Crown Center in Kansas City, MO

My favorite, major family trip (to date) was the first one we took in the summer of 2012. We logged 5700 miles in our trusty Chevy Equinox, driving from Connecticut to Phoenix, Arizona and back to Connecticut. On the back end of the trip, we spent a few days in Kansas City, Missouri. And we.loved.it. Love the people. Loved the food. Loved the family friendly places to explore. I blogged about our stay for Kidventurous here, but I thought I would revisit some of these suggestions and elaborate on them. Note: I did fact check as of June 2017.

Today I want to focus on the Crown Center & Union Station area of the city. My suggestion for parking is to go to Crown Center.  There are two parking garages; I would park in the one labeled "Seal Life and Lego Land" which is on the East side of Grand Avenue. You can park on all day and walk to some of our favorite spots:

1. Kaleidoscope, a creative arts space, sponsored by Hallmark, is a wonderful opportunity for children to draw, paint, glue, cut and create. They provide FREE timed tickets for a 40 minutes session inside the air-conditioned facility. There are lots of stations for children to explore their creative side: an alphabet and number station, a card marking station, and a design and cut your own puzzle station are popular. There is also a cool glow-in-the-dark room. Children are given paper bags to decorate and then collect all their masterpieces to be taken home. 

2. Hallmark Visitor’s Center pays homage to the company that began in Kansas City by allowing the whole family to explore the history of the company. It's located next to Kaleidoscope. Tickets are FREE and each family is given a booklet to complete the artifact search. Your mission to find 16 different pictures throughout the center and when you leave, you're given a packet of postcards as a souvenir. While you walk through the center, you'll learn about the history of the company, charted against the history of America. We loved the display of presidential holiday cards. Note: soon they will update the exhibit to will only display one president at a time.  The display of Christmas trees with famous Hallmark holiday ornaments, according to each decade, was impressive. There’s a machine that shows you how Hallmark makes bows- and you can take home the finished product!  Right now there are three exhibits (through the end of summer 2017) that kids will love: Barbie, the history of Walt Disney's relationship with JC Hall, and Warner Brothers and Marvel comics. The Visitor's Center will validate your parking at Crown Center for three hours. 

3. Crown Center Ice Terrace is only open November to February and is the city's only outdoor ice skating rink.  There's a nominal cost to ice skate under the lights and surrounded by festive trees and holiday decor. 

4. SeaLife is an interactive aquarium, with a touch pool and hourly talks and presentations by experienced staff. Children will definitely want to check out the "Doodle Reef", where you can create your own sea creature on a touch screen that will "swim" right up to you. You'll want to walk through the Ocean Reef tunnel to see sea creatures swimming over you. Best bet is get to there early in the morning, as lines to enter form as the day progresses.  

5. LegoLand is housed above SeaLife in the same building. There is a combo ticket that gives you discounts to both attractions or you can pay separately if you are only interested in one venue. You begin at the Idea Studio by dreaming of what you want to build, drawing it on the same sketch graph that paper master Lego builders use, using Lego bricks to build your creation, and then putting it on display. The rest of the space is self guided. Children will love replicas  of famous buildings made of legos, and the Kingdom Quest and Merlin's Adventure rides (go there first- lines form quickly). There are spots to build anything imaginable out of legos (and Duplos too) and a place to test lego race cars. 

Outside there are fountains galore (Kansas City is famous for them), food trucks, and space for the children to run around. You can take “The Link”, an elevated, climate-controlled walkway from Crown Center across the major roads  to: 

6. Union Station, which was once an operable train station. There is a parking lot right out front, with “honor pay” if you choose to drive there first. Inside the station there are a variety of exhibits. Children will enjoy Science City, a three floor science center. Current exhibits include a demo area, a dig site, test kitchen, and maker studio. There is also a planetarium, with shows almost every hour, but it does require an additional ticket fee. There is also a  Mummies of the World exhibit on display for summer 2017.

6. The KC Model Railroad Exhibit displays hundreds of yards of train tracks with replica trains and set designs. It's perfect for the under 5 crowd (although everyone in your family will love it) and it's FREE. Our kids were mesmerized by many of the trains.  There is tons of open space for children to chase the trains- (which are at their eye level) and even room for double strollers!  There are a lot of rail artifacts and interesting displays which chronicle food service on railroad cars and areas of the country that prospered from railroad expansions. There are benches for weary feet and it wasn't overly crowded like some of the other areas of Crown Center. 

4. National WWI Museum and Memorial is located across from Union Station (warning: it is a bit of hike uphill to the museum, so bring the stroller!) and has a free parking lot for visitors.  There are many interactive exhibits, films, and a vast collection of artifacts from World War I. Children will be kept busy with the scavenger hunt,  searching through the galleries for various artifacts like foreign money, banjos, and army uniforms. Pick up the scavenger hunt in the museum store.  The kids will also like walking over the glass bridge, where they can see nine thousand poppies (each poppy representing 1,000 deaths). Saturday is Hands on History day when kids can handle actual artifacts from the war with docents explaining the significance and heritage. There are also frequent story times and craft projects on Saturday.

 My top choices for eating in the area:

  • Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, where the food is served via train, right to your table. Children will LOVE it!
  • Jack Stack BBQ: Take a ten minute walk at the north end of Union Station over the train tracks on the Freight House Bridge which will take you to the Crossroads Art District. There are tons of things to see and explore in this area, and lots of restaurants. I'm partial to Jack Stack- eating there made me a KC BBQ lover!

I'll be blogging soon about other fun areas of Kansas City.  Be sure to check back.