Half Truth: There’s Nothing To Do In Wheeling

I grew up in Wheeling, I moved 3,000 miles away and then I returned. I have three kids that range from 1 to 11 years old. I love living in Wheeling and I am optimistic about our future. But there is something that drives me crazy: the winter.

When it’s 37 degrees and raining and the sun hasn’t appeared in 5 or 8 days, that sucks. It affects my mood for sure. But I can deal with that. I love when the sun is out no matter what the temperature, and there’s nothing more beautiful than a snow covered Oglebay Park, or a snowy hike down a Woodsdale alley.

It’s not the weather that bothers me about the winter, it’s the fact that there is nothing to do for kids.

The summer brings tough decisions, sacrifices and the need for an almost strategic vision of planning … because there’s almost TOO much to do! Pools, parks, fairs, races, carnivals, festivals, any sport you can think of, cook outs, birthday parties, boat rides, camps and more camps…they hit you like an avalanche.

In the winter in Wheeling it gets dark at 5pm. You are stuck in a house with young children until bedtime. You love them, but you also want to escape. They are bored. They have energy to burn. What do you do? If you have young kids you can take advantage of the awesome open play space and some programming at the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley in downtown Wheeling, but for older kids – or when the CMOV is closed – the pickin’s are slim. Here are things we have actually done to “get out of the house” in past winter seasons:

– McDonald’s “play zone” in Elm Grove (even though our kids are too big and actually get stuck in those human hamster tunnels)

– Cabela’s to look at the fake animals and “aquarium”

– Wilson Lodge to “run the hallways”

– AAA-office to dream of trips and look at maps

-TJs to drink the single beer as slowly as possible so that they kids have maximum time playing the “games”

And here are things we have hauled our family out of Wheeling to do:

– “Flight” trampoline park in Bridgeville, PA

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– Indoor soccer in Washington, Morgantown and Canonsburg

Vernon C. Neal Sportsplex

– Chuck-E-Cheese in Bridgeville

– Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh

– Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh

One of the challenges we face, and Mayor Elliott has identified, is retention – specifically, attracting new families and keeping the ones we have in town. If we can combat the dismalness of our winters with opportunities for family fun, I believe that is one way we can accomplish that goal. We can’t say to a family considering a move to Wheeling, “Hey, we have a great quality of life here, but for one half of the year you will have to drive two hours round trip to maintain your sanity if you have young kids.”

Here’s my idea:

Take our old vacant spaces, or buildings that are empty in the winter, (like the White Palace in Wheeling Park for example) and turn them into true “kid zones”, complete with bouncy houses, dancing space, learning opportunities, fun food options. Make them available for families to rent for birthday parties. Don’t have the funds? Find a franchiser to come in and partner with someone.

Someone, please build an indoor sports complex. The Vernon C. Neal complex in Washington is where we drive – sometimes twice in a single weekend. It’s simple steel beam construction, whose cost maybe approached $1 million. It is PACKED every time we go, it’s so busy with all sports, even for adults, that they don’t give you time to warm up. It’s one-game-done and the next-one-on in 3 minutes tops.

So let’s not just wait until spring. It’s such a tease anyway, March is always a disappointment. Let’s have fun now. Who’s in?

Feature Photo from Pixabay