November 30, 2015

Kansas City Holiday Bucket List

Growing up in the Midwest, I often saw picturesque image of Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza at Christmas time.

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

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

It looked magical. It looked like that was where Christmas happened. I knew families that went down there each December – to shop, to play.

I wanted to go there.

I see similar pictures now and it still looks magical. 

Yep, I still want to go there. Photo courtesy Visit KC

Yep, I still want to go there. Photo courtesy Visit KC

You know where this is going…I started finally planning a trip to KC at Christmas time. I’ve studied up on some sites that know how to do Christmas right in Kansas City (for starters, Visit KC and Visit Overland Park). If I had unlimited time to spend there, unlimited money to play, here are the items on my bucket list I’d like to check off:

 

Kansas City Christmas Bucket List

Kansas City Holiday Bucket List

Plaza Lights – Obviously. The lights come on at 5 p.m., which means we can go to the Plaza with the kids early enough to not have a late-night meltdown. Now, since this is a pie-in-the-sky bucket list, I’d say we’d see from a carriage ride that magically keeps my feet warm. There’s also the option taking a tour by flight, for those who really want to go all out. They’ll twinkle nightly through Jan. 17, 2016.

Experience the virtual sleigh ride flight school and Ultimate Santa Adventure at Dreamworks DreamPlace Experience at Overland Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan. Overland Park has invited my family to try this out – got my flight passes already! – and I’m so excited to see how my kids react when Shrek and his pals take us on the experience.

And while we’re exploring Overland Park, we might just have to check out the FREE 30-minute drive-through tour, Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

The free 30-minute Holiday Lights on the Farmstead tour is in Overland Park, Kansas.

The free 30-minute Holiday Lights on the Farmstead tour is in Overland Park, Kansas.

Shop unique shops in the Crossroads District for special gifts. Mr. Wonderful and I got a quick glimpse of the area and we definitely want to go back! Read about that quick date night here. While we’re there, and since money is no matter, I’d get a box of chocolates as a gift (to myself) at Christopher Elbow chocolates and look explore Webster House, a 19th-century schoolhouse turned antique emporium.

Devour some BBQ. Those who’ve known me for years, know that I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time. I recently started adding back a little meat into my diet and lemme tell you, I’m so ready to try some of the famous Kansas City barbecue. I had friends on Facebook throw out some suggestions – how do these sound: Joe’s Kansas City BBQ, Fiorella’s, Char Bar or Arthur Bryant’s? Which would you suggest?

How 'bout a big, heaping plate of barbecue at Arthur Bryant's? Photo courtesy Visit KC

How ’bout a big, heaping plate of barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s? Photo courtesy Visit KC

Speaking of food, I’m a bit of a PBS geek, so I’d love to also dine at Lidia’s Italy Kansas City (yeah, I’m talking about Lidia Bastianich). Maybe we can gorge ourselves at the brunch there sometime?

See “A Charlie Christmas.” I don’t know if The Coterie performs this short live theater production of Christmas season or not, but don’t you think it’d be a cute kid-friendly show to see? It’s at the theater in Crown Center through Jan. 3, 2016.

Finally see Union Station. Been to KC many times and I’ve never been inside Union Station. There’s a lot to do there any time of year, but Christmas time looks like an extraordinary time to visit. There’s the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, which at 100 feet makes it one of the tallest in the U.S. Union Station will also be home to the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train Dec. 16-20. Wish we were there that weekend – trains impress my kids still, especially ones that carry Santa and elves.

The classic exterior of Union Station in Kansas City. There are a lot of holiday activities held there every year! Photo courtesy Visit KC

The classic exterior of Union Station in Kansas City. There are a lot of holiday activities held there every year! Photo courtesy Visit KC

Revisit Crown Center in its holiday splendor. We’ve stopped by Crown Center in the past but I feel like our family really hasn’t seen much there – we haven’t seen SEA LIFE Aquarium or LEGOLAND Discovery Center even. At Christmas time, there’s the FREE interactive exhibit, Santa’s Gingerbread Station and Gingerbread Village, plus the Crown Center Express Train Engine and outdoor ice rink. 

