July 21, 2016

Room With A View: South Shore Inn In Iowa

The longest stop of the Great Iowa Road Trip was Clear Lake, a charming beach town in northern Iowa.

There are several lodging options around Clear Lake, but very few have a lakeside view. We lucked out with South Shore Inn, though. You couldn’t get much closer than our room!

Here's the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

Here’s the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

Our stay was hosted by Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. Let me tell you about the place!

What to expect at South Shore Inn

I’ll be honest with you, when you pull up to the inn’s parking lot, you’re not going to be impressed. Don’t turn around. Go in, walk through your room, and check out the view. This is what you came for.

Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.

Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.

One of our neighbors walked by one morning and said to me “This is God’s country.”

All rooms face the lake, and you either have a walkout door to the patio or a balcony. It’s not exactly private on the ground level, as you share the view and area with The Landing Patio Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant, and your neighbors. I’m not complaining – I was smitten with the view.

I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.

I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.

We used the patio frequently, bringing the inn’s complimentary breakfast outside.

We let our son stay up late one night to watch the sunset.

And one quiet morning, I walked out with my son to just sit on the dock. It was one of those moments you wish for when planning a vacation but never actually plan on happening.

Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.

Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.

The inn has its own dock. Here’s a sweet video we took from that dock.

South Shore Inn amenities

The rooms come with the standard inn items: Flatscreen TV, desk, mini refrigerator, that sort of thing. But the big selling point (besides the view) was the huge whirl pool tub.

There’s also a complimentary breakfast each morning, featuring a favorite of my kids’, the waffle maker. There was also fresh fruit, which is a nice score when on vacation. You’re going to want to eat breakfast outdoors.

Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.

Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.

One downside to the inn is the parking lot. Inn guests share it with diners at The Landing. It’s not a problem during the day, but if you go out for dinner and return later in the evening, you might not find a spot. There’s overflow parking across the street, though, so you’re not totally out of luck.

I take it back, there’s a second downside, at least, if you ask a kid: There’s no pool. But there’s a gigantic lake and a couple beaches nearby, so if this is a complaint coming from your kid, point that out.

The owners also keep a fridge stocked with bottled water, which is super helpful when you’re on the go. There’s also coffee that’s always available in the lobby.

What’s near South Shore Inn

You can see The Landing crowd at the right of the photo with South Shore Inn guests seated on the right side of the photo.

You can see The Landing crowd under the green awning and the South Shore Inn guests seated to the right side of it.

The Landing Patio Bar & Grill is on the premise. It was literally 10 steps from our bedroom. The waitstaff is friendly and the burgers are great. There’s also a kids menu.

There’s a playground across the street to tire your kids out.

But you’re there for the lake, right? You want a beach. There are three beaches around Clear Lake. The two closest are City Beach and the Clear Lake State Park beach. They’re not far away at all.

Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.

Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.

If you go

South Shore Inn

Where: 1603 South Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa

Website

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

Upscale Casual Dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

May 18, 2016

Exploring Shoal Creek Living History Museum With Kids

My family and I recently found a place in Kansas City that’s all about wide open spaces and a quiet stroll, and history mixed with nature: Shoal Creek Living History Museum.

Shoal Creek Living History Museum is in Kansas City, Missouri.

Shoal Creek Living History Museum is in Kansas City, Missouri.

We visited this new-to-us place during a super fun weekend trip and it was a welcome change from the go-go-go adventures we’d had the day before at Worlds of Fun.

Let me tell you about the museum.

Located on 80 acres within Hodge Park in Northern Kansas City, Shoal Creek Living History Museum is a FREE attractions takes families on a walk through Missouri’s past as told through architecture.

Farley loved taking pictures of the buildings at Shoal Creek.

Farley loved taking pictures of the buildings at Shoal Creek. I may be raising a mini blogger.

Grab a brochure at the entrance to learn a bit more about the buildings on the grounds: There are 21 structures, 17 of which are authentic buildings dating from 1807-1885.  

