26 Summer Fun and Educational Activities for Families in Kansas City

For the past 3 years, my son Max and I have participated in Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure. It’s a neat program that was started by the The Interpretive Site Coalition, designed to get kids learning about their city, and to publicize and get people visiting great natural and historical sites in the area.

The way it works is you pick up your Passport at any of the 26 participating sites (you may want to call first as they sometimes run out), and you take your Passport with you anytime you visit one of the sites. They will stamp your Passport for you before you leave. When you’ve collected at least 16 stamps, you turn in your book, and you will get a prize. In the past, the prize bags have included things like compass, water bottle, magnifying glass, little adventure items like that. We’ve never actually won, but one of these years we will.

You don’t have to participate in the program to enjoy the wonderful sites involved, so I thought I’d list them here. They make great destinations either way. Most sites offer all kinds of events, classes, camps, and scout programs, so be sure to click on any you are interested in for more information. I arranged them by price, and all descriptions and pictures (unless otherwise noted) are taken directly from the prospective websites.

NOTE: I did my best to provide accurate addresses and pricing information, but please double check for yourself before you go somewhere. Many of the free activities are independently operated and do accept donations.

Free

From the website: “Not only is there an outdoors wetlands at the Discovery Center, but an indoor marsh as well.”

1. Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center
4750 Troost Ave.
Kansas City, MO 64110

“Discover ten acres of gardens, wetlands, walkways and wildlife that surround the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center building, located near the banks of Brush Creek at Troost in Kauffman Legacy Park. The environmentally friendly building houses information and outreach services of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.”

Photo by the Missouri Department of Tourism

2. Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum
6601 Swope Parkway
Kansas City, MO

“”The Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum in Swope Park tells the story of the stirring events of the Battle of Westport, the largest Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi.”

“From the tower of the center, visitors can see the panoramic view where Union General Samuel Curtis  constructed a defensive line stretching for ten miles along the banks of the Big Blue River.”

“From here visitors may also travel along the 32-mile self-guided tour of the Battle of Westport  designated by the Monnett Battle of Westport Fund markers.   The Battle of Westport covered more than 25 square miles during the three days in October 1864.”

Max and his buddy Xander at Burr Oak.

3. Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center
1401 NW Park Rd.
Blue Springs, MO 64015

Blind Wife Lindsay and I first met here. We hiked with our kids (and one of Charlie’s kids as pictured), and knew right away that we were meant to be friends.  They have a free nature scavenger hunt activity for kids to do on the hike. They also offer neat classes.

“Join us for special events, hike a trail on your own or get acquainted with some fantastic Missouri wildlife. Free and open to the public. Teachers are invited to schedule a program that will enhance grade-level expectations.”

Oliver, feeding the baby goats at Deanna Rose

4. Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead
13800 Switzer Rd
Overland Park, KS

**NOTE: This is only free Monday-Thursday! Friday-Sunday, it’s $2/person.

We love Deanna Rose. If you love animals, and hands on historical exhibits, you have to go there. You can easily spend the whole day there. I love feeding and petting the animals, but there are also picnic areas, playgrounds, hayrides, and exhibits.

“Designed to depict a turn-of-the-century family farm, the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead has almost 200 animals and birds of prey, vegetable and flower gardens, a one-room country schoolhouse, an old-time fishing pond, pony rides and more.”

A few years ago, Max did a survival hike at Ernie Miller with his Campfire troop. It was incredibly informative and fun. Here they are building a shelter that will protect them against extreme temperatures and snow.

5. Ernie Miller Nature Center
909 North Highway 7
Olathe, KS 66061

I’ve never actually stepped foot inside the center, but the grounds are breathtakingly beautiful. They offer a survival class for kids that’s really fun and incredibly educational. It’s great for scout groups.

“The Center provides an opportunity for learning, understanding, and admiring nature’s ever-changing ways. It is the focal point of cultural historical, and environmental education programming offered to all ages by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. The Center contains displays, live animals, and Nature’s Corner Gift Shop, along with a friendly, knowledgeable staff eager to share their knowledge of nature.”

