December 15, 2015

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Updated: Sept. 26, 2018

We set out to Kansas City for a weekend getaway in December – three days to take in the lights, the holiday traditions and the barbecue.

One of the many nutcrackers at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

One of the many nutcrackers at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Today’s post is all holiday themed – there are so many things you could do during a KC Christmas getaway! I included some nearby cities that are close enough to Kansas City to include in planning outings. I’ve also updated this list with trips we’ve taken around the holidays since this post was originally written.

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by the fine folks at Visit KC and Visit Overland Park. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things To Do In KC That Are Worth The Price

Kansas City has a ton of FREE things at Christmas time, which I’ll get to shortly, but like every other city, some things you have to pay for. Here’s one that’s totally worth it.

WinterFest at Worlds of Fun runs Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, 2018.

WinterFest at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.: Worlds of Fun started a new holiday tradition in 2017 called WinterFest. Think tons of lights, lots of music, snow, and most fun of all, rides. I shared some tips to make the most of your visit here. In 2018, WinterFest runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31.

Ice Terrace at Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.: There’s just something special about ice skating outdoors. The Ice Terrace is a large ice skating rink at Crown Center, and it can be a pretty popular place. There is an admission fee, plus the cost of renting your skates, but it’s kids won’t forget skating there (especially at night). In 2018, it will be open mid-November through mid-March 2019. Website 

DreamWorks Dream Place's "Ultimate Santa Experience" features Shrek, Donkey and the big man himself.

DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Experience features Shrek, Donkey and the big man himself.

DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure (Oak Park Mall, Overland Park, Kan.) – South of downtown Kansas City is the Overland Park area and its mammoth mall. This Christmas, they have a Shrek-themed Ultimate Santa Experience – it’s something best experienced than described in words. But I’ll try…

The walls off Dream Place can entertain kids for so long, you'll think it's a Christmas miracle.

The walls off Dream Place can entertain kids for so long, you’ll think it’s a Christmas miracle.

It’s an interactive and tech-savvy experience that includes a virtual sleigh ride (complete with snowfall indoors) and pictures with Santa. (cost $35+) This is the only one in the five-state region. Website

More Ticketed Christmas experiences in Kansas City, Mo.: Among some of the Union Station attractions that cost extra are the holiday classic movies at the Extreme Screen Theatre, holiday themed shows at the planetarium, with Laser Holiday Magic shows running Nov. 17, 2018 through Jan. 9, 2019, and holiday themed events at Science City, including Science City’s Noon Year’s on Dec. 31. Theater companies and performing arts venues also produce holiday shows this time of year. We could’ve also gone to the Kansas City Zoo to see Santa Dives with Penguins or Lions & Christmas Trees.

More Ticketed Christmas experiences in Overland Park, Kan.: Every year, the paths of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Garden are candlelit for the Luminary Walk (held in late November/early December).

Things To Do In Kansas City That Are Free

The grand lobby of Union Station would impress you any time of year, but add Christmas decorations and the sight is beautiful.

The grand lobby of Union Station would impress you any time of year, but add Christmas decorations and the sight is beautiful.

Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.: This was our first time visiting the magnificent Union Station, and it was decked out at Christmas time during “Holidays Come Alive at Union Station.” You can visit several areas for free so come by to see the huge indoor tree and the Model Train Experience, an incredible room of miniature trains (800 feet of track and counting).

Trains of all sizes are at Union Station in Kansas City. There's even a mini train kids can ride, which travels through a Christmas-y scene.

Trains of all sizes are at Union Station in Kansas City. There’s even a mini train kids can ride, which travels through a Christmas-y scene.

Union Station has several events in November and December each year, and some are FREE including “KC Southern Holiday Express” Dec. 15-19 featuring a holiday train you can tour (think “Thomas the Tank Engine”; reservations required). Website

Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.: Dazzling is the best way to describe Crown Center at Christmas time. At the center is the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. At its base is a play area of structures like cars, wagons and trains. The kids loved it.

Play time at the base of the Mayor's Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City.

Play time at the base of the Mayor’s Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City.