Some of the more interesting structures included the Blacksmith barn built in the 1800s and was originally on a farm next to Hodge Park; the 1868 City Hall and Jail; and the 1880 Eldorado School. There’s also a carpenter shop, doctor’s office, church and several homes that I imagine are interesting to visit during re-enactment events.

On a regular day, you won't find any re-enactors at Shoal Creek Living History Museum. Plan to visit during a special event to see sites like the blacksmith barn come to life.

On a regular day, you won’t find any re-enactors at Shoal Creek Living History Museum. Plan to visit during a special event to see sites like the blacksmith barn come to life.

Just a handful of people were there when we visited.

Given the wide-open feel of it, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

 

What we liked

I loved the space it provided for the kids to run, but even more so, I liked how relaxing it was.

Shoal Creek is such a photogenic place.

Shoal Creek is such a photogenic place.

My favorite building was the Grist Mill. It’s the first thing that caught my eye and it just stood out from the rest of the buildings. It’s actually the lone structure there that was built on site and is a replica of an 1824 mill. Figures.

The kids?

They loved the American Bison herd kept on the land.

Bison at Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Kansas City.

Bison at Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Kansas City.

While they did seem pretty peaceful, one reminded us that they are still wild animals.

It charged the fence. Even standing back a few feet from the fence didn’t feel like a good idea.

See that guy in the background? That's what a charging bison looks like. Don't worry, the photographer was behind a fence.

Thank goodness for zoom lenses. The one on the right was headed our way.

Perhaps a lesson learned here: Stand further back from the fence. 

 

American Bison herd in Kansas City, Missouri.

American Bison herd in Kansas City, Missouri.

Special Events At Shoal Creek

On a given day, there isn’t programming in place, and you can only see the buildings from the outside.

Re-enactors are at special events throughout the year at Shoal Creek Living History Museum, helping bring history to life for visiting families.

Re-enactors are at special events throughout the year at Shoal Creek Living History Museum, helping bring history to life for visiting families.

But there are special events throughout the year where you may find re-enactors and perhaps enter some of the buildings.

2016 Events

* Always check ahead of your visit to make sure an event is still happening. Things can be rescheduled!

First Saturdays – June 4, July 2, August 6, and September 3, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. FREE family fun event with re-enactors bring the village to life, food and craft vendors, family activities and demonstrations, and shop at the mercantile. Some activities do charge for their services, cash only.

Amateur Radio and Field Day – June 25, noon to dusk, and June 26, dawn to noon. FREE. ARRL is the most popular on-the-air event held annually in the U.S. and Canada.

12 Annual Harvest Festival – October 8, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. $5 per person, FREE for ages 5 and younger. Old-fashioned county fair with a puppet show, historical games, re-enactors, pony rides and more.  $1 horse-drawn wagon rides from noon to 4 p.m.

Fright Night at Shoal Creek – October 22, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. $8 per person. Must be 18 years or older. I.D. required.

Kids Safe Halloween – October 29, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. FREE with donations accepted. Trick or treat event is for infants and elementary aged children.

Wilderness Run – November 5, 9 a.m.

An American Girl Doll Tea – TBD

20th Annual Visit From St. Nicholas – December 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5 per person, FREE for ages 5 and younger. Homes will be decorated and e-enactors will bring 19th century Christmas to life. Take a brief horse drawn sleigh ride through the countryside from noon to 4 p.m.

 

If you go

Shoal Creek Living History Museum

Where: Located in Hodge Park at 7000 Northeast Barry Road, Kansas City, Mo.

When: Open all year, seven days a week, dawn to dusk

Cost: FREE to view the exterior of the buildings; buildings are open during special events with an admission fee or donation.

Website 

 

January 18, 2016

Downtown Kansas City Hotel Review – Sheraton

Disclaimer: Our stay in Kansas City was hosted by the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There’s no shortage of hotel options in Kansas City – I’ve tried many of them. Our last couple of overnight stays have been at the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center. We’ve stayed there for a Radiohead concert at the Sprint Center; and this time around, we stayed there because it was centrally located near several of the family-friendly attractions we planned on seeing.

