Enjoy a day of holiday play at Kansas City’s Union Station.Photo courtesy of Thad Bell.
With buildings trimmed in twinkling lights, bustling department stores with decked halls, a candlelight procession to a quiet chapel and New Year’s revelry set in the elegance of a century-old train station, it’s fitting that Kansas City, the home of Hallmark Cards®, offers Yuletide experiences that are indeed reminiscent of images from a Christmas card. If you’re looking for a family getaway this holiday season, gas up the sleigh and head west down I-70 to Kansas City.
What to do Kansas City’s Union Station has become a hub of family activities, and the holiday season certainly is no exception. Saturday, Nov. 21, visitors can watch as this elegantly rehabbed train station is transformed for the holiday season. Union Station will host activities throughout the day, with the official lighting ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m. No train station is complete without a train, so be sure to see the popular Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train when it rolls into the station Dec. 16-20, and catch the Christmas spirit at a live production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever ” in Union Station’s theater Nov. 24-Dec. 26.
Kids can ring in the new year at Union Station’s Science City, where visitors experience science in action through interactive exhibits and displays including the Sky Bike, DinoLab, Engineerium and more. Science City will host a daytime celebration from noon to 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Admission to Science City is $6. For a jolly holiday experience, watch a performance by the legendary Paul Mesner Puppets. Upcoming shows include “The Nativity” (Dec. 4-6), “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” (Dec. 11-13), and “Old MacDonald’s Holiday Hoedown” (Dec. 16-23). If visions of sugar plums are dancing in your child’s head, join Paradise Park in Lee’s Summit for the Ginormous Gingerbread House Party, a giant, interactive indoor gingerbread house complete with music, indoor snow and a laser light show. General admission to Paradise Park is $6.49. Other activities are available for an additional fee.
When it’s time to escape the crowds and enjoy the quiet charm of an old-time country Christmas, drive to nearby Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden. Located 30 miles east of Kansas City on Hwy. 50, Powell Gardens offers a peaceful respite for those looking to reconnect with nature. Visit Dec. 12-13 for Gardens by Candlelight: A Luminary Walk , when families can explore the gardens’ paths illuminated by lanterns and enjoy a holiday concert in the garden’s nondenominational chapel. General garden admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children ages 5-12. Note that Powell Gardens offers reciprocal benefits for members of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Where to shop For many families, a holiday trip to the city just isn’t complete without a few shopping bags, and Kansas City has several fun ways to check off Santa’s list. Those traveling with young artists should plan a stop at Crown Center, which houses several Hallmark-themed spots for creative minds. Children can make their own holiday cards using scraps from Hallmark’s manufacturing process at the free Kaleidoscope . Call ahead to reserve a Family Art Session at 816-274-8301. Load up on stocking stuffers at the sprawling Crayola® store, then grab a bite to eat at Crayola Café. While you’re there, visit Santa in Crayola Land Nov. 27-Dec. 24, and enjoy views of the 100-foot-tall Mayor’s Christmas Tree, which will be lit beginning Nov. 27.
Visitors can also lace up their skates at Crown Center Ice Terrace. Located just outside the Crown Center shopping complex, it’s a lovely place to cut a perfect figure eight or simply sit and watch others glide gracefully across the ice. Admission is $6 (free for those 4 and under and 60 and up). Skate rentals are available for $3. If your child dreams of a Lego Christmas, stop by LEGOLAND Discovery Center, also located next to Crown Center, for the Holiday Bricktacular Dec. 5-6, Dec. 12-13 and Dec. 19-24. Visitors can greet Lego Santa and build their own sleighs. Tickets start at $15.30 when purchased online.
The holiday lights that adorn the Spanish-style architecture at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City have made this shopping district a Missouri icon. Visitors can also enjoy carriage rides and carols while window shopping at high-end stores. For a modern take on the traditional visit to Santa, join Shrek and Donkey at DreamWorks DreamPlace Ultimate Santa Adventure, landing at Oak Park Mall Nov. 7-Dec. 24. At this unique new interactive experience, families custom-design their own sleighs and are whisked away on a North Pole adventure before meeting St. Nick.
If your teen’s wish list is filled with sports apparel, an expedition to the new SHEELS, which opened in June in Overland Park, Kansas, is a must. The 220,000-foot sporting goods retail center boasts an indoor Ferris Wheel, 16,000-gallon aquarium, sports simulators, food, treats and more. For a shopping excursion that’s giant Jurassic fun, visit Legends Outlets, which is home to a nice mix of moderately priced retailers, as well as a T-Rex Café, where diners are surrounded by life-size animatronic dinosaurs.
Where to stay Many of the city’s most popular attractions are centrally located in downtown Kansas City and connected by a series of glass walkways, making this a great holiday getaway for families, even when Old Man Winter is visiting. The Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center offers convenient access to shopping and activities at Crown Center. Families can also thaw out from the winter chill at Great Wolf Lodge, which is located near The Legends shopping area about a 15-minute drive from downtown Kansas City. The lodge-themed resort includes a large indoor waterpark with numerous slides, pools and a large play structure. Note that while the playfully-decorated rooms are a delight for young travelers, they can be a bit noisy at night.
Note that many businesses are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Check websites in advance for hours of operation.
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