Favorite Hometown Spots: KANSAS CITY

Hello everyone!  I’m Erin & I'm so happy to be a guest contributor at Making Home!

As I read Jess’s first installment of Hometown Favorites, I immediately knew that she should add Kansas City to the list.  It’s big city living with a small town feel.

Then as I began to choose my favorites, I quickly became overwhelmed. Should I list my personal favorite places? My favorite family fun places? My favorite restaurants? I decided to do a little bit of everything.

A little bit about me/us: we've been married for 11 years. We are both Kansans – born and raised. He grew up in the Kansas City area, I grew up in central Kansas. We have lived in the Kansas City area, on the Kansas side, since we first married. We have four wonderful children ages 9, 7, 5 and 5. We love the outdoors and we love to eat ethnic foods.

The Kansas City metro area encompasses cities in Kansas and Missouri and is home to about 2 million people. Our favorite places span the entire metro area and beyond.  Ok, let’s get started.


Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead 
Overland Park, KS
The hands-down, without-a-doubt, absolute-best family fun in the KC metro area is Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. The farmstead is designed to depict a turn of the century farm.  It has farm animals, wildlife, vegetable and flower gardens, one-room schoolhouse, mining camp, dairy barn, Indian encampment, fishing pond, pony rides AND MORE. The farmstead is free Monday through Thursday with a minimal $2 admission fee Friday through Sunday. Extra charges apply for goat and chicken feed, baby goat bottles, pony rides, fishing poles/worms and concessions.

My family visits the farmstead several times a season, but we always go at least once in early spring to bottle feed the baby goats (there are usually around 75 babies each spring) and at least once in the fall to see the pumpkin patch and fall decorations. Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is fun for all ages… as a matter of fact, my husband and I visited often before we even had kids! The farm is open April 1 through October 31 each year.

Crown Center – Sea Life – Legoland Discovery Center
Kansas City, MO
Crown Center is a lovely area downtown that includes a shopping center, restaurants, hotels, theatre, children’s interactive play, ice skating and more. Our favorite time to visit Crown Center is in December for a view of the mayor’s Christmas tree and larger-than-life toyland.

Sea Life and Legoland Discovery Center are new additions to the Crown Center area. Though they are quite expensive, they are worth a visit once a year, and since they are indoors, we save them for winter. Sea Life is a great way for those of us who are double-landlocked to see ocean animals up close. Our favorite activities at Sea Life are the interactive rockpool and the underwater ocean tunnel. Legoland is fantastic fun and includes rides, a 4D cinema and lots of interactive play. Our family favorite is a toss-up between the Kingdom Quest chariot ride and the 4D cinema (absolutely laugh-out-loud funny to watch your children experience a 4D movie as they block their face from getting hit with things, reach out to touch people and jump when it starts to rain in the theatre).


The Berry Patch
Cleveland, MO
The Berry Patch is family-owned, family-friendly, u-pick blueberry and blackberry patch about 30 minutes south of KC. Picking dates usually run June through August. Head out early in the morning to beat the heat and the crowd. Put your kids to work (it’s not work, they’ll love it) and pick enough berries to eat some fresh, bake some treats and freeze some for later. My family of six picked about 12 pounds of berries in an hour! It’s a great way to spend a summer morning as a family.

Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch
We have been visiting pumpkin patches every fall since our first child was 3 months old (he is now 9 years old). We have visited a handful of different patches, but our vote for best patch goes to Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch in Lawrence, KS, about 30 minutes west of KC. It’s free and lots of fun too. Schaake’s offers free admission and free hayrides out to the patch. There is also a free hay bale maze and children’s play area. You only pay for the pumpkins and any gourds, corn stalks, fall crafts, etc. that you want to purchase. There is also a concession stand available with apple cider, cider slushes, popcorn and cookies. Check out these pictures of my handsome husband and our beautiful daughter, both taken at Schaake’s. In the first picture she was 1.5, in the second she was 5.5.


Best Family Restaurant AND Best BBQ in KC: Oklahoma Joe’s, Multiple Locations
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ began in a gas station in Kansas City, KS and there are now locations in Olathe, KS and Overland Park, KS. Oklahoma Joe’s truly is the best BBQ in Kansas City. The owners won multiple awards at BBQ competitions before opening a restaurant, and the restaurant has received nationwide praise from some big names in food and cooking. All I know is that one of the few places we can go out to dinner that pleases – even excites - everyone is Oklahoma Joe’s. Everything on the menu is good, but their fries are the absolute best. The big kids like the BBQ chicken, the twins like the sliced sausage, hubby’s favorite is the pulled pork and I really like the smoked turkey.

