January 15, 2018

Midwest Restaurants With Memorable Breakfasts

In the Midwest, breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, it’s the best. As a travel blogger who specializes in this region, I’ve had a few stand-out breakfasts at Midwest restaurants, but I’m always on the hunt for the next one to visit. So, I asked the experts, those have frequented more than a few: Midwest travel bloggers.

This group has some fantastic suggestions!

Here’s a collection of the most memorable breakfast experiences at Midwest restaurants:

Illinois

Charlie Parker’s Diner, Springfield, Ill.

“The breakfast horseshoes are so good. And they make a gigantic pancake that is served on a pizza pan. Also just super fun nostalgic place – interesting quanset hut building.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Jellyfish, Chicago, Ill.

“The brunch menu includes a variety of signature cocktails, soups and salads and sharing plates of everything from stuffed french toast to eel benedict to fruit sushi.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

The Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.

“French toast with peaches and waffles with wild blueberries were the stars of our mornings. You can always order eggs made to order if you’d like something other than the daily specialty. Fresh muffins and scones from their pastry chef Tara were decadent and delicious.” Recommended by Sue, who wrote about it at Food Travelist

SafeHouse Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

“I went to their new brunch a few months ago and it was a very cool experience! It is a James Bond spied theme restaurant with a themed brunch menu.” Recommended by Jamie, who wrote about it at Corn Fields and High Heels

Sunda, Chicago, Ill.

“My favorite would probably be the Tempura French Toast. The Oxtail Potstickers were pretty awesome, too.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about her brunch experience there at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Timmerman’s Supper Club, East Dubuque, Ill.

“Timmerman’s Supper Club offers an amazing Sunday brunch buffet complete with mimosas and awesome bluff top views over the Mississippi River! The buffet features a range of typical breakfast items, a fruit and salad bar, a taco station, a huge selection of desserts and a live omelette and carved meat station. There’s something for everyone…make sure you visit with an empty stomach!” Recommended by Kylie, who wrote about it at Between England and Iowa

Indiana

Cafe Patachou, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Really good upscale breakfast that was featured in Bon Apetit magazine as a top breakfast spot in the county. Nice downtown location overlooking capitol grounds.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Creighton’s Crazy Egg Cafe & Coffee Bar, Warsaw, Ind.

“Small town, farm-themed restaurant that will take you by surprise. A pleasant surprise! Simple but unique menu and a full-coffee bar. Located in the middle of nowhere, on a farm!” Recommended by Jamie, who writes at Cornfields and High Heels

Eggshell BistroCarmel, Ind. 

“… stepping inside the Eggshell Bistro is like stepping into a Parisian cafe except here no passport is required…Order a coffee, ask for a recommendation if needed, sit back and enjoy the ambiance of this bistro while forgetting that your feet are still firmly planted on American soil. The menu is an eclectic mix of international flavors and all the menu items have an egg included in it. When you go be sure to order the Kedgeree: house-smoked/sorghum-glazed wild salmon, jasmine rice, curried-spice mix, onion, caper, scallion, soft-boiled hen’s egg. Seriously delicious!” Recommended by Deb, who included the restaurant in her post “Fantastic Foodie Finds + More In Hamilton And Hendricks Counties Indiana” at Just Short of Crazy

Grilled cheese at Milktooth in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Emily Hines

Herrold on Hill, Wabash, Ind.

“Breakfast was the crowning glory of our stay…Alan made us some amazing protein waffles with strawberries and blueberries and double smoked ham Sandy topped off our meal with a fresh tomato and basil salad because, ‘We have vegetables at every meal.’” Recommended by Cindy, who wrote about it at Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl 

Milktooth, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Named one of the best restaurants in the WORLD by CondeNast Traveler, Milktooth in Indianapolis is an all breakfast/brunch restaurant located in the heart of Indianapolis. This ‘fine diner’ serves up the classics with a twist: Think dutch baby with manchego cheese, grapefruit, and brussel sprouts and a grilled cheese topped with truffle honey and a duck egg. Their award winning food makes this place insanely busy, especially on the weekends but it is worth the wait!” Recommended by Emily, who wrote about it at Em’s On The Road

Iowa

Caroline’s in the Hotel Julien, Dubuque, Iowa

“Classic breakfasts like biscuits & gravy and sweet and unique choices like bananas foster’s french toast are just the tip of the iceberg. Impeccable service and small touches like a saucer with your coffee make this dining experience top notch!” Recommended by Katy, who wrote about it at Flint & Co.

Country Kitchen, Marion, Iowa

“Country Kitchen in Marion, Iowa has the fastest service and most delicious breakfast options around. I could eat there all day with the selection they have but I enjoy their breakfast most. Kids love their chocolate chip pancakes and parents love their value” Recommended by Melissa from ThirtySomethingSuperMom

PM Park, Clear Lake, Iowa

On our first visit to Clear Lake, I was determined to have a lakefront meal. It wasn’t as easy to find a place as I had anticipated, but luckily, there was PM Park. While our meal was being prepared, the kids played on the pirate ship outside and I could sit inside sipping my coffee. Try the french cake (pretty much a french toast pancake). I wrote about it in the Great Iowa Road Trip post.

