There is only one place where you can find Santa Claus, holiday music, a Crayola-themed playland, Shrek the musical, and a 100-ft Christmas tree all within walking distance. That place is Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Now more than ever, Crown Center is the place where families can create memories for a lifetime. From underwater sea attractions and a LEGOLAND Discovery Center to theatrical shows for kids of all ages. Crown Center truly is your Christmas headquarters. Traveling with a toddler to Kansas City during the holidays has never been so easy … and fun!
Where to Stay
With over 729 guest rooms featuring a signature Heavenly Bed®, the Westin KC at Crown Center is definitely designed for comfort and production. After a busy day at LEGOLAND and SEALIFE, we had a hard time getting out of the pillow top mattress with the 250-thread count sheets. The AAA Four-Diamond Resort’s Midwestern hospitality and a long list of amenities are perfect for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or to de-stress after a hectic day of business meetings. Located in the heart of downtown, the Westin is encompassed by Hallmark’s Crown Center. Known as a city within a city, Crown Center offers 85 acres of shops, restaurants, and theatres all at the Hotel’s front steps and a stroller-ride away.
What to Do
* Named “One of the Five Best Theaters for Young Audiences” in the US by TIME magazine, the Coterie Theatre provides unique theater experiences for children (and adults) of all ages. While it took several minutes for my toddler to warm up to the green ogre in “Shrek the Musical”, once Donkey came out and stumbled around on stage he was ready to join in and sing along. Children are encouraged to sit in front of the stage on the floor and sing and clap along if they want. The professional not-for-profit theatre is nationally recognized for its one-of-a-kind programming and is definitely not a miss! Check the website for show listings, times and ticket prices. “Shrek the Musical” runs now until December 30th.
* It’s like your stepping into the biggest box of LEGO® bricks EVER. With over 2 million bricks under one roof, two LEGO rides, a 4D cinema, iconic landmarks in the LEGO Miniland, and LEGO workshops taught by a LEGO master themselves … LEGOLAND is the ultimate place for LEGO fans – young and old. My toddler particularly had fun in the Duplo Village complete with an animal slide, Lego animals to sit on and giant soft bricks (exclusive to LEGOLAND Discovery Centers). If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to live in a LEGO house … Duplo Village is the place to find out. This is only a small brick out of the LEGO bucket. Prepare to spend 1-2 hours in LEGOLAND as there is plenty to see and do to keep the kiddos busy for no less than that. Click here for ticket prices, hours of operation, and special events.
* Ever felt an alive Sea Star or a Sea Urchin or come nose to nose with a shark? I have. And you can too at the SEA LIFE Aquarium next to LEGOLAND in Crown Center. My toddler was awestruck watching the Jellyfish and Seahorses in their habitat. And standing on top of glass-bottom bridge looking down at the face of an ugly green eel was where we stayed for at least 20 minutes. Nemo (aka: Clownfish) was immediately recognized, the Octopus was called “icky”, and the Sea Stars looked like Patrick from Spongebob. But it was the journey through the underwater tunnel as sharks and rays swam overhead that left us all speechless. With 5,000+ creatures including Sharks, Seahorses, Octopus, Jellyfish, and Rays, fun talks and feed shows throughout the day, an interactive Rock/Touch pool Experience, and much more … plan to spend at least an hour at the SEA LIFE Aquarium. Click here for ticket prices, hours, and the event schedule.
* One of the nation’s tallest Christmas trees is the 100-foot-tall Mayor’s tree in Crown Center and the centerpiece for an illuminating holiday celebration (see main picture). The beautiful tree is strung with more than 7,200 white lights and more than 1,200 ornaments and stands taller than the famous trees at the White House and Rockefeller Center. The Douglas fir is donated by Cascade Timber Consulting, Inc. of Oregon and weighs approximately 11,000 pounds. After the holidays, the tree is cut into commemorative ornaments (a century-old tradition) and sold to benefit the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, which assists the city’s less fortunate. For more information call the Crown Center Information Line at 816-274-8444, check the website for more information, or click here to pre-order this special ornament today.
* Next to the Coterie Theatre is Santa’s Crayola Christmasland where children can play on super-sized Crayola® products, while waiting to tell Santa all their holiday wishes. If you time it right, the little ones will not only get a chance to see jolly ol’ St. Nick, but also Perry the Penguin, Casey Bear and other costume characters from now until December 24th. This attraction is FREE so make sure you have some time to stand in line – which is totally worth the wait.
* There is no place in Kansas City – or any city – quite like Union Station … especially at Christmastime. Built in 1914, Union Station encompasses 850,000 square feet and originally featured 900 rooms. In its prime as a working train station, accommodated tens of thousands of passengers every year. At its peak during WWII, an estimated one million travelers passed through the Station. The Grand Hall’s 95-foot ceiling, three 3,500-pound chandeliers and the six-foot wide clock hanging in the Station’s central arch was an experience in itself. It left me speechless. It is there where you can see the largest indoor Christmas tree standing at over 30-feet-tall, take the kids on an indoor miniature train ride, catch the Polar Express movie, and so much more. Located via The Link at the Westin and within walking distance of Crown Center, Union Station is a breathtaking and unforgettable experience. Check the calendar and website for more information.
Where to eat
Since when does “healthy” and “burrito” go together unless it’s a veggie burrito? Z-Teca Fresh Mexican Grill serves made from scratch Mexican Food built to order and is incredibly delicious with a nutritious kick. While the price is upscale … the burritos fit the price. I could barely eat my ginormous grande burrito and the service was even bigger. The staff at Z-Teca was incredibly friendly, quick, and helpful. They helped pack my toddler’s quesadilla in a kid-friendly takeout box and remembered to throw in EXTRA napkins – sometimes it’s the little things, y’know?! I highly recommend Z-Teca while visiting Crown Center. The burrito’s are simple, the price is “up there”, and the location is busy. But it is all worth it if you ask me (and my toddler … who finished his cheesy quesadilla in record time).
Mexican not your cup of tea? I’ve heard Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant delivers their signature burgers to your table by an overhead deliver system (aka: choo-choo train). But that’s for your to find out.
Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Mo is where to be during the holidays for luxury, shopping, dining, and fun for any person of an
Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of: The Procrastinating Mommy” – a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom.
Disclosure: Our visit to Crown Center in Kansas City, MO and these locations (in exception to Z-Teca) were sponsored by the Kansas City CVB. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own (and my toddlers of course).