinosaurs,” a dino-themed playground, and fun learning opportunities
1058 Park Road 59
Ticket prices vary, with discounts available.
Big Rocks Park
1014 NE Barnard St.
254-897-3081 (Glen Rose CVB)
Bring a picnic, swimwear, and your cell phone for picture-taking to this scenic spot with shallow water on the Paluxy River. It’s free fun in the summer sun.
GRANBURY OPERA HOUSE
The Granbury Theatre Academy will present “Mary Poppins Jr.” in July. Tickets are $20 each.
Teen cast: July 21-23 and 28-30
Kids cast: July 24-27
Make the theater trip extra special with a stop at Merry Jayne’s candy and ice cream store or the ice cream counter at Silver Saddle Saloon, both on the square, or visit nearby restaurants for a sit-down meal.
CITY BEACH PARK
505 E. Pearl St.
No admission charge
Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or sunset.
Beachside Toys and Takeout, operated out of the tiki hut, sells snacks and rents kayaks, paddle boards, tubes, bicycles, and surreys.
The boardwalk serves as a barrier against boats, and buoys mark a swimming area. Beach monitors are on patrol, but there are no lifeguards. There is a lifejacket loaner station.
GHOSTS, HISTORIC HAUNTS
What kid doesn’t love a ghost story, even when it’s not Halloween?
Walking cemetery tour
Pick up a copy of the brochure “Granbury Cemetery — Where Texas History Lives Forever” from the Visit Granbury offices at 201 E. Pearl St. just off the square, then take your campers on a walking tour of the graveyard. They can view the final resting places of some of Granbury’s key early settlers as well as, according to local lore, the grave of the infamous outlaw Jesse James. The weather may be hot, but your grandkids will feel a chill paying their respects to seven-year-old Audrey Gordon, who died at the Langdon Center in 1908 and, legend has it, continues to make her presence known there.
Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour
119 E. Bridge St. by the Nutt House Hotel
Tours are at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are recommended. Call 817-559-0849 or visit granburytours.com.
Visit the Arts & Letters Bookstore on the south side of the square and meet Granbury Ghosts & Legends tour guide and author Brandy Herr. She works there. The store sells her book “Haunted Granbury” and the children’s adaptation, “The Ghostly Tales of Granbury,” geared for ages nine-12.
Baker Hotel Ghost Walk
205 E. Hubbard St. by the historic, and reportedly haunted, Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells
Walking tour is 11 p.m. to about midnight on Saturdays.
Cost: $20 adults, $10 kids (no specific age for kids was cited on the tour’s Facebook page).
Check The Baker Hotel Ghost Walk & Believe Boo-tique Facebook page for up-to-date scheduling information. Contact is 817-629-8127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Splash Kingdom Wild West
1001 Cinema Dr., Weatherford
Admission: $24.95 plus tax if ticket purchased online; $27.95 plus tax if ticket purchased at window.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
850 S. Graham Ave., Stephenville
Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 1-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Closed Monday and Tuesday).
Got older grandchildren? They might love to wheel around the Granbury Square area with Kevin and Stacie McCoy through their Granbury Segway Tours. The minimum age is 14 and the minimum weight is 100 pounds.
401 N. Park Dr.
Contact is 817-991-0990 or email@example.com.
For pricing and booking, visit 2wheeltoursandfun.com.
Captain Kirk’s Tiki Cruises offers family cruises on Lake Granbury from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
919 E. Pearl St. (by Mesquite Pit restaurant)
Cost: $55 for ages 13 and older, $50 for ages 12 and under.
Passengers can pre-order food for their cruise from Mesquite Pit or bring their own snacks.
Contact is 1-833-TIKI-CRU or firstname.lastname@example.org.