Friday, June 27, 2014

The Perfect Kansas City Vacation for Young Kids

Our family of six just took a 4-day, 4-night trip (June 2014) to Kansas City!  I did quite a bit of planning for this trip and I'm happy to say it ended up being the PERFECT trip and it cost us less than $1,000... gas, food, hotel, included!

Here is a list of exactly what we did and when...

9am to 11:30am: Hotel pool
Lunch: Nikki's Pizza
1pm: Crown Center - Chip's Chocolate Factory, Kids Exhibit, Legoland
Supper: Arthur Bryants BBQ
Evening: Hotel pool

10am: Crown Center - Kaleidoscope, Aquarium
Lunch: Fritz's Train Restaurant
Afternoon: Hotel pool
Supper: Chinese in Liberty
Evening: Movie at the hotel

10am: KC City Market
11am: KC Northern 50 cent railroad rides
Lunch: T-Rex Cafe
1pm - 5pm: Kidscape Exhibit at Johnson County Museum
Supper: Ice cream at Glace Artistan Ice Cream and Nikki's Pizza at the hotel
Evening: Hotel pool

9am: Donuts at LeMar's
10am: Hotel pool
11am: Check out!


Now let's break it down....


To save some money, we stayed just outside of Kansas City in the suburb of Liberty, MO.  I chose Liberty because we were traveling in from Iowa, so it was right on our way into the city.  It's just a 15 minute drive to downtown KC, Missouri and was the perfect location at a much cheaper price than all the KC hotels.

We stayed at Sleep Inn and Suites, which I would highly recommend to any family with kids, especially aged 12 and younger.  It cost us just $89 a night (with our AAA discount), has a great hot breakfast (sausage, eggs, bacon, muffins, waffles, cereal, bagles, toast, biscuits... what more could you ask for?) and the best part.... the pool!

It has a large 1-foot toddler area with a great slide, multiple sprayers, and four buckets that continually dump water into the pool from above.   This is where my 6-month old and 3-year-old spent all their time.

The rest of the pool is 3"9 and is perfect for young-children swimming.  Of course, there's a hot tub for the parents and also a great slide for anyone over 42 inches tall.  (My 6-year-old and husband both LOVED the big slide.)

We stayed in a King-Bed suite.  That way our 6-month old could sleep with my husband and I.  We had two kids sleep on the pull-out sofa and one slept in a sleeping bag on top of the couch cushions! It was perfect!

My only complaint about the hotel is that they allow birthday parties to rent out the pool.  There were two parties during our 4-night stay and the pool was quite crazy and filled with kids during those times.  However, the kids seemed to listen to the adults and stayed out of the way of our little ones, for the most part.

On Saturday night, we had TWO birthday parties next door to us and there was a lot of slamming doors as they ran from one room to the next.  But it was nothing a quite complain call to the front desk couldn't stop.  I called around 9pm, after my kids had gone to sleep.... the slamming was quieted by 9:15.


We ate at a couple places in Liberty on our vacation.  Our favorite had to be Nicky's Pizza.  It's a local place with GREAT pizza and wings.  We also loved that there were tables in back next to video games... so our kids could pretend to play all the games while we waited for our food, without bothering anyone.  We enjoyed their pizza so much the first time, we ordered it again for carry out on our last night!

We also had Chinese one night... but it was nothing too impressive.  There are a lot of options close to the hotel!

I also need to mention a great spot to stop for coffee.  Of course, they have Starbucks and a lot of chain options, but we found a local place just a few minutes from the hotel that was better (and cheaper) than Starbucks!  Papa's Coffee Express.  Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

And one more place I should mention.... we have a tradition of eating donuts each Sunday. This trip we got our donuts at LaMar's.   Highly recommended.


During our 4-day trip, we ventured into Kansas City, MO three times.  (Like I said, it's a quick 15 minutes from Liberty!)  It's the City of Fountains, people.... so make sure you check a few!  You used to be able to run through a lot of them, but they stopped that silliness (darn!) back in 2012 for safety reasons.  *sigh*  Oh well, they are still beautiful to look at!

CROWN CENTER - Kansas City, MO

One of the big tourist destinations in Kansas City, MO is the Crown Center. We went here on Thursday and Friday of our trip.  You have to park in a parking garage, so be aware if you have a tall vehicle. (We had a luggage carrier on the top of our car that we had to leave in our hotel room so we'd fit!)

We hit all the hot spots at Crown Center, so here they are in no particular order: (FYI, this is a tourist spot, so a lot of the food places are overpriced, but you have to expect that!)

