Being road trip enthusiasts and living in Iowa we have been ALL over the Midwest – except for Kansas City, Missouri. I didn’t even realize it was only 3.5 hours away from us! There were several places in the KC area on our “wish list” to go to so we decided to head down there on an extended weekend and dive into some of the history. Everything we did was not only historical and educational but it was fun and engaging for the kids.
My very first thoughts as we were driving through the various areas in and around Kansas City was that I had NO idea that the city was so old and that there was so much history there! In fact I really knew nothing at all about Kansas City, Missouri so we thoroughly enjoyed exploring during our short visit. However if you are visiting with children there are a few very important things we learned along the way! So keep reading!
Money Museum at the Federal Bank Reserve
Visiting a Federal Reserve Bank with our kids has been on our “to do” list for ages – especially since we missed out on seeing the one in D.C. a few years ago. Although the stop to the Money Museum is certainly a short trip if you have kids (maybe a half hour or so) – it’s still worth stopping at! Not only are there a ton of hands-on things for your kids to do (and photo opps!) BUT here’s a little secret we learned:
If you take the interactive computer quiz in the beginning of the museum you have the option to get a Buy 1 Get 1 FREE ticket to the WW1 Museum!
The museum is free and yes – you can see right inside the vault with thousands of dollars stacked up! You can also create your own currency with rubbings like we did above (my favorite part!). My kids gave this stop a 2 thumbs up!
*Note – be prepared to walk through metal detectors if you have little ones and are toting a lot of stuff!
Science City at Union Station
Although I am not a kid Science City was definitely one of my favorite stops – and a family favorite for all of us! I included this in our “chasing history” post because there is quite a large section dedicated to the history of the railway with trains you can climb inside of! The museum kept my kids (ages 2-9) fully engaged for hours – and we only left because it was closing! Having never been to Union Station I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before you even make it into the “main” part of the museum you’ll be enticed by a long hallway of psychedelic lights, magnets, mazes, and all sorts of other fun things.
The museum opens up into a massive open warehouse feel where all of the exhibits are spread out on various floors around a central area. Above is the Mister E Hotel – a life size hotel full of optical illusions. This was a really cool spot and there is a table and chairs inside that you can sit and watch the trains in the rail yard below!
My older kids loved the solar area and learning about alternative energy.
From water play to a nature center area, genetics, and so much more – if you have kids of any age you absolutely MUST spend a day at Science City. It’s one of the best science centers I’ve ever been to.
Pssst – if you have a science membership in your local area see if Science City is on your reciprocal list! We got in for FREE!
Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri
After seeing pictures of the Kansas City Public Library on Pinterest I HAD to stop in and check it out – tired kids and all. A few things to note for your trip:
*If you type in “Kansas City Public Library” in your GPS you might not end up at the right one! …..Not that we did this (haha!) – You want the library at this address: 14 W 10th St, Kansas City, MO 64105
*The photo above with all the giant over-sized books is actually the parking garage! Imagine my surprise when I thought it was the library itself and realized it was just for parking! Totally worth the walk past for plenty of selfies though! Even the stairs look like giant stacked books!
*You can go outside on the ROOF of the library AND in the basement to watch movies in their “Vault” – YES it’s a real vault!! They also have an expansive genealogy section!
*There are security guards stationed on every floor. The ones we spoke with were incredibly friendly, helpful, and gave us plenty of insider tips on enjoying the library!
The entire library is pretty magical. This is on the 2nd floor entering into the children’s area! We could have stayed there for hours enjoying everything – it was a stunning library.
National Frontier Trails Museum
The National Frontier Trails Museum is actually in Independence, MO – just out of Kansas City. We specifically paired this stop with the Harry S. Truman museum because they are so close together. The museum did a great job at making some of the exhibits interactive and interesting for kids as well as adults. I was shocked to learn some incredibly interesting facts while we were here! Did you know that pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail used to decorate their canvas coverings on their wagons with sayings?! If you’re a Goonies fan you’ll appreciate that one of the sayings we learned was “Never Say Die”!
As you can see the quality of the exhibits were superb! They even had a cool “Register Rock” zone for kids to write their names down. And there were squares of canvass for kids to create their own pioneering slogan on. Here’s a little steampunkery for you – did you know that inventors tried to “power” their covered wagons like a sailboat? I think it said they got it up to around 12-15ish mph! WOW!
Towards the end of the exhibit was a room specifically for kids. There was a large weight wagon with shelves stocked full of general store supplies! My kids spent a good half hour “shopping” for supplies and arranging them in the wagon! Also across the street you can see dips in the field where wagons from the Oregon Trail were!
National World War 1 Museum & Memorial
The National World War 1 Museum & Memorial was actually a special request by my 9 year old son who became interested in World War 1 after doing a history report on it last year. It wasn’t the greatest place for a tired cranky 2 year old but my boys really enjoyed it! Thankfully there were a couple interactive light tables that kept my toddler occupied.
The museum focuses on every aspect of the war – both European and American artifacts by the thousands! From uniforms to guns, hand grenades, and even hospital beds and military vehicles – this was truly an incredible place to visit! There were even full sized blast zones and trenches to explore! It really brought history alive for my children.
And if inside the museum wasn’t mind-blowing enough the grounds are just amazing. Make sure you get a bird’s eye view of the city at the top of the Liberty Tower!
Harry S. Truman Home, Museum, & Library
Also in Independence just down the road from the National Frontier Trails Museum is quite the collection of stops for presidential and history enthusiasts. My 7 year old LOVES presidents and has a desire to visit all of the past president’s houses – so a stop at the Harry S. Truman home was on the agenda! Here are some things you need to know:
- The Harry S. Truman is a SEPARATE location from the Museum & Presidential Library. In fact in order to get on the grounds of the Truman house you’ll need to stop by the National Park Service office which is a DIFFERENT location than the house! This is something we didn’t know when we went! You can find all the details on the NPS page here.
- The Museum & library were a great stop with our kids – even our toddler. We were able to take our stroller everywhere in the museum. Each kid got to make their own campaign button and desk sign to take home too!
- Chances are you will never walk into the Oval Office in Washington D.C. but you CAN walk into the replica Oval Office at the museum! It was pretty awe-inspiring!
Arabia Steamboat Museum
Unfortunately we did not get the time to go to the Arabia Steamboat Museum but it is #1 to see the next time we are in town (along with the Kansas City Zoo!). The museum is full of pre-Civil War artifacts brought from the sunken steamboat Arabia which went down in the Missouri River in 1856. From the photos I’ve seen it looks stunning – this was high on my 7 year old’s list to see!
An AMAZING addition to your tour for any age – The Roasterie is a coffee hot spot that offers FREE tours of it’s coffee plant along with free tastings. Yes – we even took our 2 year old on the tour! This place is history in the making. Learn all about the coffee bean, the process, and the good they are doing in other countries on their free tour! And the plane above their factory is a REAL workable plane (once you add the engine) that not only was used in the Berlin Airlift but it also crashed in the Bermuda Triangle! How’s that for history?!
Other Historical Stops in the Kansas City Area:
Hallmark Visitor’s Center (if you have kids make sure you look up Kaleidoscope & Fritz’s!)
National Archives of Kansas City
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
Historic Garment District Museum
The Majestic Restaurant
Check out some of our other travels in the Midwest below!
Reference Books for the Kansas City area: