Best of December in Kansas City

2016 Edition

Experience the best of Kansas City this December. Whether you're hosting out of town company or celebrating with your family - there is something for everyone. From Pompeii: The Exhibition, to live shows, holiday traditions, and more. Our readers love the Ultimate Guide to Christmas in Kansas City, your complete guide to local holiday events, but sometimes it is daunting to sort through hundreds of holiday celebrations. These are our top picks for December in Kansas City:


Christmas at Crown Center

Crown Center is a Kansas City Christmas Tradition. Crown Center (2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO). With live theaters, beautiful shops, holiday performances, visits with Santa, and Ice Skating, this is your premier holiday destination:

  • Crown Center Holiday Choirs thru Dec. 20. Beautiful music fills the halls of Crown Center, as more than 130 area school, church and community choirs perform throughout the holiday season. 
  • Crown Center Ice Terrace Kansas City’s only public, outdoor ice skating rink is open for the season. 
  • Santa’s Gingerbread Station thru Dec. 31. All aboard for a favorite holiday tradition at Crown Center! Kids and families can explore this interactive exhibit, meet and have their photo taken with Santa Claus (through December 24), climb aboard the Crown Center Express Train Engine, and enjoy Gingerbread Village. Photos with Santa are available for a fee, or you may take your own. After visiting Santa, head over to The Coterie for a live production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical. 
  • EBT Laughing Santa and Santa’s Countdown to Christmas thru Dec. 31 Crown Center Shops, Level 1 Showplace, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO. FREE. 816-274-8444. Don't miss one of Kansas City's favorite pieces of Christmas nostalgia, EBT Laughing Santa, who first appeared at KC's Emery, Bird, Thayer department store in the early 1900s. The mechanical marvel has chuckled his way through the holidays at Crown Center since 1979. Not far away, you'll find Santa's Countdown to Christmas display, a popular photo opp during the holidays.


Holidays at Union Station

Union Station (30 W. Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO. is one of our city's most beautiful landmarks and a favorite family destination. This holiday season, you'll find fun all month long at Union Station:

  • Classic Holiday Throwback Movie Series: Watch your holiday favorites on the Extreme Screen for just $3/ticket. Nov. 25-Dec. 1: Elf. Dec. 2-8: National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Dec. 9-15: Polar Express
  • Holiday Swing Dec. 11 The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair, along with Union Station, present The 6th Annual Holiday Swing! Come celebrate the handmade movement with 100+ handmade & vintage vendors, kids crafts, a photobooth & the most beautiful holiday decor you can imagine at glorious Union Station. 
  • KCS Holiday Express Dec. 15-20 The KCS Holiday Express is a festive, six-car train that brings Santa Claus and his elves to communities throughout the company’s U.S. rail network at scheduled stops. Guests to the train can visit with Santa Claus and walk through three cars filled with holiday displays. Each event is free, open to the public and no tickets are required. In addition, at each scheduled stop, a charitable contribution is made to the local Salvation Army to provide warm clothes and other necessities for children in need. The Holiday Express was created in 2001 as volunteers dedicated more than 8,000 hours to transform retired rail cars. Today, these cars feature a smiling tank car named Rudy; a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread boxcar; the elves’ workshop; a reindeer stable; and a little red caboose.


The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker ballet is a holiday must-see. These are our favorite Nutcracker performances in the area:

  • Kansas City Ballet presents The Nutcracker Dec. 3 – 24 at Muriel Kauffman Theatre | Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway Blvd, Kansas City. Join Kansas City Ballet this holiday for the classic, Victorian-era story by E.T.A. Hoffman. Witness a completely reimagined performance with exquisite costumes, grand new sets, stunning special effects and all new choreography by Artistic Director Devon Carney. See your children’s wonder ignite and feel the glimmer once more as your childhood dreams return and inspire you to IMAGINE AGAIN. Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney presents an all new production of this favorite holiday classic. Carney promises a traditional yet boisterous, adventurous, and reimagined production. 
  • Nutcracker Tea Party Dec. 3 & 4 at Ritz Charles, 9000 W 137th St, Overland Park, KS. $50-75/ea. Enjoy a performance of The Nutcracker ballet by Crescendo Conservatory and a Tea Party with an elegant menu and character meet and greets. 
  • Clara's Dream Dec. 17-18 in Olathe, KS. Celebrate the Holiday season with Clara’s Dream and A Holiday Musical Revue!  Act One consists of A  Holiday Musical Revue featuring the Miller Marley Performance Companies.  Act Two consists of Miller Marley’s original take on the Nutcracker.  A shortened version including all of the magical moments seen through Clara’s eyes!  For additional information call 913-492-0004.