 

Kansas

The Chef, Manhattan, Kan.

“In a college town where fast-food chains dominate the breakfast scene, The Chef stands out. While there’s nearly always a wait, you can sip coffee and create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece to help pass the time. The Pancakes Bananas Foster and Buenos Dias Frittata are two of our family favorites!” Recommended by Sage from Everyday Wander.

You can watch your breakfast being made if you sit at the counter at Doo Dah Diner.

Doo-Dah Diner, Wichita, Kan.

“…perhaps the best restaurant breakfast meal of my life! Here, cooked from scratch breakfast and lunch items fill the menu. You will drool just reading the descriptions!” Recommended by Melody on The Yum originally and reshared on Visit Wichita (her primary blog is Whereever I May Roam)

Michigan

Breakfast at Tiffiny’s, Portage, Mich.

“Made fresh/from scratch and great healthy choices! Serves lunch too…but breakfast all day!” Recommended by Joan at Gramcracker Crumbs

Bunde’s Bakery, South Haven, Mich.

“Bunde’s Bakery is an adorable neighborhood coffee shop you’ll want to pop into during your summer beach vacation. Grab a delicious cinnamon roll with your latte but get there early if you want your pick of the baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.” Recommended by Lindsay, who wrote about South Haven at Let Me Give You Some Advice

Minnesota

Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis, Minn.

“Hell’s Kitchen service staff wears their jammies, ridiculously scary decor and really good food.” Recommended by Diana, who wrote about it at Mojotraveler

Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minn.

“If you want a unique breakfast experience, we recommend Mickey’s Diner in downtown St. Paul. It’s a dining car that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can sit on a stool at the counter and watch the cooks fry your bacon and flip your pancakes. My family loves the blueberry pancakes. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! I also have a general post about how small town cafes serve up the best breakfast you’ve never had! We could eat breakfast for three meals a day!” Recommended by Victoria, who included the diner in her Small Town Cafes roundup on the blog That Was A First

Note: I’ll second this recommendation! They put some magic in their omelets. I’ve never had one so fluffy and cooked absolutely perfectly. It was one of our favorite restaurant stops during our Great Minnesota Weekend.

World’s Best Donuts, Grand Marais, Minn.

“The cake donuts alone make the World’s Best Donuts worthy of its moniker: Lighter in texture than a traditional cake donut, superb when coated with a thick dusting of cinnamon sugar. There are also raised donuts, twists (try the chocolate covered one), cream or jam-filled bismarks, long johns, apple and blueberry turnovers, jam-filled croissants, caramel pull-aparts, and cream cheese and maple swirls. A small selection of gluten-free items is also available, baked off-site at a gluten-free facility. Besides the cake donuts, my favorite item was the skizzle, a flat piece of fried dough coated with sugar–basically a thin version of American Indian fry bread.” Recommended by Stacy, who wrote about it on Tangled Up In Food

Missouri

Cielo at the Four Seasons, St. Louis, Mo.

The winner of the best view at breakfast in the Midwest has to be handed to Cielo, located on the rooftop of the Four Seasons. Definitely order the chicken and waffles.

Eggtc, Kansas City, Mo.

Eggtc is regularly featured on “best of” breakfast lists for Kansas City for good reason: It’s delicious. What made it all the more memorable (from a tired, traveling parent’s point of view), was the waitress thoughtfully got us a to-go cup for our coffee after we were done with breakfast. I wrote about it in 24 Hours In KC With Kids.

Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, Springfield, Mo.

“History and modern convenience meet at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe in Springfield, Missouri. An open kitchen allowed us to watch the cooks prepare our unique dishes in this renovated turn-of-the-century pharmacy building. Try a Freedom Waffle for a cheery and colorful way to start your day.” Recommended by Jeff, who wrote about it at Our Changing Lives

Fruit display at the brunch served at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Postcard Jar

The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Branson, Mo.

“The Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks was amazing! Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks is more than a meal — it’s an experience. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch in the beautiful Keeter Center there which included full breakfast selections and personalized omelets and waffles all made with farm-fresh ingredients grown on the campus. Details like an ice sculpture, hand-cut fresh seasonal fruits, domestic and imported cheeses, crudités, and made-to-order Caesar salads took brunch to a new level. We loved the award-winning carved ham and were entertained by students who sang and played the piano while we dined.” Recommended by Ann who writes Postcard Jar Travel Blog with her husband, Steve

Nebraska

Culprit, Omaha, Neb.

“I adore Culprit. Their specialty donuts and morning buns are a great welcome-to-Omaha breakfast when you’ve just picked someone up from the airport and want to simultaneously nourish, spoil and impress them — but need to save room for lunch. If you’re feeling more indulgent, you can linger over their perfect, decadent quiche and a Spanish coffee.” Recommended by Jenna, who writes The Beaspora

The Green Gateau, Lincoln, Neb.

