Located on the Missouri/Kansas border in the heart of the Midwest, Kansas City is a cosmopolitan city filled with history, fountains, and fun. Anyone planning a vacation to this charming spot will happy to learn there Here are lots of fun things to do in Kansas City with kids!
Kansas City has a bustling art scene, great hands-on history, theme parks, and plenty of animal attractions. Here are a favorite things to do in Kansas City with kids.
Things to do in Kansas City with Kids
1. Visit Bison and Elk at Lake Jacomo
One of Kansas City’s hidden history gems, kids can come face-to-face with bison (similar to buffalo) at the Native Hoofed Animal Exhibit located in Fleming Park at Lake Jacomo.
Bison, which used to be native to the Midwest and free-roamed the plains prior to the mid-1800s, are now only able to be viewed in national parks and animal preserves such as this one. Along with a herd of bison, elk also call the enclosure home.
Both the elk and bison roam the enclosure and will frequently come to the front of the fenced area to be fed. Make sure to bring a few apples and carrots, which are a favorite snack. Pictures are a must!
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2. Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead
A yearly favorite, Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in nearby Overland Park is a very popular attraction that offers visitors a look at turn-of-the-century farm and prairie life. It reminds me of the town and life of Laura Ingalls, author of the Little House book series.
We always enjoy a day at the farmstead as there’s always something new to see. It’s home to more than 200 animals including cows, goats, chickens, prairie dogs, horses, bunnies, and many more kid-favorites.
Kids can bottle-feed baby goats, experience one of the daily milking times at the Dairy Barn, attend lessons at the one-room Schoolhouse, fish with cane poles, tour a Kanza Indian encampment, ride horses, and visit the General Store and Ice Cream Shop for a treat.
Before you begin your visit, stop by Ben’s Bank to pick up a passport that challenges kids to find the answers to clues scattered throughout the prairie town.
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3. Kansas City Zoo
Acclaimed as one of the country’s best zoos, the Kansas City Zoo sits on over 200 acres of land boasting more than 1,000 animals. Polar Bear Passage has won numerous awards for its exceptional design and interactivity, and kids will love visiting the playful bears along with neighboring zebras, cheetahs, lions, kangaroos, and many other animal species.
An animal themed carousel, a fun train ride, a tram into the Africa exhibits, and the overhead African Sky Safari Tram help to break the monotony of the day with kid-sized thrills.
4. SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium
Speaking of fish, make sure you visit the SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium downtown. The Aquarium takes you and your children along the natural journey of a fish.
Starting with fish from local rivers and lakes, the museum follows the path to the ocean, culminating in a massive display of tropical reefs, fish, rays, and sharks. Kid sized viewing windows, scavenger style games and interaction, touch pools, and even a get-your-energy-out play area make this aquarium a best bet for families.
Book your discount SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium tickets on Trip Advisor.
5. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
There are only 14 presidential libraries across the country, so the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is a must visit in Kansas City. There are several interactive exhibits to keep kids engaged.
Kids are able to make a campaign button, create a desk sign, dress-up like Harry and Bess when they were children, play interactive trivia games, and do puzzles to understand more about life in the 1940s. Visitors will also be intrigued to learn about what families and children had to endure during wartime (such as food shortages and blackouts) when they tour the timeline gallery.
There is a replica of the Oval Office as it was during Truman’s term as well as a replica of the Liberty Bell that’s housed outside on the library grounds.
6. Science City
At some places, learning and fun are mutually exclusive. Not at Science City! Located in the beautifully restored Union Station building, Science City is an amazing hands-on educational museum teaching your kids everything from the ins and outs of the sewer system as they literally climb through the thankfully new & clean under workings of a city to the lifestyle, history, and challenges of living in the International Space Station.
There is also a makers studio, test kitchen to learn about food and nutrition, and engineerium to expose kids to diverse engineering fields.
7. Pony Express Museum
Located in St. Joseph, 30 miles north of Kansas City, the Pony Express Museum allows families to learn about a key part of our county’s history—the first long-distance communication network.
Kids can experience what it was like to be a rider on the Pony Express trails. An interactive, panoramic exhibit allows visitors to experience what riders had to endure on their 10-day excursion.
Kids will enjoy being able to pump water from a well dug under the building, hop on a saddle, tour a cabin to see how riders would live while transporting mail, and create their own ‘Pony Express’ letters. The museum also has an amazing play area for young children with many toys and activities that represent life in the late 1800s.
8. Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm
Kansas City is also home to one of the last remaining stagecoach stops in America. Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm is open to the public and located on the historic Santa Fe Trail (one of three trails used by pioneers during the westward movement).
Families are able to experience what travel was like in the 1860s with no cars and highways, just a stagecoach and lots of dirt trails. Costumed interpreters and hands-on exhibits allow you to learn about life in the late 1800s.
Visitors can enjoy a ride on the old stagecoach, tour the house that served as a restaurant and overnight stop for so many travelers, and visit with the animals and learn about farm life. If you’re lucky, they’ll even let you participate in a few farm chores!
9. National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame
The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame is dedicated to educating us about farming and our food. The motto of the National Ag is, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture!”
The center includes five buildings along with a prairie town where families can learn about all aspects of how our food gets from farm to table.
The dairy exhibits allow hands-on fun as you learn about cows and milking. In the main building, kids can ‘buzz’ through the huge beehive room, play beekeeper and learn about the science of honey. And, a visit to Smith House and the prairie town isn’t complete without doing a few farm chores such as grinding corn, wringing the laundry, and feeding the chickens.
If you have a truck lover in the family, you’ll also want to tour the barn that houses a huge collection of tractors, trucks, and antique vehicles. And no visit is complete without a picture on the two-story rooster!