The Sheraton at Crown Center is totally decked out for the holidays. It's quite a sight to walk into.

Our most recent stay at the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center was in December – how’s that for holiday decorations?

And by centrally-located, I mean we could walk to them! How’s that for convenience? Park once and see it all.

The Hotel

The Sheraton is quite tall – 40+ floors. The elevator ride impressed the kids.

The view from the top floor of the Sheraton...on a rainy day.

The view from the top floor of the Sheraton…on a rainy day.

The top floor of the tower is the lounge for Starwood Preferred Guests. If you are one, you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast with a view.

…which my kids ignored because, TV!

Seriously, kids, avert your eyes from the TV for one second.

Seriously, kids, avert your eyes from the TV for one second.

There are a couple other dining options there, including a bar & grill kind of restaurant and a cafe.

The hotel is designed for large gatherings and meetings, so several floors are taken up by those spaces. It’s kinda awkward taking the elevator down from the tower with all the rooms, scrambling across the mezzanine to find the other elevator that will take you to the pool area. Pack a good swimsuit cover, is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of the pool. You guys. It’s a heated roof-top pool.

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center's rooftop pool.

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center’s rooftop pool. It was an unusually warm December weekend for us – no snow!

So you could be swimming in the middle of a snow storm, if things timed out right. Or a rain shower, as was the case for us.

In case you’re wondering, it’s not that heated (by my wimpy standards). While my crazy family swam in the December rain, I was in the hot tub, thank you very much.

The short tunnel amused the kids too.

OK, I'll admit, the tunnel was fun for me to swim through too.

OK, I’ll admit, the tunnel was fun for me to swim through too.

You can order food to be delivered to the pool area, which sounds like a good idea if it’s summer and you’re in the mood to lounge around all afternoon.

The rooms are pretty comfy – we had two double beds. We lucked out with a partial view of Crown Center and the Ice Terrace skating rink. It’s a charming scene at nighttime.

 

Nearby attractions

Sheraton is connected to being connected to Crown Center and Union Station attractions by the climate-controlled Link system.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Use it! Parking can get pricey, so if you just pay for your hotel parking ($17-$24/day), you can go to attractions like SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium and Science City.

Here’s a roundup of what’s walkable from the Sheraton – walking with two kids under 7, with a pit stop for lunch at Crown Center.

–  SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium (Crown Center district)

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center (Crown Center district)

– The FREE Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope (Crown Center district)

Ice Terrace (seasonal outdoor ice skating rink at Crown Center)

Coterie Theatre (Crown Center district)

Musical Theater Heritage (Crown Center district)

Union Station – Be sure to check what traveling exhibition is there!

Science City (located inside Union Station) 

Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium (located inside Union Station) 

Model Railroad Experience (located inside Union Station) 

Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre (located inside Union Station) 

H&R Block Stage (located inside Union Station) 

The National World War I Museum and Memorial

The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank (you receive a complimentary bag of shredded currency there as a souvenir – worth $165).

– City Market is 2 miles away

– Country Club Plaza is about 3.5 miles away

– Crossroads Arts District is less than a mile away

Restaurants

One of the best breakfasts I had in KC was at the Blue Bird Bistro, a little more than a mile from the hotel. Another good and quirky choice for breakfast is You Say Tomato, also a little more than a mile from the Sheraton.

You’ll find a handful of restaurants at Crown Center, which is a mix of chains like Panera and unique kid-friendly spots like Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant and, on the other end of the spectrum, the upscale The American.

Union Station has a couple restaurant choices, including Harvey’s at Union Station (I hear brunch is good there).

If you head to Crossroads Arts District, you’ll find some unique places to eat including Lidia’s KC (if you’re a big PBS fan, you know who she is). The Sundry and Cafe Gratitude were recommended to me, but I don’t know if any of those are kid-friendly. When it was just me and Mr. Wonderful in Kansas City, Crossroads was a fun place to visit, and if we get another couples-only vacation to KC, we’ll go back there.