F.L. Schlagle Library in KCK

6. F. L. Schlagle Library
4051 West Dr.
Kansas City, KS 66109

“The Mr. & Mrs. F. L. Schlagle Library and Environmental Learning Center is one of only two public library environmental learning centers in the United States.  Four full-time professional environmental and science educators are available to help you make the most of our resources, including:

Books, magazines, field guides and teaching resources

Computers and science databases

Binoculars, GPS units, and MP3 players for self-guided tour

Conference room and classrooms

Butterfly and Lewis and Clark gardens

Nature trail map

Bird feeding station

Live animals

Monthly programs

The Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Schlagle Library and Environmental Learning Center is the result of a unique partnership between the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, USD 500 and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County Parks and Recreation Department.”

George Owens Nature Park

7. George Owens Nature Park
1601 S. Speck Rd.
Independence, MO

“George Owens Nature Park has given families the opportunity to reconnect with their natural environment since 1977. The park is open year round and provides 86 acres of beautiful forest, lakes, hiking trails and wildlife. Explore the rustic nature center and find new seasonal exhibits. Get up close to a snake, touch antlers, or count the rings on a tree. Experience the beauty of a 150 gallon freshwater aquarium with Missouri fish or peer into a 75 gallon turtle enclosure. The possibilities for adventure are endless.”

Harris Kearney House

8. Harris-Kearney House
4000 Baltimore
Kansas City, MO 64111

“Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Harris-Kearney House serves as a public museum as well as the office headquarters for the Westport Historical Society.”

“When the restoration is complete, Kansas City’s oldest brick home will  once again convey its 1855 grandeur.

The Westport Historical Society is pleased to welcome visitors of all ages to tour the mansion museum and experience a part of history.”

Kansas City Museum

9. Kansas City Museum
3218 Gladstone Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64123

“During the Museum Restoration we will continue to maintain regular operating hours and admission is FREE.”

“The Kansas City Museum is Kansas City’s first, and most important, museum of local and regional history. The museum is housed at the former urban estate of lumber baron and civic leader Robert A. Long and his family. The 3 acre plot is located atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River Valley, adjacent to historic Kessler Park and Cliff Drive, a state Scenic By-way.”

Kemper Outdoor Education Center

10. Kemper Outdoor Education Center
8201 Jasper Bell
Blue Springs, Missouri 64015

“Nestled in the Fleming Park Nature Preserve on the east side of Lake Jacomo, the Kemper Outdoor Education Center is a haven for nature lovers and educators.”

“Inside the Nature Center you’ll find rock and fossil exhibits, a natural resource library, mounted examples of native wildlife. The grounds feature nature trails, butterfly and water gardens, wildlife viewing areas, an arboretum, a shelter house, large pond and a day camp site.”

“The Kemper Outdoor Education Center offers outdoor Team Building programs for groups as young as 5th graders through adults. Groups face multiple challenges that foster communication, cooperation, problem solving, group cohesiveness,  mutual respect, support, conflict resolution, broader perspective, sensitivity to others (especially those a bit different than oneself), effort, excellence, stress management, frustration tolerance, out-of-the-box thinking, strategic planning, risk taking, confidence, and a sense of connectedness to the natural world.”

Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park

11. Lakeside Nature Center
4701 East Gregory Boulevard
Kansas City, MO 64132

“Experience the wild world of nature in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri. Lakeside Nature Center, located in Swope Park, at 4701 East Gregory Blvd, exhibits wildlife native to the area, offers educational programs, coordinates community conservation projects, and is one of Missouri’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities.”

Legler Barn Museum

12. Legler Barn Museum
14907 W 87th Street Pkwy
Lenexa, KS 66215

“The mission of the Legler Barn Museum Complex is to preserve, collect, exhibit, research, and educate the public about the history of the region of Lenexa, Kansas from prehistoric times to the present.This Stone Barn, built by Adam Legler in 1864, was orginally situated on the Santa Fe Trail at the corner of 95th and Quivira, Lenexa, Kansas. In 1983 it was reconstructed at its current location in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park in Lenexa. Today the barn houses a museum operated by the Lenexa Historical Society. Guided tours are provided by staff and volunteers.”

One of the picnic areas in the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary

13. Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary
407 North Lafrenz Road
Liberty, Missouri 64068

“THE NATURE SANCTUARY: This is a private nonprofit nature sanctuary with 100 acres of land. This means we are not supported by city, state, or federal government tax dollars. The Missouri Department of Conservation leases us the Rush Creek Conservation area, but they do not pay for operating costs.”

“NATURE CENTER: Located at the end of the driveway is the Nature Center. Inside are pleasant things such as: restrooms, drinking fountains, exhibits (including live animals), classrooms, and a gift shop.”

