Exploring The Museum At Prairiefire (Kansas)

Dinosaur fossil inside the Museum at Prairie Fire

Behind the colorful glass windows of the Museum at Prairiefire is an inspiring world of science and beauty, as well as a room so fun for kids, they won’t realize how much they’re learning.

Just take a look at the spectacular exterior of The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.
Just take a look at the spectacular exterior of the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.

I wouldn’t fault you for shrugging it off, at first, because it’s a museum located on the outskirts of a shopping center. It’s not the first place I’d look for a museum, either. But, you’d be missing out if you skipped it.

Fun fact: The Museum at Prairiefire is the first architectural structure in North America to use dichroic glass in its design. This glass was originally engineered by NASA during materials research.

The highlights

The way I see it, there are two really remarkable, don’t-miss things at this museum – and one is FREE!

You’ll see the first right when you walk in.

ALIVE Interactive lets you interact with creatures you on a screen in the lobby of the Museum at Prairiefire.
ALIVE Interactive lets you interact with creatures you on a screen in the lobby of the Museum at Prairiefire.

ALIVE Interactive is an interactive video screen in the lobby showing real-time images of you in the Great Hall while prehistoric creatures (and a dragon or two) run by or swoop your head. Those creatures were created by patrons just like you using touch screens. All ages enjoy this!

I was like a kid dodging velocipraptors with my kids. It’s FREE to create your prehistoric animals and watch them come to life on the screen, if you didn’t feel like paying admission to see the rest of museum.

The Discovery Room

The Discovery Room at the Museum at Prairiefire is divided into different science areas with hands-on activities in each.
The Discovery Room at the Museum at Prairiefire is divided into different science areas with hands-on activities in each.

The second don’t-miss part of the Museum at Prairiefire is the Discovery Room. If it’s busy, you’ll be limited to the amount of time you can spend there, but I’d say plan on spending, at a minimum, an hour here if it isn’t. Your kids will not want to leave.

Looking at some bugs in the Discovery Room.
Looking at some bugs in the Discovery Room.

The Discovery Room is broken up into different areas of science – think anthropology, field biology, paleontology – where kids can learn through play and hands-on exhibits.

The first area my kids headed for was the paleontology section.
The first area my kids headed for was the paleontology section.

It’s a place where technology mixes with old school science, like a dig pit and magnifying glasses.

The dig site in the Discovery Room.
The dig site in the Discovery Room.

We played ancient games, hunted for animals in the sycamore tree, petted a mouse, and dug up dinosaur bones.

Mooch's favorite area in the Discovery room had all the animals in it.
Mooch’s favorite area in the Discovery room had all the animals in it.

The kids tried on masks from around the world, explored astronomy ideas and used microscopes to see just how many scratches were on my wedding ring.

Masks from around the world, Take 1.
Masks from around the world, Take 1.
Masks from around the world, Take 2.
Masks from around the world, Take 2.

The Discovery Room is worth the price of admission, hands down.

Technology these days...
Technology these days…

Museum staff are on hand to explain things (and make sure idiots like me don’t break anything, or teach their children the wrong way to put an insect statue together).

Other cool area of the museum

The beauty of this place begs you to explore it, inside and out.

Exterior of the Museum at Prairiefire changes depending on the time of day and how sunny it is.
Exterior of the Museum at Prairiefire changes depending on the time of day and how sunny it is.

My kids weren’t too interested in the giant T-Rex in the lobby, nor the science theater showing short documentary films. Typical of my kids to ignore a gigantic T-Rex, as if seeing one is an everyday thing.

You don't have to pay admission if you just want to see the T-Rex in the lobby of the museum.
You don’t have to pay admission if you just want to see the T-Rex in the lobby of the museum.

They were a little more interested in the traveling exhibit, “Horse,” in the American Museum of Natural History Exhibition Hall. It’s geared more toward older children and adults, though the end of the exhibit does have some hands-on activities for the younger crowd.

The exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History Exhibition Hall, "Horse," is there through January.
The exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History Exhibition Hall, “Horse,” is there through Jan. 24, 2016.

 

“Horse” is at the museum through Jan. 24, 2016.

There’s also a gift shop and café in the museum.

One more shot of the exterior, please.
And I’ll just leave one more shot of the exterior right here.

If you go

Museum at Prairiefire

Where: 5801 W. 135th St., Overland Park, Kan.

When: Mondays through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 5 to 7 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

Cost: Admission to the Great Hall is FREE. All-access pass is $22 for adults (13+), $15 for kids (3-12); Discover Room is $8 for adults, $7 for kids; American Museum of Natural History Exhibition is $14 for adults, $8 for kids.

Website

Tip: The Museum at Prairiefire is near quite a few recommended places to eat. Try Rock and Brew (it has an outdoor, heated play area for kids) directly across the street from the museum or Nick and Jakes, just down the road.

Disclosure: A big thank you to Visit Overland Park for hosting my family’s visit to the city!