This charming downtown Lincoln restaurant has the feel of a European bistro. The food is exceptional and fresh. I always add a beignet to my order. And a mimosa. Always a mimosa. Expect a wait for brunch if you don’t have reservations.

Upstream Brewing Co., Omaha, Neb.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is have breakfast outside at Upstream Brewing Co., while watching the farmers market shoppers. I usually order the french toast. For more Omaha dining recommendations, read this post.

Ohio

Bagel Street Deli, Athens, Ohio

“Best bagel sandwich I’ve had to date at Bagel Street Deli in Athens.” Recommended by Nedra at Adventure Mom

Oklahoma

Dilly Diner, Tulsa, Okla.

“Dilly Diner treats their employees amazing, and their food is absolutely amazing. Their employees are genuine and sweet. Feels like home.” Recommended by Linda

Waffle Champion, Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Flip the menu – one side is sweeter offerings, the other more savory (think bacon, egg, and cheese, or fried chicken) and all of it is delicious. I had the Blueberry Sunrise waffle: blueberry-thyme compote, lemon goat cheese spread, with an oat crumble sprinkled on top. When I asked if they could add pecans, the answer was, ‘Sure! Are espresso pecans all right?’ Um, YEAH, duh.” Recommended by Sheila, who wrote about it in a post called “5 Places to Live Like Local” on the blog Perceptive Travel

South Dakota

And the winner of the tastiest donut in Wall, South Dakota, goes to…the maple donut.

Wall Drug, Wall, S.D.

Wall Drug is about the cheesiest and touristy stop you can have in South Dakota, and it will also be one of the most memorable. For quick but very tasty breakfast, wait in line and get yourself one of their famous cake donuts. I sampled all of their flavors, and can confidently tell you to order the maple donut. I included Wall Drug in this post about our Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure.

Wisconsin

Frank’s DinerKenosha, Wis.

“Frank’s Diner is in an old street car diner. Very cool. And you have to get the garbage plate. Delish!” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters. Sheila from Perceptive Travel also recommended Frank’s Diner, writing “Two visits to this town. Two breakfasts at Frank’s Diner in downtown Kenosha. Batting 1.000 so far.”

Mocha Moment, Janesville, Wis.

“It’s a family-owned and operated coffee shop and cafe in Janesville, Wisconsin. Tucked away from the road, it’s surrounded by the woods. The owners’ son sources and roasts their coffee, and all the delicious pastries are made in house. It’s definitely a local hot spot and was packed with regulars the morning I visited.” Recommended by Erin, who included it in her post about the 10 Best Breakfast Spots of 2017 post on The Epicurean Traveler

Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market, Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market is a favorite of locals and in-the-know visitors. The farm-to-table fare features fresh twists on breakfast classics and designer omelettes. The menu changes with the season (pumpkin bread pudding anyone?) Their bakery’s chocolate croissants are TO DIE FOR.” Recommended by Tabitha, who wrote about it at Trippin’ Midwest Mama

 

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January 3, 2018

5 Things To Know About LEGOLAND Discovery Center

You’d think after nearly a half-dozen visits to Kansas City with the kids, you’d think we would have gone to LEGOLAND Discovery Center by now. We have a son that’s really into LEGOs. We finally made it to the Crown Center attraction this winter, and here’s the takeaway from the experience.

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary admission to visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center so I could write about it.

5 things to know about LEGOLAND Discovery Center

1. LEGOLAND Discovery Center is not the same thing as LEGOLAND.

LEGOLAND Discovery Centers bill themselves as smaller versions of LEGOLAND, but having been to both, I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch. They are owned by the same company, and they are similar in that:

  • Both are inspired by the blocks and feature a ton of really amazing LEGO sculptures
  • Both have rides.
  • You can build things at both.

LEGO Merlin at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City.

By their nature of being indoors, Discovery Centers are much smaller than LEGOLAND theme parks. The good news is that the lines are way more tolerable than LEGOLAND theme park lines. In fact, we had no wait for either ride at LEGOLAND Discovery Center KC.

Have reasonable expectations and you’ll enjoy the experience.

2. The rides shouldn’t be your main draw here.

Before visiting the Kansas City LEGOLAND Discovery Center, I had a friend tell me there were two rides there and her kids only wanted to go on those rides over and over again. So, I assumed they were super cool. Well…I guess LEGOLAND San Diego set some high standards.

As Merlin’s Apprentice Ride spun around, you could control the height of your seats by the speed of your pedaling.

The rides in KC are indeed good rides for kids, particularly for the early elementary age or younger crowd. Older kids may be bored. But don’t discount a good target shooting ride. If you ever played Ninetendo or Playstation, you’ll probably enjoy the Kingdom Quest.