Chip's Chocolate Factory - It's a great place for delicious chocolate treats.  They also make their chocolate right in the store, so it can be fun to watch.  You can call ahead to see when they will have demonstrations, or you can just take a chance and hope they are making their sweet treats right when you walk in!

We got peanut butter cups, sea salt caramel dark chocolate, and some little chocolate lego men.  They were all delicious. (And messy!)  We also went to Chip's Candy Factory while we were there.  That's just a store with a lot of candy. :)

Kids Exhibit - The Crown Center almost always has a free kids exhibit for the children to walk through and play in.  While we were there it was the Super Kids Save the World exhibit, focusing on recycling.

Our kids enjoyed the exhibit, but we honestly didn't stay long because it was kind of crowded and not very large.  Still... it's free! So check it out!

LEGOLAND - I'd say the #1 place that most people go with kids is Legoland.  (However, I definitely wouldn't say it's the best place to go...)  We bought our tickets ahead of time and did a combination ticket with the Sea Life Aquarium as well.  However, when we got to KC, there were "buy one adult, get one kid in free" coupons EVERYWHERE!  I wish we would've done that instead... it would have saved us probably $40.   Moral of the story: Look for deals!!

My kids did love Legoland.  There were two rides, but only my 6-year-old wanted to go on the 2nd ride.  And my 3 and 4-year-olds were actually frightened by the first ride, but that doesn't mean much because they are frighten easily.   My entire family enjoyed the 4D movies they offered.  (They show four different movies, one every 15 minutes.)

Overall, there was plenty to keep the kids busy and we went in the late afternoon on a weekday (recommended) so it wasn't too busy. We spent about 2 hours there before we were ready to leave.

I wore my 6-month-old in my K-tan wrap for a lot of the vacation.  She took most of her naps there and made it easy for me to interact with the other kiddos!

Sea Life Aquarium - We also went to the Sea Life Aquarium at the Crown Center.  We went here on a Friday morning at 10:00.  Again, it wasn't too busy, but we did have to wait in a line to get in.  (Even though we already had our tickets.)

There was plenty to see and a play place to run around in at the end.  The walk-thru of the aquarium took us about 90 minutes.  (We took our time and tried to see it all!)  Our only disappointment was that we didn't get to see any large sea turtles.  I guess they have one, but it's just in the big tank somewhere, so there's no guarantee that you'll see it.  (At least, that's what one of the workers told us.) 

Hallmark Kaleidoscope - This place was our favorite stop in the Crown Center and it was FREE! (Who says you get what you pay for?!)  They offer 40 minute sessions where you can go to as many craft stations as you can.  Plus, you get to take home everything you make!!

Our favorite art station was the glow-in-the-dark room.  They had paint that dried immediately and some cool lights that you used to make art on the walls.   There was also a place where you drew a picture and then they cut it into a puzzle for you!  VERY cool. 

Fritz's Train Restaurant - The must-eat place for kids at the Crown Center is Fritz's.  (Although, you could also go to one in Shawnee or the original one in Kansas City, KS.)  At this restaurant, you order your food by phone and then it is delivered by a train that runs on a track along the ceiling.  We waited about 15 minutes to get into the restaurant, but the service was fast and fun!   Our kids loved it!

Don't expect a gourmet meal, however.  The food reminded us of a typical fast-food joint.  However, we did really enjoy their strawberry shakes! 

And the kids got engineer hats! 

Arthur Bryants Barbeque - Now I'm going to talk about some great food outside the Crown Center.  We were told we must eat some barbecue while in town.   We chose to head to the original Arthur Bryant's on Brooklyn Avenue. (You can eat at other locations all around the KC area.)  It felt very authentic and my husband ate his favorite meal there.  It was just piles of meat tossed on a plate with bread and fries.  Delicious.  The line was long the entire time we were there, but the service was fast! 

T-Rex Cafe - For one meal we headed into Kansas City, KS to eat at the T-Rex Cafe.  This is a place built for kids.  We ate at noon on a Saturday and we had to wait 35 minutes.  However, they have a large store you can browse while you wait so, of course, we ended up purchasing little toy dinosaurs for the kids while we waited.

The food was great and service was fast and the atmosphere was VERY cool.  The kids loved it.

Glace Artisan Ice Cream - My husband is always craving ice cream, so I knew I should be prepared to take us to the best Ice Cream shop in KC.  I did a lot of research and we decided Glace Artisan Ice Cream was the place to go.  It has very unique flavors (Goat Cheese & Honey, Maple Bacon, Salted Pretzel... to name a few) and it is all made from fresh, local ingredients.

