Hot Spots to Visit Animals in Kansas City

Young children love to be outside and experience animals, farms and gardens firsthand. Take your child on an outing to one of these favorite attractions and enjoy a great read-along book to make your experience even more special.

The Kansas City Zoo (6700 Zoo Dr., Kansas City, MO, 816.513.5700, just keeps getting better. With polar bear, penguins, Africa, Australia and Tropics exhibits, you have so much to see. The FOTZ membership gives you free admission year-round and is reciprocal with free or discounted admission to zoos across the nation when you travel. Recommended reading: Put Me in a Zoo by Robert Lopshire.

Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead (138th & Switzer, Overland Park, KS, 913.897.2360, is a favorite for generations of families. The farmstead showcases a variety of farm animals: goats, longhorn steer, cows, horses, chickens, mules, sheep, bison, prairie dogs, a koi pond and even some rescued animals—our favorite is the bald eagle. Kids enjoy feeding the fish and the goats, riding ponies or a horse-drawn wagon, learning about cows in the dairy barn and riding miniature John Deere tractors. The farmstead is beautifully maintained, well shaded and full of wonderful hands-on fun for the entire family. Recommended reading: Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

The Agricultural Hall of Fame (630 N. 126th St., Bonner Springs, KS, 913.721.1075, is home to a small farm community where visitors can explore a blacksmith shop, general store, farmhouse, train rides (operated seasonally; call ahead for train hours) and museum with hands-on exhibits. The museum features exhibits on Kansas' early pioneers in agriculture, farm tools, bee keeping—and the Poultry Museum. The Ag Hall of Fame is most fun during special events and programs throughout the year. April 22 is their Barnyard Babies Festival, and May 6 is the Tractor Cruise. Recommended reading: Old MacDonald Had a Farm, a Little Golden Book.

Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure (8010 E. Park Rd., Lee's Summit, MO, 816.229.8980). Have you ever wanted to look a bison in the eye? Visit the Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure at Fleming Park, where you can watch white-tailed deer, elk and bison eat and play. You even can feed them fresh apples and carrots. Recommended reading: A Magical Woods, Lost in the Woods, Stranger in the Woods, First Snow in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick.

Powell Gardens (1609 NW US Hwy. 50, Kingsville, MO, 816.697.2600, Set on 12 acres, the Heartland Harvest Garden is the largest edible landscape in the United States. After a visit, children better understand where their food comes from. Children also love sampling foods at the tasting stations, which are open during growing season (weekends in April and daily beginning in May). This summer, visit the Gardens of Myth exhibit open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. And be sure to experience the Festival of Butterflies the first two weekends of August. Recommended reading: The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

Weston Red Barn Farm (16300 Wilkerson Dr., 816.386.5437, When you visit the red barn, you feel like you’ve stepped into a painting. The barn sits atop a picturesque hill overlooking farmland and forest where your family can experience a real working farm. In the summer, you can enjoy picking fresh strawberries and blackberries. August and September are apple picking time. Children love to visit the animals at Red Barn Farm. You will enjoy ponies, goats, turkeys, chickens, pigs, cows, ducks, geese and sheep. Admission to the farm is free, but there are fees for additional activities. Recommended reading: Tuttle’s Red Barn by Richard Michelson.

Shatto Dairy Farm (9406 N. Hwy. 33, Osborn, MO, 816.930.3862). Children love a day trip to tour the Shatto Dairy Farm, where they can visit calves (and may even get to bottle feed one), milk cows, learn how milk is processed and bottled and sample Shatto Milk’s variety of products (try the strawberry milk). Children 2 and under are free; regular admission is $5. Call to schedule a tour or participate in one of their special events.  Recommended Reading: Milk from Cow to Carton by Aliki

More Favorite Local Animal and Nature Attractions

  • Burr Oak Woods Conservation Center 1401 NW Park Rd., Blue Springs, MO, 816.228.3766. Aquarium, animal exhibits, hands-on activities and trails.
  • Cave Spring Nature Center 8701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, MO, 816.358.CAVE. Enjoy this nature center, historic site, park and trails.
  • Discovery Center 4750 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO, 816.759.7300. Gardens, wetlands, walkways and wildlife, featuring environmentally friendly activities.
  • Ernie Miller Nature Center 909 N. Hwy. 7, Olathe, KS, 913.764.7759. Live animals, displays, hands-on activities and nature trails.
  • George Owens Nature Park 1601 S. Speck Rd., Independence, MO, 816.325.7115. Nature center, programs for children, fishing dock and trails. One of the features is a Storybook Trail, where you read pages from a giant children's book as you walk the trail. The stories are updated regularly.
  • John Barkley Visitor Center 7900 Renner Rd., Shawnee, KS, 913.888.4713. Local and national parks exhibits, fishing and trails.
  • Kemper Outdoor Education Center 8201 Jasper Bell, Blue Springs, MO, 816.229.8980. Reptile displays, rock and fossil exhibits, trails, butterfly and water gardens, an arboretum, pond and more.
  • Lakeside Nature Center 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, MO, 816.513.8960. Live animals, displays, hands-on activities and nature trails.
  • Prairie Oak Nature Center 14701 Mission Rd., Leawood, KS, 913.681.0902. Live animals, displays, hands-on activities and nature trails.
  • Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Center 407 N. Lafrenz Rd., Liberty, MO, 816.781.8598. Nature displays featuring plants and animals, and nature trails.
  • Overland Park Arboretum 8909 W. 179th St., Overland Park, KS, 913.685.3604. Botanical gardens, natural ecosystems, environmental education center and trails.
  • Parkville Nature Sanctuary 12th & East streets, Parkville, MO, 816.741.7676. Wildlife preserve and education site featuring hiking trails.
  • Sea Life Kansas City 2475 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO, 816.471.4386, Go under the sea on a two- to three-hour journey from the fresh waters of the Missouri River, into the mighty Mississippi River, then out into the warm, blue, coral-strewn waters of the Caribbean Sea.
  • Cedar Cove Exotic Feline Sanctuary 3783 Hwy. K68, Louisburg, KS, 913.837.5515. protects and cares for endangered big cats. You can visit a Siberian tiger, African spotted leopard, mountain lion, Bengal tiger and cougar. Children 5 and under are free; adults are $5. 

Kansas City mom Kristina Light enjoys animal outings with her daughters.

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