“TRAILS: We have about 4 miles of trails. Most of the trails are less than a mile in length. A map of the hiking trails is available in the visitor boxes with the guest register.”

OP Arboretum–It’s like somewhere Monet would go for inspiration.

14. Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
8909 W. 179 St.
Overland Park, KS 66085

I haven’t actually been here yet, but I’ve heard it’s stunningly beautiful. They have all sorts of gardens, including a Monet Garden, and there’s a visitor center with a cafe where they sometimes sell plants. Check out the website for classes and events.

“The 300-acre Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens was founded to keep the city at the forefront of environmental and ecological issues.

A leader of environmentally sound community development, the Arboretum is an educational, recreational and cultural resource for the Kansas City region. It offers homeowners, landscapers and arborists an opportunity to view and evaluate a wide variety of hybrid trees and shrubs, native to this area.”

Oxford Schoolhouse Classroom

15. Historic Oxford Schoolhouse
Located in Ironwoods Park 147th & Mission Road
Leawood, KS 66224

The place is set up for groups (of all ages) to spend the day in one of the oldest school houses in Kansas, and participate in a day of living history. This program costs money, but they also have open house days where anyone can come for free:

“Visit the school and talk with a costumed docent about the history of Oxford School and the surrounding rural area. The Historic Oxford Schoolhouse will be open to the public free of charge Every Saturday, 11:00am-2:00pm and Sunday, 1:00-4:00pm until October 31.”

Prairie Oak Nature Center

16. Prairie Oak Nature Center at Ironwoods Park 
14701 Mission Road
Leawood, KS

“The Prairie Oak Nature Center offers fun environmental education programs for all ages. Stop by the Nature Center or look in the Leawood Parks and Recreation Guide to see programs that are currently scheduled. In addition to the scheduled programs our on-site naturalist will work with teachers, youth leaders and other organizations to provide a program just for their group.”

“Many exciting things will be happening at the Nature Center over the next year. We will be preparing new exhibits; obtaining live species of native animals; and developing a beautiful wildlife garden next to our outdoor patio. A bird watching area will also be situated within our garden for easy viewing from our library or patio.

So come visit our exhibits, stop by our library, stroll through the gardens, and discover different habitats along our two-mile walking trail. There is something for everyone!”

Trailside Center

17. Trailside Center
9901 Holmes Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64141

“Located just off of 3-Trails Crossing Memorial Highway in the heart of the historic 3-Trails Corridor, Trailside Center provides resources for trail and civil war afictionados, historians, and the Kansas City community.”

Check the website for upcoming programs.

Cheap

Inside the gourd house at the Beanstalk Children’s Garden

18. Beanstalk Children’s Garden
6917 Kensington
Kansas City, MO

$2/person (all ages) or $10/family for a season pass

We go here every year. It’s one of our favorite places in the city, and great for kids of all ages. It’s an experimental garden, designed for the purpose of learning more about plants that will grow locally, and educating the public. Everything is labeled, and you are encouraged to ask questions, and taste all of the edibles.

“Children will have the opportunity to learn about:

  1. Plants
  2. Food Production
  3. Insects
  4. Nutrition
  5. Plant Science

Visitors to the BEANSTALK are encouraged to use their senses to see, touch, smell and taste plants as part of the learning process.

All plants are labeled with names and background information.

The garden paths are paved and are fully wheelchair accessible.”

Grinter Place Museum

19. Grinter Place
1420 South 78th St
Kansas City, KS

$3 adults; $1 students; Kansas Historical Foundation members and children five and under admitted free

“A trip to Grinter Place isn’t just a look inside the oldest home in Wyandotte County, it’s a step back to the days of frontier life along the Kansas and Missouri border. Overlooking the historic Delaware Crossing on the Kansas River, Grinter Place was the home to Annie and Moses Grinter. Annie, a Lenape (Delaware), helped to farm, raise poultry and livestock, and planted an apple orchard. Moses operated a ferry and a trading post, where he traded with the Lenape Indians. Learn how life in Kansas changed dramatically through the stories of Annie and Moses when you visit the stately Grinter Place.”

Not As Cheap

Alexander Majors Historic House and Museum

20. Alexander Majors Historic House and Museum
8201 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO. 64114

$10 for adults, $7 for kids and seniors

“Constructed in 1856, Majors’ 3,400 square foot ante-bellum home in Kansas City is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restored in 1984, the home features original hardwood floors and millwork, as well as furnishings of the era. Also on the site are blacksmithing demonstrations, gardens, and displays of tools, wagons and carriages from the mid-1800s.

