Home / 50+ Lifestyles / Kansas City metro area is filled with free family attractions this summer
ferris wheel
Graphic: ICON.

Kansas City metro area is filled with free family attractions this summer

Keeping the kids entertained all summer while staying on budget is a challenge that every family faces. Fortunately, the Kansas City area offers a wide range of free options. Metro Voice is fond of activities that don’t stretch the budget, whether you’re entertaining out-of-town guests, taking the grandkids out for the day, or just looking for some family fun. What’s even better is when they’re free. Other events can be found in our daily online community events calendar.

Here are just some of the events you can find around the region.

  • KC Streetcar. Travel along the totally free 2.2-mile KC Streetcar line to discover some of Downtown KC’s most vibrant districts. The route includes 16 stops throughout the Crossroads Arts District, Power & Light District and River Market, each as interesting and diverse as the last. To accompany your journey, tune into a series of free audio tours of Downtown KC sites provided by the Jackson County Historical Society.
  • Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. Named in honor of local political and social activist Bruce R. Watkins, the center recognizes the vast contributions African-Americans made to the cultural development of Kansas City. Exhibits, displays, classes and stage performances provide an entertaining and educational experience for visitors.
  • City Market. (Anita’s top pick) Located in Kansas City’s historic River Market, this farmers’ market is the largest in the region with an annual attendance topping more than 1.3 million people. The River Market also boasts a wide variety of unique gift shops, restaurants and bakeries like Bloom Bakery.
  • Crown Center. A Downtown favorite, this entertainment district offers something for everyone. Experience great dining, restaurants and attractions, or simply relax outside while watching the beautiful fountains. For a budget-friendly option, check out the free outdoor movies and live music during the summer or the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in December.
  • Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. (Anita’s top pick) This family-friendly attraction is a great place to see and feed an array of barnyard and local animals. The farmstead, designed to model a traditional Kansas family farm, features hundreds of animals, a fishing pond and pony rides. Admission is free from 2 p.m. to close, Monday through Thursday, and every day for children under 2.
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Money Museum. The Money Museum’s interactive exhibits teach visitors about the Federal Reserve’s role in the economy. Visitors can also see the region’s largest cash vault, lift a 27-pound gold bar and view President Harry S. Truman’s extensive coin collection. Bonus: all visitors leave with a bag of shredded currency.
  • First Fridays in the Crossroads. The Crossroads Art District comes alive the first Friday of each month as thousands gather for the art crawl that has quickly become a local and regional favorite. Live entertainment and a wide variety of sidewalk vendors and food trucks make First Fridays a vibrant display of Kansas City culture.
  • First Weekends in the West Bottoms. (Anita’s top pick) Widely known for its immersive haunted houses, the historic West Bottoms district is also home to the largest collection of vintage and antique markets in the U.S. Experience the best of their offerings during a free street festival that takes place the first weekend of every month.
  • Fountains. Kansas City takes pride in being nicknamed the City of Fountains—and for good reason. More than 200 majestic fountains adorn the city, from quaint neighborhoods to major town landmarks. Be sure the visit the Mill Creek Fountain located at the Country Club Plaza for a look at one of the most popular fountains in the area.
  • Frontier Army Museum. This collection of historical artifacts pays tribute to the Frontier Army’s role in the exploration and expansion of the nation from 1804 to 1916. The museum also celebrates Fort Leavenworth’s history from 1827 to the present. The collection includes unique artifacts such as a 1790 prairie schooner and a JN4D aircraft, the type used by General Pershing in a 1917 conflict.
  • Hallmark Visitors Center. Located in Crown Center, the Hallmark Visitors Center honors the story of one of the world’s largest greeting card companies and one of Kansas City’s most celebrated businesses. The interactive exhibit allows visitors to follow Hallmark’s 100-year journey as well as observe different greeting card trends throughout the years. Visitors can even create their own star-shaped bow as a keepsake.
  • Haskell Indian Nations University Cultural Center and Museum. The Haskell Indian Nations University Cultural Centerchampions the achievements of the university, which first opened in 1884 as a boarding school in Lawrence. The collection not only celebrates the history of Native education but the vast tribal history of the land as well.
  • Ernie Miller Nature Center. Bring your hiking gear out to Olathe for outdoor adventures at Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center, the perfect way to spend a day in Kansas City’s beautiful, natural environment. Explore educational exhibits, bird-watch with friends, trail-blaze through the environment and so much more.
  • Kaleidoscope is a free art studio that combines the creative genius of Hallmark with the magic of imagination to create a space for kids to express themselves. Independent art sessions allow children of all ages to create with bows, cardboard, melted crayons and more.
  • Kauffman Memorial Garden. (Anita’s top pick) A two-acre garden in the heart of Kansas City, this garden is a part of the Kauffman Legacy Park. Kauffman Memorial boasts thousands of plants and several beautiful water features. Be sure to check out the secluded Secret Garden behind the conservatory.
  • Kansas City Public Library. (Anita’s top pick) The historic Central branch of the Kansas City Public Library is a beloved treasure in town. Visitors can enjoy movies in the old bank’s vault, see a variety of exhibits, attend special events or simply settle in with a good read in the city’s largest collection of books. Be sure to snap a picture at the famous Community Bookshelf feature that runs along the south wall of the parking garage.
  • Lakeside Nature Center. Lakeside Nature Center, located in Swope Park, allows visitors to explore local wildlife and contribute to community conservation projects. The Nature Center is also one of Missouri’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Special events include nature story time, guided hikes and educational programs.
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. A leader among modern art museums in the nation, Kemper Museum has tripled since its opening in 1994. The museum offers a growing permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, as well as free public programs. For a contemporary take on dining, be sure to check out Café Sabastienne.
  • 21C Museum Hotel. Experience history and contemporary inside 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City. What was once the oldest hotel operating west of the Mississippi has been restored to house a contemporary art museum, complete with a boutique hotel and The Savoy at 21c Browse the halls of restored mosaic floors and plaster pillars while viewing curated exhibitions, site-specific works and the hotel’s signature Sky Blue penguins. As always, the galleries are free of charge and open to the public.
  • Legends Outlet. Take a break from shopping and discover where this popular entertainment district received its name. Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the tribute to more than 80 legendary Kansans from athletes such as Maurice Green and Tom Watson to pioneers such as Amelia Earhart and Russell Stover.