Check out the Mayor's Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City. Photo courtesy Visit KC

Check out the Mayor’s Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City. Photo courtesy Visit KC

My friends at The Walking Tourists suggested we check out Whoville Holidays, a fun Dr. Seuss-inspired celebration at The City Market. The kids love the Grinch and since it’s FREE, how could we not stop by?

There are FREE Holiday Trolleys on the first three weekends in December taking visitors around Downtown KC. Along the ride, we can take a picture in the life-size snowglobe, see light displays, attractions and other cool stuff. Since the kids get excited sitting on a shuttle bus, this would be a fun way to get around town.

We haven’t been to the Kansas City Zoo yet, and I read if you time your visit well and stop by on a Saturday in December, you just might catch Santa diving in a wetsuit. Between you and me, I might hold off our visit until warmer temperatures because I’d love to go on a boat ride at the zoo.

I could wait to see this big guy in warmer weather, but I'm guessing a polar bear is really in his element this time of year in Kansas City. Photo courtesy Visit KC

I could wait to see this big guy in warmer weather, but I’m guessing a polar bear is really in his element this time of year in Kansas City. Photo courtesy Visit KC

I came across a lot of my inspiration for our upcoming Kansas City holiday adventure at Visit KC. What’s missing? What should I add to our bucket list of things to do?

Your turn: What are the not-to-miss holiday experiences in the Kansas City area?

 

August 10, 2015

Kansas City Date Night In Crossroads

If you keep up with Oh My! Omaha on social media, I recently took a quick trip to Kansas City with Mr. Wonderful for a concert. Before the trip, I asked for some dinner options because, weeee!, we’ll be able to go out to eat, linger, and not wipe anyone else’s mouth but our own.

Let’s not squander this opportunity, folks. It’s a Kansas City date night!

I got tons of great recommendations:

– Char Bar in the Westroads, Jack Stack BBQ (courtesy Lisa at The Walking Tourists)

– KC Joe’s, Westport Cafe (particularly brunch) (courtesy an Omaha transplant living in KC)

– Q39 (courtesy Kathleen at Thinking Smaller)

– Gram & Dun (courtesy Katie at Yellow Mango Life)

–  Seasons 52 (courtesy Tiffany at Feathering the Nest)

– Stroud’s (from my uncle)

– Joe’s Kansas City, Harry’s Bar & Tables (courtesy, my site designer, Brian)

 

We ended up at The Farmhouse near the City Market. I highly recommend!

 

I’m mainly writing this post so I don’t forget the other recommendations.

We’ll be checking off this list each time we visit from here on out.

The concert was in the Crossroads district of the city, and being a little too excited about it, we arrived super early.

The doors to the concert venue didn’t open for two hours. What to do?

Twitter to the rescue:

We opted for a round of retro games and good craft beer at Up-Down KC, followed by a quick pit stop at The Belfry for a quick Skype with the kids, a drink and gourmet popcorn. Up-Down KC is a fun place, especially for children of the 80s. Both Up-Down KC and The Belfry had some great craft beer to choose from.

Post-concert and starving, we got some pizza at Grinders before calling it a night.

The next day, we returned to Crossroads because we’d miss so much, it seemed… and let’s be real, I felt really guilty about not making it to Christopher Elbow Chocolates.

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I'll take it all, please. @elbowchocolates @visitkc

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We poked our heads into a couple galleries, and swore we’d be back when galleries open their doors and host a big party on the first Friday of the month.

Just 24 hours in KC, but I realized I’d overlooked this area in the city – there’s a lot going on, even on a Wednesday night.

Crossroads KC

What has been your experience with The Crossroads? Where do you recommend readers visit if they’re in the area – food, drinks, entertainment, shopping, whatever?

January 27, 2014

St. Louis With Kids

We took the kidlets to St. Louis this winter for a wedding and to visit family. While there, we checked out some recommended spots for families – and it was a lot of fun!

St Louis 4

I’ve waited an embarrassingly long time to write about it. Which makes it sound like it wasn’t that fun…nope, I’m just a procrastinator.

St. Louis hot spots for families

Our first stop was food. Naturally. This is me we’re talking about. Adam over at Visit Flyover Country recommended a few greats spots to eat in St. Louis and my mom picked the old-fashioned soda fountain, Jennifer’s Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe in Clayton. Darling place. And super friendly ladies behind the counter. My kids’ favorite part of the lunch was the flying monkey sundae. Order it and enjoy the literal flying monkey.