A Christmas Carol at The KC Repertory Theatre

Christmas Carol at KC Rep

  • When, Where, What: Christmas Carol at The KC Rep thru Dec. 24.
  • Why We LOVE It: Kansas City’s favorite holiday tradition is back for its 36th season, presented in the magnificent new Spencer Theatre! A ripping good telling of the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the curmudgeonly businessman who requires the intervention of a few spectral guides to understand the true meaning of Christmas and life. Complete with lively musical numbers, ornate costumes, and dashing stagecraft, Dickens’ classic tale of hope and redemption continues to remind us what’s really worth celebrating – at the holidays, or any time!


JCCC Performing Arts Series

  • When, Where, What: Johnson County Community College Performing Arts Series.
  • Annie: Dec. 1 Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, this production of "Annie" will be a brand new incarnation of the iconic original. Featuring book and score by Tony Award®-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, Annie includes such unforgettable songs as "It's the Hard Knock Life," "Easy Street," "I Don’t Need Anything But You," plus the eternal anthem of optimism, "Tomorrow."
  • Ten Tenors - Home for the Holidays: Dec. 3 "Home for the Holidays" is a magical experience for the whole family that will dazzle, delight and captivate audiences. Join Australia's rock stars of opera as they amaze and enthrall with their unique selection of traditional and contemporary seasonal favorites. With soaring versions of "Joy to the World," "Sleigh Ride," "White Christmas," "Amazing Grace," "Winter Wonderland," "Feliz Navidad" and many more, "Home for the Holidays" is the perfect way to celebrate the spirit of the season. Witness their unmistakable charm, camaraderie and vocal power. Following 16 years of sell-out performances across the globe, including more than 2,000 of their own headline concerts, The TEN Tenors have cemented their place as one of the world's most-loved classically based contemporary music groups.
  • Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Dec. 9 The world renowned all-singing, all-plucking ukulele superstars return to the USA with their toe-tapping music, hilarious banter, and sheer superlative entertainment. But now with added holiday cheer!
  • The Nutcracker and the Mouse King: Dec. 10 Back by popular demand! The Owen/Cox Dance Group returns to the original and notably darker E.T.A Hoffman story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (1816). This production will feature original music and radical rearrangements of Tchaikovsky melodies created by a host of innovative Kansas City jazz musicians, as well as the award-winning choreography of Jennifer Owen.
  • Kansas City Christmas: Dec. 10 In its third year as KC's traditional, non-traditional holiday concert experience, the Heartland Men's Chorus' "Kansas City Christmas" has become the way thousands of Kansas Citians sing in the season.
  • The Nutcracker: Dec. 17 The American Youth Ballet presents Tchaikovsky's holiday classic, "The Nutcracker," performed on Johnson County Community College's Yardley Hall Stage. A 40ft growing tree, snow falling on stage, and a live orchestra highlight Overland Park tradition.
  • David Basse and Joe Cartwright Septet: Dec. 18 Always innovative, always fresh, the jazz of Kansas City is not a museum piece. The music continues to evolve with every new artist, every new performance and every new song.
  • Why We LOVE It: The Johnson County Community College Performing Arts Series consistently brings top notch entertainment to the metro. Featuring a wide range of shows, there is something for everyone.

