Give Experiences Not Toys

If your family is like our family, you don't need more "things." I've long believed that stuffed animals duplicate themselves at night. If you have multiple children, you undoubtedly have plenty of toys. 

I've always been a fan of "experience" gifts. They are my favorite gifts to give and to receive. I love watching my girls' faces light up when they experience a new show or try something new. This holiday season, consider gifts of experiences - not toys - for your family and friends.


We love family memberships to local attractions. Members enjoy free admission, special members-only events, and in many cases, reciprocal relationships with other venues in other cities for discounted or free admission. Some of our favorites include:

  • Kansas City Zoo FOTZ MembershipYou can choose your membership level to include admission or add on unlimited rides (this is a favorite for families with young children). In addition to enjoying our fabulous zoo year-round, members enjoy special events and discounted or free admission at zoos across the nation. FREE Gift Bear with purchase of Premium Membership (Nov. 19 - Dec. 24).
  • Science City MembershipScience City is a great indoor venue for families to enjoy year-round. Members enjoy special events and discounted admission for ticketed exhibits. Membership is reciprocal with other science museums across the country, meaning you can enjoy free or discounted admission when you travel.
  • Paradise ParkParadise Park offers two membership options: The Discovery Pass (ideal for families of young children) which includes unlimited access to the Discovery Play Center (Edutainment Center), Children’s  Garden and Foam Factory for a family of 4. Or, the Adventure Pass (ideal for families with multiple ages) which includes a single person pass with unlimited play on our Adventure Attractions (Go Karts, Mini Golf, Laser Tag, Rock Climbing, Bumper Cars, Foam Factory, Discovery Play, and Children's Garden) for a calendar year, plus exclusive discounts. SAVE $10 on passes in November.
  • Worlds of Fun/Oceans of FunEnjoy Unlimited Visits and Free Parking to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun every public operating day in 2018 AND 2019, including Halloween Haunt and WinterFest. Best of all, your Gold Pass includes exclusive discounts, early park access and more in 2019! New Passholders: Get Unlimited Visits and Free Parking every public operating day for the remainder of the 2018 season including WinterFest.
  • Johnson County Museum Family memberships are affordable and members enjoy FREE admission as well as discounts on museum programs and events and 10% discount at the gift store in addition to other perks like invitations to exhibit openings and special events.
  • Powell Gardens Members enjoy free admission to top-notch annual festivals (including the Festival of Butterflies, Glow: A Jack O'lantern Walk, and Festival of Lights) and free or discounted admission to more than 200 gardens and arboretums and discounted classes and programs for families.
  • The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures You decide to buy a pass for up to two, six or 12 guests per visit and bring any combination of guests each time you visit. This is a great way to share a favorite local attraction with out-of-town guests.
  • The National WWI Museum and Memorial Enjoy free admission and special events. You may also purchase additional museum tickets for guests at half price.
  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Members enjoy FREE admission to featured exhibitions and FREE parking. Upper levels also include free admission to other art museums.
  • Pool Passes: Buy a membership to your local indoor pool at the neighborhood community center or YMCA or buy next summer's outdoor pool pass.
  • Sports Season Tickets: Kansas City is home to several terrific sports teams - tickets to one game or the entire season make a great gift.
  • Theater Tickets: Our local theaters offer a variety of shows for all ages. Season tickets are often less expensive than the per show ticket price. Families with children will enjoy season tickets to The Coterie (you may choose shows for older or younger children or a mix), KCRep (their shows are typically suited to teens and adults, but A Christmas Carol is fun for all ages), Carlsen Center at JCCC offers shows for all ages throughout the year, KC Ballet, or other local live theater groups. You may purchase single or season ticket packages as a great gift for theater buffs.
  • Tickets to Shows Coming to Town: Follow our Kansas City calendar to discover the latest shows coming to town. From Disney on Ice to Monster Jam to local concerts, there are many great shows to enjoy in KC. We are especially excited for The Sounds of Music coming in January!


Young Children - Elementary

  • Inflatable Play Places: Little ones love to play in moon bounces and on inflatable obstacle courses and slides. Our favorite local venue is Jump City in Belton.
  • Summer Camp: Register now for summer camp. Kanakuk is one of our favorites. Kids have a blast with friends their age while participating in over 70 summer camp activities, sports and amazing themed parties. Kids also love the Spiritual emphasis at Kanakuk! Included in tuition, each Kamper receives an age-specific year long devotional book for use at Kamp and at home.

Tweens - Teens

  • Escape Rooms: Escape rooms are in vogue right now. Teams of 6-10 people are "locked" in a room for an hour and they solve puzzles trying to figure out how to "escape." Each room features a different theme and a different set of puzzles. Kansas City is home to many fabulous escape rooms, but some of our favorites include Breakout KC (great for teens and adults), Tick Tock Escapes (great for tweens, teens, and adults), and Paradise Park (great for all ages).
  • Axe throwing: Our favorite venue is Blade & Timber, offering two locations (Downtown and Leawood).  At these entertainment venues, families, groups and friends enjoy an hour or two of axe throwing. Coaches offer instructions for first-timers, then your group is given a bay where you compete for the most points aiming for the bull’s eye. Read about Blade & Timber "for beginners" here.
  • Rock Wall ClimbingAPEX Climbing Gym, home to a 7,000-square-foot climbing wall with slabs, overhangs, arches and corners, is challenging. The truly daring tackle the challenge of the Warped Wall and Ninja Warrior-inspired obstacles. Cave Bouldering Gym is an indoor rock climbing gym 10 stories underground in downtown Kansas City. With 3,800 square feet of terrain, the gym features boulder obstacles and challenges for every level of climber. IBEX Gym offers a 33-foot-tall wall with a variety of challenges for climbers. You’ll find even more rock walls on when you search our Going Places Guide.
  • Racecars:The Richard Petty Driving Experience (800.237.3889) at Kansas Speedway (913.328.3300) lets fans ride shotgun at speeds of up to 165 mph or get behind the wheel and drive a 600-horsepower NASCAR race car for eight to 18 laps. Even teens can get in on the action! Youths ages 14 to 19 have the opportunity to receive a complimentary three-lap high speed ride-along when accompanied by an adult.
  • Summer Camp: Register now for summer camp. Kanakuk is one of our favorites. Kids have a blast with friends their age while participating in over 70 summer camp activities, sports and amazing themed parties. Kids also love the Spiritual emphasis at Kanakuk! Included in tuition, each Kamper receives an age-specific year long devotional book for use at Kamp and at home.

