This is the fifth post about our family's adventures in Missouri. If you haven't already, I recommend reading the first, second, third, and fourth posts about this trip. Because I blog about educational travel, I received complimentary admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions are free to everyone and I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I share is something that I recommend without hesitation.
Family-Friendly Fun in Kansas City, Missouri
If I'm going to spend the time and money to travel, I want to SEE the place. I don't want to get home and find out there was something amazing at the place I just left and I might never get to visit it. That is why I spend so much time before traveling researching and so much time during travel going, seeing, and doing. All of this to say that we did a LOT during our first full day in Kansas City, even by deRosier standards.
First stop: the Money Museum.
The Money Museum is located in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. This is the 10th of 12 Federal Reserve Banks, designated with the letter J (the 10th letter of the alphabet). The flags (half-mast following the death of Justice Stevens) represent the states located in the 10th district.
There are a lot of fun, hands-on activities at the Money Museum. This twist on the classic memory game had us matching coins with their monetary value.
Here, Trevor is trying (unsuccessfully) to lift gold bars.
We read all sorts of interesting facts about money....
... and used rubbing plates to design our own money.
The best part of the museum was watching the primary purpose of the Federal Reserve Bank, which is acting as a bank for banks. We saw employees put big stacks of money into a huge machine, which then spit out counterfeit bills, shredded damaged bills, and bundled the remaining bills to be distributed to banks. Employees counted bundles, bagged them, and then off they went on robotic transporters. Pictures are allowed in all areas of the Money Museum except this part (which, while understandable, was a bummer because it was SO COOL). Fortunately, each of us got to take home a free souvenir which reminds us of the bill-shredding machine. I have some crafty plans for my bag of money.
The Money Museum is a short walk from the National World War 1 Museum and Memorial.
Wow. This is a must-visit for teens and adults. I wish every high school class could spent time at this museum. When you enter the museum, you walk across a glass bridge over a field of 9000 red poppies, each representing a thousand deaths. It's hard to describe how powerful it is.
From there, you enter the main gallery that walks you through the Great War. Exhibits, films, and more help bring the causes and effects of WWI to life.
Trevor has not studied WWI yet, but he is old enough to have gotten a lot out of the museum. I'd hesitate to take elementary-age kids, unless they have a specific interest and are mature enough for the subject. The museum staff have kid-friendly materials available, so definitely ask for these to help your kids get the most out of the experience.
The 217-foot Liberty Memorial and two additional exhibit halls sit atop the museum.
Your museum ticket gets you into those two galleries. For an extra charge, you can take an elevator almost to the top of the Liberty Memorial. I say "almost" because you need to climb 45 stairs in a narrow circular staircase to actually reach the top after you get out of the elevator.
The open-air views from the top are outstanding.
We spent 2 hours at the WWI Museum and Memorial and could have spent much longer. Definitely go.
When I contact hotels, museums, and visitors' bureaus, I ask everyone I can for their restaurant recommendations. Over and over, I heard, "You gotta go to Fritz's." So we went there for lunch. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a table on a random Tuesday. That's a good sign.
The host seated us and pointed out the telephone at each booth. To order, just pick up the phone.
See those train tracks hanging from the ceiling? That's how they deliver the food. It. Is. Awesome.
Check it out with this poor-quality video I took:
The food was good. Not amazing, but definitely good. You're paying for solid food and a really fun experience. I'd definitely recommend Fritz's for anyone with young children, but 47-year old Cindy, 43-year old Steve, and 13-year old Trevor loved it too. Now that I've been, I will join the chorus: You gotta go to Fritz's.
Fritz's has three locations. We chose the one at Crown Center because it was close to our next destination, the Hallmark Visitors Center. We started with the introductory video, then continued with the self-guided tour. I knew nothing about the history of Hallmark Cards and was fascinated to learn that a teenager selling postcards out of a shoebox went on to establish a billion dollar brand that has continued for over 100 years. Joyce Clyde Hall was an impressive man.
