Family Vacations to Kansas City, Missouri

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Kansas City
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (courtesy, Kansas City CVA)

Kansas City Family Travel Tips

  • Watch a dinosaur being reconstructed at Science City's Dino Lab.
  • See a children's play at the Coterie Theatre.
  • Get in the swing at the American Jazz Museum.
  • Learn about some of baseball's greats at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
  • Explore the American frontier at Fort Osage and the National Frontier Trails Museum.

The largest metropolitan area in America's heartland, Kansas City straddles the border between two states—Kansas and Missouri. From its farming beginnings, contemporary Kansas City combines culture (visit the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) with pioneer history at places like the Kansas City Museum.

Families should start exploring on the Missouri side of the city. Although Amtrak still pulls into Union Station, the facility is now known more for its museums, restaurants, and shops. At the station's KC Rail Experience, walk through a vintage railroad dining car, see a model train chugging through over 1,000 square feet of miniature terrain, and hear the stories of railroad ghosts. Science City, another Union Station fixture, features 50 interactive exhibits. Kids can ride a bike 30 feet in the air, time their baseball pitches, and talk to a paleontologist at work in the Dino Lab.

Pasting glitter, cutting paper, or coloring with melted crayons are all in a day's play at Kaleidoscope, a free art experience sponsored by Hallmark Cards for kids and families in Crown Center. The Coterie Theatre, rated by Time magazine and Travel + Leisure as one of the nation's top children's theaters, is also located in Crown Center—best to book ahead.

At the American Jazz Museum, kids learn about music legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong and experiment with harmony, melody, and rhythm at a mock studio. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum traces the heroes and hardships of the baseball players of the Negro Leagues through film, memorabilia, and interactive computer stations. Both museums are in the Historic 18th & Vine District, the revitalized center of Kansas City's African-American culture. Find out what life was like for World War I soldiers and walk through trenches at the Liberty Memorial Museum.

Wilder children who crave amusement-park thrills should head to Worlds of Fun for its 50 rides, including a fast, inverted roller coaster. To cool yourself off, splash at the park's Oceans of Fun, billed as the largest water park in the Midwest, with slides, wave pools, waterfalls, and lazy rivers.

On the Kansas side of KC, take little ones to Overland Park's Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead to feed the animals, go on a hayride, and do crafts in a one-room schoolhouse. The 12-acre park is open April 1 through October 31.

Find out about frontier history at Fort Osage, overlooking the Missouri River in Sibley, about 50 minutes away. Here, you can tour the blockhouses, officers' quarters, and soldiers' barracks on a site first surveyed by Lewis and Clark in 1804. Independence, Missouri, 15 minutes from Kansas City, was the starting point for thousands of later pioneers as they started their westward journeys. Ride in a covered wagon with Pioneer Trails Adventures and learn more about the westbound settlers' lives at the National Frontier Trails Museum. Independence also was the home of the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. Along with his papers, the Truman Presidential Museum and Library has a replica of his office in the White House.

Tip: The National Frontier Trails Museum has a combined ticket for museum admission and the covered wagon ride.

Recommended Side Trips: Independence (Missouri), St. Louis (Missouri), Topeka (Kansas)'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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