The Entire Family

  • Main Event offers three locations in the metro where you’ll have a blast enjoying their state-of-the-art bowling, multi-level laser tag, thrilling high ropes adventure courses, video games, billiards and fast-casual restaurants. The 45,000- to 75,000-square-foot family entertainment centers offer specials throughout the week and great packages for groups. Sun-Fri enjoy $7/activity (bowling, billiards, laser tag & more). On Mondays enjoy ALL-YOU-CAN-PLAY activities or arcade games for only $10.95 per guest from 4pm to close. Or, purchase an ALL-DAY FUNPASS. For only $24.95, you can play all of Main Event's activities all day, any day of the week. That includes unlimited bowling, laser tag, billiards, and more.
  • Give Back to the Community: There are many great ways to volunteer and give to others. One of our top picks is Children's Mercy. Children’s Mercy is a non-profit hospital that relies on the generosity of donors, volunteers and supporters.You can Donate Goods, Volunteer, or even Shop for the Cause. From local retailers and restaurants to online stores, there are many ways you can shop or dine out and support Children’s Mercy.  Another great program is KVC's Holiday Heroesa way for individuals, families and businesses to work together to make the holidays brighter for children and teens involved in the child welfare system. As a Holiday Hero, you are making a commitment to give them the gifts they have their hearts set on. The KVC team collects presents, gift cards and monetary donations to make sure children who are in foster care, have safely reunited with their family or have been adopted have a happy holiday. Without your giving, these youth may not have the holiday season they are hoping for.
  • Ice Skating There are many great places to ice skate this winter and you'll find them all in our Winter Sports Guide. We especially love outdoor ice skating at Crown Center Ice Terrace, regular admission of $7 and $3 skate rental apply. On Tuesdays after 5:00, pay one full-price admission and receive a second for FREE.
  • Indoor Skydiving: ​iFLY is the ultimate bucket list attraction. Float on air as you experience body flight at this indoor skydiving facility. The KC iFly offers a variety of packages for all ages and abilities. Participation in an iFly experience includes training with a flight instructor certified by the IBA (International Bodyflight Association). Your instructor will teach proper body positioning and hand signals to help you prepare for your adventure. In the flight chamber, you will experience the wind tunnel as your own personal playground. This is a truly incredible and unforgettable must-experience adventure. Note: We listed this under tweens and teens, but even young children can participate. Read our iFly Tips for more info!
  • KC Pinterest Parties offers special classes all season long to make your dream Pinterest projects a reality! You may attend one of their public programs or organize a group for your own custom party or class!
  • Thirsty Palette (11958 Roe Ave, Overland Park, KS) is Johnson County's painting party hotspot, allowing people with no painting experience to create their very own “intoxicating art!” Thirsty Palette offers both public sessions and private parties no min number required.
  • Trampoline Park Admission: Indoor trampoline parks are a favorite place to burn off energy and ward off cabin fever in the winter. Our local trampoline parks offer a variety of attractions from special play spaces for little ones to warrior obstacle courses for teens. Our favorite local trampoline parks are Urban Air and Sky Zone.
  • Classes at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art The Nelson-Atkins is hosting several hands-on art classes this holiday season for all ages, from young children to adults. Learn to make holiday gifts for your friends and loved ones. Register online.
  • Comedy City is a live family-friendly improv comedy show on weekends. The shows are clean (offensive language isn’t allowed), funny and one-of-kind. Two comedy teams take suggestions from the audience to create improv sketches as they compete to earn your laughs. The shows are great for older kids, teens and adults.
  • Movie Tickets: Treat the family to a movie. Save money and head to the theater during a matinee or discount night, or splurge on a dine-in theater or 4D experience.
  • Paint-Your-Own Pottery: Our favorite venues are Paint Glaze & Fire (12683 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS) a shop offering special events throughout the holiday season including Paint Me a Story, Family Nights, and specials. And, Ceramic Cafe (9510 Nall Ave, Overland Park, KS). Clay building, ceramic painting, and glass fusing are all offered at Ceramic Cafe. Enjoy Creative Storytime for little ones, special classes or their walk-in programs to make gifts and holiday decorations.
  • Spend the night at the Kansas City Zoo during one of their overnights. Experience an indoor overnight with the Penguins or Polar Bears. Overnight guests experience a nighttime adventure, including a guided tour and night hike, hands-on activities, and an animal encounter! Overnights include breakfast and keeper chats. You provide your own tent and sleeping bag, and the zoo provides the fun. 
  • Classes, plants, landscaping: Family Tree Nursery is home to three local locations. This beautiful local nursery not only offers everything you need for landscaping, they also offer home decor and a variety of classes.

Do you have any terrific ideas to add to our list? We'd love to hear your suggestions. Simply comment with your ideas below!

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