But do not assume these rides will be like LEGOLAND theme park rides. Remember the whole “indoor attraction” thing? These rides are on the small side.

3. Don’t skip the 4D cinema.

It’s tempting to think a 10-minute movie is skippable, but don’t do it.

Glasses on and all ready for the 4D movie to begin at LEGOLAND Discovery Center KC.

It’s pretty entertaining getting “sneezed” on by a dragon in a movie or feeling the snowfall you see on screen.

4. Expect to spend about two hours here.

How much time you spend at the Kansas City LEGOLAND Discover Center depends on a few factors, including just how into LEGO detail work your kids are, how easy you can get them out of the climbing area, and whether your kiddos need a nap.

My daughter did not want to leave the play area inside LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

We spent less than two hours here since we had a long drive home, but I could see it lasting longer. Take into consideration some of the daily programs there, and whether or not your kid is prone to riding rides over and over again.

Your kids will likely run pass some pretty cool things, like MIniland, that you may want to linger in to see the exquisite detail of things. The Miniland in KC was pretty impressive.

The Miniland inside LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City has quite a few KC landmarks made out of LEGOs, as well as this interactive race car track.

5. Get down and build alongside your littles.

It’s tempting to sit down and watch, but things get a whole lot more enjoyable when you get down and build with your kids. I designed my own square for a wall quilt and helped my son build a race car. There are 10 building areas at LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Good times, and good memories, for sure.

There are 10 areas where families can create LEGO structures, including one with earthquake tables and a race car track to test out your engineering skills.

If you go

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City

Where: 2475 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.

Cost: $15 to visit if you purchase online in advance; in-person tickets will cost at least $4 more per person. Kids under 2 are FREE.

TIP: LEGOLAND Discovery Center is right next to SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium, and you can usually purchase tickets together for a better price.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City is near a lot of great attractions around Crown Center. Here’s a family guide to Crown Center.

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Want more KC family vacation ideas?

Our WinterFest visit was part of a 24-hour trip to Kansas City, packed with a ton of fun, great food, and beautiful sights. Be sure to read all about our adventures:

24 Hours In Kansas City With Kids

Tips For WinterFest At Worlds Of Fun

Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities For KC Winter Getaways – Jan. 11

 

Looking for more things to do during the holidays? Here’s a post with 15+ fun things to do in Kansas during the holidays and a KC Holidays Bucket List.

If you have a little more time for your visit, check out fun things to do in the winter with kids in Kansas City or see what family-friendly activities are near Worlds of Fun.

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December 30, 2017

10 Beautiful Midwest Destinations For Families

I’d like 2018 to be a year of beauty and wonder for my kids. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to encounter some truly beautiful or unique places. There are so many beautiful Midwest destinations! Here are a few of my family’s favorites so you, too, can have a year of beauty and wonder with your family.

I’m stilling brainstorming where we may go in 2018, so I’d love your suggestions! Where in the Midwest should I go with my family for beautiful sights and wonder-inducing experiences?

 

Botanica, The Wichita Gardens

The Monster Trees might have been my favorite part of all Botanica Wichita.

Where: Wichita, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Obviously, being a botanical garden, things are going to be beautiful. Must-see pretty spots at Botanica include the koi pond and Chinese Friendship Garden.

Why kids will like it: You must take the kids to the whimsical Downing Children’s Garden to see the Monster Woods, musical maze, the familiar storybook character statues. and, being Kansas, the yellow brick road.

Read more about this kid-favorite destination!

 

Clear Lake

The view from the top of the carousel at Clear Lake’s Fourth of July celebration.

Where: Clear Lake, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: Like most Midwestern lakes, there’s a beautiful of the sky reflecting on the water and the serene appeal of quiet, lapping waves on a shore. But, the bonus with Clear Lake is that it’s a getaway without being far from modern conveniences. The town of Clear Lake is literally right at the water’s edge.

Why kids will like it: There are a couple beaches to choose from where kids where it’s shallow enough for littles to enter the water safely. My kids particularly remember Clear Lake for its Fourth of July festival…and the chance to stay overnight in a yurt.

Want to stay in a yurt? Here’s a post about the only yurts in Iowa you can stay in. 

 

Coronado Heights Park

Coronado Heights Park has a structure that looks strikingly like a castle to young children (and grown ups with big imaginations).

Where: Lindsborg, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Coronado Heights sits on a sandstone bluff looking over flat pastures. The beauty is the view, yes, but also the stark contrast of an ancient-looking castle set on the plains.

Why kids will like it: The castle, obviously. It’s not really a castle, but go ahead and let them believe there was once a small, medieval castle just northwest of Lindsborg.

Bonus: Don’t just visit the park and miss out on the charming town of Lindsborg. The town wears its Swedish heritage with pride, and it’s utterly charming to visit.

We tacked on a visit to Coronado Heights during our weekend trip to Wichita. Read about that stop here!

 

Ledges State Park

We looked for rocks in the shallow river that flowed through Ledges State Park.