READ: Check out our review of “Queen Esther” now playing in Branson

  • Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Stroll through this 300-acre nature sanctuary in Overland Park for a wilderness retreat featuring eight natural ecosystems. Paved or woodchip pathway, the Arboretum is a picturesque example of Kansas City’s beauty. Free on Tuesdays and every day for visitors 5 years old and younger.
  • Legler Barn Museum. Originally built in 1864 along the Santa Fe Trail at the corner of 95th and Quivira in Lenexa this stone barn now resides in Sar-Ko-Par Trail Park as a testament to Lenexa’s history. The Legler Barn Museum features many artifacts from the early prairie days to the expansion of Lenexa in the 20th century.
  • Union Station. Although not every attraction inside Union Station is free to enjoy, simply exploring the historic halls of this architectural wonder is a joy unto itself. Ride the KC Streetcar to its terminus and journey through this iconic piece of Kansas City culture.
  • Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary. Located in Liberty, the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary includes educational programs, live animal exhibits as well as multiple hiking trails. Try geocaching for an adventurous game during the hike.
  • Midwest Genealogy Center. From research databases to appointments with genealogists, head to Independence’s Midwest Genealogy Centre to discover your family’s history at this free, essential public resource.
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. (Anita’s top pick) Home to more than 40,000 pieces of art, from ancient Chinese ceramics to modern art in the Bloch Building, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Artis a world-class treasure located right in the heart of Kansas City. The ever-expanding collection makes The Nelson-Atkins unique each time visitors explore. Be sure to enjoy the shuttlecocks at the Sculpture Park on the south lawn.
  • Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. A beautiful complement to the Johnson County Community College campus, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Artis the largest contemporary art museum in the four-state region. The Nerman collection includes a combination of international, national and regional artwork.
  • Penguin Park. (Anita’s top pick) This Northland favorite is the perfect place to let children explore their wild side. The park features both a 26-foot kangaroo slide and a 23-foot playable penguin that are perfect for an afternoon adventure in the park.
  • Shoal Creek Living History Museum. Nestled in Hodge Park, this 80-acre museum reflects life in a typical 19th-century village. The village includes 17 authentic log cabins and homes. Be sure to visit during special events, as the village comes to life with reenactors.

–Anita Widaman | Metro Voice

Leave a Reply