This post was sponsored by Visit Overland Park. Some accommodations, events and activities were comped for review purposes. All opinions expressed and photos contained in this post belong to the author.
Last weekend we had the pleasure of spending some time in and around the Overland Park, Kansas area with the kids. Overland Park is a suburb of Kansas City and chock-full of fun attractions, amazing food and kid-friendly experiences. It’s the second largest city in Kansas, located in the midst of the bi-state Kansas City metro. Overland Park is 29 miles from the KCI Airport, and within a 15- to 20-minute drive of beloved Kansas City destinations, including downtown and the Plaza.
Kansas City is about a 1-hour flight, a 4-hour drive or a 5-hour train ride from the St. Louis area, making it the perfect little weekend getaway. There’s so much to do in Overland Park and the Kansas City area for the entire family – from professional sporting events (Royals and Chiefs!) to unique children’s museums. We’ve put together a great list of local attractions, holiday events, outdoor activities, kid-friendly eateries, shops and accommodations. We hope this will help you plan the perfect family trip to Overland Park and Kansas City this season.
iFLY – If you’ve ever dreamed of flying or thought skydiving would be fun, you must check out iFLY in Overland Park. This indoor skydiving experience gives fliers a chance to experience the thrill and adrenaline rush of skydiving in a fun and safe indoor environment. Instructors provide some brief training and then suit you up for flight. They’re there to help first time flyers maximize the fun as you feel the sensation of free fall in the two story wind tunnel. The flying experience is great for kids and open for anyone aged 3 and up!
Pinstripes – Pinstripes is Kansas City’s premier bowling, bocce and bistro experience in the Prariefire complex in Overland Park. Pinstripes offers classic bowling lanes, indoor bocce courts, fire pits, great Italian food and killer drinks – all under one roof, making it a fun experience for the entire family. All ages are welcome, they offer tot playtime from 10 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, and parents bowl free.
Crown Center – Located in the heart of Kansas City, the Crown Center is one of the premier family destinations in the Midwest. Housing more than 5,000 sea creatures and 30 displays, the Sea Life Aquarium provides astonishingly close views of everything from humble starfish and seahorses to graceful rays. If you have a Lego-lover in the family, the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center offers a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience ideal for families with children 3-10 years old, featuring 2 rides, 10 LEGO build & play zones, a 4D cinema & much more! If your kid is a budding artist, make sure to check out Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope, where kids use their imaginations to make art with left-over materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing processes. There are also 2 live theaters and the city’s only public outdoor ice skating rink (during the winter).
Apex Climbing Gym – If your whole family is up for some adventure, Apex Climbing Gym is built entirely around the principle that exercise should be fun and bring family closer together. Try your hand at the Warped Wall and other ninja warrior-inspired obstacles. Or see if you have what it takes to top-out in the expansive climbing area. They also offer yoga to further improve your mobility, flexibility, and strength.
The College Basketball Experience – Located inside the Sprint Center in the heart of downtown Kansas City, the College Basketball Experience is perfect for the sports lover in your family. With hands-on, high-energy exhibits throughout the facility, visitors are put in electrifying game-like situations, from sinking the game-winning shot to announcing the play-by-play action at the “ESPNU broadcast desk.” This is also the home of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Overland Park Outdoor Adventures
Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens – For nature lovers, the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens stretches over an incredible 300 acres filled with more than a dozen gardens, nearly five miles of hiking trails and a 180-acre prairie that showcases native grasses and wildflowers in their full splendor. The Arboretum is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of eight natural ecosystems. The paved and wood chip trails wind throughout the picturesque arboretum and gardens. Gardens include Monet Garden, Children’s Discovery Garden and the International Sculpture Garden. While you’re there, check out all the fairy and gnome houses! They were one of the highlights of our trip!
Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead – This unique farm is bursting with things to see and do. The Farmstead is home to nearly 200 animals, vegetable and flower gardens, a fishing pond and more! Kids will love the pony rides, bottle feeding baby goats or petting a cow in the Dairy Barn. Other animals include horses, donkeys, turkeys, bison, prairie dogs and bobcats. Visit historical replicas of a country schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, mining camp, barber shop and Indian village. Pile the entire family into a wagon pulled by Belgian draft horses for a ride through the woods. Catch a fish with an old-fashioned cane pole or compete in a push pedal tractor race. This twelve acres of wholesome family fun and entertainment is open every day from April 1-October 31. On Monday through Thursday, admission is FREE!
