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The fact that math and I don’t quite get along has never inhibited my fondness for making up equations, including this one: Cold off-season destination + solid indoor attractions = value family vacation.
It’s this thinking that has inspired my non-sequential series on the Midwest, including a post last winter about Chicago, more recent looks at Columbus, Milwaukee, and South Dakota, and today’s stop, the often underrated Kansas City. Should you wish to pull together a KC jaunt over the next several weeks, sub-$250 per person round-trip airfares are easy to come by, as are value-priced air-and-hotel bundles.
Through the end of March, the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center is offering rates from $139/night as well as $30 food and drink credits (use code “WVC” for this deal). When Sheraton took over this former Hyatt Regency property, they retained many of that hotel’s better amenities, including the Crayola Cafe, which, without fuss, serves dinner on the early side.
The Sheraton connects by enclosed walkway to the three-level Crown Center, a colossal yet convenient mix of shops, eateries, and amusements, including a popular outdoor skating rink. As the Center enrobes Hallmark headquarters, you’ll also find two free points of interest here: a string of 14 exhibits that comprise the Hallmark Visitors Center, which ought to yield at least a couple fun facts for the kiddies about greeting cards; and Kaleidoscope, family art sessions geared toward kids ages 5 to 12. In a nice twist, these workshops are stocked with recycled paper and other materials Hallmark uses in its manufacturing. Reservations for the latter are essential, but should not be difficult to secure this time of year.
About a 5-minute walk from Crown Center is Union Station (where you’ll be arriving by Amtrak if you got to KC by train) that houses several attractions. At the hands-on Science City, don't miss the robotics and other engineering gadgets at the Engineerium. Admission here is $10, but it’s worth buying a $15 combo ticket that allows you to add one of the station’s other activities, such as the KC Rail Experience, a sure delight for model railroad and train fans.
If you have a doll or miniature toy aficionado in your midst, and I have not yet met a family that doesn’t, it’s worth the 15-minute cab ride south to let your little ones feel like giants at the 38-room Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City ($7 adults, $5 children 5–12, kids under 5 free). Afterward, if despite the cooler temps the kids are still clamoring for the zoo, the Kansas City Zoo is only about another 20 minutes southeast of here by vehicle. Mindful of the fact that the weather may keep the more outdoorsy zoo animals indoors, the zoo is only charging $6 for all ages through February; admission is normally $11.50 for grown-ups and $8.50 for kids ages 3 to 11.
If you decide you like this itinerary, but not so much the winter weather factor, go ahead and shift this getaway to spring. The downside will be higher airfares and room rates. On the plus side, the Crown Center is debuting two new attractions this spring: SEA LIFE Aquarium Kansas City and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
For more about developments in Kansas City, as well as deals and offers, check in with the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. And for swell insider tips, check out Kansas City Uncovered, an iPhone app by longtime travel writer and Missouri native Diana Lambdin Meyer.
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