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15+ Fun Things To Do On A KC Christmas Getaway (2023)

I’ve made three separate trips to Kansas City during the holiday season. Each time, we’ve found something new to see and revisited some can’t-miss favorites from spectacular lights displays to seasonal activities and, of course, barbecue. There are so many things you could do during a KC Christmas getaway! Read on for my family’s favorites!

Updated: This post was written in December 2015 and updated in November 2023. Help me keep this post updated! If you know of an event that has changed, please comment and let me know. Events are subject to change.

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

Crowds around the tree at Union Station in Kansas City

Favorite things to do in Kansas City during the holidays

Kansas City has a ton of FREE things at Christmas time, and like every other city, some things you have to pay for. The activities listed aren’t just limited to Kansas City city limits; 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.

With that in mind, here are the top picks for holiday fun:

1. Ice Terrace at Crown Center

Where: 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 kids won’t forget skating there (especially at night).

The Ice Terrace at Crown Center is open throughout the winter in Kansas City.

The season runs from early November to early March (weather permitting). It’s open daily, except on Christmas Day. It costs $9 for adults and children 4 and older, and FREE for children under age 4. Skate rental is $5.

Related post: 9 awesome holiday light displays to see in Kansas City

2. Union Station’s free Home For The Holidays displays

Where: Kansas City, Mo.

There is plenty of free Christmas things to see at Union Station in Kansas City, including seeing the large indoor Christmas tree and the model train display.

Union Station is was decked out to the max each 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 (the largest in the area) and the Model Train Experience, an incredible room of miniature trains.

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 usually has several events every year in November and December. There are live performances, holiday movies at the theater, and holiday laser lights shows at the planetarium. There’s also an indoor, walk-through “Holiday Reflections” Experience.

3. Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center

Where: Kansas City, Mo.

From indoor trees to outdoor trees…dazzling is the best way to describe Crown Center at Christmas time. At the center is the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. The tree is impressive to see, but what really gets kids excited is the play area at the base of it.

Play time at the base of the Mayor's Christmas Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City. It's free to visit the play area at the Crown Center.

On our first visit, it was unseasonably warm, so 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.

If you stop inside the shopping center, you might see some holiday surprises. During our visit, we saw Santa’s Gingerbread Station and heard a choir singing. 

Crown Center holiday lights and fountain

4. Festivities at the City Market

Where: Kansas City, Mo.

Every year, the City Market celebrates Christmas. When we visited, they had a FREE Whoville attraction! I checked the calendar the City Market calendar and there is a festive series planned: The Merry Market, held on weekends from Thanksgiving through Christmas. It’s a FREE and open-air market featuring local makers plus street food, holiday drinks, entertainers and other festivities. 

There’s also Gingerbread Lane to see there. It features cookie interpretation of Kansas City structures. Gingerbread Lane is on display through early January 2024.

5. Country Club Plaza Lights

Where: Kansas City, Mo.

Holiday decorations and lights at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City

Country Club Plaza is another well known spot in Kansas City that really embraces Christmas — it’s aglow with thousands of lights. 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. Hopefully, you have better luck with getting your kids to go shopping!

If you’re in the city on Thanksgiving, you can attend the lighting ceremony. The Plaza Lighting Ceremony will take place on Thursday, Nov. 23., from 5 to 8 p.m., and includes live performances. The Evergy Plaza Lights shine daily from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., Thanksgiving through mid-January.

6. Holiday Lights at the Farmstead Lane

Where: Overland Park, Kan.

The Deanna Rose Farmstead is a seasonal attraction in Overland Park, so at Christmas time, you can’t actually visit the farmstead and see the animals. However, there’s still a great reason to keep the farmstead on your to-visit list. The farmstead has the exterior of the barn and surrounding trees decorated with thousands of lights that are set to music.

This year, the lights will be on Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, 2023 from 5 to 10 p.m. You park your car, tune your radio to the station and watch the show.

Tip: The actual farmstead isn’t open for visits in the winter; this is strictly stay-in-the-car kind of stuff.

7. The most Christmas-y Neighborhood in America

Where: Overland Park, Kan.

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 Christmas Place at 131st Place and Antioch in Overland Park, Kan.

The Mayor's Tree in the daytime in Kansas City

More fun Christmas experiences around Kansas City

At the Kansas City Zoo, the GloWild: Around The Wolrd display runs through Dec. 30, 2023. It’s an evening event featuring lanterns. While GloWIld itself isn’t Christmasy in theme, it does take a festive turn in mid-November. Starting Nov. 17, North Pole Village opens.

Activities at North Pole Village includes decorating cookies and having S’mores with Mrs. Claus from 5:30 to 9 p.m. And the big one: Meeting Santa happens from 6 to 9 p.m.

Every year, the paths of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Garden are candlelit for the Luminary Walk. It runs from Nov. 24 through Dec. 16, and is open on the weekends. They’ve added an adults-only candlelight strolls on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, 2022.

Tip: This botanical garden is one of my favorite outdoor places to visit in the KC area! This is located in Overland Park, Kan.

Theater companies and performing arts venues usually produce holiday shows this time of year. Here are a few highlights:

  • KC Rep has presented A Christmas Carol” for more than 40 years. This year, the show is Nov. 21 through Dec. 24, 2023 at Spencer Theatre.
  • The iconic holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker,” will be performed by Kansas City Ballet from Dec. 1-24, 2023.
  • The Coterie Theater at Crown Center presents “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” now through Dec. 31, 2023. Assuming you’re taking the kids, you should plan some extra time for the kids to play at the Mayor’s Christmas Tree located outside at Crown Center. You can’t miss it.
  • Music Theater Heritage at Crown Center presents “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play” from Dec. 7-23, 2023.

Where to stay for a KC Christmas getaway

We were lucky enough to stay at two different hotels during our visit, and both were ready for Christmas. You can book these hotels or find other family-friendly Kansas City area hotels on TripAdviser.

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.

The Sheraton at Crown Center in Kansas City is decked out for the holidays.

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

Get more inspiration for a Kansas City trip

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

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

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