Please call 816-444-1858 for more information.”

Call or check the website as they offer many programs.

Fort Osage Keel Boat

21. Fort Osage Historic Site
107 Osage St.
Sibley, Missouri 64088

$7.00 Adults;   $4.00 Youth;   $3.00 Seniors; Under 5 free

“Fort Osage is the eight Historic Site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Establish in 1978, by the United Sates Congress, the trail spans the more than 8000 miles that The Corps of Discovery traveled over their 2 year, 4 months, and 10 days dramatic exploration.

Today you can follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. By boat or canoe, by car, or on foot, you can retrace portions of their historic route. Along the way, you will learn about the Expedition from numerous interpretive signs, exhibits, museums, visitor centers, and living history displays. The National Park Service administers the trail in partnership with many Federal, State, and local agencies.”

John Wornall House Museum

22. John Wornall House Museum
6115 Wornall Road
Kansas City, MO 64113

$6.00 for adults (13-60) $5.00 for seniors (60+) $5.00 for children (5-12) Free for children under 5

“When you step inside the John Wornall House Museum, you enter another century. In 1858 Kentuckian John B. Wornall built this elegant home in the Greek Revival style. Accurately restored to the period, its interior space and authentic furnishings deomonstrate why the house was called “the most pretentious house in the section.” Now engulfed by Kansas City’s Brookside neighborhood, the John Wornall House originally sat on the Missouri frontier.”

Mahaffie Stage Coach

23. Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm
1200 Kansas City Road
Olathe, Kansas

Fees range from $3-6 for adults, and $2-4 for children. See the website for more info. We’ve done school programs here and loved it.

“The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site is the last remaining stagecoach stop open to the public on the Santa Fe Trail.  The historic site offers a unique hands-on experience for visitors of all ages focusing on 1860s farming, stagecoach operations and westward expansion.”

Missouri Town 1855

24. Missouri Town 1855
8010 E. Park Road
Lee’s Summit, Missouri 64064

Adults $5  Children (5-13) $3  Seniors (62+) $3

“See what a progressive farming community, spread across some 30 sloping acres, looked like in the mid-1800s.

Missouri Town 1855 is composed of more than 25 buildings dating from 1820 to 1860. This living history museum uses original structures, furnishings and equipment. Also depicting the 19th Century lifestyles are interpreters in period attire, authentic field and garden crops, and rare livestock breeds.

Visit with professional living history interpreters on this self-guided tour.”

At Powell Gardens. After visiting the dinosaur trail exhibit, we ate a picnic lunch, and cooled off in their spray park.

25. Powell Gardens
1609 N.W. U.S. Highway 50
Kingsville, MO 64061

General Admission: Adults $10 Seniors $9 Children (5-12) $4

We just love this place. We’ve only gone for classes like “Pond Life” and “Bugs and Insects”, but we always hang out for a while afterward. I highly recommend taking a class if you can, then staying to enjoy the gardens. If you go in the summer, bring a swim suit for the cool splash park.

“Welcome to Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden! You’ll find plenty to see and do in every month of the year.

With special exhibits, performances, drop-in activities, acres of gorgeous gardens and the nation’s largest edible landscape, you can tailor a visit based on your own interests.”

You should check the website to see what’s going on if you plan to visit. We went once when they had a Dinosaur exhibit and trail. It was cool. Right now, they are doing a fairy house exhibit.

Wonderscope Children’s Museum

26. Wonderscope Children’s Museum
5700 King Street
Shawnee, KS 66203

Ages 3-63  $7 Ages 64 and up  $6 1 and 2 year olds  $4 Infants under 1 year  FREE

“Wonderscope is currently located in a former elementary school in Shawnee and includes ten exhibit areas, with a focus on arts and science exhibits and programming for younger children. In our current facility, we seek to provide a friendly, convenient and accessible environment for young children, but we have been limited by our aging building and exhibits, as well as by inadequate resources. Wonderscope has committed to an investment in an expanded children’s museum that serves the entire metropolitan area, attracts tourists, and rivals what is found in other communities. We are developing this new children’s museum for Kansas City metro area children and families, consistent with the quality, size, and depth of experience provided by children’s museums in comparable cities. ”

Have you participated in the Passport program? Or have you visited many of the places on the list? Has this inspired you to get out and try some things in your city?

Either way, have a great summer!

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