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Last week, I shared about the surprising cultural attractions I explored in Kansas City. I was blown away by KC’s cosmopolitan side. But just in case art, museums, architecture, fountains, and theater don’t thrill you or your little ones, here’s a wider variety of kid-friendly best bets to check out in Kansas City.
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. The brand new 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. Construction has just begun on the Helzberg Penguin Plaza, opening in 2013, will give a home to numerous varieties of cold and warm water penguins as well as hundreds of fish.
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.
Explore prehistoric animals while grabbing a bite to eat at the T-Rex Café. In addition to the dinosaur theme, kids can dig for bones in the Paleo Zone or Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear.
Learning and Discovery
At some places, learning and fun are mutually exclusive. If you agree with this concept, you haven’t been to 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; the lifestyle, history, and challenges of living in the International Space Station, including the chance to land (or crash, in my case) a space shuttle; and actual dinosaur fossil exploration and personal health and nutrition.
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.
Sports History, Live Games, and Exclusive Tours
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. New this season, 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! During my visit, I even high-fived KC wide receiver star, Dwayne Bowe!
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.
World Class Thrills
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.
Kansas City is not short on water parks. Schlitterbahn Waterpark recently doubled its size. The region’s only surfing ride, Boogie Bahn, calls the park home, and an innovative system of rivers take visitors from one section of the park to the other without having to exit the water!
Not visiting in the summer? Your family can still enjoy year-round water thrills at two indoor water parks: the stand alone Coco Key Water Resort and the water park at the Great Wolf Lodge, Kansas City, where admission is included with your stay.