April 25, 2016

6 Truths Parents Learn At Worlds Of Fun

I grew up with Worlds of Fun being a part of life. Every summer we’d go, our family of six piled into the family truckster.

We’d see the sky-high tracks of roller coasters miles away. And it never failed, every year, as the park came into view, the volume of our voices instantly increased and grew more animated.

I never forgot how exciting it was to get the first glimpse of Worlds of Fun each summer. I relived it recently watching my two children experience it for the first time. Read about the trip here.

Disclosure: I was invited by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Blog Meets Brand to visit the park with my family, and while I was compensated for writing about it, I can honestly tell you I have long wanted to visit. What I’m writing is my own thoughts and opinions about Worlds of Fun. 

Worlds of Fun

6 Truths About Worlds of Fun With Kids

1. Your kids are going to want to be at Planet Snoopy more than they will want to be in line for the Timberwolf. And now that you’re older, you’re relieved.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: We can’t handle coasters like we used to. Oh, I still try to go on them, but my mind and body don’t cooperate. I worry. My stomach churns. I yearn for tamer fun. 16-year-old Kim shakes her head at me.

But let’s talk about Planet Snoopy. Have you been?

There’s an entire area dedicated to the 42-inch and shorter crowd and it’s a hit.

Mooch and the face of Planet Snoopy.
Mooch and the face of Planet Snoopy.

We went there first thing in the morning, and for the rest of the day, my 4-year-old kept suggesting we go back. She’s too short for many tempting Worlds of Fun rides, but at Planet Snoopy, she was queen.

There are 21 attractions in the area, including five news rides in 2016.

It's not your typical kiddie ride, now is it?
Here’s a fun new ride for the kiddos: Linus’ Launcher. It’s not your typical kiddie ride, now is it?

New rides like Woodstock’s Gliders and Linus’ Launcher are a level 3, giving littles a chance to experience a daring thrill I don’t typically associate with kids rides.

Woodstock’s Gliders was a whole new level of kids ride with my daughter controlling our flight. Eep!

Mooch made sure to ride every ride at Planet Snoopy, especially all the new ones (she follows assignments to a 't.').
Mooch made sure to ride every ride at Planet Snoopy, especially all the new ones like Snoopy’s Space Buggies.

The other three new rides are Beagle Brigade Airfield, Snoopy’s Space Buggies and Snoopy’s Junction.

Snoopy's Juction is a kid-sized train ride, which ended up being my preschooler's favorite ride.
Snoopy’s Junction is a kid-sized train ride, which ended up being my preschooler’s favorite ride.

My preschooler critic ranked Snoopy’s Junction as the best.

2. Water rides aren’t so ha-ha funny anymore.

Kids love getting soaked. Remember being that way? Now, you’re not laughing.

I was dying to go back on the Fury of the Nile after a two-decade hiatus. So me and my 6-year-old made way to the water ride. The line moved way faster than I remembered! Woot, right?

Little Farley waving as we board our raft on Fury of the Nile.
Farley waving as we board our raft on Fury of the Nile.

We got on the raft and before I know it, water cannons nailed me. They aimed at me. And then wave after wave hit. Was it a cruel trick being played on the old lady in the boat?

Final straw was our raft getting stuck out on the Nile for hours minutes. We drew a crowd. They clapped when we finally were freed. Seriously.

We returned to the scene...the spot where our raft was stuck.
We returned to the scene…the spot in the Fury of the Nile where our raft was stuck.

And soaking mama had to walk throughout the park because she had the brilliant idea to make Fury of the Nile her third ride of the day. My son dealt with the soaked clothes a little better.

He was game to go on the Viking Voyage after that.

I offered to take pictures of the trio instead.

They barely got wet.

Tip: A visit to Oceans of Fun is included with your paid admission to Worlds of Fun. Read all about taking young kids to Oceans of Fun in this post.

3. You’ll be a good sport and ride a lot of rides with your children that are just not made to hold your body. 

Worlds of Fun has several rides for the whole family to enjoy, like the Viking Voyage and Sea Dragon (I shared my favorite video of the family on the Sea Dragon here).

Mr. Wonderful and the kids fit comfortably in the Viking Voyager ride.
Mr. Wonderful and the kids fit comfortably in the Viking Voyager ride.

Then, there are the rides that are made for children. And your children are going to want you go ride them. All of them.

It’s a passage in parenthood that you squeeze your body into them.

Dad of the Year. Don't know his name, but I'm amazed he fit into that jeep.
Dad of the Year.

If you get to pick, I recommend a ride like Woodstock’s Gliders to at least make the cramming worth it. I had as much fun on the ride as my daughter.

4. Just let your kid play the games already and win a stuffed animal.

Mooch not-so-subtly lingered at every midway game we passed.
Mooch not-so-subtly lingered at every midway game we passed.

The first thing Mooch asked when we entered the park was “Can I get that?” We were barely passed the photographers at the entrance when she spotted the “Guess Your Weight” guy. So, I put her off saying we didn’t want to carry a big ol’ bear all day.

Five minutes later, she asked for another stuffed animal.

Repeat.

And repeat.

And why didn’t we just start playing try-your-luck game right away? Look how happy she is now?

She's very happy with the rainbow thing-y Mr. Wonderful won her.
She’s very happy with the rainbow thing-y Mr. Wonderful won her.

Just get the stuffed animal already.

You know it’s going to happen.

5. That Fast Lane Pass is the boss.

Life is short, and I’ve decided that waiting in line is not how I want to spend my vacation.

As I waited for the Spinning Dragons line to creep forward, I watched those with Fast Lane tickets enter using their own special entrance.

I grew increasingly jealous the more we waited. Why didn’t I get Farley and me into the Fast Lane?

How much is your time worth? Or to put it into parent speak: How much is it worth not having to stand in line with your children for very long?

If you’re visiting the park for just one day, it might just be worth the splurge to skip the lines with a Fast Lane ticket so you can ride more rides.

6. You’re going to want to make a season of it. Or at least, your kids will convince you to.

Is this sight calling you back?
Is this place calling you back?

Worlds of Fun knows its core audience. They visit more than once a summer. If you’re going to be visiting more than three times, you can save some serious dough by getting a season pass. The base season package includes admission to Oceans of Fun, in addition to unlimited admission to Worlds of Fun. Comparing the packages, the Gold one looks the best to me – among the perks is free parking and admission to Dinosaurs Alive.

Planning a trip to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri? Here are a few things parents learn on their first visit - Where to go with little ones, what rides you'll be expected to go on, and which rides your kids will love (and that will get you soaking wet). #guide #familytravel #USA

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April 22, 2016

Thrills & History For Families Visiting North Kansas City

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.

Kansas City thrills and history for families

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.

The Viking Voyager was a ride the whole family could. Both kids laughed the whole ride.

The Viking Voyager was a ride the whole family could. Both kids laughed the whole ride.

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.

 

This trip was my kids' first visit to Worlds of Fun. Mooch gives Planet Snoopy two thumbs up, it was her favorite area of the entire theme park.

This trip was my kids’ first visit to Worlds of Fun. Mooch gives Planet Snoopy a thumbs up; it was her favorite area of the entire theme park.

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.

My 4-year-old testing out one of the new rides at Worlds of Fun, Snoopy's Space Buggies.

My 4-year-old testing out one of the new rides at Worlds of Fun, Snoopy’s Space Buggies.

The area is definitely geared toward a younger crowd, but my 6-year-old enjoyed himself.

A taste for rollercoasters started here at Planet Snoopy, but being a smidge over 48 inches tall meant that Farley was going to prefer the bigger hills later on.

A taste for roller coasters started here at Planet Snoopy, but being a smidge over 48 inches tall meant that Farley was going to prefer the bigger thrills later on.

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.

Coasters Drive-In was a '50s-themed diner. Peak lunchtime could mean a lengthy wait for burgers, fries and shakes.

Coasters Drive-In was a ’50s-themed diner. Peak lunchtime could mean a lengthy wait for burgers, fries and shakes.

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.

Street tacos, pizza and tons of other food choices are found throughout the park. I heard the turkey drumsticks were must-tries.

Street tacos, pizza and tons of other food choices are found throughout the park. I heard the turkey drumsticks were must-tries.

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.

Embarrassing my kids is my specialty.

Embarrassing my kids is my specialty.

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.

In a city known for its fountains, Courtyard by Marriott at Briarcliff can brag about the one near it.

Kansas City is the city of fountains so naturally Courtyard by Marriott at Briarcliff has one.

After about a 10-minute drive from Worlds of Fun, we were checking in. Before long, it was pool time.

Sunset view from the hotel's small whirlpool. I'll take it after a full day of walking around Worlds of Fun.

Sunset view from the hotel’s small whirlpool. I’ll take it after a full day of walking around Worlds of Fun.