 

If you go

Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center

Where: 2345 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo.

Website 

 

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Magic At DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Weekend Getaway To KC With Kids

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

 

January 11, 2016

Best Winter Getaway To KC With Kids

Kansas City has all the makings for a family vacation: Kid-friendly attractions, great restaurants and convenient hotels.

On a recent trip with our kids, ages 4 and 6, we discovered some new favorites that we will certainly revisit the next time we’re in the area. Our winter trip was jointly hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park.

Kansas City title

The trip was so memorable, my 4-year-old daughter has taken to say “I love you to Kansas City and back,” in place of the silly old moon.

Here are some of the highlights you’ll want to check out the next time you’re in KC with kids (any time of the year!).

So fun they don’t realize they’re learning

The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.

The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan.

One of the first stops on our trip was the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kan. There’s a fun interactive screen in the lobby that you’ll be attempted to play with – you can create a dinosaur or dragon and then see it on the screen. Try to bypass it to explore later on because you’ll want to head straight to the Discovery Room upstairs (after paying admission, of course).

The first area my kids headed for was the paleontology section.

Kids can explore paleontology, anthropology, animals and more while at the Discovery Room.

We could spent a few hours in this room! Divided into different areas of science, kids learn through play and hands-on exhibits. Website

The other place my kids loved so much they made us promise we’ll return the next time we go to KC was Science City at Union Station.

Science City inside Union Station in downtown Kansas City

Science City inside Union Station in downtown Kansas City

There are so many interesting and fun areas to play in, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep up with your kids. Best naps ever after visiting Science City! Website

Free for all

When you go to KC with kids, keep in mind that there are so many kid-friendly places with FREE activities, and apparently so do the masses. They’re crowded, so there’s the drawback. But the fun usually trumps any crowd factor, in my opinion.

On our trip, we stopped by City Market – which has a year-round farmers market (heated and indoors in the winter). We went specifically for the Whoville experience at Christmas time, but you can extend your stay to visit the FREE Steamboat Arabia museum and shops. Website

We stopped by Crown Center District twice during our weekend trip, since our hotel was so near it. I love the outdoor area there, especially at Christmas time.

Playing at night in front of the Mayor's Christmas Tree at Crown Center.

Playing at night in front of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center.

It’s lit up spectacularly, and the kids enjoyed climbing on all the wooden structures set up around the Christmas tree (they’re not there year-round). We meant to visit Kaleidoscope, Hallmark’s FREE art-making area at Crown Center, and the gingerbread house display but nap time prevailed. Not free, but also nudged out by nap time and unseasonably warm weather was the Ice Terrace, an outdoor ice skating rink. Website

Who knew the Downtown Dazzle trolley ride would be one of my daughter's favorite experiences of the entire trip (ranking up there with the hotel pool).

My preschooler said the ride on the Holiday Dazzle trolley was among her favorite parts of the trip.

A new Christmas-time-only thing going on in Kansas City is Downtown Dazzle, held on weekends in December. You can ride a FREE, decked out trolley to several downtown attractions like Crown Center and Power & Light District. Some stops have cute things set up like huge snow globes you can get in for a great photo opp. The kids loved the trolley for like first leg of the ride, but then we got stuck in basketball traffic and things went downhill from there. Still, my daughter said it was one of her favorite things about KC. Website

Overland Park held its own in this category. We watched Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, and it was one of Mooch’s favorite things over all (OK, she has a lot of favorites, she’s 4). I’d like to return in warmer weather to explore the farmstead in daylight. Website

Did someone say shopping?

I did not shop nearly as much as I intended to – this was going to be prime Christmas present shopping time. But my kids don’t think shopping is fun, so there you go.

LEGOs, LEGOs, as far as the eye can see.

LEGOs, LEGOs, as far as the eye can see.

One of the places we visited that I found myself gazing longingly into storefront windows include Oak Park Mall in Overland Park (if you’re shopping for kids – definitely check out the LEGO Store, American Girls store and the Disney Store there). Website

There’s a carousel in the middle of the mall where you can park your kids for a little bit.

The two-story carousel at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

The two-story carousel at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

For the younger set, there’s a play area.

Of course, almost everyone in Omaha seems programmed to head straight to the Country Club Plaza to shop. That’s for good reason, you can find all sorts of high end stores there, as well as popular chains like Gap, Apple and White House/Black Market. Website

Want to buy some unique gifts? I think the City Market and surrounding streets is a good spot. You can buy food and spices from around the world, or on the weekends, head to the farmers market to buy locally-made goods from crafts and home décor to soaps.

While Mr. Wonderful walked around – buying some local wine and flowers at the market – I waited in line with the kids so they could ride the mini train. For $2, I captured the biggest smiles of the trip because of that little ride! Website

This smile says "I got a free sucker on this train, Mom...Ha!"

This smile says “I got a free sucker on this train, Mom…Ha!”

 

Good sleeps

If you’re planning most of your trip to be in downtown Kansas City, the hotels around Crown Center are smart choices, particularly in the winter. They’re connected to major attractions by the Link, a series of enclosed, elevated walkways.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

We stayed at Sheraton at Crown Center and enjoyed using the tunnels to get to Crown Center, and further afield, Union Station. It totally beat driving and parking, or walking (it rained one of the days we were there).

Another highlight of the Sheraton was its rooftop pool, which is heated and open year-round. The little tunnel was a kid favorite.

Sheraton Crown Center's rooftop pool.

Sheraton Crown Center’s rooftop pool.

And if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest, you have to check out the Club Lounge at the top floor of the hotel. Go for the view and/or the breakfast buffet. It’s heartier than they suggest when they called it a “continental breakfast.” Website

South of downtown Kansas City is Overland Park, a more suburban area. The DoubleTree Hotel is located a short distance from the interstate, and nicely located between some of our favorite parts of town – the Museum at Prairiefire, Oak Park Mall and Deanna Rose Farmstead. The highlight for my kids was the pool. As usual.

The DoubleTree pool, AKA, the best part of the hotel according to my kids.

The DoubleTree pool, AKA, the best part of the hotel according to my kids.

We had two connecting rooms there and it opened my eyes to a whole other way of travel with kids (king-size bed in one room, two doubles in the other). Mr. Wonderful and I agreed this was the way to go from here on out.

Service at both hotels was top notch and super friendly, especially at the DoubleTree where I left with a smile because so many people made us feel so welcomed.

If you are a Hilton Honors member, you probably will get breakfast included with your stay. The buffet was great, but what made it stand out was the chef cooking the made-to-order eggs. He knew how to make an omelet just right (not too dry). Website

Good eats

I had grand plans for dining in Kansas City – lots of barbecue, maybe a gastropub, a stop at popular breakfast joint. There are so many great places to eat and Instagramming to be done.

But travel with kids doesn’t always go as planned. Mornings were spent in the pool followed by the hotel’s breakfast instead of my quaint breakfast joint, but that’s just how it goes. Not to bash hotel breakfasts, I’m just a weirdo who seeks out the top breakfast restaurant in most cities.

Having #BBQ and @boulevardbeer Tank 7 on vacation. I ❤️ #KC @joeskc

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

The most memorable meal for the whole family was barbecue, naturally. We met up with family at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Leawood (not the original in a gas station, but it was closest to our hotel in Overland Park). It was smack-the-table good, especially the Z-Man Sandwich. Website

We dined a few times at Crown Center, given its proximity to the Sheraton and some of the activities we had planned. I wish I could say they were great picks, but I was disappointed with the service at both restaurants and the dessert place.

If you're an adventurous eater, try the Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile Cafe at the City Market in Kansas City. You'll love the flavors.

If you’re an adventurous eater, try the Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile Cafe at the City Market in Kansas City. You’ll love the flavors.

One of my favorite meals, but certainly not for my kids, was the Ethiopian restaurant at City Market, Blue Nile Cafe. I nabbed a great Groupon for a meal for four and my kids absolutely refused to admit they liked any of it. Typical. Website

 

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Magic At DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

A Family Guide To Crown Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

Sheraton Kansas City (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.)

 

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Visit KC and Visit Overland Park. All opinions expressed are my own.

* * * * *

This post is linked up to other fun travel posts on the #WKendTravelInspiration link here.

January 8, 2016

A Family Guide To Crown Center

Kansas City’s Crown Center attracts visitors for a number of reasons: FREE activities, kid-friendly attractions, shops and restaurants. We’ve visited Crown Center several times and still have yet to see all there is – it’s really Crown Center District with a ton to do. 

Crown Center at Christmas time.

Crown Center at Christmas time.

My family’s most recent visit was during the holidays. The visit was hosted by Visit KC.

 

Attractions

My kids don't know that they haven't been to Legoland yet. When they were little, these Lego sculptures near the food court in Crown Center sufficed.

My kids don’t know that they haven’t been to Legoland yet. When they were little, these Lego sculptures near the food court in Crown Center sufficed.

These are the biggies:

–  SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center

– The FREE Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope, where children and their families create amazing art.

Coterie Theatre presents children’s theater

Musical Theater Heritage is a professional theater company staging American musicals.

– Fountains. The kids loved all of the fountains at Crown Center, especially the ones you can play in when the weather’s warm enough (which, of course, I didn’t get a picture of).

Checking out one of the fountains at Crown Center.

Checking out one of the fountains at Crown Center.

 

Restaurants

There are more than 15 places to dine at Crown Center Shops. We’ve dined in the area on a couple visits.

Winning for most unique concept is Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant – a model train delivers the meal to your table. It was a big hit with the kids. The menu includes hamburgers, sandwiches and fries.

Farley pondering the situation at Fritz's while he wears his free conductor's hat.

Farley ponders a fry at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant while he wears his free conductor’s hat.

We’ve also dined at Crayola Cafe and SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza.

I’m still searching for one that pleases both the grownups and the kids, honestly. You kinda feel like you have to go to Fritz’s because of the novelty, but the other two would not be ones I’d send you guys to dine.

Here are other places to buys grub at Crown Center: The American Restaurant (upscale), Chip’s Candy Factory (fudge), d’Bronx (deli & pizza), Einstein Bros. Bagels, Greek Food, Ltd., Juice Stop, K.C. Bar B.Q., Milano Italian Dining (casual Italian), Pak Ling Express (Chinese), Potatoes and More, Shang Tea Co., Sheridan’s Lattés & Frozen Custard, Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza, A Streetcar Named Desire (full service restaurant, has the streetcar), Taste of Philly, and Three Little Pigs BBQ.

 

My Family’s Favorite Crown Center Moment

Christmas at Crown Center – In 2015, the shopping center used #ShineBrightKC on its social media channels – for good reason. This place sparkles! Hello, photo opps.

One of the many nutcrackers at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

One of the many nutcrackers at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Inside the shopping center, we stumbled upon carolers. We missed out on the “Charlie Brown Christmas play at The Corterie (sold out!), as well as the gingerbread houses. 

The kids loved climbing on the over-sized wooden sculptures surrounding the mayor’s large Christmas tree. Due to unseasonably warm weather, we missed out on enjoying outdoor ice skating rink. I’ve had to promise them we’ll return someday to skate there.

Play time at the base of the Mayor's Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City.

Play time at the base of the Mayor’s Tree at Crown Center in Kansas City.

If you’re visiting Kansas City during the holidays, you should stop even if it’s just to take some pictures of the scene.

 

Where to stay

There are two hotels in the area, both connected to Crown Center by the Link, a covered walkway system over the streets: Sheraton and The Westin.