Best Cheap Date Restaurant: Vietnam Café, Kansas City, MO
I grew up in central Kansas…land of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. My husband has spent the better part of our 11 years of marriage trying to get me to broaden my palate. His most recent quest was for Vietnamese food. The first time he took me into a Vietnamese restaurant I was pregnant with my first child. We walked in…and I walked right back out. It was about 8 years later that he convinced me to try again. That was the day that Vietnam Café entered my life.

Vietnam Café is located in the River Market /Columbus Park area. The building is small, kind of loud and kind of crowded. The staff is super nice and the food is…ahhh…the food is the delicious. Forget chicken noodle soup, beef pho is my new comfort food. I kid you not. I crave it. Regularly. We have tried a few other Vietnamese restaurants closer to home, and they don’t even compare. Vietnam Café is the very best. Get the sweet potato and shrimp appetizer, the beef pho, and whatever else you might like to try. My husband always gets an iced Vietnamese coffee which is slow dripped on top of sweetened condensed milk, then poured over ice. I get their hand-mixed lemonade. Oh how my mouth is watering.

I love you Vietnam Café.

Best Fancy Date Restaurant: Lidia’s, Kansas City, MO
Lidia is THE Lidia Bastianich of Lidia’s Italy. Lidia’s has been my birthday dinner almost every year that I have lived in Kansas City. Whether Italian food is your favorite or not, Lidia’s is amazing. It’s located in a great downtown setting (just behind Union Station on 22nd Street) and has an atmosphere that is modern-yet-comfortable. Everything on the menu looks delicious, but my “regular” is the Pasta Trio. It is three pastas (they are different every day), served table-side and ala carte, two of which are usually dried pastas and one is a fresh made ravioli or risotto. Order the full pasta trio meal with Caesar salad and dessert.

A tip: wear loose pants.

Honorable Mentions:
As I said, it is very difficult to narrow down our favorite spots here in KC. The list below is a few of our other favorites:

Overland Park Arboretum
Overland Park, KS 
We like the outdoors. The arboretum has hiking trails, botanical gardens, and a children’s train garden (yes, a garden with electric trains running through it and a real caboose to climb on…so fun). The arboretum has gotten some flack the past year or two because they started charging admission, $3 or $1 depending on age. But it is always free on Tuesdays and since we homeschool we take full advantage of that.

For an extra special treat attend the Holiday Luminary Walk. It is held Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after. The luminary walk features candle-lit trails, festive lighting displays, carolers and hot cider stops. If you are really lucky there will be snow on the ground as you stroll. Admission is $7 a person (with children 5 and under free), but it’s well worth the cost and a great way to kick of the Christmas season!

Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO
The country club plaza is famous for its Christmas lights, horse-drawn carriage rides and the J.C. Nichols Memorial fountain. It is also home to many shops and restaurants. It is a self-described “premiere dining, shopping and entertainment district.” In reality, we rarely take the kids and we never shop there, but it’s a fun place for a date night with my husband. We like to have dinner, walk the busy streets, and window shop, especially at Christmas time.

D’Bronx Deli and Pizzeria, Multiple Locations
This is our other favorite family restaurant. My husband first took me to the 39th Street location in Kansas City, Missouri when we were dating. There is now a location in Crown Center and two out south on the Kansas side. I don’t know about the other locations, but the Overland Park location has a kind, fun staff who more than once have brought my kiddos free cookies. It’s a fun atmosphere and the food is always fantastic. The twin 5 year olds love the New York style pizza by the slice (they even do a “kid cut” for little hands), my 7 year old daughter and 9 year old son love the Italian sausage parmesan sandwich, my husband loves the calzones and me, well, I love the cheesecake. But I think their sandwiches are very good too.

Okay, I was going to stop there but I thought of one more restaurant we really like.

El Salvadoreno in Overland Park, KS
El Salvadoreno is a newer restaurant in downtown Overland Park (a fun area to visit with many shops, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.). It is Latin American food. And it is goooooood. I don’t know a lot about Latin American food other than it’s sort of like Mexican only way better, no heavy sauces, cheeses or lard. Menu items include pupusas, tamales, empanadas, pasteles and enchiladas. And oh the things they can do with a plantain! My favorites are the pork, bean and cheese pupusas (think a stuffed corn pancake) and the beef pasteles (a fried corn ball stuffed with meat and veggies) topped with curdito (a spicy cole slaw). And of course you must start your meal with a fresh made horchata and finish your meal with a canoa – a fried plantain stuffed with a sweet milk pudding and rolled in sugar.

Now I’m going to stop writing and ask my husband which of these places he wants to go to for dinner. Thank you so much for letting me share some of Kansas City’s best with you.

Blessings to you all!
Erin and family


Jess Connell said...

Thanks, Erin, for this idea-rich post. What a great bunch of suggestions for families. If we ever make it up that way, we'll try out some of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!


Anonymous said...

From a fellow Kansas Citian: Good job, Erin!