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.

Four people couldn't finish this cinnamon roll on top of regular breakfast orders. Plan accordingly.

Four people couldn’t finish this cinnamon roll on top of regular breakfast orders at Corner Cafe. Plan accordingly.

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.

Shoal Creek Living History Museum is a free historical park to explore in North Kansas City. It's so peaceful there!

Shoal Creek Living History Museum is a free historical park to explore in North Kansas City. It’s so peaceful there!

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.

American Bison once freely roamed the very plains Shoal Creek Living History Museum is located on. Now, they're safely kept in a huge enclosure at the park.

American Bison once freely roamed the very plains Shoal Creek Living History Museum is located on. Now, they’re safely kept in a huge enclosure at the park.

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.

The Patee House Museum is ranked one of the Top 10 Western Museums in the US. It's located in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Patee House Museum is ranked one of the Top 10 Western Museums in the US. It’s located in St. Joseph, Missouri.

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.

My 4 -year-old is in the background waving at me to "Come on!" There's so much to take in when you enter the main hall of the Patee House Museum!

My 4 -year-old is in the background waving at me to “Come on!” There’s so much to take in when you enter the main hall of the Patee House Museum!

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.

Don't miss the Buffalo Saloon inside the Patee House Museum. You can order $1 soda or sarsparilla, and popcorn. But, the favorite thing in the room was the Nickelodian that played random tunes for a quarter. My daughter had a dance party!

Don’t miss the Buffalo Saloon inside the Patee House Museum. You can order $1 soda or sarsparilla, and popcorn. But, the favorite thing in the room was the Nickelodian that played random tunes for a quarter. My daughter had a dance party!

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.

Jesse James House 5

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.

Of course, my daughter immediately sees this display at the Jesse James House.

Of course, my daughter immediately is drawn to this display of Jesse James’ teeth castings at the Jesse James House.

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.

Website

 

Courtyard by Marriott at Briarcliff

Where: 4000 N. Mulberry Drive, Kansas City, Mo.

Website

 

Shoal Creek Living History Museum

Where: 7000 NE Barry Rd, Kansas City, Mo.

Website

 

Patee House Museum

Where: 1202 Penn St., St. Joseph, Mo.

Website

 

Jesse James House

Where: 1202 Penn St., St. Joseph, Mo.

Website

 

Read about our experiences in the places mentioned above:

6 Truths Parents Learn at Worlds of Fun

Where to Stay If You’re Going to Worlds of Fun

Exploring the Patee House Museum With Kids

Exploring the Shoal Creek Living History Museum With Kids 

 

January 18, 2016

Downtown Kansas City Hotel Review – Sheraton

Updated: Sept. 27, 2018

There’s no shortage of hotel options in Kansas City – I’ve tried many of them. Our last couple of overnight stays have been at the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center. We’ve stayed there for a Radiohead concert at the Sprint Center; and this time around, we stayed there because it was centrally located near several of the family-friendly attractions we planned on seeing.

Disclosure: Our stay in Kansas City was hosted by the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

The Sheraton at Crown Center is totally decked out for the holidays. It's quite a sight to walk into.

Our most recent stay at the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center was in December – how’s that for holiday decorations?

And by centrally-located, I mean we could walk to them! How’s that for convenience? Park once and see it all.

What’s At The Sheraton Hotel

The Sheraton is quite tall – 40+ floors. The elevator ride impressed the kids.

The view from the top floor of the Sheraton...on a rainy day.

The view from the top floor of the Sheraton…on a rainy day.

The top floor of the tower is the lounge for Starwood Preferred Guests. If you are one, you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast with a view.

…which my kids ignored because, TV!

Seriously, kids, avert your eyes from the TV for one second.

Seriously, kids, avert your eyes from the TV for one second.

There are a couple other dining options there, including a bar & grill kind of restaurant and a cafe.

The hotel is designed for large gatherings and meetings, so several floors are taken up by those spaces. It’s kinda awkward taking the elevator down from the tower with all the rooms, scrambling across the mezzanine to find the other elevator that will take you to the pool area. Pack a good swimsuit cover, is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of the pool. You guys. It’s a heated roof-top pool.

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center's rooftop pool.

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center’s rooftop pool. It was an unusually warm December weekend for us – no snow!

So you could be swimming in the middle of a snow storm, if things timed out right. Or a rain shower, as was the case for us.

In case you’re wondering, it’s not that heated (by my wimpy standards). While my crazy family swam in the December rain, I was in the hot tub, thank you very much.