Our hosted visit was at the Sheraton. What a perfect place to stay with a family in Kansas City!

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

Sheraton Crown Center is an easy walk from Crown Center attractions thanks to the Link system over the streets.

First off, any place with a rooftop pool heated year-round is a hit with my kids. My daughter still talks about it.

The rooms are comfy and spacious, there are dining options inside the hotel and best of all, the Link system is darn handy in the winter.

Take the Link from Kansas City attractions like Union Station and Crown Center.

The Link with the shopping mall at Crown Center in the background.

The Westin is even closer to the Crown Center action. You pass through the Westin if you’re using the Link system to get to Union Station.

 

Exploring Crown Center District

Beyond the shopping center area, you can find museums and attractions, including one of our new favorites, Union Station (take the kids to Science City!). Other things to see include, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial – which has been highly recommended by several friends so it’s on my list to visit – and The Money Federal Reserve Museum (you receive a complimentary bag of shredded currency there as a souvenir – worth $165).

 

Crown Center Special Events

Kansas City Irish Fest – Three days of all things Celtic – music, dancing and exhibits.

WeekEnder – Friday nights in July and August, enjoy live music, outdoor movies, food trucks, artisans and more at Crown Center Square.

Other events – Antique Festival, Fiesta Kansas City and Hallmarket… and let’s not forget our favorite, Christmas at Crown Center with the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, Crayola Christmas Land and the Ice Terrace.

 

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

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Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

Best Winter Getaway KC With Kids

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

Sheraton Hotel (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.) – Jan. 18

 

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Visit KC. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

** This post is part of the #wkendtravelinspiration link-up at FamiliesGo!

December 21, 2015

Inside The LEGO Store

My love-hate relationship with LEGOs dates only a year or two back, when my son graduated to the teeny tiny LEGOs that cause maximum pain if you step on them. But, he loves building with them so he keeps getting more.

And now my daughter is starting to dig the Duplo sets.

Did someone say LEGO?

Did someone say LEGO?

So, it’s only natural that we had to stop at the LEGO Store during our recent visit to Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan. Just try walking past it with young kids. You can’t.

It’s too inviting. And I swear it’s one of the first logos kids learn to spot.

The Mecca for builders out there, the LEGO Store inside Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

The Mecca for builders out there, the LEGO Store inside Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

It’s heaven for the builders out there, any age, any ability. And any price point. Want to build the Millennium Falcon? $300 and it’s yours. Want a mini figurine? $5 bucks and change.

The store is divided into sections, with a small area for the preschool crowd.

Building sets for the preschool crowd.

Building sets for the preschool crowd. My daughter’s stomping grounds.

Other areas were more themed – think “Star Wars” and … I don’t know, my son wouldn’t look at any other area, so that’s the only one I really saw.

If you don’t want a whole new set, there’s a great big wall ‘o LEGOs that you can peruse to create your own mini-figures. For $4.99 (plus tax), you can gather the pieces for your very own creature in the Pick a Model experience.

Wall 'o LEGOs

Wall ‘o LEGOs

It might just be me not knowing price points, but it seemed cheaper buying sets at this LEGO store than at big box stores.

FYI: The store has a digital screen where you can scan some special boxes for an interactive experience – you’ll see some of the sets come alive on screen. There are also store events you may want to join if you live in the area. Check out their website for more information.

If you go

LEGO store

Where: Oak Park Mall, 11149 W. 95th St., No. 18A, Overland Park, Kan.

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (may have extended hours around the holidays)

Website

 

Disclaimer: Visit Overland Park hosted my family’s visit to Overland Park, Kan. All opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Want to read more stories about Kansas City with a family-friendly focus? Check these out:

15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Magic At DreamWorks Ultimate Santa Adventure (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)

Exploring the Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)

Family Fun At Science City (Kansas City, Mo.)

Crown Center dining & entertainment (Kansas City, Mo.) 

Best Winter Getaway To Kansas City With Kids 

DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)

Sheraton Kansas City (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.)