10. Missouri Town 1855
As you walk down the long, unpaved road to enter this living history museum, you can feel yourself traveling back in time. Families will enjoy touring the Missouri Town 1855 which consists of 25 buildings dating from 1820 to 1860.
I recommend going during special events or on summer weekends as that is when the town offers more hands-on activities. Kids love to see the sheep and chickens that freely roam the grounds, along with the horses and steer in the corral. Visiting on a day when he sheep are being sheared is a treat!
Another favorite is a visit to the blacksmith’s shop where visitors are able to watch the work of a trained blacksmith. Costumed interpreters also share skills from the past such as cooking, farming, and keeping house.
11. National Frontier Trails Museum
Have you ever wondered what it was like to ‘Go West, Young Pioneer’? You can experience the thrills and hardships that were familiar to many of our ancestors at the National Frontier Trails Museum.
The introduction to the museum offers a nice look at Lewis & Clark and their adventures blazing a trail to the west. A tour of the museum winds through galleries that contain many artifacts from the mid-1800’s with the highlights being the hands-on exhibits that allows kids to pack a wagon or saddle.
Visitors are able to handle items such as cast iron pots, sacks of flour, and as they choose which items they think are most important to their trip. The museum also offers diary entries written by children who traveled the trails. On the weekends, visitors can experience a covered wagon ride. And there is a very extensive gift shop with many games, toys and books’ showcasing what life was like for children in the mid 1800’s.
12. LEGOLAND Discovery Center
At LEGOLAND Discovery Center, your kids can make neural connections, work on dexterity, and advance their skills in math and science –they won’t know this is happening of course, they will just be happy playing with LEGOs!
In addition to being a massive LEGO play space, kids will enjoy the tour of how LEGOs are made and can ride on one of two fun and interactive rides.
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13. See Kansas City’s Professional Sports Teams Play
Budding sports fans will love KC. The city boasts three professional teams: the NFL Chiefs, the MLB Royals, and the MLS Sporting.
In addition to catching a game, kids can enjoy tours of two of the ballparks. Royals fans can tour Kauffman Stadium, “The K,” year round. The tour takes families to the Royals dugout, the Hall of Fame, and into the numerous suites and boxes. Early game day access allows you to watch the stars up close during batting practice.
Arrowhead Stadium features year-round tours as well, taking you into the Chief’s locker room, on the field to throw a ball, and into the press boxes. Ticketed visitors can add on the Game Day Tour that lets you explore the live video production booth and – get this –on the field to watch the pros warm up!
14. Worlds of Fun Amusement Park
Worlds of Fun amusement park, open during the warmer seasons, boasts more than 100 rides including thrilling coasters like the famous Prowler, one of the highest rated wooden roller coasters in the world, and dozens of additional gut-checking, dropping, swooping, and exciting attractions.
The younger set can enjoy Planet Snoopy’s pint sized rides and a vast number of family-friendly rides and attractions throughout the park. Oceans of Fun, the park’s sister water park, is the largest in the region.
15. Explore the Crossroads Art District
I love exposing my kids to fantastic art. Although I am not an artist, I love the connection, empathy, and emotional response that art evokes. Kansas City is quickly becoming an artist’s wonderland as the Crossroads Art District, a recently re-vamped neighborhood of art loving and creating urbanites, has become a major focus in the city.
Inspired kids can get creative themselves at Kaleidoscope, an ingenious and environmentally proactive art space for children, provided by one of KC’s most prominent businesses, Hallmark.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art also frequently offers free classes and activities for children to interact with and explore art. KC’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is one of the finest art museums I have visited across the entire United States. The collection is immense, spanning basically every period of art history, and the museum is surprisingly filled with lots of visiting children.
Kid-friendly programs, tons of outdoor space to run and play (with massive shuttlecocks to run around to boot), and an audio tour designed just for children makes it an even greater draw. Need more motivation to explore art in Kansas City? All of the art-based activities listed above are free to visit!
16. National World War I Museum
In addition to fine art museums, the city also offers numerous culturally significant museums including the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial – the United State’s only official museum covering the Great War.
Older children can explore the history and impact of this war in beautiful, state of the art, hands on exhibits like nothing else in the country.
17. Patee House Museum
Families will enjoy a trip back to the Old West during their visit at Patee House. The historic building was a luxury hotel that began in 1858 and served as headquarters for the Pony Express in 1860.
At the front desk, we asked for a scavenger hunt and had a great time looking for clues as we toured our way through more than 20 rooms of exhibits. When you turn in your completed scavenger hunt, you will be awarded a share of stock in the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad—a fun stock certificate is made out in your child’s name as a great memento of your visit!
Kids can also ride a vintage carousel, climb aboard a full-sized train engine, and enjoy a sarsaparilla and popcorn in the re-created Wild West Saloon.
Where to Stay in Kansas City with Kids
If you are looking for a hip and artsy place to stay in the heart of downtown, Hotel Phillips beautifully weaves the art-loving theme into their stunning and surprisingly comfortable boutique hotel. Built in the height of the art deco movement, the updated hotel retains much of its original artwork and splendor. The hotel’s accommodations are top notch, the staff is incredibly warm and friendly, and the location is ideal.
Your family can still enjoy year-round water thrills at the water park at the Great Wolf Lodge, Kansas City, where admission is included with your stay. Don’t head to the Great Wolf Lodge without first reading our article filled with Great Wolf Lodge tips!
Heading to a game? Stay in nearby Independence, MO at the Hilton Garden Inn for easy access to and from the games. The accommodations are kid-friendly, and the location is superb.