The short tunnel amused the kids too.

OK, I'll admit, the tunnel was fun for me to swim through too.

OK, I’ll admit, the tunnel was fun for me to swim through too.

You can order food to be delivered to the pool area, which sounds like a good idea if it’s summer and you’re in the mood to lounge around all afternoon.

The rooms are pretty comfy – we had two double beds. We lucked out with a partial view of Crown Center and the Ice Terrace skating rink. It’s a charming scene at nighttime.

Attractions Near The Sheraton

Sheraton is connected to being connected to Crown Center and Union Station attractions by the climate-controlled Link system.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Use it! Parking can get pricey, so if you just pay for your hotel parking ($17-$24/day), you can go to attractions like SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium, LEGO Discovery Land and Science City.

Here’s a roundup of what’s walkable from the Sheraton – walking with two kids under 7, with a pit stop for lunch at Crown Center.

–  SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium (Crown Center district)

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center (Crown Center district)

– The FREE Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope (Crown Center district)

Ice Terrace (seasonal outdoor ice skating rink at Crown Center)

Coterie Theatre (Crown Center district)

Musical Theater Heritage (Crown Center district)

Union Station – Be sure to check what traveling exhibition is there!

Science City (located inside Union Station) 

Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium (located inside Union Station) 

Model Railroad Experience (located inside Union Station) 

Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre (located inside Union Station) 

H&R Block Stage (located inside Union Station) 

The National World War I Museum and Memorial

The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank (you receive a complimentary bag of shredded currency there as a souvenir – worth $165).

– City Market is 2 miles away

– Country Club Plaza is about 3.5 miles away

– Crossroads Arts District is less than a mile away

Restaurants

One of the best breakfasts I had in KC was at the Blue Bird Bistro, a little more than a mile from the hotel. Another good and quirky choice for breakfast is You Say Tomato, also a little more than a mile from the Sheraton.

You’ll find a handful of restaurants at Crown Center, which is a mix of chains like Panera and unique kid-friendly spots like Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant and, on the other end of the spectrum, the upscale The American. I know people who swear by Fritz’s – it’s where the model train delivers your food to the table. Personally, the food was not worth the wait to me, but yes, the kids loved it.

Union Station has a couple restaurant choices, including Harvey’s at Union Station (I hear brunch is good there). Jack Stack BBQ has a location that’s near Union Station and I’d recommend it.

If you head to Crossroads Arts District, you’ll find some unique places to eat including Lidia’s KC (if you’re a big PBS fan, you know who she is). The Sundry and Cafe Gratitude were recommended to me, but I don’t know if any of those are kid-friendly. When it was just me and Mr. Wonderful in Kansas City, Crossroads was a fun place to visit, and if we get another couples-only vacation to KC, we’ll go back there.

If you go

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center

Where: 2345 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo.

Website 

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

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

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

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

A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Weekend Getaway To KC With Kids

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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What to expect at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel, located near Crown Center. Kids will love the rooftop pool and you'll like the easy access to attractions like LEGOLAND Discover Center, Science City and shopping. #Missouri #familytravel #hotelrecommendations
January 11, 2016

Best Winter Getaway To KC With Kids

Kansas City has all the makings for a family vacation: Kid-friendly attractions, great restaurants and convenient hotels.

On a recent trip with our kids, ages 4 and 6, we discovered some new favorites that we will certainly revisit the next time we’re in the area. Our winter trip was jointly hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park.

Kansas City title

The trip was so memorable, my 4-year-old daughter has taken to say “I love you to Kansas City and back,” in place of the silly old moon.

Here are some of the highlights you’ll want to check out the next time you’re in KC with kids (any time of the year!).

So fun they don’t realize they’re learning

The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.
The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.

One of the first stops on our trip was the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan. There’s a fun interactive screen in the lobby that you’ll be attempted to play with – you can create a dinosaur or dragon and then see it on the screen. Try to bypass it to explore later on because you’ll want to head straight to the Discovery Room upstairs (after paying admission, of course).

Dinosaur fossil inside the Museum at Prairie Fire
The first area at the Museum at Prairiefire my kids headed for was the paleontology section.

We could spent a few hours in this room! Divided into different areas of science, kids learn through play and hands-on exhibits. Website

The other place my kids loved so much they made us promise we’ll return the next time we go to KC was Science City at Union Station.

Panoramic view of Science City in Kansas City
Science City is a science center located inside Union Station in downtown Kansas City.

