The past month or so, the kids and I had been feeling overwhelmingly homesick for Kansas City (our home away from home)… The past year was such an expensive one with the purchase of the new house, which prohibited us from putting any extra money into a “traveling fund”. And, this summer, so far, has been extraordinarily busy with camps, celebrations, and other family activities. The calendar for last weekend happened to be unmarked, nothing at all to do….! So, I gave the kid’s a few day’s notice that we’d be heading to KC for a quick weekend of fun. On my mind, was visiting friends (as many as I could contact on very short notice, who may not have plans already), visiting a few favorite places, and keeping the trip on a modest budget. On the kids’ minds, was visiting friends, eating, and shopping.
In order to do everything on our list, a little research and organization was necessary. This is what we managed to do:
Played at the free exhibit at Crown Center. The exhibit changes periodically throughout the year, and this time around, it was a rain forest adventure. Once we got inside, I was worried that my kids may have outgrown this particular activity, but they found things to do to keep them busy for a couple of hours. There were coloring pages, interactive stations, a pulley system, bird matching game, a tunnel, and more. This exhibit is a great place to get your parking validated without having to make a purchase, so don’t forget to pull out that parking garage ticket right when you walk through the doors and get it stamped!
We crossed from Crown Center to the Hallmark Visitor’s Center and went to Kaleidoscope, which hosts free art sessions for individuals, groups, and families. Typically, they start handing out free tickets each day at 9:30am, for a session later in the day. It’s first come, first served. The kids and I didn’t have tickets, but figured we’d walk over and ask if there were any leftovers. It was our lucky day too, because we were told that we could just go on in and play without tickets since it had been a slow day! Praises!
I LOVED Kaleidoscope!!! It is decorated to look like a child’s imagination run wild, with murals on the walls, interactive art stations, plenty of projects/materials, including: paint your own visor, design a puzzle, color a kaleidoscope, and a “glow in the dark” station where you can paint on the walls. This was an absoute BLAST!
Next, we did something that I wanted to do. We walked through the Kauffman Memorial Gardens (free admission) observing and photographing nature. It is a small, privately owned botanical garden with plenty of gorgeous plant life, a few statues, benches, a fountain, etc. This garden is located nearby the Plaza District, which is just a short drive south from Crown Center.
The kids probably wouldn’t have chosen this activity on their own, but it is a great way to stretch your legs in a peaceful environment, and I was able to get my “nature photography fix!”
In between all of the free activities, we did have to stop and eat. This is wear I spent some money. We chose to eat at some restaurants that we don’t have at home, so we probably spent a little more money on food than we actually had to. But that’s ok, that’s why there’s a budget – to plan on where to spend and where to save.
By the end of Day One, we were all hot and tired….. It was time to take advantage of the hotel swimming pool. I don’t like to spend a ton of money on a hotel since we don’t spend a whole lot of time there – most of our time running was spent running around the city. We found a hotel that was reasonably priced, for sleeping purposes, and since our trip was planned in the heat of summer, we checked for a hotel swimming pool. There’s no extra entry fee, additional guests are allowed to swim with you, and our pool was open late – bonus! The kids swam, in the dark, until 10:00pm, which means that they slept REALLY REALLY WELL that night!
I encouraged the kids to bring their allowances with them to KC, in case they found a store at which they wanted to shop. It was really exciting to introduce Alex to Charming Charlie, the ultimate in affordable jewelry stores! Alex was overwhelmed by all of the glitz, just like I was, when the BFF introduced me to Charming Charlie in Washington DC. Kansas City’s store also has a special young girls’ section with appropriately sized jewelry, belts, hats, and some clothing.
Another free activity, that I was not aware of, until our Girl Scout Troop Leader clued us in: Michael’s Passport to Fun! Each year, Michael’s Craft Stores host a series of free craft sessions for the community throughout the summer. The kids were able to draw and paint hieroglyphics onto modeling clay, paint and assemble a wooden nutcracker, decorate a keychain, and make a paper Loden hat. This summer, each craft session is supposed to be dedicated to one country, however; this KC location had extra crafts from previous sessions, so the kids ended up getting to make crafts from a few different countries!
A terrific, educational, free, must-see is the Lakeside Nature Center on Gregory Blvd. The center has a fun indoor scavenger hunt, as well as a separate one for outdoors. They have special programs that cater to Scouts, and since I have 2 Cub Scouts and 1 Girl Scout, I requested the information. We were able to work together to accomplish a few requirements for our scouting handbooks and try-it’s while we were there!
The older boys worked on an in-depth scavenger hunt, while my younger two kiddos worked on a picture hunt. Don’t forget to stop by the “Touch It Table” where the kids can touch and feel animal antlers, teeth, fur, turtle shell, and many other things. When we all completed our hunts, we checked our answers at the front desk and I bought each kid a little prize from the glass case (all items were $1.00).
Where else did I end up spending money? On Day Two, once it got too hot in the afternoon, I treated all of us to a matinee in an icy cold movie theater. So, for the price of gasoline, a hotel, food, $1.00 items at the nature center, matinee movie tickets, and one large piece of chocolate cake that was shared between us (a splurge from the Cheesecake Factory), we spent some much treasured time with friends, visited some of our old and some new favorite places, and had an unforgettable summer vacation! I’ve already got ideas for our next jaunt to Kansas City! Happy Traveling on a Budget!