 

Mooch was a big fan of Jennifer's, partly because it was inside a pharmacy with a lot of candy that her Grammy let her buy. The other part is that flying monkey. Mooch loves "oo oo ah ahs."

Mooch was a big fan of Jennifer’s, partly because it was inside a pharmacy with a lot of candy that her Grammy let her buy. The other part is that flying monkey. Mooch loves “oo oo ah ahs.”

The ladies at Jennifer’s sent us to the Frisco Train Store.

Farley showing off hIs haul from the Frisco Train Store.

Farley showing off hIs haul from the Frisco Train Store.

It was nowhere near where we were so if you’re planning a trip, don’t plan to do it like we did (nor try to get to it during rush hour). But it is a fun store to check out if you have the time. The kids LOVED the train tables, as I imagine that’s the main draw for anyone who brings their kids there.

Frisco is the store for the train fanatic in your life. Four train tables, kids, four.

Frisco is the store for the train fanatic in your life. Four train tables, kids, four.

Basically, there are benches set up around the shop and parents can sit while their kids go nuts over the big track. You’ll be tempted to browse. And shop. Which we were. And that’s the whole point of the set up.

Like most kids, mine have an abundance of energy. Like insane amounts. So, we figured that we needed to take them somewhere to unload some of that energy before a wedding we were attending.

Adam made some excellent recommendations, especially for my kids’ ages. Check them out here. We had a hard time choosing given our limited time in the city.

So, we went to the City Museum. Go there! With or without kids.

The City Museum in St. Louis is hard to define. It's a colorful, non-plastic dream world for kids and adults ( they have a bar there!).

The City Museum in St. Louis is hard to define. It’s a colorful, non-plastic dream world for kids and adults ( they have a bar there!).

It’s a bit of an enigma when it comes to explaining it.

No brightly colored, protective plastic here.

No brightly colored, protective plastic here. If that makes you nervous, this is not the place for you and your kids.

Great for kids (multi-stories long slides, tunnels, circus, crafts, I could go on), great for adults (there’s a bar inside) – it’s just incredible.

The area for preschoolers and younger. A little more plastic there - toy trucks, building blocks, that sort of thing.

The area for preschoolers and younger. A little more plastic there – toy trucks, building blocks, that sort of thing.

It’s like the creative folks at Hot Shops got a hold of your childhood drawings of a magical fort and bam!

What is this room for in the City Museum? Doesn't matter. The kids loved running around it.

What is this room for in the City Museum? Doesn’t matter. The kids loved running around it.

There it is with a skate ramp, ball pit and train added in.

Mooch could've stayed in the ball pit for two hours. I had to ignore the germ-phobe screaming in my head.

Mooch could’ve stayed in the ball pit for two hours. I had to ignore the germ-phobe screaming in my head.

Our favorite spot was for the preschool and younger crowd. It’s much much easier to keep an eye on the kids in a room with only one exit.

Farley on one of the slides in the younger kids area at the City Museum. Such a cool design of a place!

Farley on one of the slides in the younger kids area at the City Museum. Such a cool design of a place!

I do it no justice, so just trust me, it’s worth a visit. There are food options there (pricey).

Our other kid-friendly stop was before we were heading out of town, trying to burn off that incredible energy again before an 8-hour road trip. NO, it doesn’t usually take that long to get to St. Louis, but traveling with my kids, it takes longer.

We checked out the FREE Science Center in St. Louis.

Mooch meets a dinosaur at the St. Louis Science Center.

Mooch meets a dinosaur at the St. Louis Science Center.

This one would definitely be better for gradeschoolers on up, but my kids had a lot of fun. There were activities that suited my 4-and-under crowd just right. Take your kids over the interstate bridge, for sure. There is a food court there with some healthy options.

Can't go wrong with building blocks.

Can’t go wrong with building blocks.

This was a busy place, but my kids managed to play with lots of the exhibits.

And you can’t beat free.