Where: Madrid, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: This park is an unexpected treasure in the middle of Iowa. The walk along the sandstone gorge carved out by a tributary of the Des Moines River is unforgettable.

Why kids will like it: Playing in the water is a big draw, but part of the fun, too, is Canyon Drive, a route that passes through the sandstone gorge and is often partly submerged under water. The bigger the splash, the better.

 

Loess Hills

They don’t call them the Loess Hills for nothing. Don’t expect a flat hike at Preparation Canyon State Park.

Where: Western Iowa and Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: We’ve hiked a few trails in western Iowa’s Loess Hills, and each have had their own unique beauty about them. Trails along these unique formations can sometimes lead to rolling hills or steep bluffs, and have views of prairies or forests. You’ll find them along the eastern edge of the Missouri River flood plain.

Why kids will like it: This is Midwest nature at its purest.

Here are three hikes in the Loess Hills to consider!

 

Missouri Botanical Garden

The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden is 14 acres with bridges, waterfalls and peaceful nooks.

Where: St. Louis, Mo.

Why it’s beautiful: This huge botanical garden has a space that appeals to everyone, but the most beautiful, to me at least, is the 14-acre Japanese Garden. It’s peaceful with its path around the lake, and everywhere you look, you see pure beauty.

Why kids will like it: The kids enjoyed feeding the Koi fish at the Japanese Garden and looking for turtles around lake. However, you’d be making a huge mistake if you skip the seasonal Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. It’s a lot of fun (pack their swimsuits).

They don’t call this place one of the most beautiful gardens in the U.S. for nothing! Read why here.

 

Smith Falls

A view of Smith Falls on a sunny day.

Where: Cherry County, Nebraska (nearest city is Valentine, Neb.)

Why it’s beautiful: Located in Smith Falls State Park, this 63-foot waterfall is the tallest in Nebraska. You don’t forget the first time you ever see this waterfall.

Why kids will like it: You hear the waterfall before you actually see it, which thrills children to no end. The fun part is that you can stand under the water, if you dare (it’s very cold no matter the season, and the water hits you pretty hard).

Bonus: Getting to Smith Falls from Omaha is half the fun – you drive through the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska. Plus, most people opt to canoe the Niobrara River to Smith Falls State Park, which in my opinion, is another beautiful thing to experience.

Get Western Nebraska road trip inspiration to visit Smith Falls here!

 

Sylvan Lake

Where: Black Hills, South Dakota

Why it’s beautiful: Sylvan Lake is found within Custer State Park in South Dakota, which is itself, a truly unique and wonderful destination. Visit Custer, and make sure Sylvan Lake is on your list of stops. This gorgeous lake is a worthy destination for any family, either for an easy hike, water sports, or a waterside picnic.

Why kids will like it: The trail around lake is mostly easy, but there are some more challenging points that kids love. This is a spectacular spot to immerse yourself in nature.

Get inspired for a Black Hills road trip starting with this post!

 

Table Rock Lake

Jumping into Table Rock Lake to cool off in the summer.

Where: Stone County, Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: Table Rock Lake is a reservoir in the expansive Ozarks region of southern Missouri (and expands well into Arkansas). I particularly enjoyed Table Rock because it offered an peaceful escape from the frenzy of nearby Branson, Mo.

Why kids will like it: Water sports and small cliff jumping is a big appeal here. If you plan ahead, you can rent a houseboat to extend your stay on the water.

Toadstool Geologic Park

Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Where: Harrison, Neb.

Why it’s beautiful: This is Nebraska’s own Badlands. It’s off the beaten path, and much smaller than South Dakota’s Badlands, but park is just stunning to hike.

Why kids will like it: I suspect they like it because they’re imagining they’re on the moon. At least, that’s why I liked the park. Please note: The trail can be challenging for young children, and seriously panic-inducing for parents who bring their young children. Hike with care.

Read some Western Nebraska road trip inspiration in this post!

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December 20, 2017

Staying Near Country Club Plaza in KC

One of the most-visited areas in Kansas City is the beautiful Country Club Plaza. There are few trips we make to KC that don’t involve a stop there.

Until recently, we’ve never stayed near there, though. If you’re looking for a hotel near Country Club Plaza, here’s what we found at Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza. It’s within walking distance to great shops and a ton of restaurants. Disclosure: Our stay was complimentary for this review.

Holiday Inn Amenities

We were in Kansas City for a quick holiday getaway, and we wanted to stay somewhere near some of our key activities like ice skating at Crown Center, playing at LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Science City, and hopefully, getting some shopping done. So, we opted for a hotel near the Country Club Plaza. It was nowhere near our third destination of the trip (Worlds of Fun).

The lobby at the Holiday Inn in Kansas City was welcoming. You can’t see it, but off to the side was a Christmas tree for the season.

Traveling to big cities, parking can be costly. A great perk at Holiday Inn near Country Club Plaza is the complimentary self-parking. Having it underground is a bonus, especially in the winter.

