Location: 12051 Bass Pro Dr., Olathe, KS 66061; it’s at about 119th and Renner Road.
Cost: Free, but there’s lots and lots of tempting merchandise to buy.
It had been a long time since I’d been to a Bass Pro Shop; prior to our recent visit as a family, my last stop had been in Springfield, Missouri on the way to a float trip to the Ozarks in high school. I remember virtually nothing of that store other than there was a huge fish tank where you can practice casting. If the Olathe, Kansas store is any indication–wow, they’ve come a long way since then.
The Bass Pro Shops spent a good amount of effort (and money, I’m guessing) to landscape around their building. There are several outdoor water features around the building. They’ve used a black mulch around the plants, which makes it a fairly high-contrast area. There are also waterfalls, so there’s sound interest.
The interior of the store is beautiful. They have support posts that seem to be covered with whole tree trunks, which give tactile interest. (Plus, I don’t think anyone will yell at you for touching a post.) There are the usual taxidermied creatures, but here they’re integrated into the design across the ceiling and along walls. There are also human mannequins with the taxidermied creatures; the mannequins show people hunting, fishing and otherwise interacting with the creatures in the natural environment. It’s a nice touch for a store specializing in outdoor sports products.
Towards the back of the store, there’s a mountain with a large waterfall. There are some very cute, small ducks that live in this pond. Efrit tells me that the large fish swimming in the pond are bass. Although you’re allowed to feed the fish at Cabella’s, and they even sell fish food so you can do just that, at Bass Pro they ask you not to feed the animals or to throw anything in the water. I would add to be kind to the ducks; we spoke to an employee who said that some of their ducks had died previously because of overheating and exhaustion. Evidently, some teenagers were pointing laser pointers at the ducks (I’m guessing to get them to move), and the ducks got overheated and died from the anxiety.
Next to the pond with the fish shown at the left is a large, stuffed bear. It’s right next to the walkway, so you can get very, very close to the bear. Better yet, there’s no sign saying not to touch the bear . . . so we went ahead and let Peanut touch it so he could see what a bear feels like. It was neat for him to be able to get so close to an animal that he would have to be so far away from in the zoo or the wild–this way, he could get a good idea of what a brown bear is like, which would be difficult in those other environments given his vision impairment.
Also at the base of the waterfall is a large fish tank with Olathe, Kansas fish. There are faux rocks around the base of the fish tank; if you look at the photo to the left, you can see that they’re a popular climbing spot for small people.
The water was very clear, and even though the fish are not high contrast against their environment, Peanut was so interested in the display that I’m positive he could see the fish.
Next to the tank, there’s a board that describes and names the species of fish in the tank. The fish are cutouts, so you can feel the outline of the different fish to see how they’re shaped. I’m guessing the sizes are scaled (i.e. if x fish is smaller than y fish in reality, the picture of x fish is smaller than the picture of y fish), so it can give you an idea of the relative sizes of the fish even if you can’t see them in the tank. There isn’t any braille, however, so a sighted person is needed to make use of the board.
In several places in the store, there are large fossil-like engravings in the floor. If you’ve got someone to stand guard so your little one won’t get trampled, these would be a fun way to feel the bone structure of the different animals. We found one of a sturgeon by the fish tanks and another of a buffalo towards the middle of the store.
In the back of the store, there’s a huge boat display that’s very well-lit. Peanut seemed impressed, although we didn’t go exploring through these huge power toys. There are glass-front elevators by the waterfall that will take you to the second floor; this was convenient for us with Sprout in the stroller. Near the waterfall on the second level are a series of video games, including a shooting gallery and a Wii with fishing and hunting games. Efrit does not recommend the shooting game for people with visual impairments–he was not pleased with his experience (Efrit was an excellent shot before his vision began to deteriorate, so not being able to hit targets was very frustrating for him). I have fond memories of my father, a champion pistol shooter, hitting the targets of my choice at a gallery like this as a child so attempted to do the same for Peanut. Peanut was not impressed. I think this is partially because of his age (he is, after all, only 3), and partially because many of the actions you’d get from the targets weren’t so great: they’d be minor motions, so weren’t very exciting for me as a sighted person, and were probably difficult or impossible for my visually-impaired toddler to see.
Peanut was much more interested in the tents that were set up on the second floor that he could climb in and out of. There are several camp chairs set up nearby, so you can test those out while your kiddo checks out the tents. For our part, we appreciated being able to check out the tents ourselves to see which might work best for our family (given Efrit’s height, it can be hard to find a tent that fits!). Near the tents (to the left of the photograph) is a display of buffalo–you can’t get close to them, and I’m not sure that Peanut was enthused, but I did think they were kind of neat.
There’s a huge salt-water fish tank in the Fishing Center. One side faces the store and the other faces a restaurant attached to the store. I think you can probably get a better view of these fish from the restaurant, although you can’t get near as close to the tank from either side as you can to the fresh-water fish by the waterfall.
All in all, I do recommend the Bass Pro Shop as a place for an indoor adventure. They have some nice, wide pathways through the store that made it fairly easy for us to navigate. There are the usual store obstacles if you go into the shopping areas, such as racks of clothing or shelves of tools, which can be much more difficult. We went on a Thursday afternoon, so there were very few people in the store. I’ve found that the outdoor stores in our area get nutty on weekends, so I would say that this is better for a weekday trip: there will be less people to bump into, and you’ll be able to access many of the displays (such as the “fossils” in the floor) much more easily.