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Spring Break Fun

Who isn’t sick of winter by now? With spring break and lots of sports tournaments just around the corner, you may be ready to try something new. Check into these family-friendly activities that will give you a dose of history, nature and just plain fun.

If you’re in Des Moines for a basketball tournament, pop into the Iowa Hall of Pride and try out the Basketball Tournament Super Shot Challenge. Running from March 7-15 (closed Sundays), you can compete for some fantastic prizes as you test your shooting skills. Also, you may want to make the call in an interactive exhibit that lets you be the referee or umpire. And in a nod to the wrestling tournament, visit an exhibit on legendary Wartburg College wrestling coach Jim Miller, who led his teams to 10 national titles.

Iowa Farm Bureau members can receive free admission to the Iowa Hall of Pride if they show their membership card. Go to www.iowahallofpride.com or call 515- 280-8969.

Up at the Grout Museum District in Waterloo, it’s all things farming, as the museum features “It’s Not Your Grandparent’s Farm, Or Is It?” See how farming has evolved from the pioneer days to today’s large-scale farming, complete with a life-size farmers market that allows guests to “shop” at stalls selling everything from artisan cheeses to buffalo meat to vintage seeds.

On March 15, a farm fair at the museum will showcase several of the farmers whose interviews are included in the exhibit and will feature food, demonstrations and activities. Go to www.gmdistrict.org or call 319-234-6357.

For a dose of spring, head to Ames and Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. March isn’t too early for some of the gardens to be ready.

This year’s theme of “2014: A Garden Odyssey” will show the link between space, science fiction and the gardens. Visitors can learn about the sun and star while enjoying plants, butterflies and quirky sculptures.

The “Crash Landing” garden display in the Indoor Conservatory runs through April 12 and will transport visitors to the American Southwest deserts. Go to www.reimangardens.com or call 515-294-2710.

Kids who are into the Oscars can be part of making their own movies. The Iowa Children’s Museum in Iowa City will hold Movie Magic day camps throughout the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids school districts during spring break weeks. A different movie theme takes place each morning and afternoon — pick the ones you’re interested in. For more information on dates and costs, go to www.theicm.org or call 319-625-6255.

March is known as a windy month, and what better time to fly a kite? Make your own kite on Sunday, March 16 at the Prairie Heritage Center in Peterson, in northwest Iowa. A display that runs until the end of March focuses on really wild weather and includes lots of hands-on activities for kids. March is also a great month to see the eagles and hawks that frequent the valley at the center. Go to www.prairieheritagecenter.org or call 712-295-7200.

For a sweet old-fashioned treat, you may want to head to the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids. On March 8 and 15, you and the family can learn how to use sugarmakers’ tools to tap maple trees and then how to turn that into delicious maple syrup. Each family receives a spile for tapping their own trees and handouts on how to collect and boil sap for syrup. On Friday, March 14, storyteller Darrin Crow brings Native American legends and pioneer folk tales of maple syrup making to life in a fun, family evening. For times and costs, go to www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org or call 319-362-2876.

For something a bit more…reptilian, try out the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium’s exhibit, “Turtles: Secrets of the Shell” in Dubuque. Live animal displays, audiovisual presentations, and hands-on experience will let you and your kids get close up and personal with turtles. Go to www.rivermuseum.com or call 563-557-9545.

Van Kooten is a freelance writer from Pella.