There are so many interesting and fun areas to play in, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep up with your kids. Best naps ever after visiting Science City! Website

Free for all

When you go to KC with kids, keep in mind that there are so many kid-friendly places with FREE activities, and apparently so do the masses. They’re crowded, so there’s the drawback. But the fun usually trumps any crowd factor, in my opinion.

On our trip, we stopped by City Market – which has a year-round farmers market (heated and indoors in the winter). We went specifically for the Whoville experience at Christmas time, but you can extend your stay to visit the FREE Steamboat Arabia museum and shops. Website

We stopped by Crown Center District twice during our weekend trip, since our hotel was so near it. I love the outdoor area there, especially at Christmas time.

Crown Center play area at Christmas time
Playing at night in front of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center.

It’s lit up spectacularly, and the kids enjoyed climbing on all the wooden structures set up around the Christmas tree (they’re not there year-round). We meant to visit Kaleidoscope, Hallmark’s FREE art-making area at Crown Center, and the gingerbread house display but nap time prevailed.

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

Not free, but also nudged out by nap time and unseasonably warm weather was the Ice Terrace, an outdoor ice skating rink. Website

Downtown Dazzle trolley in Kansas City
The Downtown Dazzle trolley drove families to different attractions in Kansas City.

A new Christmas-time-only thing going on in Kansas City is Downtown Dazzle, held on weekends in December. You can ride a FREE, decked out trolley to several downtown attractions like Crown Center and Power & Light District. Some stops have cute things set up like huge snow globes you can get in for a great photo opp. The kids loved the trolley for like first leg of the ride, but then we got stuck in basketball traffic and things went downhill from there. Still, my daughter said it was one of her favorite things about KC. Website

Overland Park held its own in this category. We watched Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, and it was one of Mooch’s favorite things over all (OK, she has a lot of favorites, she’s 4). I’d like to return in warmer weather to explore the farmstead in daylight. Website

Did someone say shopping?

I did not shop nearly as much as I intended to – this was going to be prime Christmas present shopping time. But my kids don’t think shopping is fun, so there you go.

LEGO store inside Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas
LEGOs, LEGOs, as far as the eye can see.

One of the places we visited that I found myself gazing longingly into storefront windows include Oak Park Mall in Overland Park (if you’re shopping for kids – definitely check out the LEGO Store, American Girls store and the Disney Store there). Website

There’s a carousel in the middle of the mall where you can park your kids for a little bit.

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

For the younger set, there’s a play area.

Of course, almost everyone in Omaha seems programmed to head straight to the Country Club Plaza to shop. That’s for good reason, you can find all sorts of high end stores there, as well as popular chains like Gap, Apple and White House/Black Market. Website

Want to buy some unique gifts? I think the City Market and surrounding streets is a good spot. You can buy food and spices from around the world, or on the weekends, head to the farmers market to buy locally-made goods from crafts and home décor to soaps.

While Mr. Wonderful walked around – buying some local wine and flowers at the market – I waited in line with the kids so they could ride the mini train. For $2, I captured the biggest smiles of the trip because of that little ride! Website

Mini train ride in the City Market in downtown Kansas City
This smile says “I got a free sucker on this train, Mom…Ha!” The kids could ride this mini train at the City Market.

Good sleeps

If you’re planning most of your trip to be in downtown Kansas City, the hotels around Crown Center are smart choices, particularly in the winter. They’re connected to major attractions by the Link, a series of enclosed, elevated walkways.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.
Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

We stayed at Sheraton at Crown Center and enjoyed using the tunnels to get to Crown Center, and further afield, Union Station. It totally beat driving and parking, or walking (it rained one of the days we were there).

Another highlight of the Sheraton was its rooftop pool, which is heated and open year-round. The little tunnel was a kid favorite.

Rooftop pool at Sheraton Hotel in Kansas City
Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center’s rooftop pool.

And if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest, you have to check out the Club Lounge at the top floor of the hotel. Go for the view and/or the breakfast buffet. It’s heartier than they suggest when they called it a “continental breakfast.” Website

If you’re looking for a spot closer to Country Club Plaza, which is decorated with thousands of lights each holiday season, check out my review of the Holiday Inn in Kansas City.

South of downtown Kansas City is Overland Park, a more suburban area. The DoubleTree Hotel is located a short distance from the interstate, and nicely located between some of our favorite parts of town – the Museum at Prairiefire, Oak Park Mall and Deanna Rose Farmstead. The highlight for my kids was the pool. As usual.

