If you’ve ever wondered just how much fun you can pack into a weekend, Kansas City, Missouri is a good place to go to find out. My family recently spent three days exploring the family-friendly scene in KC, seeking to experience all the best that the city has to offer for the “18 and under” crowd—all in a whirlwind tour lasting less than 72 hours.
The first six hours of our journey were spent taking the easy highway drive from OKC to KC—just a straight shot north on I-35, through Kansas via turnpike into a city that is rich in both history and new innovation. (Word to the wise: pack extra cash as the tolls to drive across Kansas total more than $10 each way!) As we pulled out of town two days later—deliriously happy and delighted with all we had experienced—my husband said, “Now, if only we could stay for about two weeks, we might get to see everything we wanted to see in this town!”
Assuming you also don’t have a full 14 days to explore KC on your own, here are five places you don’t want to miss—all great reasons to make a family road trip to KC this summer.
1. LEGOLAND Discovery Center
With more than three million LEGO bricks contained under one roof, LEGOLAND features interactive exhibits (ever wonder how much you weigh in LEGO bricks?), displays of local landmarks made entirely of LEGOs and a two-story play area for kids 32" or taller. My family had a blast trying to save the princess during an interactive, arcade-style ride in a LEGO chariot, complete with laser guns and a commemorative photo at the end of the ride.
Just opened in May 2012, LEGOLAND is especially fun for children ages 3–10 and a typical visit takes 2–3 hours. Purchase your tickets online in advance and save 10%, or purchase a LEGOLAND/Sea Life aquarium combo ticket and save $9 per person. Visit www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com for details.
2. Sea Life Aquarium
This 28,000-square-foot aquarium is home to more than 30 displays showcasing over 5,000 creatures including starfish, seahorses, eels and rays in more than 260,000 gallons of water. The highlight for my family was the 360-degree walkthrough transparent tunnel where we were surrounded by sharks, rays, coral reef fish and a sea turtle. My 6-year-old daughter was thrilled to come out of her comfort zone to hold a crab and different types of starfish in the Touchpool Experience area. Want to skip the admission lines? Save over $5 per person and use the Priority Entrance when you purchase tickets online. Find out more www.visitsealife.com/kansas-city.
3. Kansas City Zoo
Open year-round, this 200-acre zoo features more than 1,000 animals in naturalistic settings, plus a KidZone and interactive feeding opportunities. New at the Zoo in 2012 are an interactive bird show and renovated Sumatran tiger exhibit. Don’t miss the African Sky Safari, an aerial tram ride that crosses the Zoo’s 17-acre African Safari in less than 10 minutes, giving you a bird’s eye view of cheetahs, lions, giraffes, and rhinos. A highlight for our family was watching Nikita—a 4-year-old, 750-lb polar bear—swim in his 144,000-gallon swimming pool in the Zoo’s new Polar Bear Passage exhibit. (Did you know Polar Bears can do back flips underwater?) Save money on your visit with Platinum Rides Wristbands ($9) that provide unlimited rides in the train, tram, carousel, boat and African Sky Safari. Visit www.kansascityzoo.org for more information.
4. Worlds of Fun
Worlds of Fun is amusement park fun at its finest, offering seven roller coasters, dozens of thrill rides, award-winning live shows and the new Planet Snoopy kids’ area. Watch for daily meet-n-greet opportunities with Charlie Brown, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Catch one of the park’s award-winning live shows for singing, dancing and even entertainment from some four-legged friends!
Download the Worlds of Fun free mobile app before you go and use it to navigate the park, view show times, find food and restroom locations and more. You can find more information about events and attractions at www.worldsoffun.com.
5. Crown Center
Located in the heart of downtown, Hallmark’s Crown Center features over 65 shops and restaurants, indoor entertainment plus seasonal entertainment (such as outdoor concerts in the summer or ice skating in the winter). Enjoy a live performance at Crown Center’s Coterie Theatre (recently named one of the top five theatres for young audiences in the country by TIME Magazine); eat at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant and have their signature burgers delivered to your table via electric train; or visit one of the ongoing schedule of free exhibits (Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice runs through September 9).
Call in advance for tickets to Kaleidoscope, an art studio where children are invited to be creative using leftover materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing process. Free tickets for these 40-minute Family Art Session are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Explore all that this entertainment complex has to offer at www.crowncenter.com.
Want to see how much fun you can pack into a weekend in Kansas City? Visit www.visitkc.com to find current information on things to do and see, plus discounts on venues and hotels. Then, put on your running shoes, synchronize your watches and let the fun begin!
Get Festive in KC!
Kansas City was recently ranked third in America for its number of festivals, fairs and cultural gatherings per capita by the Urban Institute of America. Here are three family-friendly festivals that are worth the time to visit:
- Kansas City Irish Festival—The largest festival in KC, this annual event includes live music, Irish dancing, ethnic food and kids’ activities. It was also voted as the Favorite Ethnic/Heritage Festival in the 2011 Visitors’ Choice Awards. August 31–September 2. www.kcirishfest.com
- Festival of the Butterflies at Powell Gardens—View hundreds of free-flying butterflies in an indoor butterfly conservatory, plus an art exhibit, children’s activities and more. August 3–5 and 10–12. www.powellgardens.org
- Kansas City Renaissance Festival—Opening Labor Day weekend and continuing for seven weekends, the Renaissance Festival features themed events, live jousting, food and artisan booths. September 1–October 14. www.kcrenfest.com
Other Things to Enjoy in Kansas City
Kansas City Royals
After a $250 million renovation in 2009, the Royal’s Kauffman Stadium is considered one of the best ballparks in major league baseball. Featuring 1,500 seats with a view of the beautiful fountains that decorate the outfield, the stadium includes wider concourses, increased food choices and the Royals Hall of Fame. The Royals offer the old-fashioned fun of a day at the ballpark combined with the best of modern amenities.
Take in a Family Fun Sunday game, complete with the kid-friendly Outfield Experience, including putt putt golf, a fast-pitch and base-run challenge and carousel. Run the bases following each Sunday home game in the Sprint fan fun run. Watch the fountains and fireworks after each home run. Visit the Royals Hall of Fame, located in the left-field Plaza level concourse to learn the history of the Royals and professional baseball in KC.
The Royals season runs through October. Kids 32” and under do not need a ticket, but must sit on a lap. The 83rd Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game, including Fan Fest and All-Star Sunday, will be held in Kansas City on July 10, 2012, for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Take advantage of the Royals 4 for $44 deal, which includes 4 tickets to the game, 4 special edition Royals hats and 4 Taco Bell Meal Vouchers. Select Thursday night games include All You Can Eat Seats, which offer unlimited ballpark fare for one low price.
Learn more at www.royals.com.
This fully-restored 1914 train station includes a special exhibitions (see sidebar), a planetarium, a 3-D Extreme Screen theater, the Kansas City Rail Museum, restaurants and more. Families will also want to enjoy the hands-on science exploration in Science City, named of the country’s Top 25 Science Centers by Parents Magazine.
Union Station is the second-largest working train station in the nation, behind Grand Central Station. The 1914 building was reopened in 1999 after a $200 million renovation thanks to the nation’s first bi-state tax. It features a science center, rail museum, theater district, restaurants and Amtrak service.
Learn more at www.unionstation.org.
Brooke Barnett is the Assistant Editor of MetroFamily Magazine.