50 Things to do with Kids in the Kansas City Area Before (or Even After) They Grow Up
By Kelli Oliver George of Rancid Raves.
I grew up just outside the Kansas City area, but even as a high-schooler, loved driving into the city for various events. When I moved to Kansas City after college, I was fortunate enough to be based in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and always had a variety of clients situated throughout the area. As such, I got to know the area like the back of my hand. Now that I stay home full-time with my children, I still love driving back into the city. I hope my children grow to love Kansas City as much as I do.
Also, did you notice how I managed to sneak the word “area” into the title? Anyone from Kansas City knows that to limit one’s activities to Kansas City “proper” would mean missing out on some really awesome activities.
- Visit the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. Built in memoriam for a police officer killed in the line of duty, the Farm is a special place to relax with your kids. You can walk the nature trail, sit in the butterfly garden, feed/pet the goats, take a hay ride, pan for gold and hook a live worm for fishing with a cane pole – just to name a few activities. This place is free, but I do throw a few bucks in the donation till.
- Take a stroll through the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. While there, do this nature-themed scavenger hunt.
- Watch a marble-making demonstration at the Moon Marble Factory in Bonner Springs, KS.
- Dress up in your Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating at the annual Boo at the Zoo event in the Kansas City Zoo. The people-watching potential is superb, the candy is just gravy. For extra kicks, dress up yourself! Is this where I admit I began attending this event before I even had children?
- Even if you are not a baseball fan, there is nothing like attending a live, major league baseball game at the Kaufman stadium, home to the Kansas City Royals. If you are a baseball fan, then attending a Kansas City T-Bones baseball game is a must. The T-Bones team is a member of the Northern League and are an excellent chance for your child to see baseball up close and personal.
- Adopt a duck in the Duck Derby on Brush Creak at the Plaza.
- Visit the Natural History Museum in Lawrence, KS at the University of Kansas. The Panorama of North American plants and animals is simply stunning. It is the largest diorama of its kind in the world and features the flora and fauna of habitats from the Arctic tundra to the rainforest.
- In May, attend the the PowWow at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS. The diverse student population represents members from federally recognize tribes from across the United States. It is difficult to describe how awe-inspiring it is to not only hear but to also feel the beat of the drums.
- Visit the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park. This indoor nature center is a great activity for steamy and frigid days.
- Do some “banking”, go “grocery shopping”, lob some golf balls, and do some “gardening” at Wonderscope, the Children’s Museum of Kansas City.
- Go to the Plaza Lighting Ceremony the night of Thanksgiving. Watching the lights come on is simply magical and is a sweet way to kick off the holiday season. It is definitely worth braving the insane throngs of people to see this happen in person at least once.
- On a bright Saturday morning, head down to the City Market and do your grocery shopping at the Farmer’s Market. While you are there, check out the Steamboat Arabia, a steamboat that sunk in the Missouri River in the mid 1800s and was re-discovered in the 1990s.
- During the Christmas season at the Crown Center, watch the mayor’s Christmas tree lighting, then go ice skating.
- Visit the Union Station (the traveling exhibits change frequently.) The space is just gorgeous and is a great opportunity to share a bit of important Kansas City history with your child. Be sure to check out the supposed bullet holes from the 1933 Union Station Massacre, the event that prompted the US Congress to strengthen the powers of the FBI.
- See a play at the Coterie Theater, “one of the best five theaters for young audiences in the U.S.“, according to Time Magazine.
- Attend a NASCAR race at the Kansas Speedway. Don’t forget to bring earplugs.
- Take a ride on a vintage train in Baldwin, KS on the Midland Railway.
- In Brookside, savor some custard at Foo’s Fabulous Custard, then head over to the Reading Reptile, an utterly delightful children’s bookstore.
- Have an old-fashioned chocolate soda at Murray’s Ice Cream in Westport. Watch out for brain freeze.
- Attend the Leavenworth County Fair in Tonganoxie, KS. A traditional country fair complete with demolition derby, 4H projects, smelly livestock, carnival games, cotton candy and dust. Lots and lots of dust.