My kids got the Madagascar Vanilla, Peanut Butter Chocolate, and the Passion Fruit Sorbet.  My husband loved their Boulevard 6th Glass.  (It tasted just like the beer!) Of course, you can ask to try all the flavors before you pick your poison!

KC City Market - On Saturday morning, we hit up the KC City Market.  Parking was INSANE.  We ended up walking 6 blocks just to get there, but we made it!  The market was very cool if you like fresh food.  Our kids weren't too impressed with the market itself, but lucky for us, it was street performer day!  There were a bunch of local street performers there putting on really great 15 minute shows!

Our favorite was a guy who juggled fire while on top of a unicycle.

Kansas City Northern Railroad - This was my 3-year-old son's favorite part of the trip!  You pay 50 cents per person to ride a miniature train around a 1/2 mile track, twice. It's awesome!

There were a few curves, a bridge, and -- the best part -- a tunnel!

This was one of the cheapest place we went and was so. much. fun.  Do it! You won't regret it!

Kidscape at Johnson County Museum - This is another FREE exhibit and it turned out to be the best thing we did all weekend.  (In my opinion.)  Kidscape is in Shawnee, KS and is a miniature town located inside a museum and it's all set up for hours of pretend play.

There is a book store with books, a fashion boutique with dolls, a post office with mail you can deliver all over town, a city hall with toy trains and cars, a hospital where you can perform surgery on a dummy and take care of newborns, and a theater with a real stage and audience.  My kids let their imaginations run WILD.  Check out all the pictures to see.

They even had a Wii available to play games.  (My husband and I played Wii tennis for awhile while the kids played happily!)

Do NOT miss this FREE fun if you're visiting KC with young kids.  We spent a solid 3 hours in this place and we would have stayed longer, but it was closing.  (Yes, we got kicked out at closing!)


That's it for our Kansas City vacation!!  I hope this helps you plan your perfect KC Vacation with little ones.  I couldn't have been happier with how ours turned out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Father's Day Questionnaire

Perfect gift for dad! I just had my 3, 4, and 6 year old fill it out. (I wrote the answers for the 3 & 4 year old.)  I loved the responses they had and I'm sure their dad will too!

Just right click to save and then print!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Smores In The Oven

I did it.  I just made smores in my oven and it's not even winter.  It's actually a beautiful, spring evening.  Why did I make smores in my oven?  Because we had all the ingredients, three of the four kids were in bed, and I wanted smores!

And you know what?  They were delicious. 

Step One:  Purchase marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate for planned camp out. (Make sure you purchase enough to fulfill one {or two} surprise cravings before said camp out.)

Step Two: Turn your oven broiler on low.  (A broiler is just like a campfire, only upside down!)   Cut your marshmallow in half and place sticky side down on one graham cracker.  (Or two.... you might as well enjoy this craving to its fullest!)  Put it on a pan and stick it in the broiler for approximately five minutes.  Watch it carefully, so it doesn't melt or burn!

Note: Some people put the chocolate in the oven as well, but that was far too melt-y for me!  The chocolate will still melt instantly upon touching the warm marshmallow, just like it does around the campfire! 

Step Three: Take graham cracker / marshmallow out of oven, add chocolate and another graham cracker.

Step Four: Eat and enjoy!!

... then decide whether or not you'll admit you had this guilty snack to your husband when he gets home! Haha!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Magic Plastic Bags (A Water Science Experiment)

This was a fun experiment that didn't take much time and we had all the supplies inside our house. (No pre-planning, shopping necessary!)  I did this with my 6-year-old, 4-year-old, and 3-year-old and they all loved it!

1) Sharpened pencils (the more the merrier!)
2) Large plastic bag
3) Water

The idea is to find out what will happen if you press a sharp pencil into a bag full of water?

First, ask your kids what they think will happen.... then, let them try it out!

My kids loved this and were able to put all 14 of our pencils in without a drip of water coming out!

The science behind the experiment is that the plastic bags are made of polymers.  Polymers are chains of molecules that are flexible, so they give the bag its stretchiness.  When the pencil pokes the bag, the stretchy plastic hugs the pencil, creating a watertight seal.  The bag doesn't leak!

Now, for the fun part.... pulling out the pencil!  (This is why we did this outside, although this could be done over a sink!)

And you don't even have to ask, I'll tell you.... yes, we did this over and over and over again.