Taking a Trip to Legoland in Kansas City
Crown Center was developed back in the early 1970s by the Halls, who own and operate Hallmark, the card and gift manufacturing giant, headquartered in K.C. The mission was to develop a district that would draw kids and parents together for entertainment and enjoyment and revitalize downtown. Anchored by the Sheraton and Westin hotels, Crown Center now houses a combination of theaters, restaurants and shops—65 in all—-most of which cater to children.
Likely, your kids will love it all! But, if I had to guess, I’d bet that, like mine, their favorite memories will be the brand new crown jewels, LEGOLAND and SEA LIFE. And, here’s why.
At LEGOLAND an abundance of those cheerfully colored blocks are just waiting for your child to create a masterpiece – or two or three. Also, where else can you see Lego-laced replicas of Kansas City’s famous architecture including downtown skyscrapers and fountains, a racetrack and even structures from the Wizard of Oz? For added fun, there are several rides a la LEGO theme and a 4-D movie featuring LEGO superstars. Be sure to take a photo with the real-life LEGO Master Builder before moving on to SEA LIFE, which is right next door!
A few steps away from the “Land of Legos,” another whole world of color awaits. One of 32 locations worldwide, SEA LIFE aquarium displays over 5,000 picturesque sea animals. Creature features include an array of sea horse species, bubble tanks that allow for a sense of total immersion with the fish and the elaborate petting tank, including starfish and sea crabs. In addition, sprinkled throughout the venue are interesting facts and figures. Children are encouraged to explore the quiz trail, answering questions as they walk through the aquarium, and can win a small prize for completing the “test.”
To rest and refuel, eateries such as Crayola Café and Einstein’s Bagels are plentiful in the expansive Crown Center, directly across the street from LEGOLAND and SEALIFE. After careful examination, we chose to dine at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, a totally cool establishment that’s unique to the Kansas City area. With moving mini-trains hugging the ceiling, the atmosphere is darling. Kids are given paper train conductor hats to sport while experiencing Fritz’s one-of-a-kind ordering system. Dining booths come equipped with a phone for placing food and drink requests. When the order is ready, the goodies are delivered to each table via a model railroad device. Shakes are a favorite as is the standard fare of burgers and fries.
The Crown Center features other enchanting experiences such as the Chip’s Chocolate Factory where fudge is made throughout the day for all to see and sample. Fudge making is not only an art but a workout. The mixture is thrown high into the air, forming ribbons which soon thicken enough for shaping, hardening and, eventually, slicing for purchase. Chocolates and truffles are handcrafted and sold here, too. Yummy!
For an artistic adventure, The Crayola Store showcases a full color wheel, comprised of all crayon shades. Sketchpads are set up for children (and kids at heart, like me) to doodle away and finished work is yours for the taking. Plus, The Coterie Theater and The American Heartland Theaters offer Broadway-style shows year-round.
Nightlife at the Crown Center is quiet early in the week. The center closes at 6:00 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, but remains open until 9:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Evenings might be a good time to kick back at your hotel or take a short drive to nearby Country Club Plaza, which has a wide array of restaurants including Brio, an Italian eatery with an exposed brick oven. Or, you can head across the street from Crown Center to enjoy some finer fare at Union Station’s Pierpont restaurant. The “young adult” menu features a sizeable Kansas City strip steak for under $10. Or, if you are up for a walk around downtown, the happening Power and Light District features restaurants and a bowling alley that offers a full bar and menu for eating while playing. Children are welcome until 8:00 p.m.
When you looking for a quest that fosters creativity, learning and entertainment, the host of attractions in and around Kansas City’s Crown Center really rolls out the red carpet in a big way—-kid-style. So, when the heat of the summer kicks in, maybe a road trip to Kansas City will satisfy!
For further information about any or all of these attractions, check out www.crowncenter.com, www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com, www.sealifeus.com, www.fritzskc.com, www.chipschocolatefactory.com, www.unionstation.org, www.westin.com and www.sheraton.com.