My family includes two young kids so one big thing is a requirement for hotels: A pool. This Holiday Inn has one, but alas, it’s outdoors and open seasonally. To keep the kids occupied, you could check out an Xbox Connect or board games.

There’s actually a year-round outdoor pool in Kansas City, and I highly recommend it for families (read about it in the Sheraton Hotel review here). It’s not within walking distance of the Plaza, though.

Another nice amenity is the free wi-fi access at the hotel.

Holiday Inn Rooms

The Holiday Inn near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City had really comfy beds that were perfect to fall into after a busy day.

You can bet after a day of ice skating and strolling around Worlds of Fun’s WinterFest, the family was beyond tired. Our room at two double beds with the coziest pillows ever. The blackout curtains insured the kids slept in for as long as they needed.

Our room overlooked the pool courtyard, which I imagine would be nice other times of year. During the winter, there isn’t much to see.

Free Dining

I didn’t get a chance to dine at the Holiday Inn’s restaurant, but for families on a budget, here’s the deal: Up to four kids ages 11 and under eat free any time of the day in any Holiday Inn® on-site restaurant.

Walk to the Country Club Plaza

The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City is stunning any time of year. The architecture is beautiful. However, around the holidays, the KCP&L Plaza Lights at night add an extra “aww” factor to your visit. The Plaza Lights run Thanksgiving through Jan. 14 from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

It doesn’t get much more Christmas-y than this photo of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Photo courtesy Visit KC

There are several other events at the Plaza besides the Plaza Lights. You can get event details here.

One more tip: If you’re looking for a great breakfast choice, eggtc. is a KC staple with a location less than a mile from the Holiday Inn. It’s very family-friendly, but you want to get there early to beat the local rush.

 

If you go

Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza

Where:

Book a stay!

 

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Want more KC family vacation ideas?

Our WinterFest visit was part of a 24-hour trip to Kansas City, packed with a ton of fun, great food, and beautiful sights. Be sure to read all about our adventures:

24 Hours In Kansas City With Kids

Tips For WinterFest At Worlds Of Fun

5 Things To Know About LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities For KC Winter Getaways – Jan. 11

 

Looking for more things to do during the holidays? Here’s a post with 15+ fun things to do in Kansas during the holidays and a KC Holidays Bucket List.

If you have a little more time for your visit, check out fun things to do in the winter with kids in Kansas City or see what family-friendly activities are near Worlds of Fun.

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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

 

December 3, 2017

24 Hours In Kansas City With Kids

One of our favorite quick Midwest getaways is Kansas City. It’s been a while since we visited during the holiday season (check out all the incredibly fun things we did when we spent a holiday weekend in KC in 2015). We returned to visit some new (and new-to-us) places, including Worlds of Fun’s WinterFest. We did it all in about 24 hours…with kids.

24 hours Kansas City guide

Here’s how you can have a fun 24-hour trip to Kansas City with kids:

Pick the right hotel: For this trip, we knew there were some definites for the trip: We wanted to try ice skating on the terrace in Crown Center, we wanted to visit the Country Club Plaza to see the beautiful lights and decorations, and we were going to WinterFest. Two places were much closer than the third.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn in Kansas City that was within walking distance to the shops and restaurants (and holiday lights) at the Plaza.

So, we picked Crown Center/Country Club Plaza for our hotel spot: The Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza, which is great for families. Our complimentary stay was provided by our trip hosts, Visit KC, so I can write about it (check the blog last this month!). The only downside to the hotel was that the pool was seasonal since it was outdoors, so that disappointed the kids. If a pool is a must, I recommend the Sheraton in Crown Center in the area. The rooftop heated pool is great, even in the winter.

If your activities are further afield, here are two other hotels worth checking out: DoubleTree in Overland Park, Kan., and The Courtyard in North Kansas City (a good choice to be closer to Worlds of Fun).

Kid-Friendly things to do in 24 hours: We arrived in Kansas City in the morning, and were able to see quite a bit before checking into the hotel.

Science City inside Union Station has several indoor and outdoor exhibits that are interactive and fun for all ages.

Our first stop was Science City, which is a favorite stop of our family’s, and we go nearly every time we’re in Kansas City. Our visit was complimentary.

Tip: If you have a membership to Omaha Children’s Museum, your admission is free to Science City!

Next, we walked the elevated pathways to Crown Center where there are shops, attractions like LEGOLAND Discovery Center, restaurants, and our next destination, Crown Center Ice Terrace.

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

The Ice Terrace is a seasonal, outdoor ice skating rink open November through February each year. It’s a popular activity, so expect a bit of a wait to get your skates.

We had lunch afterward at Crown Center. If you walk around, you can come across a couple kid-friendly shops like a toy store and a Crayola shop.

My son loves all things art so the Crayola store was a good stop for him.

Depending on how long it takes to eat and walk, you may have time to check out the shops before checking into the hotel.

