It’s hard to believe, but June is flying by and the summer is now in full swing. We thought we’d compile a list of relatively low-cost or FREE activities for you to consider–try to do one activity, every other day, and by the time you complete all 30…SCHOOL WILL BE HERE!
And all will be sufficiently tired and happy. Give it a shot! And if you end up taking a great photograph of one of YOUR KC Kids having fun…email it to us at [email protected] We will consider showing off your darling(s) on an upcoming post!
1. Take the kids berry picking. With the wet spring, berry season has been delayed. Supposedly, late June should yield a bumper crop of the juicy orbs! Call ahead to confirm times and availability. We have many links to berry picking under “Outdoor Activities.”
2. If you haven’t already checked it out, Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is fantastic. Located in south Overland Park off 135th St. and Switzer, it is a FREE admission, full-day activity. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the petting zoo, playground equipment, dairy barn, fishing pond, pony rides, wagon ride, windmills and more. Some things like the fishing, ponies and wagons cost several dollars each. So take a few bucks! And a few quarters to pump into the animal-feed machines.
3. Take your boys to an old-fashioned barber and get them buzzed for the summer. Really good and short!!
4. Give back. It’s never too late to teach your kids the value of community service and doing good things for others. There are many, many local groups in desperate need of help this summer. Why not give a few hours of your time? Try contacting the Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater KC. YVC organizes youth and family helpers at Harvesters, the city’s largest food bank. Your help is needed sorting and boxing donated food! Location: 3801 Topping Ave., KCMO tel–913.432.9822 x305
5. Organize a block party. You remember the kind–where all of the neighbors pitch in and contribute to a great evening! Take the initiative–include everyone. We always do the egg toss and water balloon toss at ours…and everyone even throws in a few bucks for a DJ! The songs from High School Musical never sounded so good!
6. Kaleidoscope at Crown Center! Don’t make your kids wait until their school takes a field trip to visit this fantastic place! Through the generosity of Hallmark Cards, Kaleidoscope is a FREE hands-on creative workshop and one of Kansas City’s kid treasures! Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy at nearby Washington Square Park before heading over to the afternoon session at Kaleidoscope. **HINT** You must pick up ‘reservation tickets’ prior to the session–so go there first, then eat, then go back again for your actual session!
7. Price of gas got you down? Here’s a favorite activity of my son’s–either take the Metro bus to or park your own car at the Waldo terminals (75th and Wornall) and jump on the slick MAX bus and head downtown! The MAX is air-conditioned and oh-so-cool for a curious kid! We typically ride all the way to Crown Center (with swimming trunks and t-shirt on) and head straight for the fountains at Crown Center Square. Again, sack lunch is packed and eaten at one of the many picnic tables on the square. Let your little ones run themselves ragged in the blue LINK tunnels connecting Union Station, the Westin and Crown Center. A ride up the glass elevator to the top floors of the Westin is a sure crowd-pleaser and features a stunning view! Take the MAX bus back to Waldo and end the trip with a stop at McLain’s Bakery on Wornall Road–a KC institution featuring icebox cookies, cakes and THOSE BUTTER ROLLS!!!!
8. Did you know that there is a nature center smack-dab in the middle of Kansas City? Check out the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center. It’s located within Kauffman Legacy Park and is run by the Missouri Department of Conservation. And it’s all at Brush Creek and Troost – just east of the Plaza and south of the Nelson and north of UMKC. Visit this hands-on educational center for FREE and learn about Missouri’s plants and trees, about hunting and fishing, do crafts and woodworking – all surrounded by eight acres of beautiful park. Pack a lunch and have a picnic in the park after you’ve finished – or take your picnic to the Kansas City Sculpture Park on the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum and eat lunch with the shuttlecocks!
9. Head west and take in a ballgame at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City T-Bones play in an independent minor league – and their games are great fun. And relatively CHEAP! They often have fabulous promotions to get families out to the ballfield. This is the way that families were meant to enjoy baseball games. The ballpark is surrounded, of course, by the Legends at Village West – shopping and dining galore!
10. The Ice Cream Social Train runs out south on Friday nights this summer. Head down to Belton for a ride on the Belton, Grandview & Kansas City Railroad. The train leaves at 7 pm and runs for a 45 minute round trip. While on board, enjoy ice cream with your choice of toppings. There is even an open air car! Tickets for the Ice Cream train are $9.50 per person (2 and under are free) – but if you can find that Entertainment Book you bought for your child’s school fundraiser last fall – there’s usually a 2 for 1 coupon in there!