Indian Creek Hike and Bike Trail – Looking for some outdoor exercise with a view? The Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail links two states, four communities and a multitude of parks along Indian Creek. The trail includes plenty of parks, playgrounds and picturesque places to stop for a picnic. The trail starts in Kansas City and continues (around 20 miles) through the heart of Overland Park. The asphalt paths are ideal for hiking, biking and skating. Because they’re mostly shaded, the trail is a great recreation option even during the hot summer months. A trail map can be found and downloaded HERE.
Snow Creek – Who says you can’t ski in the Midwest? Snow Creek is a winter sports destination with no mountains required! Located 40 miles north of Kansas City, Snow Creek has over 60 snow-making machines with the capacity to pump 3,000 gallons of water per minute, covering 100% of the terrain in as little as 72 hours! As long as temps stay below freezing they have snow! Snow Creek offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing. They have 12 trails, 5 lifts and 2 terrain parks. Rent your equipment there and take advantage of all their amenities such as bar, restaurant, pizzaria, private/group lessons and souvenir shop. Open mid-December through mid-March.
Holiday Activities in Overland Park
Farmstead Lane Light Show – The annual light display at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead has new features this year including lots of new fun animation. The 38-minute show is synchronized with music. Tune into 90.5 FM to hear holiday music as you watch the spectacular show from the warmth of your car!
Nutcracker – Don’t miss the magic and tradition of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Performed by the American Youth Ballet, with a 40ft growing tree, snow falling on stage, and a live orchestra. The Nutcracker is a highlight and an Overland Park tradition. Saturday show times are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday show times are 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Luminary Walk – Stroll down candlelit trails through the gardens and woods at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Thousands of candles line the walkways and trails with holiday lights on display from trees, buildings and bridges. It also features live music, Santa Claus, horse-drawn wagon rides and hot cider around a campfire. Even the mystical gnome and fairy villages are lit up. The Luminary Walk is held from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights, Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, and Dec. 8-9.
Ice Skating at Park Place – The Ice at Park Place is Leawood’s only outdoor ice rink. It’s open November 17th through February 19th, including holidays. The Ice is surrounded by seasonal festivities, warm food and drink options and unique holiday shopping. Now in its tenth season, enjoy special events like Skating with Santa, Princess Skate and Valentine’s Day Skate. Skate rentals are available, but bring your own helmets for the kids.
Carriage Ride – If you want to go all out for the holiday, book a horse-drawn carriage ride to take you through Country Club Plaza to see the lights and sights. From November to mid-January, Kansas City Carriages offers horse-drawn carriage rides to the public. Rides are available daily starting at 5 p.m. from the corner of Nichols Road and Pennsylvania Avenue and hit all the highlights as the lights illuminate the area’s pretty Spanish architecture. Reservations are recommended if you don’t want to wait in line for hours. Dress warmly and grab some hot chocolate from a nearby coffee shop for the ride.
Overland Park Eateries
Grimaldi’s Pizza – For authentic, coal-fired brick oven pizza, look no farther than Grimaldi’s at Prariefire in Overland Park. Pizza and calzones are baked to perfection in coal burning ovens, which offer a unique flavor and a crisp crust that is not possible from gas, convection or wood-burning ovens. Made with fresh ingredients, handmade mozzarella, ‘secret recipe’ dough and pizza sauce, Gramadi’s is the most award-winning pizzeria in the US. The kids loved “The Don” pizza and my husband and I fought over the last piece of “Brooklyn Bridge.”
The Big Biscuit – The folks at the Big Biscuit pride themselves on having the friendliest service in town. They’re known for portions that are impossibly generous and a staff with
Big smiles. They’ve been serving up breakfast at lunch to the Kansas City area for 17 years, from a variety of locations. No matter which part of KC you’re in, you can usually find a Big Biscuit near you.