Our next stop was WinterFest at Worlds of Fun, which is an evening-only event, so we had some time to kill at the hotel. This would be a good time for a cat nap if your kids need one; if your kids don’t nap, you can go to Worlds of Fun before the event actually starts (you can get inside at 4:30 p.m., though the event starts at 5 p.m.).

We wandered into a space that felt at home in CandyLand, complete with a candy cane lane and gingerbread men.

WinterFest started just this year at Worlds of Fun, and it was a hit with every age in our group. It runs until Dec. 30. Food is pricey–it is an amusement park–so I suggest snacks there and eating outside the park before or after.

The next day, we had breakfast at Eggtc, and arrived just in time to beat the local rush. This was one of my favorite breakfast spot discoveries yet. Another breakfast recommendation is Blue Bird Bistro. If you choose to stay at Holiday Inn, kids eat for FREE with an adult entree.

There are a couple Eggtc locations in Kansas City, and one is about a mile from the County Club Plaza and the Holiday Inn. It’s very kid-friendly.

Well fed and caffeinated, we headed for LEGOLAND Discovery Center. If you have a lengthy drive ahead of you, this is a good place for kids to let off a lot of energy before getting buckled in for ride home. You could spend about two hours there, and I recommend not skipping the 10-minute 4-D movie–the kids loved it. There are two rides, but I wouldn’t let that be a selling point. This is not an amusement park, so manage your expectations in that direction; it’s more for building, and admiring creations, and there is a sufficient amount of play spaces for kids to explore.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City has a lot of hands-on play, two rides and a 4-D movie.

Before leaving, we had lunch at Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ, a Kansas City institution with five locations. A good thing to note: There’s one location super near Union Station with a pedestrian bridge connecting the two. It’s another great kid-friendly place to try.

The large dining room at Jack Stack in Kansas City. Serving sizes are large.

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Want more KC family vacation ideas?

Our WinterFest visit was part of a 24-hour trip to Kansas City, packed with a ton of fun, great food, and beautiful sights. Be sure to read all about our adventures:

Tips For WinterFest At Worlds Of Fun 

Where To Stay Near The Crown Plaza

5 Things To Know About LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities For KC Winter Getaways – Jan. 11

 

Looking for more things to do during the holidays? Here’s a post with 15+ fun things to do in Kansas during the holidays and a KC Holidays Bucket List.

If you have a little more time for your visit, check out fun things to do in the winter with kids in Kansas City or see what family-friendly activities are near Worlds of Fun.

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November 28, 2017

Tips For WinterFest At Worlds Of Fun

Updated with 2018 details!

Worlds of Fun in Kansas City has successfully branched out from being only a summer destination for my family. Thanks to its new WinterFest, there’s a good reason to consider it now. The holidays at Worlds of Fun is enchanting!

Disclosure: My family’s visit was hosted through a partnership with Blog Meets Brand and Cedar Fair.

WinterFest at Worlds of Fun runs through Dec. 30, 2017.

During WinterFest, the amusement park opens in the evening for rides, music, holiday characters, and everything merry. The first year of the event was in 2017, and it looks like it’s gotten bigger and better. In 2018, Winterfest runs through select nights from Nov. 23 through Dec. 31.

Related post: Make a weekend of it! Here are 15+ Fun Things To Do On A KC Christmas Getaway!

There’s a lot to see and do, and frankly, one night is not enough. And if you have little ones with you, late nights aren’t a good option. So, here’s how a family visiting with young children make the most of it.

Arrive early

WinterFest starts at either 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. (depending on the night) and ends at 10 p.m. (and midnight on Dec. 31). Five or six hours seems like enough, right? Oh, it never is. Arrive early. You can get into to International Plaza and Das Eishaus Ice Skating at an hour before opening (at least we could last year). The parking lot opens at 3:30 p.m.

TIP: Worlds of Fun’s entrance has two right-hand turn lanes, but the night we visited almost everyone lined up on the far right one. Wish we had skipped the line and zipped ahead in that second-to-the-right lane.

Your early arrival allows time for family photos with a little daylight, and time to plan out your night.

You won’t see lines like a busy summer day, I’m guessing, but if you arrive at 5, expect a line of cars trying to get into park.

Plan Your Rides

There are 25 rides open during WinterFest, including rollercoasters like Prowler and Spinning Dragon. We didn’t talk about what rides we wanted to do beforehand, so we spent a good portion of the night looking at our map and wandering around.

Most rides in the kids area of the park, Planet Snoopy, were open. This may be great for your family, but if your kids are older, there are far fewer rides that will interest them.

We’re not crazy, riding the wooden rollercoaster, Prowler, in November.

The good news is, the ride lines were not unbearable, especially for the Prowler. The longest wait was for the ride closest to the entrance.

TIP: If you’ve got kids under the age of 8 in your group, head straight for Planet Snoopy for the most rides in one area (and pretty much zero wait time).

And I guess it goes without saying: Dress warmly. It gets cold on rollercoasters and the spinning rides in the middle of winter.

