North Kansas City is a fun overnight destination for families. You can fit in Worlds of Fun, barbecue, and a lot of history in less than two days. If you have more time at your disposal, I recommend at least another night, but sometimes, all life gives you is a little more than 24 hours.
Our trip was sponsored by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company in conjunction with Blog Meets Brand, as well as Visit KC.
A Day At Worlds of Fun
Leave home early in the morning and head straight for the ultimate Midwest theme park, Worlds of Fun (or for the water-loving crowd, Oceans of Fun next door in the summer). Most days, the park opens at 9 or 10 a.m., so check the schedule here.
Get there early and head for the roller coasters if your kids are old enough – lines can and will grow tremendously by late morning. If you’re traveling with little ones, head for Planet Snoopy and other popular rides that will have long lines eventually, like Le TaxiTour.
Unless you like walking around with soggy shoes, save the rides Fury of the Nile and Viking Voyager for later in the day!
We had never been to Planet Snoopy, and since there are five new rides there, we decided it’d be smart to go there first.
There were a lot more rides for youngsters there than I had expected – 21 in all just in Planet Snoopy.
Mooch could’ve spent the whole day there.
The area is definitely geared toward a younger crowd, but my 6-year-old enjoyed himself.
Once he realized he was tall enough for most roller coasters, though, he decided to venture out into the rest of the park. I wish the idea occurred to him sooner, since by mid-afternoon, everyone and their grandma were in line for roller coasters.
Lines are a fact of life for popular thrill rides, so it’s smart that you can buy a Fast Lane pass to skip the lines. After waiting to get on the Spinning Dragons, I was seeing the real value of the Fast Lane!
(Pssst: For a complete park review with little ones, visit the blog next week!)
Lunch was a small bite from the ’50s themed restaurants, Coasters Drive-In.
The line for food there was long, too, but that was the case everywhere since it was the typical lunchtime.
There are a lot of choices for meals, from barbecue and fried chicken, to turkey legs and street tacos, plus a ton of chain restaurants.
Dessert was fudge from Peppermint Patty’s Candy Shop. We sampled a couple free bites before settling on a chocolate square to split. It’s worth stopping in even just for a taste – it’s so good!
Many people can spend a full day at the park, but it’s tiring for little ones. At around 5, our kids (who are 4 and 6, to give you perspective) were turning on us. I might’ve been losing my mind too.
It was time to leave.
We had no other plans for the night besides takeout dinner and pool time.
Staying Overnight In North Kansas City
There are dozens of hotel choices near Worlds of Fun, including on-site on the theme park’s resort complex. We wanted someplace nearby for a quick escape from the park, and Courtyard by Marriott at Briarcliff was a great option.
After about a 10-minute drive from Worlds of Fun, we were checking in. Before long, it was pool time.
While one of us took the kids to the pool and whirlpool, the other picked up our takeout order from one of my family’s favorite Kansas City barbecue spots, Smokehouse Barbecue (the Gladstone location). We split orders of ribs, smoked turkey, brisket, barbecue beans (you must try these), steamed veggies and cheesy corn. It was overindulgent and so good.
Historic Adventures In North Kansas City & St. Joseph
Our morning in North Kansas City – after an early jaunt to the pool – started with breakfast at a popular North Kansas City spot, Corner Café.
Service was quick and we were soon on our way to our first destination of the day: Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Hodge Park. Shoal Creek is a free living history museum that celebrates Missouri history (on select weekends you can find reenactments).
We were stuffed from breakfast so the tranquil walk around the trails was welcomed.
It was like the ying to Worlds of Fun’s yang. Quiet and open space, with nothing but the sound of birds and my daughter yelling at my son to break the tranquility.
It also has an American bison enclosure.
That was a pleasant surprise – I knew we’d see the old buildings, but didn’t expect this kind of wildlife.
They were used to people, and came up to the fence. Word to the wise, though, at least one was a little surly and charged at my camera-wielding husband.
Relaxed and a little worn from the hike, we finished our trip with a stop in St. Joseph, Mo. The city is located between Kansas City and Omaha.
We were headed to the Patee House Museum first. It’s not located right off Interstate 29 so you’re forgiven for not stopping here before. It was a first for us too. Don’t let the neighborhood steer you away. The area has seen better days, but this museum is well worth a visit.
I can’t stress that enough! This museum is ranked among the Top 10 Western Museums in the country, and it was the best I’ve ever seen.
Patee House has had many lives over the years: Hotel, headquarters of the Pony Express, girls college…etc. Now it’s a western museum stuffed to the gills with colorful and well-preserved artifacts. It’s a historical wonder house.
And the great thing is, it’s a wonderful place to bring the kids, with opportunities to get climb onto a steam engine, make a mini carousel play and peek at oddities from yesteryear.
Two floors are filled with rooms and recreated scenes from our past, with large train engines filling the center of the museum. You’ll want to photograph it all.
For kids, the highlights will undoubtedly be the train in the middle of the main floor, the working carousel and the Buffalo Saloon.
The saloon was my family’s favorite spot, where we threw down a $1 for sarsparilla and several spins on the nickelodian (25 cents was a small price for such entertainment). You can also get some popcorn there.
Be sure to venture into some of the other rooms, though, as my daughter found the toy room where she could turn on a miniature carousel with a touch of a button.
We could’ve easily spent two hours here, but my son started getting sick, so we wrapped things up early. While he rested, my daughter and I walked to the final historical site of the day.
Literally out back of the museum is the Jesse James House. It’s the infamous house where the outlaw was shot and killed – the bullet hole is easily visible.
I wouldn’t recommend bringing small children here – mine didn’t know who Jesse James was and so without any background for them to go on, they were uninterested in touring the house. It was all a little macabre to walk around the small house and seeing a replica of his scull (post-gunshot) and photos of him dead.
Soooo, this one’s more of a specialty stop for Jesse James aficionados. If you fall into that category, you’d be better reading posts by The Walking Tourists (see this recent one touring a bank once robbed by the Jesse James Gang or this one recapping a visit to St. Jo).
If you go
Worlds of Fun
Where: 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave, Kansas City, Mo.
Courtyard by Marriott at Briarcliff
Where: 4000 N. Mulberry Drive, Kansas City, Mo.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
Where: 7000 NE Barry Rd, Kansas City, Mo.
Patee House Museum
Where: 1202 Penn St., St. Joseph, Mo.
Jesse James House
Where: 1202 Penn St., St. Joseph, Mo.
Read about our experiences in the places mentioned above: