Want a quick getaway? The Kansas City area is a great Midwest destination for families, especially outdoorsy families.
COVID-19 Update: The counties surrounding Kansas City have mask laws enforcing masks indoors and masks outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible. Everyone is falling these instructions, but it does make for long waits for activities. Bring a mask and patience.
Disclosure: I partnered with KC Destinations. I received complimentary admission and travel compensation in order to write about my experience. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.
Tip: Keep reading to the end of this post to find out how visiting a few of these places could get your kiddo a prize!
Kansas City, Kansas vs. Kansas City, Missouri
I’m not trying to start a debate. I just want to clarify that the Kansas City community spans two states.
During our travels, we’ve stayed in Kansas City, North Kansas City, Overland Park and, most recently, Olathe. It’s taken me a few years to conquer the interstate system, but now that I understand it, we get around a lot easier.
On our recent outdoorsy getaway, we spent our time exploring Olathe, Shawnee, Overland Park, Merriam, Gardner, and Lenexa.
Of course, we didn’t go to every place on this list in a weekend. We’ve been to KC many times, so I’ll include some of the gems we’ve been to in previous visits. If you want to add some indoor activities to your trip, check out my list of 35 Fun Things To Do With Kids In KC.
Outdoor Things To Do In The Kansas City Area
Mahaffie Stage Coach Stop & Farm
Where: 1200 E. Kansas City Road, Olathe, Kan.
This wonderful historic stop is mostly outdoors, though there is a small museum display indoors, as well as the option of touring the actual Mahaffie house where they fed travelers passing through the area along the Santa Fe Trail.
My kids enjoyed the 1860s farm immensely, playing old school games, petting animals, and taking a stagecoach ride. My son even helped stoke the fire for the blacksmith demonstration.
Employees at Mahaffie are dressed in period costumes and are full of insight about the era.
Tip: The road you turn into the parking lot was once the Santa Fe Trail.
There is an admission price. Stagecoach rides are on a schedule, so pay attention when you arrive so you can be sure to catch one of them.
Dodge Town at Antioch Park
Where: 6501 Antioch Road, Merriam, Kan.
Antioch Park is a 44-acre, tree-filled park that made me envious of the families in the KC area. It’s beautiful, with two lakes, including one lake that has fun stepping stones.
Dodge Town is a playground located in the park, but it’s not a typical playground. Its theme is an old Kansas Town, with buildings, a train station, and, of course, a train to climb on. My youngest enjoyed this area, pretending to teach math to a few 3 year-olds in the one-room school house.
Being a park, this is a FREE activity.
Tip: Looking for sweet treats while exploring Kansas City? Read about my favorite desserts and sweet shops in KC!
Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Where: 8909 W. 179th St., Overland Park, Kan.
Strolling around a shaded path or exploring gorgeous gardens, this Overland Park gem was a hit with my family. My son enjoyed the Railroad Garden while my daughter had fun posing with every statue she encountered.
There’s a picturesque spot inspired by Monet’s paintings of waterlilies on ponds. Don’t miss it. It’s also near a larger lake, where my family marveled at the giant koi fish and cute turtles swimming around.
There is an admission fee, but it’s pretty inexpensive.
Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm
Where: 39345 W. 183rd St., Edgerton, Kan.
Depending on the time of year you visit, what you pick will vary. When we visited, we picked a few blueberries and blackberries in the hot July sun. Visit earlier in spring, and you could pick strawberries; visit this fall, and you can pick pumpkins.
During regular times, the orchard would have tractor-pulled rides and the kid’s area would be open for a ton of fun activities. If you visit in the summer of 2020 (and maybe even fall of 2020), these activities aren’t happening.
Tip: You need to reserve a time to go berry picking. Sign-up on the farm’s Facebook page!
After you’re done picking, be sure to reward yourself with a strawberry lemonade slushee.
There is a small admission fee per person to help keep this family-run farm in operation, plus whatever you end up picking.