Pool at DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park, Kansas
The DoubleTree pool, AKA, the best part of the hotel according to my kids. Not pictured are the little whirlpool and sauna.

We had two connecting rooms there and it opened my eyes to a whole other way of travel with kids (king-size bed in one room, two doubles in the other). Mr. Wonderful and I agreed this was the way to go from here on out.

Service at both hotels was top notch and super friendly, especially at the DoubleTree where I left with a smile because so many people made us feel so welcomed.

If you are a Hilton Honors member, you probably will get breakfast included with your stay. The buffet was great, but what made it stand out was the chef cooking the made-to-order eggs. He knew how to make an omelet just right (not too dry). Website

Good eats

I had grand plans for dining in Kansas City – lots of barbecue, maybe a gastropub, a stop at popular breakfast joint. There are so many great places to eat and Instagramming to be done.

But travel with kids doesn’t always go as planned. Mornings were spent in the pool followed by the hotel’s breakfast instead of my quaint breakfast joint, but that’s just how it goes. Not to bash hotel breakfasts, I’m just a weirdo who seeks out the top breakfast restaurant in most cities.

Having #BBQ and @boulevardbeer Tank 7 on vacation. I ❤️ #KC @joeskc

A photo posted by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

The most memorable meal for the whole family was barbecue, naturally. We met up with family at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Leawood (not the original in a gas station, but it was closest to our hotel in Overland Park). It was smack-the-table good, especially the Z-Man Sandwich. Website

We dined a few times at Crown Center, given its proximity to the Sheraton and some of the activities we had planned. I wish I could say they were great picks, but I was disappointed with the service at both restaurants and the dessert place.

Blue Nile Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant in the City Market in Kansas City
If you’re an adventurous eater, try the Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile Cafe at the City Market in Kansas City. You’ll love the flavors.

One of my favorite meals, but certainly not for my kids, was the Ethiopian restaurant at City Market, Blue Nile Cafe. I nabbed a great Groupon for a meal for four and my kids absolutely refused to admit they liked any of it. Typical. Website

Fun things to do with kids in the winter in Kansas City - Includes tips on where to eat and where to stay for weekend getaways #familytravel #KC  #Missouri #Kansas #OverlandPark

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

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

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

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

A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park. All opinions expressed are my own.

* * * * *

This post is linked up to other fun travel posts on the #WKendTravelInspiration link here.

Family-friendly winter getaway to Kansas City and nearby Overland Park. Get ideas for restaurants to visit, fun things to do, and hotel ideas #familytravel #KC #missouriadventure
January 8, 2016

A Family Guide To Crown Center

Kansas City’s Crown Center attracts visitors for a number of reasons: FREE activities, kid-friendly attractions, shops and restaurants. We’ve visited Crown Center several times and still have yet to see all there is – it’s really Crown Center District with a ton to do. 

Family guide to Crown Center in Kansas City - Where to eat, things to do and hotel suggestions #familytravel #missouri #KC

My family’s most recent visit was during the holidays. The visit was hosted by Visit KC.

Attractions in Crown Center

LEGO statue at Crown Center in Kansas City
My kids don’t know that they haven’t been to Legoland yet. When they were little, these Lego sculptures near the food court in Crown Center sufficed.

These are the biggies:

–  SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center (before you go, read this post about 5 Things To Expect At LEGOLAND Discovery Center in KC)

– The FREE Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope, where children and their families create amazing art.

Coterie Theatre presents children’s theater

Musical Theater Heritage is a professional theater company staging American musicals.

– Fountains. The kids loved all of the fountains at Crown Center, especially the ones you can play in when the weather’s warm enough (which, of course, I didn’t get a picture of).

Outdoor fountain at Crown Center in Kansas City
Checking out one of the fountains at Crown Center.

Restaurants in Crown Center

There are more than 15 places to dine at Crown Center Shops. We’ve dined in the area on a couple visits.

Winning for most unique concept is Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant – a model train delivers the meal to your table. It was a big hit with the kids. The menu includes hamburgers, sandwiches and fries.

Fritz's souvenir hat in Kansas City
Farley ponders a fry at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant while he wears his free conductor’s hat.

We’ve also dined at Crayola Cafe and SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza.

I’m still searching for one that pleases both the grownups and the kids, honestly. You kinda feel like you have to go to Fritz’s because of the novelty, but the other two would not be ones I’d send you guys to dine.