And since we were there when it was unseasonably warm, the fountains were on. The combined effect of a thousands of lights and a fountain was enchanting. Totally worth stopping by, even if you just go to get a picture.

Photo No. 114 of the 132 pictures of the we took of the Crown Center lights, give or take.

Photo No. 114 of the 132 pictures of the we took of the Crown Center lights, give or take.

If you stop inside the shopping center, you can visit Santa’s Gingerbread Station or you might catch a choir singing, like we did. Website

City Market in Kansas City, Mo.: Every year, the City Market opens a little Whoville attraction. It’s usually open on select weekends in December. Check the City Maret calendar.The Oh My! Omaha gang with Cindy Lou and the Grinch at City Market.

The Oh My! Omaha gang with Cindy Lou and the Grinch at City Market.

Bring a couple canned foods to donate and you can visit the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who, and color some Grinch-y things like a mask and ornaments. If the weather is nice, expect a long wait to get pictures with the two characters. Website

Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.: Here’s another well known spot in Kansas City that really embraces Christmas. As much as I wanted to shop here, the kids made that impossible, so we just marveled at the lights and enjoyed the street buskers strumming some holiday tunes. Website

Who knew the Downtown Dazzle trolley ride would be one of my daughter's favorite experiences of the entire trip (ranking up there with the hotel pool).

Who knew the Downtown Dazzle trolley ride would be one of my daughter’s favorite experiences of the entire trip (ranking up there with the hotel pool).

Downtown Dazzle in Kansas City, Mo. (multiple stops): The FREE trolley ride through downtown Kansas City on the weekends, thanks to Google Fiber. It makes a couple stops at touristy areas, each with a little activity to do – like getting your picture inside a giant snow globe. We caught a ride during a KU basketball game, which wouldn’t you know, meant a massive traffic jam along our route. Website

Holiday Lights at the Farmstead Lane in Overland Park, Kan.: The Deanna Rose Farmstead in Overland Park is a FREE farm to visit any time of the year (OK, free on during the week – $2 on the weekends and holidays), but at Christmas time, they have the exterior of the barn and surrounding trees decorated with thousands of lights that are set to music. You park your car, tune your radio to the station and watch the show. It’s interactive – you can text or tweet a color and it’s supposed to respond. It didn’t work for me, but it didn’t lessen the experience. Website

The most Christmas-y Neighborhood in America – I dubbed it that, but all of Johnson County knows it as Christmas Place, the No. 1 neighborhood to see lights (23 homes on two cul-de-sacs). We stumbled upon it on our way back to our hotel. Find it at 131st Place and Antioch in Overland Park, Kan. Get the backstory here.

Where to stay

We were lucky enough to stay at two different hotels during our visit, and both were ready for Christmas.

The festive lobby of the DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park, Kansas.

The festive lobby of the DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park, Kansas.

If you’re headed to Overland Park, the DoubleTree Hotel had the most welcoming staff we’d ever had the pleasure of meeting. The lobby had several Christmas-y displays. If you have an American Girl fan – you know you’ll be making a trip to the American Girl store at Oak Park Mall when you visit – this is the place to stay, since they offer a package complete with a bed for your kid’s doll. Website

The Sheraton at Crown Center is totally decked out for the holidays. It's quite a sight to walk into.

The Sheraton at Crown Center is totally decked out for the holidays. It’s quite a sight to walk into.

Sheraton at Crown Center gave the DoubleTree staff a run for their money in the friendliness department. The nice things about this location is the Link, elevated walkways connecting the hotel to Crown Center and on to Union Station. It was pretty handy when it rained during our visit and I imagine it’s heavily used in the bitter winter. Website

Our elf, Tizbee, followed us on the trip.

Our elf, Tizbee, followed us on the trip. This will probably be his only appearance in the series of posts coming up.

 

You may be interested in

Headed to Kansas City? Check out these posts about Kansas City attractions and family-friendly itineraries:

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun at Science City (Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.)

Where To Stay Near Crown Plaza (Kansas City, Mo.)

A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Getaway To Kansas City 

24 Hours In Kansas City With Kids

Tips For WinterFest at Worlds of Fun (North Kansas City, Mo.)

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

Sheraton Kansas City (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.)

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