Kansas City Staycation 2012

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Either due to lower wages, scaling back, or a time-crunch, sometimes a vacation means time away from work, but you aren’t traveling anywhere exotic.

But who cares? Because you live in Kansas City and there are plenty of things to do on a Kansas City Staycation.

The list below represents some of my favorite places, some must-see places, and some brand new to Kansas City. I know there are things I have missed, so please feel free to leave a comment about your favorite sites, places, or restaurants from the great Cow Town.

If your family is in to history…

Presidential Libraries

Kansas City is just a short drive to two presidential libraries and museums – Eisenhower and Truman.

Visit the Eisenhower Library & Museum and the Truman Library & Museum and experience the “backstory” of two consecutive presidents that follows the end of depression and World War II to the dropping of the atomic bomb and the Cold War.

Steamboat Arabia

The Missouri River and steamboats were an integral part of commerce and recreation in the 1800s. See how a the Steamboat Arabia sunk in 1856, how it was unearthed, and all it’s treasures.

University of Kansas Natural History Museum

Into dinosaurs, bugs or animals on the Great Plains, then the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is for your family. This FREE museum on the University of Kansas Campus in Lawrence covers all of those things and a ton more. Because who doesn’t like looking at a full size dinosaur?

Union Station

Take a step back in time when train travel was the means from getting from point A to point B in the United States. Built in 1914, Kansas City’s Union Station encompasses 850,000 square feet and originally featured 900 rooms. At its peak during WWII, an estimated one million travelers passed through the Station.

One of the more infamous dates is June 17, 1933 – the Union Station Massacre. Convicted mobster Frank Nash, under escort by a team of FBI agents and police officers was shot and killed outside the Station during a shootout. As result of the massacre, Congress strengthened the power of the FBI.

18th & Vine (Kansas City Jass Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)

The Kansas City Jazz Museum interactive exhibits tell the story of “America’s Classical Music” in an entertaining and educational format. In addition to exhibits on such greats as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker, the museum includes artifacts such as a Charlie Parker saxophone and a discovery room where visitors can listen to jazz performances.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum covers the entire history of the Negro Leagues from their beginning after the Civil War through their end in the 1960s. It looks at the contributions the leagues made to the history of athletics, as well as their contributions to the Civil Rights movement.

World War I Museum

The nationally-recognized (and newly renovated) World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial allows you to experience the war which should have “ended all wars” with interactive exhibits, amazing collections, and stunning reminders of the first World War.

If your family is in to art…

Art Museums

Get inspired and study Egyptian, Roman, European or sculpture art at the Nelson Atkins Museum. Admission is FREE for everyone. You can also get an interactive guide of the museum with ipod Touches containing a Mobile Guide. These are available at the information desk. Another highlight is having a snack or lunch in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant.

If “traditional” art isn’t your thing – you can enjoy the vast and wild world of contemporary art. Kemper Contemporary Museum of Art. Admission is FREE for everyone. Another highlight is the amazing Cafe Sebastienne – but reservations are highly recommended.

City Market

And if you just want to enjoy a great morning or afternoon of street art (which includes lots of fresh produce, homemade wares, and street food) you need to visit the City Market Farmers Market on Saturday or the Community Yard Sale on Friday or Sunday.

Hallmark Cards (Kaleidoscope & Visitor Centers)

At Kaleidoscope, children use their imaginations to make art with left-over materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing processes. And if that wasn’t cool enough, the environment makes you believe you just stepped into the most amazing Hallmark Card since it was designed by their very talented artists. And  it is FREE.

And make sure stop by the Hallmark Visitor Center where you can see exhibits about the Hall Family and development of Hallmark Cards, as well as some of the past ornament collections and vintage cards.

Theater In The Park

Want to see Broadway show for cheap? Then grab a blanket and a picnic dinner and watch one of the performances in Theater In The Park at Shawnee Mission Park. But be prepared to come early, because it is full every single performance.


Kansas City has been named the City of Fountains because we have over 100 different fountains across our city. So grab a map and a history book and read up on some of the special fountains around our city.

If your family is in to nature….

Powell Gardens

Feed your soul. See some amazing flowers. See some dinosaurs. Learn about local produce at Powell Gardens. In addition, be sure to check out the Heartland Harvest Garden (there are also cooking classes that I hear are amazing) where you can see different ways to incorporate a garden into your normal landscaping. And the kiddos will love the Jurassic Sculpture Garden and the water fountain at the end. Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and bring extra water because there are no fountains on the trail.

Ernie Miller Nature Center

Ernie Miller Nature Center was the first Nature Center in Kansas and is a great way for kids (and adults) to get a close view of the animals who call Kansas City home. If you are available, check out the Friday Amphitheater nights where the Nature Center experts bring out many different animals (like owls, snakes, reptiles and more) and educate us on their lifestyle and habitats. The cost is $2.50 per person.

Powell Observatory

Want to see the heavens with the strongest telescope in the area? Check out Powell Observatory. Powell Observatory is open on Saturday nights starting at 8:00. They hold a brief education on the subject for the evening, a tour of the facility, and a look through the telescope at the heavens. Admission is $3.00 for kids and $5.00 for adults.

