Some of the best family memories are made in ‘faraway places’. Just as thousands come to St. Louis to explore what we have to offer, we took an Amtrak train to the other side of the state to visit KC.
Kansas City, here we come! How do we get there? This was the easiest decision of the entire trip. We have 3 boys that have spent hours upon hours (upon hours) in the back of a minivan as we have traveled to our vacation destinations over the years. But they had never been on a train. And since we were planning to leave early in the morning, we preferred not to spend 4 hours driving from St. Louis, just to get to Kansas City and be too tired to do the things we wanted to do. Plus, with Amtrak’s “Kids Ride Free” promotion, (yes, FREE!) now through August 26th, we saved money on our children’s fares, so it was kind of a no-brainer. They also have great Midweek fare deals too!
We booked our trip on the Amtrak Missouri River Runner from the station in Kirkwood, MO, located just miles from downtown St. Louis. The passenger train makes 2 trips to Kansas City each day, departing at 9:15am and 4pm making stops in St. Louis, Kirkwood, Washington, Hermann, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Lee’s Summit, and Independence, along the way. We arrived at 8:30am and asked where we could park. The station attendant directed us to the overnight parking lot just across the street from the station. Since we were leaving on a Friday, we only had to pay $5 for parking for the entire weekend (as Saturdays and Sundays are free parking). Score!
All aboard! My boys had huge smiles on their faces as the train pulled into the station. We boarded the train and easily found enough seats together to accommodate our party of 5. As the train left the station, I was amazed that the kids didn’t immediately reach for their tablets! They were actually looking out the window, watching intently as the landscape whizzed by and the train gained speed. We were on our way!
We made it to the next 2 stops in Washington and Herrmann, MO before I heard that all too familiar “I’m hungry”. So, off to the dining car we went. We grabbed some snacks for the kids: hot dogs, pizza sodas and, gooey butter cakes for dessert. And since I wasn’t driving, I was able to have a more adult-type ‘snack’… a local selection from their beverage cart that included Schlafly and Boulevard craft beers. Another bonus from not having to drive is that I actually had the chance to spend time with the kids. We played Go Fish, talked about school, and made each other laugh. Much better than the game we usually play in the car: “When are we going to be there?”
We arrived in Kansas City’s Union Station right on time and walked to the nearby Crown Center for our first stop: LEGOLAND.
If your kids can’t get enough of LEGOs, build excitement by taking them to LEGOLAND. Combining the size of a museum with the fun of a playroom, this place has it all: rides, LEGO build & play zones, a 4D cinema and MUCH more. From designing and building their own creations in the Ideas Studio and Art Gallery, to ‘going medieval’ on the Kingdom Quest and Merlin’s Apprentice rides, to being captivated by MINILAND, a brick by brick recreation of iconic Kansas City buildings and attractions, the boys loved every minute of it. Truth be told, we were the last family left in the building at closing time, but the friendly staff let us ride the Merlin’s Apprentice ride one last time before we left.
Time to turn in.
After waking up at 6am, riding on a train, and stacking LEGO bricks all afternoon, we decided to call it a day. We Ubered it to the Drury Hotel in Blue Springs, MO. We made it just in time for their “5:30 Kickback”. The kids helped themselves to the free soda and “make your own tacos” bar and us grownups relaxed with a couple of well-deserved complimentary adult beverages. Drury is true to their motto that “The Extras Aren’t Extra”.
Ready for another day of fun! Wanting to get an early jump on the day, we were up and at ‘em by 7:30am. Every good day starts with a good breakfast, so we headed down to the lobby of our hotel to get our free breakfast on! We had our pick of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, fresh fruit, Belgian waffles, potatoes, sausages, pastries, and more, which the boys made short work of. Again, Drury scores with that whole “The Extras Aren’t Extra” thing!
I can’t believe we ate the HOLE thing
Even though we were still stuffed from breakfast, we were told that we would regret not trying KC’s most unique donut stop, Donutology. Billed as a “donut laboratory” where everyone is encouraged to experiment with different toppings served from glass beakers, Donutology was definitely a must see (and must eat)! Specializing in mini cake and seasonal donuts (which the kids inhaled) they also had the classics like glazed donuts, fritters, and the most heavenly smelling cinnamon rolls, covered too.
Under the Sea. Our next stop was Sea Life Aquarium. Located next to LEGOLAND (literally), Sea Life was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. This 28,000 square-foot indoor aquarium offered a one-of-a-kind experience that put us face-to-fish-face with hundreds of underwater creatures. Sharks, stingrays, sea horses, crabs, an octopus, and thousands of fish were on display and with the amazing ambient lighting, you actually felt like you were in the murky depths of the ocean. There was even an interactive rock pool exhibit that allowed the kids to get hands-on with sea stars, shrimp, and other underwater friends! On your way out, drop anchor in the super cool Doodle Reef, where your child can create their very own virtual sea creatures and make them come to life on a huge display screen.
Chew-Chew! Keeping with the train theme of our weekend, we decided to hit the world famous Fritz’s Restaurant for lunch. This is the perfect throwback lunch stop for any hungry family! From placing your order on a booth-side telephone to your food being delivered by a working overhead train delivery system, this experience was unique, in every sense of the word. The best part (besides the delicious classic cheeseburger and onion rings combo) was trying to guess which locomotive would deliver our order.
Let the creativity flow. There’s only one word to accurately describe Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope: creative. Located at the greeting card giant’s headquarters, kids are encouraged to let their imaginations go wild as they make arts and crafts from re-purposed paper, ribbons, and other odds ‘n ends in a free flowing environment filled with one-of-a-kind sculptures and exhibits. This free attraction lets groups of kids in every hour or so in large groups. From there, they can go to any creation station they like. From making googly glasses and glowing paint art, to becoming part of a huge video kaleidoscope, this was a fun and funky adventure that should be on everyone’s must-do list.
The pool is open! With our fun meters pegged, it was time to head back to the hotel. But no trip is complete without a swim, so we grabbed our swimsuits and towels and headed to the pool. We let the boys spend any remaining energy they had left in the pool (which was a lot apparently), headed back to the room, ordered a pizza, and called it a night.
We’re coming home. On Sunday morning we arrived at Union Station, boarded the Amtrak, and headed back to St. Louis. The trip back was quiet. The kids were drained. They drifted in and out of sleep for most of the trip back as the train slowly rocked them back and forth. We arrived at Kirkwood Station, disembarked the train, and slowly walked back to the car. Our trip was complete and many great memories were made.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable getaway and we’ll definitely be going back to see more of Kansas City. It has a lot to offer; great restaurants, unique experiences, and a whole lot of family-friendly adventures. But there’s one thing they’ll never have. 11 World Series Championships! Go Cardinals!