Christmas in Kansas City

Ask anyone that knows me – I’m a little obsessed with Christmas.

I love to cover my house in twinkly lights inside and out. I have Christmas decorations on anything that’s standing still. I start Christmas shopping in May and can barely wait until Halloween is over to bring out the Christmas decorations. I bake way too many cookies. I watch all the classic Christmas movies.

I just simply adore Christmastime.

One of the most important parts of Christmas to me are the traditions and memories we make for our daughter this time of year. In my family, traditions have always been a big thing. When I met my husband, I was excited to start sharing our family traditions with him and even more excited to create some new ones for our own little family.

We have created some fun Christmas traditions together as a family. We pick out a new Hallmark holiday ornament each year and spend way too much time decorating our tree and remembering the special meanings behind each ornament. We have friends and family over for craft nights, game nights, Christmas movie nights, and cookie decorating days. One of my favorite traditions with my family has become, each year we create a special Christmas Eve box that includes new pajamas for everyone, a new Christmas book and movie, and some hot cocoa, popcorn, and our favorite Christmas treats. On Christmas Eve, we open the box, get to put on our new pajamas (ensuring we all have on good pajamas for those Christmas morning photo ops) and snuggle up with some hot chocolate and watch our new Christmas movie together.

Since having our daughter three years ago, we have discovered that Kansas City really is a magical place at Christmastime. There are so many wonderful and festive things to do with small children throughout Kansas City that can create beautiful memories and the start of some fantastic family holiday traditions. Here are just a few of our family’s favorites.

Great with Young Kids

  • Plaza Lights – Each year, on Thanksgiving night, the switch is thrown to light up the Country Club Plaza with beautiful strands of lights. The ceremony takes place on Main Stage at Nichols Road & Pennsylvania, by Brio Tuscan Grille. There are pre-show performances that begin at 5:00 p.m. and the actual lights are turned on at 6:45 p.m. The evening wraps up with fireworks above the Plaza and more music as everyone enjoys the official Kansas City kick-off to the Christmas season. With little ones the crowds can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. The lights stay lit until mid-January. One of our favorite family traditions has become driving down to the Plaza, stopping for a coffee and hot chocolate at one of the coffeeshops on the Plaza and spending sometime walking from store to store just slowing down to enjoy the moment. Also be sure to check out the nearby Brookside neighborhoods. Many of them decorate big, and the streets are often lined with cars slowly driving through to enjoy all the lights.
  • Crown Center & Union Station – Crown Center and Union Station both have some of the most beautiful holiday displays in town. There are plenty of opportunities for some truly amazing photos among all of the lights, trees and trains. Union Station has their Holiday Kick-Off Ceremony in mid-November and that includes the lighting of the largest indoor Christmas tree in Kansas City, holiday music, and a chance to ride the mini Christmas train. The train and holiday exhibits remain up until January 1st. Union Station will also play host to the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train from December 15th – 19th. Tickets are available and you will wait in line, but if you have a train obsessed little one, it is a fun experience. Crown Center lights up the Mayor’s Christmas Tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. The 100-foot tree is one of the tallest in the country and stands tall near the Crown Center ice terrace where you can teach your little one how to ice skate through mid-March, or at least teach them how to stand wobbly on ice skates. Crown Center is also home to one of the best Santa’s in Kansas City. Each year it is easy to convince my little one that this is the REAL Santa. There is usually a pretty good line on the weekends, but there are plenty of things to explore while you wait. This year, Santa is making his home in Gingerbread Station inside the Level 1 Showcase at Crown Center. They do take photos of your child(ren) with Santa which can be purchased, but they also don’t frown on you bringing your own camera and capturing your own memories.
  • Christmas in the Park Christmas in the Parklocated just off Raytown Road on Longview Park Drive, is a drive-thru Christmas light display. They have over 170 animated displays and over 300,000 lights. This fun display runs from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve each year. The annual event is kicked off with a Christmas in the Sky event on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving each year. Christmas in the Sky has musical performances and of course, fireworks. Christmas in the Park admission is free, but they do accept donations for local charities. This is a great way to enjoy some amazing Christmas light displays with your little ones from the warmth of your own car. The lights turn on each night at 5:30, and the weekends can get crazy with long lines waiting to get in, so be prepared for the wait. Pack some snacks for the little ones to keep them from asking “are we there yet?” 100 times.
  • Fairy Princess at the Kansas City Museum – This year, the Fairy Princess is making her appearance at the Kansas City Museum in the Historic Garment District at 800 Broadway Blvd. while the Kansas City Museum is undergoing some construction work. The Fairy Princess has been a Kansas City tradition for over 80 years. Tickets go on sale early and tend to sell out fast.
  • Santa Dives with Penguins at the Kansas City Zoo – For a truly unique Santa experience, the Kansas City Zoo has Santa diving with the penguins at the Helzberg Penguin Plaza. This Santa visit is free with a zoo admission, weekends starting November 24th through December 17th. Santa will make his appearance in the penguin exhibit from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. on weekend days. You will be able to pause for a photo or two while Santa and his penguin friends play.

Holiday Traditions to Start with Older Kids

  • Winterfest at Worlds of Fun – This year you can start a new holiday tradition with your family at Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun has transformed the amusement park into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights, Christmas shows and chances to meet many of your favorite Christmas characters. While not all park rides and attractions will be open, you will be able to ride select rides, decorate Christmas cookies and even ice skate while enjoying hot chocolate and funnel cake.
  • See a Christmas Show  – Take in a ballet and see The Nutcracker at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Watch A Christmas Carol at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

For a more complete list of all of the Christmas time activities in Kansas City, check out our Guide to the Holidays.

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