Here are other places to buys grub at Crown Center: The American Restaurant (upscale), Chip’s Candy Factory (fudge), d’Bronx (deli & pizza), Einstein Bros. Bagels, Greek Food, Ltd., Juice Stop, K.C. Bar B.Q., Milano Italian Dining (casual Italian), Pak Ling Express (Chinese), Potatoes and More, Shang Tea Co., Sheridan’s Lattés & Frozen Custard, Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza, A Streetcar Named Desire (full service restaurant, has the streetcar), Taste of Philly, and Three Little Pigs BBQ.

My Family’s Favorite Crown Center Moment

Christmas at Crown Center – In 2015, the shopping center used #ShineBrightKC on its social media channels – for good reason. This place sparkles! Hello, photo opps.

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

Inside the shopping center, we stumbled upon carolers. We missed out on the “Charlie Brown Christmas play at The Corterie (sold out!), as well as the gingerbread houses. 

The kids loved climbing on the over-sized wooden sculptures surrounding the mayor’s large Christmas tree. Due to unseasonably warm weather, we missed out on enjoying outdoor ice skating rink.

We returned for a KC Christmas in 2017 and got to skate on the Ice Terrace, though, so all was forgiven.

Crown Center holiday decorations surround Mayor's Tree in KC
Play time at the base of the Mayor’s Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City.

If you’re visiting Kansas City during the holidays, you should stop even if it’s just to take some pictures of the scene.

Where to stay near Crown Center

There are two hotels in the area, both connected to Crown Center by the Link, a covered walkway system over the streets: Sheraton and The Westin.

Our hosted visit was at the Sheraton. What a perfect place to stay with a family in Kansas City!

Exterior of Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas CIty
Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

First off, any place with a rooftop pool heated year-round is a hit with my kids. My daughter still talks about it.

The rooms are comfy and spacious, there are dining options inside the hotel and best of all, the Link system is darn handy in the winter.

Kansas City Link walkway
The Kansas City Link connects hotels and attractions, making it easy to park in one spot and walk to another.

The Westin is even closer to the Crown Center action. You pass through the Westin if you’re using the Link system to get to Union Station.

A bit further away, but closer to the Country Club (if that’s on your itinerary), is the Holiday Inn.

Exploring Crown Center District

Beyond the shopping center area, you can find museums and attractions, including one of our new favorites, Union Station (take the kids to Science City!). Other things to see include, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial – which has been highly recommended by several friends so it’s on my list to visit – and The Money Federal Reserve Museum (you receive a complimentary bag of shredded currency there as a souvenir – worth $165).

Crown Center Special Events

Kansas City Irish Fest – Three days of all things Celtic – music, dancing and exhibits.

WeekEnder – Friday nights in July and August, enjoy live music, outdoor movies, food trucks, artisans and more at Crown Center Square.

Other events – Antique Festival, Fiesta Kansas City and Hallmarket… and let’s not forget our favorite, Christmas at Crown Center with the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, Crayola Christmas Land and the Ice Terrace.

Kid-friendly guide to Crown Center in Kansas City - Restaurants, attractions and other things to do and see #familytravel #Missouri #KC

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

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

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Getaway KC With Kids

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Visit KC. All opinions expressed are my own.

** This post is part of the #wkendtravelinspiration link-up at FamiliesGo!

December 28, 2015

Family Fun At Science City

Updated: March 6, 2019

Kansas City has a huge attraction that invites kids to explore science in fun ways. Science City, located inside the gorgeous Union Station, turned out to be one of my kids’ favorite parts of our whole trip to the KC area. It’s also one of our favorites among all the kid-friendly science centers and children’s museums within three hours of Omaha.

Guide to fun Science City, a fun place for families to visit in Kansas City, Missouri. It's located inside Union Station in downtown KC. #KansasCity #KC #Missouri #FamilyTravel

If you go, here’s what to expect:

Highlights

There’s a reason Science City was awarded the prestigious Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge EDGIE Award for Visitor Experience in 2015 (only two such awards are given worldwide that year). At Science City, you can dismiss the “Don’t touch” mentality of visiting places with kids. Kids and adults are encouraged to explore everything there and test their imaginations.

You gotta check out Science in a Sphere - without my son, though, because he'll keep switching the projection to the "Star War" one.
You gotta check out Science on a Sphere – without my son, though, because he’ll keep switching the projection to the “Star War” one.

Farley enjoyed playing in the water area and Science on a Sphere (particularly the Millennium Falcon projected on the sphere – which impressed every parent that walked into the room, as well).

