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KidzAustin Family Visits the Kansas City, Kansas Area

For this Winter season time off, the KidzAusitn family decided it was time to visit family in the Kansas City, KS area. While I had lived there for a short period, this location represented never-before seen territory to my husband and two kids. The big feature I mentioned, of course, was all the snow that they manage to get each year. When I was there last, while fun at first, it became grueling with all the extra effort put into just getting to work. But, for a vacation, especially for kids from Texas, such a thick specimen of snow would be pure Heaven! And, even more important, it offered the opportunity to spend some quality time with their very cool cousins. With those two items in mind, they were sold pretty quickly

For me, there is always the consideration of cost. I decided that driving would be a bad idea, since as a Texan I'm clueless about driving in icy or snowy conditions (this is after all why everytime we have an icy situation they close everything down). So, flying was really the only way to go for us. If you are considering such a trip, you might be surprised at how inexpensive it was for us (and hopefully can be for you!) We actually got 5 round-trip tickets there and back for a little over $750. The trick was probably the fact that we left on the afternoon of Christmas Day and we returned on New Year's Eve. However, even with that in my pocket, to get the price down to where I needed it, I shopped around. I ended up getting tickets there via Southwest and then seperately purchased the return trip from Frontier out of MCI Airport in KC (which was really nice -- a direct flight and they serve warm chocolate chip cookies!).

Sadly, the week before we were to leave, it was pretty clear that snow was not in our forecast. : ( However, this fact probably encouraged us to discover some of the other cool things offered around). So, that's what we did and we had LOTS of fun doing it!

So, you ask, "what IS there to do in the area if there isn't snow?"

Snow tubing, fun for kids and families, at Snow Creek in Weston, KSKidzAustin kids posing in front of Aquarena Center Glass Bottom Boats in San Marcos, TX - a short trip from Austin
Well, from the moment we were picked up at the airport, my sister-in-law was quick to inform me of a cool place called Snow Creek in Weston, KS. The thought of how this place could work is a little confusing for an Austinite that watches REAL snow melt to dirty water within hours. But, basically, they provide fake snow when they don't have the real stuff. The way it works? Well, their ground never gets as warm as our does here, so it actually stays solid. Thus, the snow doesn't melt, Crazy, right?

So, Snow Creek offered hills of snow where kids/adults/families could enjoy hours of skiing, snowboardiing or in our case, snow tubing. We took her up on the chance to check it out a few days later and had a complete blast! As I mentioned, we stuck with the snow tubing since no experience or lessons were required. Side note: Was really strange to hear other kids asking if they could go "tubing." That obviously means a totally different thing here where tubing means a refreshing trip in the heat down the San Marcos or Guadalupe rivers ; )

Also, as we drove to their home in Bonner Springs, I spotted the hugest retail store I had ever seen. It was in the Legends Shopping Center. The place is called Nebraska Furniture Mart. We actually went there the next day. Let's just say this place was so big, amazing and had so much stuff (you name it, electronics, mattresses, furniture, clocks, knick knacks, etc.) that I literally had sensory overload. The prices were great. My daughter found a desk that she would love. Unfortunately, it wasn't cost effective to ship it. But, while we were checking into it, we were informed that this particular store was THE largest retail establishment under one roof in North America! She also said, they are planning to build a new one in the Dallas area to open potentially in 2015! Let's just say, I'm going when they do. Definitely good prices and good quality. My daughter had a blast browsing the place.

The following day, we were treated to a fun trip to the Moon Marble Company, named one of the 8 wonders of Kansas, in Bonner Sorings. As you probably have guessed they specialize in marbles. In fact, watched a demo of how a handmade marble is created. The demonstrator actually made an Angry Birds marble right before our very eyes. They have a small set of bleachers in the room where they do the demos. It was really cool. In the store, in additional to handmade and machine-made marbles they had all sorts of cool toys and knick knacks and even an area where the kids could play/try out certain toys avaialble for that purpose. Some of the toys included marble raceways. I scored an awesome Ice Dragon (so pretty with the purples and blues) that I intend to include in my redecorated office if I ever get around to it. My daughter picked out some marble earrings and my son got a light saber complete with lights and sound. They had lots of old fashioned toys that you don't see anymore including an authentic slinky dog as seen in Toy Story (I would have loved to have picked that up about 8 years ago when my son was obsessed with that movie). The staff there was super friendly. I highly suggest visiting this business if you are anywhere near the area!

