Three Days with Kids in KC

Whether you’re on a tight budget or you’re just trying to get the most bang for your buck, the City of Fountains is flooded with inexpensive family fun. From urban entertainment to outdoor adventures, Kansas City has you covered!


Outdoor Adventures

KC is home to an impressive number of parks, nature centers and trails, all beckoning guests to venture outside. Families can geocache, zip line or simply take a relaxing stroll.

Many local nature centers, such as the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, offer free classes and employ conservationists and educators, all eager to help you as you seek to know more about local habitats, animals and plant life.

The Overland Park Botanical Garden & Arboretum, one such site, is nestled in southern Overland Park, KS. This 300-acre preserve offers a multitude of botanical gardens, hiking trails, a bird blind, sculpture garden, train garden and visitor center. The site is open year-round, and guests can expect to take in new scenery depending on the season. A small gate fee applies throughout the week, except for Tuesdays, when guests receive free admission.

Farmers markets, such as the historic City Market or the Old Overland Park Farmers Market, offer a variety of local products, as well as incomparable sights, scents and sounds. Guests can expect to find far more than fresh fruits and veggies—they’ll also encounter local honey, meats, flower arrangements and more. Area farmers markets are often home to small stages and street venues where artists and musicians create a sound score to enrich guests’ experiences.

Looking to cool off on the cheap? Check out one of almost two dozen area splash pads and spraygrounds, from the pirate-themed John Anderson Park in Grandview, MO, to the quaint spraygrounds within Kansas City, MO’s historic Loose Park.

Local parks, such as Shawnee Mission Park, offer far more than slides and swings. For a few bucks, guests can swim, fish or boat. Visitors seeking the thrill of adventure can take the plunge at the Ironwoods Challenge Course within Ironwoods Park or try their hand at archery and BB gun sessions at TimbeRidge Adventure Center.

In many parts of the city, when the sun goes down, the curtain goes up. Be on the lookout for free summer concert series taking place throughout the metro, such as the Town Center Plaza Summer Concert Series or Leawood Stage Company’s free summer musical, Kiss Me Kate, taking place at the Ironwoods Park amphitheater.

Suburban Thrills

Many large stores provide hidden fun within. Outdoor retailers Bass Pro Shops and Cabella’s boast freshwater aquariums, shooting galleries and themed restaurants. Scheels has inexpensive activities sprinkled throughout, as well. For a dollar, visitors can ride a Ferris wheel, play a game of mini golf or try their hand at a sports simulator (and don’t forget to take selfies with a bear and listen to animatronic presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson give excerpts of their famous speeches!). Little guests can crawl and climb within an indoor play place for free. Cap off your trip with a 79-cent ice cream cone in the Scheels restaurant.

Libraries aren’t just for checking out books. At the Central Resource Library in Overland Park, visitors can enjoy laser cutting, 3D printing, vinyl cutting and more for free within its Makerspace. Libraries such as the Mid-Continent Public Library offer concerts, arts and crafts, Lego builds and author meet-and-greets.

Kidscape within the Johnson County Museum is home to three distinct communities: an 1870 farmstead, 1900s city market and 1950s suburbs. Kids can grow a farm, sell their wares or work in a hospital or diner (adults are $5; kids are $3).

At Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, children can get a taste of what life was like for a turn-of-the-century farmer. Stop by the corner mercantile where, for a quarter, guests can listen to a player piano plunk out a ragtime melody; visit with the schoolmarm at the one-room schoolhouse or step inside an authentic Kanza Native American display. Deanna Rose has a petting zoo, butterfly garden and trails where, for a few extra dollars, guests can feed the goats, take a pony ride or horse-drawn wagon ride.

One of the best ways guests can immerse themselves in 19th century farm life is by playing the Ben’s Bank trivia game. Just pick up a passport inside Ben’s Bank and fill out the trivia questions by visiting stations throughout the farmstead. Deanna Rose yields big fun for a small admission on Friday-Sunday; cost is free to visitors Monday-Thursday from 2:00 to 5:00.


Urban Entertainment

Crown Center is another district bursting with free family fun, from Kaleidoscope (a no-cost art experience where guests can create puzzles and projects using Hallmark’s remnant manufacturing materials), to the Hallmark Visitors Center and the Crown Center Showplace, a free interactive children’s exhibit. Crown Center is also home to competitively priced, high quality family entertainment, such as the Coterie Theatre, Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center.

The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve is the only place where you can get a million dollar experience for free—including parking! Guests watch as millions of dollars are processed while learning about the economy through interactive exhibits. When your tour is complete, you’ll be gifted your own bag of shredded U.S. currency.

Hop aboard the KC Streetcar, a free two-mile streetcar system that runs from the City Market to Union Station (home to Science City, Gottlieb Planetarium, the KC Rail Experience and more).

Discover more than 34,000 art pieces within the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (enjoy a scavenger hunt too, on us), all for free!


Eat on the Cheap

  • Check out our comprehensive KC Kids Eat Free Guide.
  • Roasterie offers free tours and coffee samples!
  • Get gourmet donuts at Donutology and brown bag lunch.
  • Pack a picnic and go for an out-of-this-world dessert such as Christopher Elbow chocolates or Betty Rae’s ice cream


Lauren Greenlee is a KC native who loves staycation-ing in her hometown.


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