Mooch, being the animal lover that she is, loved the small nature with lizards, birds and amphibians on display.

One of the little creatures you'll find in the Nature Center at Science City.
One of the little creatures you’ll find in the Nature Center at Science City.

She also loved the little tunnel to crawl through and the slide.  

Those were my kids’ favorite areas, but for me, I thought the different lab areas were cool – from kitchen science to building structures to fossils.

And, for the big kids (like me), the Skybike Challenge was fun. At other places we’ve visited, the Sky Bike was always an added cost to the museum admission, but not at Science Museum. Test the laws of physics and ride a bicycle over the museum when you visit!

All Science City Attractions

We had about three hours to spend at Science City before our drive home (Hello, car naps!). Even with a few hours, we missed several cool attractions within. There’s a lot to see, so we know we’ll be back.

Here’s a breakdown of all the attractions at Science City

Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium – One of the largest planetariums in the Midwest. (additional cost)

Burns & McDonnell Engineerium – A hands-on learning experience that encourages children to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

It's cute when he poses with the dinosaur, but not when I do it.
It’s cute when he poses with the dinosaur, but not when I do it.

Dinolab and Digsite

Every Last Drop

Splashing around at Every Lost Drop at Science City.
Splashing around at Every Lost Drop at Science City.

Genetics: Unlock the Code

Giant Lever – Challenge your friends and family to a fun game of tug-of-war with our Giant Lever.

KC Rail Experience – Hands-on journey through the fascinating history of the American railroad.

Kinderlab – Junior scientists can explore, build, imagine, read, pretend and play while engaging in science concepts and science literacy.

Lower Level Demo Area – Daily demonstrations and activities

Maker Studio – Become a maker and be inspired to create new and unique things through hands-on learning.

Maze Park – Home to science shows, special presentations and is also just a really fun, interactive brain teaser for kids of all ages.

Mr. E Hotel – A motel with more than 21 different illusions to confuse and astound guests.

Nature Center – The Nature Center allows visitors the opportunity to observe a diverse group of animals.

Science on a Sphere – A stunning and powerful visual perspective of Earth and other objects in our solar system

Skybike

Spark!Lab

Test Kitchen – Explore the chemistry behind the foods people eat every day.

The Science of Energy

Checking out the Science of Energy area at Science City. I tried it out for a few seconds and totally count this hamster wheel as my day's workout.
Checking out the Science of Energy area at Science City. I tried it out for a few seconds and totally count this hamster wheel as my day’s workout.

There are several other nooks and crannies throughout the multi-level space with more things to explore.

Simple Machines At Play – Outdoors, there’s a fantastic exhibit for active learning. The climber stands out, for sure, but there is also a mini zip line, a few things that explain force and gravity, and other playful areas. Of course, it’s open seasonally.

Science City has an outdoor exhibit called Simple Machines At Play.

Union Station

If you’ve never been to Union Station – this was our first visit – you’ll want to explore it, probably before heading to Science City (because your kids will not let you leave).

Among the FREE highlights is the model train room.

Just one side of the huge model train room.
Just one side of the huge model train room at Union Station in Kansas City.

We timed our visit to see some of Union Station decorated for Christmas. It’s beautiful and there’s no admission to come in and just gawk at the beauty.

At Christmas time, kids can ride a mini train at Union Station.
At Christmas time, kids can ride a mini train at Union Station.

There are, of course, other attractions inside Union Station and restaurants.

If you go

Science City

Where: Inside Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.

When: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. (closed on Christmas Day)

Cost: $13.25 for kids ages 3-11, $13.25 for adults; FREE for members and kids under 3. Planetarium tickets are $7. Parking will cost up to $5-$15. If you have a membership to a museum that belongs to the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), such as Omaha Children’s Museum, you may qualify for FREE admission! Check this post about the reciprocal membership benefits to learn more.

Website

Tip: The Lync walkway system connects Union Station to places like Crown Center. Park in one place and walk to other attractions easily!

Take the Link from Kansas City attractions like Union Station and Crown Center.
Take the Link from Kansas City attractions like Union Station and Crown Center.

Disclaimer: A big thank you to Visit KC for hosting our visit to Kansas City and to Science City for complimentary passes so I can share the experience with readers.

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

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

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Best Wintry Getaway To Kansas City 

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

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

Looking for something fun to do with kids in Kansas City? Check out Science City, a science center with that appeals to all ages. #KC #Missouri #FamilyTravel