Bike the Gary L. Haller Trail
Where: Trail endpoints are at Nelson Island on the Kansas River and Mill Creek Streamway Park in Olathe, Kan.
My husband and I biked this pretty trail during a quick summer trip to Bonner Springs for a concert. The paved trail is 17 miles long, but we didn’t bike that whole length.
While we biked the Haller Trail, there were plenty of walkers and runners enjoying it, as well.
I’d feel confident both kids on this trail soon. They’ve only just started being able to bike longer distances.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
Where: 7000 NE Barry Road, Kansas City, Mo.
Shoal Creek located in Hodge Park was a hidden gem we encountered on our first trip to KC with the kids. This pretty, outdoor park explores Missouri’s history by showcasing old buildings and farms.
It is a living history museum, and I’ve heard they do reenactments occasionally. There weren’t any volunteers or costumed reenactors there during our visit. We were free to roam, but also didn’t get any insight into any of the buildings’ significance.
The highlight for my kids was seeing the bison at the park.
It’s FREE to go to Shoal Creek.
Dine at food trucks
Where: Historic West Bottoms neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo.
The West Bottoms is a charming warehouse district with antique stores, boutiques, and quirky shops. I highly recommend Fetch Gifts, though, oops, it’s not outdoors.
The Festival of the Full Moon Weekends is held each month over the first weekend. And while the stores are open their doors, food trucks roll in.
It was tough deciding what to eat. Being in KC, my husband and I settled on barbecue. We found a table that was half in shade and enjoyed the lunch.
Attending the Festival of the Full Moon Weekend is FREE, but of course, anything you from a food truck or store will cost you money.
Where: 4124 NE Vivion Road, Kansas City, Mo.
Penguin Park‘s playground equipment is shaped like giant animals, making it quite a sight for little ones when they see it. When we visited, the animals had seen better days as far as peeling paint goes. But looking back through my photos, maybe my memory was a bit harsh.
It doesn’t matter, though. My kids didn’t care about old paint. They had fun, and that’s all that mattered.
The park is FREE.
Where: 8045 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, Kan.
I more or less stumbled upon this small but perfect playground. We were going to have lunch at The Snack Shack on Santa Fe. As we parked, we couldn’t help but notice the outdoor seating area of the Snack Shack butts up to a park.
So, while we waited for our burgers to cook, the kids climbed on a novel playground and got soaked in the little splash ground.
I’d recommend combining a meal (or just shakes) at The Snack Shack with playtime at the park.
Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun
Where: 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave., Kansas City, Mo.
Chances are good you’ve heard of these two. The massive amusement park and waterpark are a full day (or two) of outdoor fun.
I have not visited since pre-COVID normal times, so I can’t vouch for how summer is there. Do keep in mind that popular rides will always have a line (hopefully with social distancing in place), and there’s likely a delay to boarding a ride if staff has to clean each car before people can board the ride.
How to win a prize visiting family-friendly KC places
There’s a new tour on the Otocast app (Apple and Google) that rewards families for visiting kid-friendly places in the Kansas City area. Most of these stops are on the Kansas side of the region. Once you download the app, search for KC Region, and you’ll find KC Kid-Friendly Trip.
Here’s how it works:
- If you don’t have an itinerary already in mind, look at the map available for the KC Kid-Friendly Trip and see what’s nearby.
- Once you are at that location, the app will send you a notification that you’re near a tour stop. Tap that notification and you’ll get a virtual stamp.
Here are the stops:
- C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kan.
- Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in Liberty, Mo.
- Jerry’s Shave Ice in Lansing, Kan.
- Legends Outlets Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan.
- RoKC in North Kansas City, Mo.
- Moon Marble Co. in Bonner Springs, Kan.
- Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, Kan.
- Incredible Pizza Co. in Shawnee, Kan.
- Silas and Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream in Olathe, Kan.
- Dodge Town at Antioch Park in Merriam, Kan.
- Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm
You don’t have to go to all of the stops. Visit five and you’ll get the prize!