Where to find holiday characters

There are characters throughout the park, and if you just walk around, you’ll find them. No need to go hunt them down…except for The Big Two (Santa and Mrs. Claus).

Head over to Scandinavia to find Santa. You’ll find Mrs. Claus in her kitchen in Europa (for an extra fee, you can decorate humongous cookies there). If you’re a Peanuts fan, look for characters over in Planet Snoopy.

TIP: If cookie decorating is on your list, expect a line. It went fairly quickly but, just giving you a heads up.

We found her! It’s true: Mrs. Claus does bake the best cookies, and they’re about as big as your head.

Be on the look out for characters like Jack Frost, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Candy Cane and Jingle Bell throughout WinterFest. Interaction with these festive folks add a fun touch to the night. Jack Frost can even make it snow.

Slow down to enjoy things

I’ve never seen Worlds of Fun — or any space — as beautifully decorated for the holidays. Walking around makes your feel like a child again.

We wandered into a space that felt at home in CandyLand, complete with a candy cane lane and gingerbread men.

It’s tempting to rush from ride to ride, but you’ll be missing out on the spirit of the event.

By the way, if lights are your thing, be sure to ride the train.

TIP: For good, overhead views of the park, look to your left as you go up the first hill of Prowler.

Other things to see & do at WinterFest:

Artisan Alley – Designed like Christmas markets around the world, you can shop more than 30 local vendors. This was low on my kids’ interest list.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Lot – Walk through a maze of trees and find Peanuts characters at the end for a fun photo opp.

Das Eishaus Skating – For an extra fee, you can ice skate under twinkling lights. This is one of the few ice skating rinks I’ve come across that provides skating assistance for beginners (think: A walker on ice).

Food & Beverages – Wherever you are in the park, you’ll find some seasonal food and drinks, as well as some usual amusement park fare like pizza, turkey legs and funnel cakes. It wouldn’t be Christmas without hot cocoa, and there’s also spiked drink options for the grownups.

TIP: There were lines for hot chocolate throughout the park, except for one place I stumbled upon: Spike’s Cheery Concoctions. It’s not just for the grown-up beverages, you can get cocoa there.

Let It Snow – It snows every 15 minutes at Hometown Square in Americana, thanks to Jack Frost. There are also performers and fantastic photo opps like the 300-foot-tall “tree” (AKA the ride SteelHawk).

We went on an unseasonably warm weekend and the fake snowfall was a nice touch.

Live Shows – There are 10 shows to catch during WinterFest, and I’ll admit, we didn’t seek many of these out. We were on a mission for rides and cookies (and hot cocoa). There’s a Broadway-calibre “Charlie Brown Christmas Spectacular,” “Sounds of the Nativity” with live animals, and everything from jazz to bluegrass and performers on a roving trolley.

Kids can feed the animals in the Living Nativity (for a few dollars) while singers perform on a nearby stage. There are donkeys, goats, calves, and a few surly camels.

We caught the tree lighting ceremony, which is held each night the park is open at 5:30 p.m. Snoopy and about 20 singers and dancers perform a few numbers and then quickly, the tree lights up and then there’s a surprise ending. In my honest opinion, kids didn’t want to wait around for this and if I could do it again, I’d skip it and go on the rides. The tree stays lit the entire night.

North Pole Post Office – Kids can stop by the post office to write letters to Santa. Nearby, you’ll find Reindeer Roundup with Murray the Moose and others. Don’t go out of your way to find Murray.

Sally’s Christmas Crafts – Kids 12 and younger can decorate an ornament to take home or hang on the tree, as well as make cards.

If you go

WinterFest at Worlds of Fun

Santa sets the mood from the start at the entrance to Worlds of Fun.

WinterFest

When: Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, 2018; hours vary and the park is open on Fridays through Sundays only through Dec. 17, when it’s open nightly (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when the park is closed). See the hours here.

Where: Worlds of Fun, 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave, Kansas City, Mo.

Cost: I haven’t seen the price for 2018 Winterfest Tickets. Last year they were $25 (or a bit more at the gate); the all-inclusive ticket was $45 (plus fees & taxes) online, and that included admission, parking, a single meal deal, and a souvenir mug. Ice skating was $15, and the cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus was $14 (includes four cookies). You’ll want to check this worldsoffun.com for ticket information. It’s almost always a better idea to buy tickets in advance to pay the lowest fee and to avoid lines for tickets.

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Our WinterFest visit was part of a 24-hour trip to Kansas City, packed with a ton of fun, great food, and beautiful sights. In the next weeks, return to this blog to read all about our adventures:

24 Hours In KC With Kids

Where To Stay Near The Crown Plaza 

5 Things To Know About LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Kid-Friendly Indoor Activities For KC Winter Getaways – Jan. 11

Get Travel Inspiration Delivered To Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

Things to know and helpful tips for attending WinterFest, an annual event at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City #KC #Christmas #holidays