11. Head north, past the airport and spend a few hours exploring Weston’s Red Barn Farm. Famous for their fall apple and pumpkin-related activities, the Red Barn Farm offers awesome farm tours throughout the spring and summer. The kids will learn about the farm’s crops and animals and even take a hayride. They’ve added an optional observational Bee Hive too! Get a few families together for this one – tours require a minimum of 15. Afterwards, head south on I-29 and grab a bite to eat at Zona Rosa. Lots of family-friendly restaurant choices there and even a “town square” to let the kids run around in before you pile back in the car to head home!
12. You can even take your kids out for an afternoon and evening of fun exactly like their grandparents used to do. Cool Crest Family Fun Center in Independence has been around for over 50 years. I know my own dad hung out there as a kid! Cool Crest has four miniature golf courses, an arcade and batting cages. Be sure to sign up for the Coupon Club on their website for the best deals. Complete your day with a meal – before or after Cool Crest – at Clinton’s Soda Fountain on the Independence Square. Harry Truman worked at this soda fountain as a young man. Shakes, phosphates, floats, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and malts – yum!
13. You might not want to pay for the gas necessary to get to the Lake of the Ozarks – but did you know that Smithville Lake, just north of the metro area, offers boating, swimming beaches, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, hiking trails and more? Pack a cooler and go! The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge up there and they require a $1/swimmer fee. You can’t really beat that price! Head home via I-35 south and stop in at Stroud’s North for the best fried chicken and cinnamon rolls you will EVER eat! It’s a Kansas City institution.
14. As long as we’re on the subject, Stroud’s southern outpost is now located in Fairway. It’s right on Shawnee Mission Parkway in the Mission/Fairway/Roeland Park convergence. If you’re craving fried chicken south of the river, you might as well start your morning or afternoon at Wonderscope in Shawnee. Spend a few hours letting your kids play in Wonderscope’s many interactive exhibits – they’ll have so much fun, they won’t even notice how much they’re learning!
15. Escape the heat and head to your neighborhood Dickinson Theatre’s Summer Movie Series! What a deal–season tickets are available for 8 movies for a HUGE discount (cheap single admission tickets are available too)! The 8-week series begins in June, and features classic G-rated and PG-rated family movies, all with showtimes of 10:30am and noon. Kid-size concessions are even available at a discounted price!
16. Play Ball! Check out our previous article highlighting the city’s many batting cages. Grab a few dollars’ worth of quarters and hit the cages for a great time. Your kids will love it, even if they’re not on an organized team. And moms–hitting a 30-mile-an-hour pitch can be VERY therapeutic! Taking out your aggressions has never been so much fun–for you or your children!!
17. Check out the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on the Country Club Plaza. You know the one–right at the corner of 47th Street and J.C. Nichols Parkway (Broadway). The one with the four horses. The one that every bride MUST be photographed in front of. Treat your kiddos to a shake at the nearby Winstead’s and head across the street to the fountain to enjoy. And people watch. A bit of trivia–did you know that the 4 horses represent 4 major rivers: the Mississippi River, the Volga River, the Seine and the Rhine??
18. The Buck Stops Here! For a fun history lesson, check out the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in his hometown of Independence, MO. Simply take I-435N to US 24 HwyE and the museum will be on your left. Admission is $8 for adults, and only $3 for kids 6-15…and FREE for the under-5 set! Permanent exhibits explore Truman’s Presidential Years as well as his Life and Times.
19. Try this: KICK-THE-CAN ICE CREAM! You’ll need the following: (1) 3-lb coffee can w/ lid, cleaned, (1) 1-lb coffee can w/ lid, cleaned, 1/2 C sugar, 1t vanilla, 1C whipping cream, 1C half and half, crushed ice, rock salt. Directions: In the small can, mix cream, half and half, sugar and vanilla. Cover it with the plastic lid, tape shut w/ duct tape so it doesn’t come loose and place can inside the larger can. Fill bottom half of the space between the two cans w/ ice. Add 1C rock salt. Fill the rest of the space with ice and cover with lid. Tape the lid again…this can will be KICKED! Now…the fun part…have the kids literally kick the can back and forth for 10 minutes on a hard, flat surface ie)patio, driveway, etc. Or try rolling it back and forth between two kids. After 10 minutes, remove lids and scrape ice cream from sides of small can and stir. If needed, you can add more ice and salt if it starts to melt before your ice cream is thick enough and then kick some more. Warning!!! THIS STUFF IS ADDICTING. AND GOOD. AND FATTENING. Especially when you add in chocolate syrup, crushed cookies and candy. yummmmmmmm
20. Head out to one of Johnson County’s lakes (Shawnee Mission Park, Kill Creek Park or Heritage Park) and rent a pedal boat or canoe for $6. You’ll have a great time with you child and you’ll both be worn out afterwards! Cool down afterwards with authentic Mexican paletas (fruit or veggie-based freezer pops) for less than $2 a piece at Paleteria Chihuahua or Paleteria Tropicana (they both have locations all over the city but the closest to these lakes are Paleteria Chihuahua at 7769 Quivira Road, Lenexa, 913-631-3531 or 1155 Claiborne Road, Olathe, 913-768-1159. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Paleteria Tropicana has a Shawnee location at 10928 W. 74th Terrace, Shawnee, 913-631-4900. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.) Paletas come in diverse flavors like pepino (cucumber with chili), tamarind, mango con chili, guava, peanut butter, cookies and cream, coconut, pecan, strawberry, rompope (eggnog), arroz and even cantaloupe.
21. Head to your local park and catch a great theater production. Shawnee Mission Park’s Theatre in the Park has a great season planned. Tickets are very reasonable for adults and kids and free for those under 3. Gladstone Theatre in the Park is offering two production this year and admission is FREE! If you think your kids might sit through Shakespeare, be sure to check out the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival at Southmoreland Park near the Nelson. Paul Mesner Puppets puts on a short show for the kids before each performance.
22. Pack a lunch for your family and for the ducks, then head to Loose Park near the Plaza. You can enjoy a picnic in the grass, feed the many ducks that reside in Loose Park’s pond, then head over to the playground and the spray-ground to round out your afternoon and wear your kids out!
23. Stay in your own backyard! Head to the dollar store or click here to buy a. Or . Fill up some and launch a neighborhood-wide assault. Your very littlest kiddos will love an (easy to order online or cheap to buy at the dollar store) – and you won’t have to pack a suitcase to go to the big swimming pool.
24. Mid-summer is the beginning of the local fair and festival season. In late July, the county fairs start up – check out Platte County, Missouri and Douglas County, Kansas for some old-fashioned fun. After the first of August, the Johnson County, Kansas fair in Gardner is great fun. The kids love to walk through the livestock barns and check out all of the 4H competitors. And the rides! And the corndogs! And the carnival games! And the cotton candy! Don’t miss the parade out in Gardner. It’s pretty cool!
25. Let the kids sleep out in the backyard with sleeping bags, flash lights and snacks!! (See how long they actually last outside!)
26. Buy an inexpensive disposable camera for your child(ren). Let them document their summer outings and fun times…from their perspective. You will cherish these pictures!
27. Have your kids draw some pictures on colorful paper–use fingerpaints, markers, glitter…and deliver them to residents at a nearby nursing home. The residents will appreciate seeing your children as much as they appreciate the art!!
28. Make an ice-cream sandwich station for your kids. Ahead of time, place a few tablespoons of softened ice cream in between 2 store-bought, soft cookies. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze. At dessert time–set out several paper plates, each with crushed toppings on it. Try Oreos, M&Ms, nuts, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, etc. Let each kid “roll” the edges of his or her ice cream sandwich into the toppings. YUM
29. We’ve already clued you all in on all of the fantastic FREE kid movies that can be seen all over town this summer. Check out our feature blog post with all the details. Have a fun evening under the stars!
30. Try one of the farmer’s markets found throughout the city. You might let each child spend $4 or $5 picking out the produce of his/her choice…they’ll enjoy visiting with the local growers, and who knows? It might actually cause them to eat their vegetables! Markets can be found at Crown Center, Brookside, Zona Rosa, Briarcliff, Downtown Overland Park, City Market, Parkville, Minor Park area in south KC, Liberty, Shawnee, Olathe and Independence to name a few!