The number one "must" stop for children and adults of any age is the spectacular holiday light display at Country Club Plaza, where more than 80 miles of lights outline every shop, dome and tower of the beautiful Moorish architecture. The Plaza Lights are one of Kansas City's most treasured holiday traditions, and a sight you don't want to miss. Victorian carolers and beautifully decorated store windows add to the merriment. For a memorable treat, load up the family for a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Plaza.
Another must stop is Crown Center with its 100-foot-tall Mayor's Christmas Tree, one of the nation's tallest. This Midtown shopping center is home to Hallmark Cards, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
While in the Crown Center area, don't miss Crayola Christmas Land or the outdoor ice skating rink. For a kid-friendly eatery, try Fritz's Railroad Restaurant, where the food is delivered via train. Speaking of trains, at nearby Union Station, visit the Holiday Train Village, which includes miniature versions of Disneyland and the North Pole.
Zona Rosa is a trendy shopping destination in Northland. It has revived several of Kansas City's yuletide traditions, including the Northern Lights, giant lighted crowns that sparkle overhead; the Fairy Princess, where you can share your holiday wishes; and the Igloo, a chilly, crawl-through environment.
If you're in town on Dec. 3-4, join the festive family sing-along, Christmas with the von Trapp Children, at the Lyric Theatre. The production stars the great-grandchildren of the famous family that inspired "The Sound of Music."
Great Wolf Lodge is more than just a place to spend the night – it's a destination in and of itself. From Dec. 3-25, the lodge is transformed into Snowland, a magical place where it "snows" indoors, where Santa and his elves appear, and where Rowdy the Reindeer reads bedtime stories. While it is "snowing" in the lobby, it is a comfy 84 degrees in the adjacent indoor waterpark, where a "polar bear" race occurs daily.
The resort, which is just across the state line in Kansas City, Kans., offers fun for the entire family. The kids enjoy special holiday activities and an arcade with more than 100 games, mom luxuriates in the Elements Spa, and dad goes fantasy shopping at the nearby Cabela's.
For another theme hotel experience, check out the American Girl Package at the Crowne Plaza Overland Park. To promote the opening of the country's newest American Girl store in Oak Park Mall, the hotel's package includes a special bed for the doll (yours to keep) plus a bedtime delivery of milk and cookies.
On the eastern edge of Kansas City, the town of Independence offers dozens of attractions for the family. The Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Truman Home are great supplements to the kids' history classes. Pioneer and frontier heritage will come to life at the National Trails Museum, the 1859 Jail and Marshal's Home, and other related sites. It's no wonder that visitors to Kansas City in 2010 chose Independence as the "best day trip." It's an easy detour off Interstate 70 on your way to or from Kansas City.
Country Club Plaza, 816-753-0100, W. 47th St. and Broadway, Kansas City, Mo., 64112
Crown Center, 816-274-8444, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., 64108
Zona Rosa, 816-587-8180, 8640 N. Dixson Avenue, Kansas City, Mo., 64153
Lyric Theatre (Kansas City Symphony Presents Christmas with the von Trapp Children), 816-471-0400, 1029 Central, Kansas City, Mo., 64105
Great Wolf Lodge, 913-299-7001,10401 Cabela Drive, Kansas City, Kan., 66111
Crowne Plaza Overland Park, 913-217-1000, 12601 West 95th St., Lenexa, Kan., 66215
Oak Park Mall, 913-888-4400, 11149 West 95th St., Overland Park, Kansas 66214
Independence, Mo., 800-748-7323
Kansas City celebrates the Season of Magic with a special promotion that features more than 200 special offers and discounts, including coupons to many well-known attractions such as the Kansas City Ballet's Nutcracker and the National WWI Museum, and hotel bargains starting at $49.95. For details, go to www.VisitKC.com or call 800-767-7700. This is a great place to continue planning your Kansas City outing.
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