Sign in front of T-Rex Cafe in Kansas City - kids will love this place!Another family friendly place in the same Legends shopping area that I'd never heard of before was T-Rex Cafe. If you've ever been to a Rainforest Cafe, it is VERY similar to that, but everything is Chocolate Extinction Dessert at T-Rex Cafe In Kansas Cityabout dinosaurs. My daughters birthday was coming up in a few days after our trip back and I thought it would be fun to have a small celebration on our vacation. So, we took her here to have a special birthday dessert -- the Chocolate Extinction. In the middle they had a little shaker glass filled with dry ice and then chunks of delicious chocolate cake and ice cream surrounding it. There were 5 of us to split it between and we couldn't finish. To top it off, they sang Happy Birthday to Zeyda, so it was a HIT! Just like Rainforest Cafe, there are lots of different displays, many animated, that you can check out on the various floors. Any kid (except those afraid of dinosaurs) would love a trip to this place! It turns out there are only two of these in existence, the location in Kansas City and another in Orlando/Disney World.

Other stuff to do includes checking out The Plaza downtown. In the holiday season it is absolutely magical with all the holiday lights. There are tons of places to shop and eat. We actually had a grown-up evening out while we were there. If you've saved up for a nice steak dinner, I highly recommend the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. There was also a Cheesecake Factory and lots of other tasty options as well. Unfortunately for us, the rain arrived while we were down there. So, while we didn't get to enjoy it to it's full potential, we got a lovely driving tour of the city by my brother and sister-in-law including a brief brush with fame (Tech9 and Big Scoob were shooting a video down near the Sacagawea statue (which offers a fantastic view of the city)) and a quick view of the new Kaufman Center (definitely makes you think of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia) in the Kansas City Crossroads Art District.

Finally, I also wanted to mention a very cool winery recommended by my sister-in-law. While I know it's not really something to be considered 'kid-friendly,' I figured parents might like to enjoy a little wine tasting if they can get away for a bit. Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery in Basehor, KS was a pleasant surprise. From Texas, I think of wines from my home state or California or from overseas. Never has Kansas popped in my head as a location to get tasty wine. Well, this place has changed that opinion. First off, I was amazed at how many wines they had -- 21 at the time of our visit. They did say that the number available fluctuates and that was a high one. Still, I've been to many of our local wineries and have never seen a number to exceed 20 in my recollection. And, these were all good. I'm not a big fan of white wine, but what I tried on the sweet side was really good. They had lots of yummy reds too. Our favorite was named after a favorite dog that had passed in the last years -- Corky's Barrel. They also had lots of fun little knick knacks to pick from in their gift shop. If you are in the area (minus kids) you should definitely give them a try.

The rest of our time was spent just hanging with family -- a priceless activity that I am so thankful for. If you have a trip to Kansas City coming up, hope you found this helpful from one tourist to another ; )

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More Fun in Kansas City, KS

  • Woodyard BBQ (shown on Guy Fieri's DDD on Food Network)
  • Great Wolf Lodge (enjoy an amazing family friendly stay with an indoor water park!)
  • LiveStrong Sporting Park (See sporting events. My nephews also mentioned that Willie sang here for a special event.)
  • Kansas City Crossroads Art District (beautiful part of town which also features the Kaufman Center (which I think looks alot like the Opera Center in Sydney Australia).
  • Check Kansas City Groupon pages a week or more before you go for local coupon savings in the area (for more info on savings with Group Coupons, read our blog). You can sign up for deals to come to your e-mail and save on local attractions and dining.
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