- Take a hike at the Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe, KS and let your child lead the way. The trails are (mostly) stroller-friendly and are great for toddlers. It’s a great place to let your child run around and explore.
- Hunt for butterflies at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical gardens.
- Visit the Harry Truman Presidential Library. If your kids protest that would be boring, insist it will good for building their characters. If that does not work, threaten to stick them in the car and drive them to Abilene, KS (a good 2.5 hours away) to visit Eisenhower’s museum instead. While playing AM radio the entire way.
- Explore Kansas City’s history by touring the John Wornall house and the Bingham-Wagner estate.
- Eat lunch at both the original Gates Barbecue and Arthur Bryant locations. Brace yourself for the verbal abuse at Gates, but it is worth the experience.
- Attend the American Royal – one of the largest combined livestock, horse and rodeo shows in the nation. Definitely make time for the opening event, the Annual American Royal Barbecue. Billed as the “world series” in barbecue, it is a two-day love affair with barbecue that allows you to sample nearly 500 offerings.
- Visit 18th and Vine and learn about Kansas City’s distinguished history in jazz.
- Attend the Jazz in the Woods Festival at Corporate Woods.
- Visit the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop, the last remaining stagecoach stop on the historic Santa Fe Trail still open to the public.
- Definitely, take your child to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. For serious – any event that states “Patrons are welcome to attend in costume.” and that the venue is “ Fifteen minutes and five hundred years from downtown Kansas City.” is something you should attend. (Update: some sideshows may be inappropriate for young audiences as they contain bawdy humor, but the festival operators are good about posting warnings about those side acts.)
- The Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one of the largest St. Patrick’s day parades in the country at 2 miles long with several hundred thousand spectators.
- Check out the Kansas City Aviation Expo and Airshow.
- See the Kansas City Roller Warriors, KC’s premiere all-female roller derby league.
- The Parkville Days Annual Riverfest – a day of jazz and blues in the historic downtown of Parkville.
- Attend the Johnson County Old Settlers’ Parade– an old-fashioned parade with off-tune marching bands, horses, cheerleaders, local politicians. The food theme is “If it ain’t fried, it died” and no childhood is complete until one has had a Grange Pup, a bit of deep-fried hot dog heaven on a stick. Don’t bother checking your cholesterol later.
Navigate the corn maze at the Pendleton Farm. (No longer available; However, Pendleton Farm does offer a Butterfly Bio-Villa.)
- Attend the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games. Take the opportunity to discuss why kilts and beer together may or may not always be such a great idea.
- See the Kansas City Ballet at Ballet in the Park.
- Attend the Kansas City Irish Fest.
- Take a stroll through the historic Rose Garden in Loose Park. Afterwards, cool off in the wading pool.
- Visit the Kemper Art Museum – an easily accessible museum that won’t overwhelm or tire out your kid. Resist the urge to plow your stroller into precious pieces of sculpture (not that I have done that, of course.) Afterwards, have a fancy lunch in the museum’s cafe. After lunch, check out Kansas City’s own Thomas Hart Benton at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. Then, go outside and let your kids run off some steam in the Kansas City Sculpture Park.
Explore the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City.
- Pick some berries at the Berry Patch.
- Putt-putt around Smiley’s miniature golf course in Lenexa – a Kansas City golfing institution for over 50 years.
- Let your kids melt some crayons, cover themselves in glitter and glue their fingers together at Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope.
- Attend a live jazz session in the deck and gazebo area overlooking the vineyard or help out with fall harvest at the Holyfield Winery in Basehor, KS.
- Pack a picnic dinner and head over to the Theatre in the Park in Shawnee Mission.
- Get your Shakespeare Fix at at Southmoreland Park’s Shakespeare Festival. Sure, your kid may not appreciate it, but at least you can say you tried.
- Take a tour of the Kansas City fountains.
- Sample one of the best buttermilk pasta salads ever and then enjoy a fresh chocolate-chip cookie at Browne’s Market, a 120+ year old market currently ran by the 5th generation of Brownes.
(This series was inspired by Mommy Poppins’ 100 Things to Do with Your Kids in NY Before They Grow Up.)Published July 2, 2008. Last updated May 15, 2016.