Kansas City has all the makings for a family vacation: Kid-friendly attractions, great restaurants and convenient hotels.
On a recent trip with our kids, ages 4 and 6, we discovered some new favorites that we will certainly revisit the next time we’re in the area. Our winter trip was jointly hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park.
The trip was so memorable, my 4-year-old daughter has taken to say “I love you to Kansas City and back,” in place of the silly old moon.
Here are some of the highlights you’ll want to check out the next time you’re in KC with kids (any time of the year!).
So fun they don’t realize they’re learning
One of the first stops on our trip was the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan. There’s a fun interactive screen in the lobby that you’ll be attempted to play with – you can create a dinosaur or dragon and then see it on the screen. Try to bypass it to explore later on because you’ll want to head straight to the Discovery Room upstairs (after paying admission, of course).
We could spent a few hours in this room! Divided into different areas of science, kids learn through play and hands-on exhibits. Website
The other place my kids loved so much they made us promise we’ll return the next time we go to KC was Science City at Union Station.
There are so many interesting and fun areas to play in, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep up with your kids. Best naps ever after visiting Science City! Website
Free for all
When you go to KC with kids, keep in mind that there are so many kid-friendly places with FREE activities, and apparently so do the masses. They’re crowded, so there’s the drawback. But the fun usually trumps any crowd factor, in my opinion.
On our trip, we stopped by City Market – which has a year-round farmers market (heated and indoors in the winter). We went specifically for the Whoville experience at Christmas time, but you can extend your stay to visit the FREE Steamboat Arabia museum and shops. Website
We stopped by Crown Center District twice during our weekend trip, since our hotel was so near it. I love the outdoor area there, especially at Christmas time.
It’s lit up spectacularly, and the kids enjoyed climbing on all the wooden structures set up around the Christmas tree (they’re not there year-round). We meant to visit Kaleidoscope, Hallmark’s FREE art-making area at Crown Center, and the gingerbread house display but nap time prevailed.
Not free, but also nudged out by nap time and unseasonably warm weather was the Ice Terrace, an outdoor ice skating rink. Website
A new Christmas-time-only thing going on in Kansas City is Downtown Dazzle, held on weekends in December. You can ride a FREE, decked out trolley to several downtown attractions like Crown Center and Power & Light District. Some stops have cute things set up like huge snow globes you can get in for a great photo opp. The kids loved the trolley for like first leg of the ride, but then we got stuck in basketball traffic and things went downhill from there. Still, my daughter said it was one of her favorite things about KC. Website
Overland Park held its own in this category. We watched Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, and it was one of Mooch’s favorite things over all (OK, she has a lot of favorites, she’s 4). I’d like to return in warmer weather to explore the farmstead in daylight. Website
Did someone say shopping?
I did not shop nearly as much as I intended to – this was going to be prime Christmas present shopping time. But my kids don’t think shopping is fun, so there you go.
One of the places we visited that I found myself gazing longingly into storefront windows include Oak Park Mall in Overland Park (if you’re shopping for kids – definitely check out the LEGO Store, American Girls store and the Disney Store there). Website
There’s a carousel in the middle of the mall where you can park your kids for a little bit.
For the younger set, there’s a play area.
Of course, almost everyone in Omaha seems programmed to head straight to the Country Club Plaza to shop. That’s for good reason, you can find all sorts of high end stores there, as well as popular chains like Gap, Apple and White House/Black Market. Website
Want to buy some unique gifts? I think the City Market and surrounding streets is a good spot. You can buy food and spices from around the world, or on the weekends, head to the farmers market to buy locally-made goods from crafts and home décor to soaps.
While Mr. Wonderful walked around – buying some local wine and flowers at the market – I waited in line with the kids so they could ride the mini train. For $2, I captured the biggest smiles of the trip because of that little ride! Website
If you’re planning most of your trip to be in downtown Kansas City, the hotels around Crown Center are smart choices, particularly in the winter. They’re connected to major attractions by the Link, a series of enclosed, elevated walkways.
We stayed at Sheraton at Crown Center and enjoyed using the tunnels to get to Crown Center, and further afield, Union Station. It totally beat driving and parking, or walking (it rained one of the days we were there).
Another highlight of the Sheraton was its rooftop pool, which is heated and open year-round. The little tunnel was a kid favorite.
And if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest, you have to check out the Club Lounge at the top floor of the hotel. Go for the view and/or the breakfast buffet. It’s heartier than they suggest when they called it a “continental breakfast.” Website
If you’re looking for a spot closer to Country Club Plaza, which is decorated with thousands of lights each holiday season, check out my review of the Holiday Inn in Kansas City.
South of downtown Kansas City is Overland Park, a more suburban area. The DoubleTree Hotel is located a short distance from the interstate, and nicely located between some of our favorite parts of town – the Museum at Prairiefire, Oak Park Mall and Deanna Rose Farmstead. The highlight for my kids was the pool. As usual.
We had two connecting rooms there and it opened my eyes to a whole other way of travel with kids (king-size bed in one room, two doubles in the other). Mr. Wonderful and I agreed this was the way to go from here on out.
Service at both hotels was top notch and super friendly, especially at the DoubleTree where I left with a smile because so many people made us feel so welcomed.
If you are a Hilton Honors member, you probably will get breakfast included with your stay. The buffet was great, but what made it stand out was the chef cooking the made-to-order eggs. He knew how to make an omelet just right (not too dry). Website
I had grand plans for dining in Kansas City – lots of barbecue, maybe a gastropub, a stop at popular breakfast joint. There are so many great places to eat and Instagramming to be done.
But travel with kids doesn’t always go as planned. Mornings were spent in the pool followed by the hotel’s breakfast instead of my quaint breakfast joint, but that’s just how it goes. Not to bash hotel breakfasts, I’m just a weirdo who seeks out the top breakfast restaurant in most cities.
The most memorable meal for the whole family was barbecue, naturally. We met up with family at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Leawood (not the original in a gas station, but it was closest to our hotel in Overland Park). It was smack-the-table good, especially the Z-Man Sandwich. Website
We dined a few times at Crown Center, given its proximity to the Sheraton and some of the activities we had planned. I wish I could say they were great picks, but I was disappointed with the service at both restaurants and the dessert place.
One of my favorite meals, but certainly not for my kids, was the Ethiopian restaurant at City Market, Blue Nile Cafe. I nabbed a great Groupon for a meal for four and my kids absolutely refused to admit they liked any of it. Typical. Website
Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:
Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)
Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)
Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)
A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)
DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)
Sheraton Kansas City (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.)
Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This post is linked up to other fun travel posts on the #WKendTravelInspiration link here.