Decadent – Decadent is a delicious dessert and coffee bar in Overland Park’s Prairiefire district. Pastries and desserts are made from scratch daily, which also means the selection regularly rotates. Pair your sweet treat with a freshly made espresso beverage or a decadent drinking chocolate. Want to go all out? Try the skillet chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla bean gelato, hot fudge, caramel sauce and whipped cream. Heaven, I tell you. They also serve ice cream, wine and beer!
Q39 – You cannot take a trip to Kansas City without having some world-famous BBQ. Q39 is a relatively new BBQ restaurant, with a created-from-scratch menu by classically trained chef Rob Magee. Prior to opening Q39 he worked the competitive barbecue circuit (and won a lot)! The restaurant is fun and contemporary, while also being rustic and friendly. You can’t go wrong with any of their amazing BBQ dinner entrees, served with apple coleslaw and your choice of beans or potato salad. It draws a crowd on a weekend night, so go early with and try the brisket. You won’t be disappointed!
McLain’s Market – The stocked pastry case at McLain’s Market is a dessert lover’s dream—cupcakes, brownies, donuts and pastries, oh my (plus a whole lot more). They serve an incredible breakfast and lunch, too – everything from breakfast BLTs to veggie spring rolls and avocado toast. There’s even a Poutine made from housemade fries covered in a goat cheese fondue with bacon and chives. Consider yourself warned!
Gigi’s Cupcakes – If you’ve never tasted the best gourmet cupcake to ever come out of a Kansas grandma’s kitchen, you need to go to Gigi’s. Featuring 30 varieties of cupcakes each week, in addition to adorable mini cupcakes and the perfect-sized cheesecakes. Everything is baked fresh each day. They even have gluten friendly fans covered with three different gluten friendly cupcakes made daily. Try the chocolate salted caramel cupcake, a dark chocolate cupcake that’s filled with caramel, then topped with caramel frosting, dipped in ganache and sprinkled with sea salt. Amazing.
Shops for Littles
Scheels – While a mega sporting goods store might not sound like the most kid-friendly destination, this one certainly is entertaining! Kids can marvel at a 16,000-gallon overhead aquarium, hear from fully animated talking presidents along the Walk of the U.S. Presidents and ride a 65 foot indoor Ferris wheel! Scheels is the largest selection of sports, sportswear and footwear – under one roof – in the entire state of Kansas! There’s also a deli and fudge shop, sport simulators (golf, soccer, hockey, baseball, football and basketball), plus a wildlife mountain.
American Girl – At the American Girl Store in Overland Park, your little one can explore the doll collections like BeForever, Girl of the Year, Truly Me, and The Bitty Baby. The store is full of fun accessories to browse and a full library of award-winning books. Make a pampering date and treat your doll to a new look in the doll hair salon or get her ears pieced. Dolls in need of a little TLC can be brought to the store and admitted to the Doll Hospital for refresh and repair. There are also exciting programs and special events held throughout the year.
Fat Brain Toys – Fat Brain Toys in the Prariefire complex in Overland Park is a fun place to learn while you play! The highly educated staff includes real school teachers that will help you find the perfect educational game, activity or toy. Kids also have the chance to try, learn, and play before you buy to ensure satisfaction! The store boasts over 7,500 in stock toys, games, and gifts, including their own original line of educational toys.
Places to Stay in Overland Park
Mariott Overland Park – This hotel boasts gracefully designed accommodations, superb service and an excellent convenient location. You’ll find our hotel just moments from premier shopping centers, as well as museums, attractions and the convention center. Epicure restaurant and the 210 Bar and Grill both have delicious American cuisine and innovative cocktails. There’s a fitness center for the parents and an indoor/outdoor pool for the kids!
Convention Center hotels – Are you headed to Overland Park for a meeting, convention or corporate event? The Overland Park Convention Center is within walking distance of 1,000 hotel rooms, including Hyatt Place, Holiday Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. The Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center is attached to the Overland Park Convention Center for the ultimate in convenient access.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of all the fun family-friendly activities, adventures and outings in and around the Overland Park and Kansas City area. Keep this in mind when planning your next weekend getaway with the kids. And make sure to check out the Visit Overland Park website for the most up-to-date info on local events and happenings.