 

Related KC Posts

Customize your family’s next visit to the Kansas City area! Check out some of the places we went on our recent visit:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Magic At DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure (Oak Park Mall in 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.)

Crown Center dining & entertainment (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Getaway To Kansas City 

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

 

 

Magic At DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure

My family took our first holiday trip to Kansas City recently, and one of the more technically impressive experiences was the immersive DreamWorks “Ultimate Santa Adventure.” Located inside the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, it’s the mall Santa experience to beat all others.

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

Since this is the closest the “Ultimate Santa Adventure” gets to Omaha, Visit Overland Park invited my family to visit so I can tell you guys about it. It will be at Overland Park Mall each holiday season through 2019, so you have some time to plan.

First impression

It is a bit of a mystery when you first see the place: A large gingerbread house with walls of LED screens stands tall above all other things on the mall floor. There’s Princess Fiona in a window? What’s going on?

The walls off this DreamWorks experience can entertain kids for so long, you'll think it's a Christmas miracle.
The walls off this DreamWorks attraction can entertain kids for so long, you’ll think it’s a Christmas miracle.

You’ll find out soon enough. Suffice to say DreamWorks teamed up with Santa for this experience.

Kids are totally entertained by the videos on these screens – Shrek or Gingy might open a window, a snow storm might blow through. This helps with the wait if you didn’t purchase a boarding pass ahead of time.

What to expect

Your family gets a boarding pass with an assigned time. Be there a little early – they recommend 10 minutes before boarding.

Here's a boarding pass if you book ahead and submit a family photo.
Here’s a boarding pass if you book ahead and submit a family photo.

You’ll likely enter the house with another group, depending on how many people are in your party. You can be like me and just ignore them. 🙂

The entrance to the Ultimate Santa Experience. Keeps things pretty mysterious, doesn't it?
The entrance to the Ultimate Santa Experience. Keeps things pretty mysterious, doesn’t it?

Once inside, Shrek and Donkey greet you from a TV screen and welcome you to your sleigh ride to the North Pole. But shoot, there’s a problem. Your kid’s going to have to fly everyone there. So in the first room, your kid works on getting a pilot’s license.

The next room is pretty sweet – you’ll take a virtual sleigh ride through the air to the North Pole. The sleigh you sit on moves with the movie you watch. In the movie, Shrek and Donkey (who are riding the dragon, of course) lead the way to the North Pole. It’ll even start to snow in the room.

This part, by far, was the most exciting for the kids (and me).

When your ride ends, you’re now at the North Pole, and you’re ushered into a waiting room. You’ll make your own digital gingerbread man while you wait.

Then it’s show time with Santa.

Cue awkward photo with Santa.
Cue awkward photo with Santa.

After a chat and pictures, he’ll hand out elf hats and help you return back to the mall, magically of course.

You’ll collect your pictures with Santa, printouts of the pilot’s license and your cute gingerbread man at the little shop near the exit.

You can buy extra souvenirs like stuffed animals and frames on the way out.

So many cute plush dolls to choose from.
So many cute plush dolls to choose from.

The entire experience is less than 30 minutes (depending on how chatty kids are with the big man), though I imagine the wait can be lengthy as Christmas nears.

The condensed recap

A visit with Santa is now a high tech experience, and frankly, this is way better than the typical mall Santa experience. Being enclosed the entire time removes the mall chaos and allows everyone to accept the magical possibility of visiting the North Pole for a short while – complete with snow and some witty banter from “Shrek” characters.

Considering how much we usually pay for Santa photos, this package was worth a little more for the entire experience.

If you go

DreamWorks Dream Place “Ultimate Santa Experience”

Where: Oak Park Mall, 11149 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kansas (there are several locations throughout the country)

When: Through Dec. 24. The Ultimate Santa Experience will return each year through 2019.

Cost: $35-$75 (more money goes toward more copies of the kids’ picture with Santa and digital copies; every package includes printed photos with Santa, and a printout of your gingerbread man and pilot’s license)

Website

Tip: Definitely buy your package ahead of time, because you can go online here to customize the experience. I was able to add a family photo, which appeared on our boarding pass, plus add the kids’ wish list. Santa greeted the kids by name and surprised them by telling them he knew what they wanted for Christmas.

 

Side note about Oak Park Mall

The LEGO Store is located inside Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.
The LEGO Store is located inside Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

Heads up shoppers, this mall is huge and has tons of stores not found in or near Omaha, including Lego Store, American Girls Store, and the Disney Store (sorry, I’m in total mom-shopping mode for Christmas and only looked for stores with kid gifts in mind…). And, to entertain kids after the whole Shrek & Santa thing, there’s a carousel and for the youngsters, a neat little play area.

The two-story carousel at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.
The two-story carousel at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

 

Customize your family’s next visit to the Kansas City area! Check out some of the places we went on our recent visit:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Science City (Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.)

Crown Center dining & entertainment (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Getaway To Kansas City 

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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