​December at the Kansas City Zoo

  • When, Where, What: The zoo is open year-round and the holidays offer some of our FAVORITE events of the year at the Kansas City Zoo. A few highlights: December 3 & 4 Holiday Wild — Meet Santa Claus at the Zoo. December 3 & 4 Santa Dives and Penguin Marches. December 10 & 11 Winter Wonderland Lions and Christmas Trees Santa Dives and Penguin Marches. December 11 Berlin’s Birthday Party. December 17 & 18 Santa Dives and Penguin Marches. December 31 Zoo Year’s Eve
  • Why We LOVE It: The Kansas City Zoo is a blast year-round, but really- can you think of anything more fun than watching Santa DIVE with penguins???? Tip - FOTZ passes are a PERFECT clutter free holiday gift and you'll enjoy free year-round admission to the KC Zoo and free or discounted admission to other zoos whenyou travel.




Pompeii:The Exhibition at Union Station

Pompeii at Union Station

  • When, Where, What: Pompeii: The Exhibition at Union Station opens Nov. 18
  • Why We LOVE It: We can't wait for this educational, interactive, and inspiring exhibit at Union Station. Featuring nearly 200 artifacts — some never before seen in the United States—including vibrant frescoes, detailed mosaics, lifelike statues and precious personal objects,Pompeii: The Exhibition tells the story of a city hidden from view and forgotten for centuries until its rediscovery over 250 years ago.


Mid-Continent Public Library's Holiday Programs

  • When, Where, What: All through December at Mid-Continent Public Library Branches.
  • Why We LOVE It: We LOVE the library and this holiday season they have many special offerings. Our favorites include: A Christmas Carol-LIVE! Join Hampstead Stage for this classic holiday tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and the four ghosts who teach him the true meaning of Christmas.; Christmas with the Cool Cats! Terry Bell and his band, the Cool Cats, squeeze the most out of all those holiday favorites in this fun-loving holiday accordion concert.; Dinosaur O'Dell: Christmas Time is Here! 'Tis the season of giving as Dinosaur serves up old Christmas favorites and a cup of good cheer in a sing-along, dance-along, rock-along show! and Storytime with Santa and Mrs. Claus! Santa and Mrs. Claus are making a special trip from the North Pole to read a holiday story at the Library. After the story, sit on Santa's lap to tell him what you want for Christmas. Parents, don't forget your cameras! 


Holiday Shopping in Downtown Lee's Summit

  • When, Where, What: Downtown Lee's Summit shopping district hosts special events all month as shoppers prepare for the holidays.
  • Hometown Holiday: Dec. 2-3 Head to Downtown Lee’s Summit on Dec. 2-3 for Hometown Holiday where the friendliest merchants around will help you find those perfect holiday gifts. Check out all the wonderful gift and decorating ideas featured in the shops in Downtown Lee’s Summit. Enjoy classes taught by local experts and business owners while shopping for the holidays. Two lucky shoppers will win a Downtown Lee’s Summit gift card ($50 or $100)! Dine and unwind at one of 15+ downtown restaurants, pubs and…
  • Santa Visits Downtown Lee's Summit: Dec. 3, 10, 17. As you shop Downtown Lee's Summit this holiday season, be sure to stop in to get your photos with Santa. 
  • Holiday Mart: Dec. 17 The Downtown Lee's Summit Farmers Market vendors have been working hard to prepare gifts and goodies for the indoor Holiday Mart. The event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, December 17 at the Lee's Summit Elementary Gym, 110 SE Green St. Be sure to stop by and cross a few things off of your holiday shopping list.
  • Why We LOVE It: Historic Downtown Lee’s Summit is a nationally award-wining Main Street. With more than 45 eclectic specialty stores, dozens of dining and entrainment options, and the most welcoming business owners around, Downtown Lee’s Summit is worth the trip. Plan a ladies day out, a weekend of fun, or visit during a special event.