November 11, 2013

Insider’s Family Guide: St. Louis

Updated: March 28, 2019

Insider’s Family Guide is a new series that will run occasionally on Oh My! Omaha. When my family has a trip on the horizon, I’m going to seek out tips on where to go, where to eat and where to stay. This is the first in the series and I could not have found a better source than Adam Sommer over at Visit Flyover Country. This dad knows all about traveling with kids and he shares my appreciation of a good breakfast. In this family guide to St. Louis, he shares his suggestions on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay if you visit his city.
Planning a trip with kids to St. Louis? Read this local dad's guide to the city! He shares the best places to go with kids in St. Louis, including restaurants, museums and where to stay. #tips #STL #familytravel #localguide
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I have always been spoiled living in St. Louis, where I was born, raised, and enjoyed some of the nation’s best attractions – all for free! “Forever free” is actually part of the mission of a group of my hometown’s world-class attractions including one of the nation’s top ranked zoos, our just expanded art museum, the No. 5 science center in the nation, and our history museum. Of course St. Louis, Missouri is also home to many other attractions which charge admission, plus plenty of family friendly dining and countless high-quality lodging.

Although I have not taken a “staycation” in St. Louis I do regularly visit many of our attractions on a regular basis with the family. Here are a few of the highlights, perfect for a weekend family getaway to The Gateway City:

 
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What I’d do

The Saint Louis Zoo, the most visited zoo in the world, is not only free, ranked in the top 3 zoos in the nation (Parent’s Magazine), but its also our best family attraction. A full day could be happily spent here enjoying the children’s zoo, Zooline Railroad, and plethora of new exhibits. Open 9-5 daily; FREE.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the world’s finest botanical research centers, is also home to an incredible children’s garden. My family typically visits every weekend enjoying the children’s play areas, the Climatron, feeding fish in the largest Japanese garden outside of Japan, and simply taking in the gorgeous gardens. Admission is $14 for anyone over 12 and FREE for children under 12. Children’s garden is $5 for kids ages 3-12. Open 9 to 5 daily; children’s garden April – early November only.

Related post: Guide To Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

City Museum is probably our most unique attraction for kids. Difficult to describe other than to say its part children’s museum, part science center, part aquarium all built with an eccentric twist. Admission is $15 for ages 3 and older; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Related post: 5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Time At The City Museum

Additional awesome family attractions include The Magic House, Museum of Transportation, Grant’s Farm (FREE), St. Louis Science Center (FREE), and because its St. Louis, a Cardinals baseball game.

Of course no visit to STL would be complete with taking the journey to the top of the Gateway Arch!

 
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Where I’d eat

For a healthy start to the day, I’d recommend breakfast at Local Harvest Cafe, home to mostly locally grown & organic ingredients. Ideally located next to Tower Grove Park, home to our best farmer’s market (on Saturdays) and near the Missouri Botanical Garden. Another great option is the Benton Park Cafe, located across from Gus’ Pretzels (order freshly made pretzels) and next to the AB Brewery offering free family-friendly tours including the popular Clydesdales.

 
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Lunch is a step back in time at Jennifer’s Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe in Clayton where diners sit on stools and order hand-made burgers, soups, pies and cookies from the friendliest staff in town all set within an ole fashioned gift shop. And you can’t go wrong with the famous Crown Candy Kitchen known for its BLT (containing 1 lb of bacon) and shake challenge.

The Fountain on Locust offers a fun, unique, and quality dinner experience. This nostalgic eatery is known for its locally-sourced ingredients, incredible shakes, hand-painted ceiling, and even won a national award for the country’s best bathroom!

Where I’d stay

Blessed with an abundance of hotels, St. Louis lodging is affordable and varied among its offerings. I’d recommend staying either downtown (note you will pay to park) or better yet in the county where parking will be free (a car is required to explore St. Louis). Drury Hotels are plentiful (20 locations in STL) and popular, as “all the extras are free” including breakfast and a light dinner (including hotdogs for kids), plus most are suites, offering more space for families.

Related post: Spoiling Kids At Four Seasons St. Louis

 
– Adam Sommer regularly blogs about family travel in the Midwest at Visit Flyover Country.
 

Your turn: Where do you recommend we go while in St. Louis? What’s your favorite kid-friendly attraction?