Deanna Rose Farmstead

Built in memoriam for a police officer killed in the line of duty, the Deanna Rose Farmstead is a FREE haven for the younger set. Walk a nature trail, feed some chickens, see a cow get milked, and more. Also you can feed the goats, take a hay ride, pan for gold and hook a live worm for fishing with a cane pole for just a small fee.

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Garden

The 300-acre Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Garden is an education, recreational and cultural resource and has over eight natural ecosystems. In addition, they have a cafe that has stellar views  and is open to the public for a quick bite to eat.

If your family is in to wine or beer….

Yes, there are wineries in the Kansas City metro. And I encourage you all to try them out. It’s a great way to experience wine tasting and who knows, you may just find a new favorite.

Holyfield Winery is open Monday – Friday: 10 am – 6 pm, Saturday: 9:30 am – 6 pm, and Sunday: Noon – 6 pm.

Jowler Creek is open Wednesday – Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm. Tip: You’ll also see sheep roaming the vineyards – that’s how they keep the weeds down.

Somerset Ridge is open Wednesday – Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm and Sunday from noon – 5 pm.

And who can forget our hometown favorite – Boulevard Brewery. Brewery Tours are conducted at various times through the week and are FREE to the public. And you will be able to taste a few beers at the end. (If only the Chocolate Ale was still available.) Tip: Make a reservation for the tour. They fill up very fast.

Kansas City Renaissance Festival

It’s crude, rude, fun, silly, amazing, and awesomesauce all rolled into one…the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. The biggest Ren Fest in the Midwest has different activities and themes every weekend from September 1 – October 14, so you can get in your sword fights, pirates, enchantment, wizard, witches, or whatever else strikes your fancy. (And they serve beer and wine.)

For the Kids…

At Moon Marble you can get a hands-on presentation on how glass marbles are made as well as shop for unique and interesting hand-made marbles from their selection of over 1000 different colors and sizes.

The Midland Railway lets you take a ride on a real steam locomotive on a train line originally constructed in 1867. Take a 20-mile round trip ride from Baldwin City via “Norwood” to Ottawa Junction, Kansas on vintage railway equipment.

In June and July on Thursday nights the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Site takes families back to the old west where you can learn about Cowboys, Farming, a Soliders Life, panning for gold and more. The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop was the last remaining stop on the Oregon Trail.

The Toy and Miniature Museum is is a 38-room house that boasts largest collection of nostalgic toys, fine-scale miniatures and marbles in the Midwest.

Crown Center has add two amazing entertainment venues – SeaLife Aquarium and LEGOland Discovery Center. Both are brand new in 2012 and have been getting great reviews.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the surface because I didn’t even talk about shopping or eating (like Oklahoma Joes).

That’s where you come in…

What is your favorite attraction, restaurant, thing to do in Kansas City? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Bugmagnt says

    Deanna Rose is free Monday – Thursday, and only $2 Friday – Sunday and Holidays. Well worth the admission! It is fantastic!

    Also, I’m glad to see you included the Toy and Miniture Museum.. very cool for young and old alike! Kids will also love the Kidscape at the Johnson County Museum of History… a hands-on exhibit for kids 3-9 and free! http://www.jocomuseum.org/EXH/kidscape.shtml

    For garden lovers, 2 other free area gardens are the Kauffman Memorial Gardens at 4800 Rockhill (just down the street from the Nelson-Atkins Museum), and the Loose Park Rose Garden (with a Japanese tea room). The park itself also has monuments about the Civil War battle there, a playground and sprayground. And, I remember feeding the ducks there as well when I was young!

    In addition, don’t forget about the Kansas City Shakespeare Festival.. totally free with fantastic performances every year…. at Southmoreland Park across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum. http://www.kcshakes.org/?page=the_festival

  2. Margaret Grote says

    We love the zoo. Even our 1 yr old has fun making noises at all the animals :) OK Joes is our favorite restaurant by far. Used to live a block away from the gas station and that restaurant is the only thing I miss about being on the Kansas side!

  3. FrugalEngineer says

    For Theatre in the Park:
    The front section is for blankets only. You can bring your lawn chairs, just don’t sit in the front section.

    Bring a frisbee, soccer ball, etc. When you got there early to get a good spot, finished your picnic, and the kids need to run off some steam before the show, there’s enough grass off to the side to make some friends. (Good for burning off energy at intermission, too.) I’ve seen Uno, too, but burning off energy works for us.

  4. Corina says

    Thank you for this post. We are new to the area and it is nice to see a lot of free activities for the family & such a variety. Moving from St Louis, which is chalk full of free events, I felt spoiled.=)

  5. Sue says

    moving to overland park very soon. Looking for wineries that offer free evening music on fri and sat or sunday afternoons…..bring picnic lunch or eat in…suggestions? I can’t find any on the net

  6. Nancy says

    Another art museum is the Nerman Museum on the Johnson County Community College campus, Quivira & College Blvd. It is free, has areas for permanent collections and rotating collections. In the lobby is a yummy cafeteria. I believe it is staffed by students in the culinary arts program.

    There are times that Crown Center has an interactive area for children to explore. It also is free. We have taken our granddaughters twice – once was under the sea theme, the second was animal theme. They loved it. (Our Grands are 5 and 2.)

    Don’t forget Sporting Kansas City, the Royals, and T-Bones.

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