Hall's employees loved him so much that they worked together each year to design and make him a surprise Christmas tree. Each was completely different and really impressive.
More impressive? Getting to hold the one of the many Emmys Hallmark has won.
I posed with Maxine. Steve posed with Barbie.
We each went home with a souvenir bow. It was really neat watching the machine make them.
Next door to the Hallmark Visitors Center is a place called Kaleidoscope. I hadn't come across it in my research and didn't really understand what it was, but I was intrigued enough to go in and ask. I am so glad I did! It turns out that Kaleidoscope is a free art space for kids, owned and run by Hallmark.
The art materials are left over from Hallmark's manufacturing processes, which means that the materials at Kaleidoscope are ever-changing.
The space is so colorful and inviting!
I really wanted to stay for a session, but we didn't have time before our next appointment. Instead, a member of the staff was gracious enough to take me through the facility while others prepped the room between sessions. That's why you don't see any kids - they were all waiting for the top of the hour to come in and create.
Everything about Kaleidoscope is creative. This is the bathroom area. The pink sink is operated with foot pedals and the characters on the wall are paper towel dispensers.
This area reminded me of the fun we'd had at the Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania. That wasn't a coincidence! Hallmark owns Crayola and based some of the activities at Crayola Experience on those at Kaleidoscope.
What an amazing place for kids! I can't believe it's free. What a treasure! Crown Center also had a dedicated Crayola store, which Trevor and I were drawn to like moths to a light.
There's a room for creating in the store. So cool.
And speaking of acting like moths drawn to light, Trevor and I noticed Chip's Chocolate Factory and had to check out their offerings. We got some mint fudge that was amazing. It turns out they offer tours. We didn't take the tour, but it's on my to-do list for our next visit to Kansas City.
I love candy art.
To be honest, I'd expected our time at Crown Center to be brief. Lunch, Hallmark, then off we go to our next appointment. I incorrectly assumed that it was just an ordinary mall, but that couldn't be further from the truth. We could easily have spent all day at Crown Center - they have a Legoland Discovery Center and an aquarium, in addition to many interesting shops and restaurants. But we had somewhere else we needed to be. So we headed to the super cool 18th & Vine neighborhood.
Our primary destination: the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The Negro Leagues were formed in 1920 to allow talented African-American men to play baseball at a highly competitive level during an era of segregation that prevented them from playing Major League Baseball.
Quite a few players from the Negro Leagues went on to play in the major leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. You might recognize names such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, and Roy Campanella, all players in the Negro Leagues. Before playing for the Dodgers, Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs.
The Negro Leagues ended in the 1960's. In 1959, the Boston Red Sox became the final MLB team to integrate their roster.
We all loved the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I love history and care deeply about civil rights and thoroughly enjoyed learning about this time in history.
By the time we finally pulled ourselves way from this outstanding museum, we were starving. On the menu: BBQ, of course! Kansas City is famous for their great barbecue. But where to go? We'd been asking everyone about their favorite places and heard two names come up over and over: Arthur Bryant's and Gates Bar-B-Q. We went with Arthur Bryant's because it was an easy walk from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The food did not disappoint. Everything we shared was fantastic.
We'd planned to visit Gates before leaving Kansas City, but we weren't able to do so. I'd really wanted to compare the two so that I could profess a favorite (like our Cheesesteak Battle in Philadelphia). But there's only so much we could pack into a short visit... and I think everyone would agree that we REALLY pack in a lot when we travel! Anyway, Gates is on the top of our must-visit list the next time we're in KC.
As we walked back toward our car, we admired the art and the other tourist-friendly features in the 18th & Vine neighborhood.
Definitely check out the American Jazz Walk of Fame while you're in the area.
As you might imagine, we were exhausted by the time we returned to the Courtyard Briarcliff. Among the many things I loved about our hotel is that we never heard any noise from other guests. Our room was right next to the elevator and we didn't hear a thing. They've done a great job soundproofing, which I really appreciate. All three of us slept well throughout our stay.
I'll be back on Monday to tell you where we spent Day 6 of our vacation.