Think ahead about three days.The gifts are unwrapped, the batteries have already died, the kids are out of school for another week, and maybe things at the office are slow enough that you can slip away a little early. What is there for the family to do?



Here’s a non-shopping, end-of-the-year, transition-to-a-new-season list of suggestions and reminders.

Think ahead about three days.The gifts are unwrapped, the batteries have already died, the kids are out of school for another week, and maybe things at the office are slow enough that you can slip away a little early.

What is there for the family to do?

Here’s a non-shopping, end-of-the-year, transition-to-a-new-season list of suggestions and reminders.


1 Get the picture. The current exhibit at the Truman Library, “The President’s Photographer: 50 Years Inside the Oval Office,” is here only through Jan. 22. It offers an inside look at presidents going back to John F. Kennedy. Of course, there are permanent exhibits on Harry Truman’s life and presidency. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 Sundays; closed Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8, $7 for seniors 62 and older, $3 for ages 6 to 15. It’s at 500 West U.S. 24, Independence.


2 Keeping giving. The Salvation Army, the Community Services League, Hope House and others still need help so they can help others. The idea of the holiday season as a “season of need” is certainly true but also a bit misleading. Families in need, especially children, are struggling and suffering year-round, and local service agencies – like others across the country – have seen a dramatic, sustained increase in demand for food, shelter, utility assistance and other aid in the last three years. A can of soup or a couple of bucks in the collection plate can help.


3 Holiday decorations, last chance. The Vaile Mansion in Independence has room after room of holiday decorations. See it this coming week or wait for another 10 months. The Vaile is closed this weekend, open Monday through next Friday and then closed until April. Hours are 10 to 4. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children and students, $5 for seniors and groups. The mansion is at 1500 N. Liberty St. in Independence, a few blocks north of U.S. 24.


4 And now, a word from the Grinch: Pay those Jackson County property taxes. Taxes for 2011 are due by the end of the year. They have to be received or at least postmarked by Dec. 31. The Courthouse Annex in Independence and the Downtown Courthouse in Kansas City are both closed Dec. 31 this year because it falls on a Saturday. County offices also are closed Monday for Christmas. So that leaves 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Tuesday through Friday to pay in person. Be ready to stand in line.

There are ways to avoid that line. One is pay by mail. One is to pay online. One more is to drop off your payment at City Hall in Blue Springs. Use the same collection box as is used for water bills.


5 Learn some history. “America I Am: The African American Imprint” runs through Jan. 8 at Union Station. With more than 300 objects and artifacts going as far back as the 17th century, this exhibit shows how the African-American experience is woven into the fabric of American life. It’s stopping at 10 cities across the country. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 to 6 Saturday and 11 to 6 Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors, college students and military; and $8 for ages 3 to 12. Union Station is on Pershing just north of Crown Center in Kansas City.


6 See the lights. The lights on the Country Club Plaza are on each evening through Jan. 15. Jackson County’s Christmas in the Park, with lighted displays at Longview Lake in Lee’s Summit, runs through New Year’s Eve. Of course, you can just drive around and enjoy the sights. For example, there are the Chicago Street lights in Blue Springs.

Also, the Cooper family at 16500 E. 28th St. in Independence is this year’s winner of the Independence Holiday Lights contest (sponsored by The Examiner and Independence Power and Light).


7 Go see a movie. It’s a Hollywood thing, but movie studios often wait until the tail end of the year to roll out some of the prestige movies they hope will build momentum heading into the Oscars in late February. Take an afternoon off, take in a matinee, save a couple of bucks, and see a good movie. More details in my latest blog post (click blogs and scroll down – keep scrolling – to “Jeff Fox goes to the movies.” And please be patient as we get the kinks worked out of our new blog site).


8 Draw the line. “Santa’s Crayola Christmas Land” runs through Dec. 31 at Crown Center. Kids can play on supersized Crayola products. It’s free. Hours are 10 to 5.


9 Off-season baseball. “Right on Time,” an exhibit about Kansas City baseball icon Buck O’Neil, runs through Feb. 5 at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Hours are 9 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 Sunday. Admission to the museum is $8 for adults, $3 for ages 6 to 12.. The museum is at 1616 E. 18th St., Kansas City in the 18th and Vine district.


10 Enjoy the season. That whole 12 days of Christmas thing starts on Christmas and ends Jan. 5 (Twelfth Night), and many faith traditions celebrate Jan. 6 as the beginning of Epiphany, marking the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus and more broadly marking the revelation of Christ as the Son of God. Some churches have services on Jan. 6. Now if you’re really into the secular side of the 12-days deal, start looking for bargains on geese a-laying and those five golden rings, assuming your true love has room for all that stuff.