Alison Kerr lives with her family in the Kansas City metro area and she writes about Learning Stuff (not just homeschooling) for all moms and kids, and even some dads, at Homeschoolers Guide to the Galaxy. Visit Alison's blog for her recommendations on places to eat with kids.
If you have your own recommendations of things to do in Kansas City feel free to leave them below in the comments section.
For the Nature Mamma and her Sprogs
The 300 acre Overland Park Arboretum is a place to find bullfrogs, giant butterflies and zooming dragonflies. The flowers are nice too! My favorite spots are the Monet Garden, with its spectacular waterlilies, and the Woodland Glen which is shady, cooler than the open, sunny areas, and has trickling water features to soothe the soul.
Kids can enjoy the Koi pond in the Woodland Glen and the special features built for them in the Children’s Discovery Garden. It’s pretty easy to spot a bullfrog in the pond, which my own kids love to do. Be sure to take sunscreen and insect repellent if you plan to be there at the height of summer. It gets pretty hot and there are a few mosquitoes!
At Lakeside Nature Center a visit to the center is free, though there is a small fee to attend one of their programs. Cool things to see include the birds of prey, which are tethered out in the sunshine during the day (not hidden behind cage bars). Before and after your visit you can check out the animals at Critter Corner, read their newsletter for young naturalists, Mudpuppy’s Pond, and learn about building your own backyard habitat.
Critsite's Prairie and Wetland Center in Belton, Missouri is the Midwest's largest producer of containerized native plants, trees and shrubs. You can visit their display gardens and talk with the members of staff to get ideas for your projects. I absolutely love their online plant picker which lets you to pick out plants based on all different criteria including, height, spread, color, blooming season, sun exposure, water needs, which wildlife it attracts, and whether it produces edible nuts or berries.
If you plan to shop you can make up a shopping list before you go. Then again, I usually end up leaving my shopping list at home! They also have recommended plant lists for things like rain gardens, quail gardens, and hummingbird gardens, and tip sheets for native plant gardening.
Three more great nature places, some free, some not, all popular: Kansas City Zoo, Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, Powell Gardens.
For the Shopaholic Mom
Kansas City is otherwise known as the city of fountains. The Country Club Plaza, America's first custom-designed suburban shopping district, is great for strolling around and just taking in the ambiance. Shops specialize in high fashion with boutiques, home decor and gift stores, and wonderful, quality restaurants. I always take my visitors there to enjoy the fountains and European architecture.
Take a look at the virtual walking tour and you'll get an idea of what's in store. During the year they have events like the Kansas City Literary Festival (in May) and the Plaza Art Festival (in September).
I recommend Crown Center Plaza because it's not just another place to shop. They always have some kind of free exhibition which kids love. Wizard of Oz fans take note, beginning January 31st, 2009 you can visit 70 Years of Oz Oh My! Kansas City is home to Hallmark cards and the Hallmark Visitor Center at Crown Center Plaza is also free. I don't know if you dare, but at Chip's Chocolate Factory you can see delicious, gooey, chocolate candy stuff getting made right before your eyes! The parking is free for 3 hours - just validate your ticket in one of the stores. They even have free movies outside in the summer, and musical performances by local groups inside during the year. Unfortunately the shopping and food are not free!
Towne Center Plaza in Leawood, KS doesn't have the same great history or spectacular architecture, but with really easy parking, a nice variety of stores, and kid-friendly places nearby, it's worth a look. The Learning Tree is great for the preschool and elementary ages. They have a special child-sized door which kids love, a well supplied Brio table (last time I checked) and storytime twice a week. Barnes and Noble also has storytimes and Pottery Barn Kids has a Book Club. Other nearby things kids love are: Leawood Pioneer Library (with free summer and after-school activities and free internet access), and Tomahawk Park south of 119th Street. Back at Towne Center Plaza my teens enjoy being left to explore Gamestop.
Three more popular places to shop: Oak Park Mall with a carousel ride for the kids; Great Mall of the Great Plains for uncrowded shopping and bargains; Legends at Village West a popular new outdoor mall area.
Keeping Dad Happy
Harley Davidson's Vehicle and Powertrain Operation in Kansas City, Missouri takes you on a free factory tour. Don't do what I did when I took my dad there! Fully read the tour guidelines and have something with you to occupy youngsters. The visitor center allows all ages, but only kids 12 yrs and up can go on the factory tour. Also, you need to wear fully enclosed shoes and there could be a wait of up to 1.5 hrs if you go at a busy time.
If Dad loves hunting or fishing head to Cabelas, a favorite stopping off point for all the supplies and clothing he could want. The store is huge and contains a very large diorama called the Mule Deer Museum, which includes life-like posed animals including deer, sheep, elk, moose, wolves, and rabbits displayed in different environments. I have to say that it's a better wildlife display than you can see in any Kansas City museum.
There is also a large aquarium with every kind of fish you'd find in local lakes and streams. As long as you can stand to be surrounded by guns, knives, camouflage and people who love that kind of thing it's a fun place to learn to identify animals, birds and fish. And it's certainly not only dads who love hunting and fishing in Kansas! By the way, Hunting and fishing in Kansas is strictly regulated and enforced to be sustainable.
Three more things for dads (and moms and kids): Golf, baseball, and the National World War One Museum, which I thoroughly recommend for the whole family.
If you'd like to write about the activities in your area you can see the details at Your Chance to Play Tour Guide.
Congratulations to Mary from Hampton, Virginia for winning the three bracelets from Touchstone Crystal-I haven't heard from the other two winners so check your emails!
And I'd like to invite you to read the interview I did with TJHirst.com all about our remodel. It's a three part series and I'm looking forward to the next installment. It's a well-written blog and talking with Theresa was so fun.
Kansas City fountain, bullfrog, and Harley Davidson photos reproduced here under a creative commons license. Copyrights belong to the respective owners.
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