Holiday Shopping at Legends Outlets

  • When, Where, What: Legends Outlets in Kansas City, KS.
  • #LegendsHoliday Contest: Legends Outlets is excited to announce its #LegendsHoliday contest is back for the third consecutive year, providing local shoppers the opportunity to win nearly $1,300 in prizes by posting their holiday photos at Kansas City’s only designer outlet shopping to social media. The popular hashtag contest, formerly hosted on Instagram, has expanded to include Facebook and Twitter, providing shoppers with even more ways to enter – and potentially win – this year. Through Monday, Dec. 19, guests are encouraged to share their holiday spirit by taking festive pictures at Legends Outlets and posting to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #LegendsHoliday. Legends Outlets will track the hashtag #LegendsHoliday and award 13 lucky winners with various prizes throughout contest, including designer accessories, $50 gift cards from retailers like Victoria’s Secret, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Made in KC, Nike Factory and Francesca’s Outlet, and a $500 Legends Outlets gift card as the grand prize.
  • Support Local Businesses: Made in KC will join other locally owned concepts at Legends Outlets, including KC Soda Co., a Lawrence-based craft soda shop, Sports Nutz, a Kansas City sports apparel and memorabilia store, and Chiusano's, a mom-and-pop style brick oven pizzeria. Together with its more than 75 brand name stores, Legends Outlets makes it easy to shop both locally curated merchandise and favorite designer labels in one convenient location this holiday season.
  • 45 foot Holiday Tree: A 45-foot holiday tree returns this year as the Legends Outlets' main centerpiece, located at the center of the Civic Courtyard Fountain in front of AMC Legends 14 Movie Theater. The tree is decorated with festive LED-lighted snowflakes and a three-foot-six-inch snowfall topper featuring a mix of static LED light bars and double-sided LED animated show tubes. During the ceremony, festive decorations will light up throughout the shopping center and continue through early January 2017.
  • Why We LOVE It: Legends Outlets offers an amazing selection of stores for holiday shopping and delicious restaurants too - there's no wonder this is a favorite shopping destination for Kansas Citians.

Journey to Judea

  • When, Where, What: Journey to Judea Dec. 1- 4 Countryside Baptist Church, 14150 W 175th Street, Olathe, KS. Free. (913) 592-3270. Admission is free, but tickets should be reserved online in advance. 
  • Why We LOVE It: This is one of our favorite annual traditions! Journey to Judea is an interactive Christmas experience that allows you to walk through the narrative of the Bible, learning the twists and turns that lead us to the birth of Christ and reveal the true significance of His coming. The birth of Christ is more than a historical event: it has crucial relevance for every man, woman and child. This event includes a cast of nearly 100 people, live animals, narration, live action, and music. Groups of 40-50 people will be guided through an hour-long outdoor tour of different scenes spread across twenty acres of land, literally walking through the story of the Bible. Our goal is to make this a yearly event that families can enjoy together as a part of their Christmas celebration.


Victorian Christmas at National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

  • When, Where, What: Toys bring back whimsical holiday memories and there is no better place to enjoy those moments than the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
  • Special Events in December: COLEMAN DOLLHOUSE OPENING Dec. 3 from 10am-4pm. The annual tradition returns! See the museum’s nine-foot-tall dollhouse decked out for the holiday season. Get up close as museum educators open the doors for a day of in-depth talks about the museum’s largest dollhouse. Talks at 10:30-11:30am, 1-2pm, and 2:30-3:30pm. Included with museum admission. MUSIC IN THE MUSEUM Dec. 10 from 1-3pm. Take a break from the hectic holiday season to enjoy traditional holiday music from Simple Strings in the museum’s historic Tureman Education Center. Included with museum admission. FATHER CHRISTMAS COMES TO T/M Dec. 18 from 1-3pm. Father Christmas comes to T/m to share stories of holidays past. Professional storyteller Jim “Two Crows” Wallen will engage the entire family with interactive tales of Old Saint Nick in the museum’s historic Tureman Education Center. Be sure to bring your camera so you can snap keepsake photos of your family with Father Christmas! Included with museum admission.
  • Why We LOVE It: Celebrate the season with holiday memories at one of Kansas City's best loved attractions. 




