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KC Fun, All in Walking Distance

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On many trips to Kansas City for conventions I would always say to myself that I need to bring my family here for a weekend. I finally sat down to make plans for our visit and find a hotel and I realized that we could go to KC, stay at the Crown Center and never have to drive anywhere until it was time to go home. Gotta love that!

Crown Center is located in downtown Kansas City a few miles from the Power and Light District and a few miles from the Country Club Plaza. If you are going to Kansas City, this is a prime location for a family outing.

Crown Center consists of two hotels, a shopping center, multiple restaurants and a food court. All of these items are attached by a skywalk. Across the street, and still accessible by the skywalk is Union Station containing more restaurants and attractions. So, rain or shine the weather won’t stop your family from having fun.

Fritz's Railroad Restaurant

Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant

Upon arrival in Kansas City, you have many options, the best part is several of them are free. The hardest part of this trip will be deciding what to do first and where to eat.

The Crown Center mall is filled with department stores, boutique shops, toy stores, large Hallmark and Crayola stores, a movie theatre and a live performance theatre. The food options are abundant including several nice sit down restaurants, pizza, tacos, Chinese food and bagels. The can’t miss choices for kids would include Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant and the Crayola Cafe.

We ate at Fritz’s, and I will be honest, at first glance the line seemed very long, however they move the people through pretty quickly. It is worth the wait for your children to get to order their food over the phone and have it delivered by train. Fritz’s is very affordable as well.

Don’t forget to grab some snacks to keep in your hotel room. Chips Chocolate Factory has gourmet chocolates, fudge, cotton candy, and other sinfully delicious treats. Stop by at the right time and you might find them demonstrating their fudge making skills. Group tours, 10 or more people, can be scheduled in advance for $5 per person. Everybody deserves to experience some “chocology.”

Another great snacking option is a little bit of sweet, spicy and salty from local popcorn maker, Topsy’s. Purchase multiple flavors or your favorite in a variety of sizes, the small are perfect for your room, while the large containers allow you to take a bit of Kansas City home with you. The cinnamon mixed with caramel is my favorite.

Now that the survival basics are taken care of, let’s talk fun!

The newest and largest attractions in Crown Center are SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Discounts are available for purchasing tickets to both attractions online, a $7 savings for children. Make sure to schedule plenty of time for each. These facilities seem small based on the area they are in, but there is so much to see once you get in, you don’t want to be rushed.

LEGOLAND Race Zone, build your car and race it against others on multiple tracks.

LEGOLAND Race Zone, build your car and race it against others on multiple tracks.

LEGOLAND has perfected the entertaining while waiting concept. One of the best “distractions” is the Master Builder. This person is responsible for designing the elements within the center and special exhibits, and the pieces that children build during the classes. The building classes are an extra fee if your child wants to take their project home. We built a very cute robot, and of course, had to take it home.

Upon entering LEGOLAND, you and your children will get to defend the good from the evil during a short ride with laser guns. Then, the hardest part will be keeping up with your kids as they are running from attraction to attraction. The fun includes Kansas City attractions built from LEGOs, a ride (also a great workout as you peddle with your feet to stay in the air), karaoke, a play zone, 4D cinema, earthquake zone, racer zone and much more.

SEA LIFE Aquarium is the only of its kind in western Missouri. Children will get to see more than 5,000 creatures, everything from jellyfish and octopus to tropical colored fish, stingray and sharks. Edutainment is abundant including  hands-on fun at the interactive rock pool where kids can feel creatures such as starfish, sand dollars, crabs and other creatures. Don’t forget to track your answers as you go along on the kids quiz trail. There are small monitors along the way that teach children all about the creatures they are seeing.

"Swimming" with the fishes at SEA LIFE Aquarium.

“Swimming” with the fishes at SEA LIFE Aquarium.

My favorite, the seahorses. To see them in person instead of in a cartoon movie was surreal.

If there is still time left in the day, why not take in one of the free attractions.

Kaleidoscope is an attraction owned and run by Hallmark. This is the perfect creative outlet for children. Several stations are set up around this fun and colorful space for children to color, cut, glue and paint art projects to take home with them. Don’t miss the puzzle making station where kids take a piece of cardboard and turn it into their own creation to assemble over and over again. Kits to take home are available for a small fee. Check their calendar online before you go. Admission is first come first serve and they do limit the number of children allowed in during each session. Classes are also available for children and families.

Hand washing station at Kaleidoscope.

Hand washing station at Kaleidoscope.

Right next door is the Hallmark Welcome Center that showcases the history of Hallmark. Learn the production life of a Hallmark card, the reason behind the name Shoebox Greetings, make your own bow, and enjoy some laughs with Maxine.

Another of the free attractions within Crown Center are the special exhibits that are set up throughout the year. A jungle exhibit including a tree house and binocular safari hunt were on display when we were there.

Now that is all more than enough to fill a day, so head back to one of the wonderful hotels and settle in for the night. The next day has just as much adventure in store.

Grab some breakfast, my favorite is Einstein Bagels, then grab a map and find your way to the skywalk. Union Station is your next stop. This is a great experience for the children to learn about directions and following maps. They can’t actually get lost but it makes them feel very important.

Leader of the pack.

Leader of the pack.

Union Station has an exciting history that began in 1914 and included tens of thousands of visitors on an annual basis. At its peak time during WWII, it is estimated that the station had more than one million visitors. As you walk through the station you can tell just how many people passed through it by the low areas in the floor.

The Union Station Massacre is probably one of the most infamous dates in time for not only Union Station, but for Kansas City. The shootout between FBI officers, local police officers and mobsters left its mark on the building that is still visible today. Don’t leave without seeing if you can find the bullet marks. (Researchers have discovered that these are not actual bullet marks, however it makes an interesting story to tell the kids.)

Union Station has a series of original and traveling exhibits throughout the year. Past exhibits have included Princess Diana during the Royal Wedding, Titanic and an annual Christmas display.

Science City is a can’t miss for the kids. Experiment with electricity, learn about storm fronts, climb the tree houses, take an imaginary ride in a helicopter, play miniature golf, and make some noise at melody park. Even on the busiest days you will hardly notice the crowds because of the size of this facility.

Musical fun.

Musical fun.

If you are ready to relax after leaving, don’t head back to the hotel, take in a movie right there at Union Station, or enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants.

Still have some time, head to the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial. This attraction is still within walking distance, across the street from Union Station. Upon entering the Museum you will cross the glass bridge over a brilliant display of 9,000 red poppies representing the fatalities of WWI. Another site in the museum to see is the working replica of a German plane used in the movie The Aviator.

After taking in these attractions, don’t think this is all the family fun Kansas City offers. Our next family trip will include the Kansas City Zoo, home to Missouri’s only polar bear. For the sports lovers in the family, you won’t want to miss the College Basketball Experience where visitors can try their best to beat the game clock, try their hand at sports announcing, and take in the Gallery of Honor of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

There is so much to see and do in Kansas City and the surrounding areas that you will keep returning for more family and couples fun.

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