17th annual Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens' Holiday Luminary Walk

Luminary Walk Overland Park Arboretum

  • When, Where, What: Dec. 2 & 3; Dec. 9 & 10 at Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Cost:eTickets $9; $10 at the door; Children 5 and under free. Purchase online at Tickets can also be purchased the night of the event. 
  • Why We LOVE It: This is one of our favorite ways to kick off the holidays. Enjoy a stroll through candlelit trails in the gardens and woods. This major fundraiser features a mile of candles, holiday lights, live entertainment, Santa Claus, horse-drawn wagon rides, hot cider around a campfire and mystical Gnome and Fairy Villages.  Volunteers and staff members are transforming the Arboretum into a wonderland of candles and lights, music and holiday fun. Thousands of candles line the walkways and trails. Holiday lights will be on display from trees, buildings and bridges. Children will be thrilled to see Santa's Woodland Depot in the Train Garden and chat with him nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


Santa Train Rides

Santa Train Belton

  • When, Where, What: Dec. 3 aboard the Belton, Grandview and Kansas City Railroad.
    Why We LOVE It: This magical holiday tradition is popular for children and the young at heart! Come, take a step back in time to the first half of the last century and ride a train like your grandparents may have ridden with Santa Claus! Christmas carols play, cocoa is served, and photos are taken with Santa himself. Board our 1920's era passenger coach, or our open-air excursion car and take a ride behind our 1950's diesel locomotive through Old Towne Belton, Missouri and the surrounding area. You could even ride in the cab of the locomotive with the engineer. 



Holiday Fun at Paradise Park​

  • When, Where, What: Paradise Park (1021 NE Colbern Road, Lee’s Summit, MO. is a great place to spend quality time as a family. This holiday season, they offer some of the most unique Christmas events in town: 
  • Ginormous Gingerbread House Party Dec. 1-Jan 5 - It’s a Gingerbread dream come true! Our bigger-than-life creation is the coolest place to warm your holiday spirits and have a blast too! Its laser light show and awesome holiday music make this the best interactive gingerbread house in the world!!!  It’s an enchanting, fairy-tale memory your whole family will love! 
  • Noon Year's Eve Dec. 31 - 3-2-1…Happy 2017 everybody! You are invited to ring in the New Year early with the legendary Ball Drop at Paradise Park’s Foam Factory. Have a blast with friends and family. This rocking New Year’s Eve party is an early-evening, totally kid-friendly celebration. Register to win awesome door prizes that you can use all year long at Paradise Park.
  • Why We LOVE It: Paradise Park is one of our favorite attractions year-round, but it is especially great when little ones need to burn some energy inside over the winter months. December is extra special at the park with holiday themes in the Children's EduTainment Center and the Ginormous Gingerbread House!


Holidays at Powell Gardens

  • When, Where, What: Powell Gardens (1609 N.W. U.S. Highway 50, Kingsville, MO) celebrates the season with special events in the gardens throughout the winter.
  • Christmas Couture Conservatory Exhibit thru Jan. 8 - Celebrate the holidays in high fashion with this season's non-traditional conservatory exhibit, featuring dress form Christmas trees and sparkling white poinsettias accented with a splash of pink. Bring your camera—this is the perfect setting for photos with family and friends. The exhibit is open daily (except Christmas and New Year's Day).

  • Holiday Concert Series in the Chapel presented by Friends of Powell Gardens Dec. 10 & 11 The Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel is an extraordinary venue in which to enjoy seasonal music. 

  • Gardens by Candlelight: A Luminary Walk Dec. 10 & 11 from 5-7:30pm. Experience Powell Gardens aglow with the soft light of hundreds of luminaria. Enjoy live music in the grand hall of the Visitor Center and then stroll the candlelit path to the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel for another festive performance.

  • Why We LOVE It: The gardens are magical at wintertime and the special events are a beautiful reminder of the season.

Christmas Lights

  • When, Where, What: Kansas City is decorating for the holidays and we have your Guide to the Best Christmas Lights in KC!
  • Why We LOVE It: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and KC knows how to throw an amazing holiday party! You don't want to miss these festive displays.




Still looking for more great family fun ideas in Kansas City? Check out our Kansas City Calendar of Events and Going Places in Kansas City on


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