KC Kid’s Guide: Summer on the Cheap
School is out, the temperatures are heating up, and photographer + writer Katie Currid is here with all the recs on where to take your kid this sunny summer.
One of the best things I started doing once we had a kid was making seasonal bucket lists. I find that it helps you make the most out of really appreciating your kid’s childhood by marking the seasons with magical things to do! And even better than that, it helps give you ideas in a pinch when you think you’re going to go insane if you watch one more episode of Daniel Tiger (as sweet and polite as he is).
My husband is in the military and he was gone for three weeks this summer, and to top it off, I’m pregnant with our second. In a fit of desperation, I reached out to every KC mom’s group I could to compile a giant list of things to do to mark time until Dad returned, and honestly, we had a really fun few weeks! It was nice to wake up with a planned activity every day that we had free, instead of aimlessly counting down the minutes until naptime.
I’ve also started compiling a list of kid stuff to do in Kansas City on Google Maps! It’s great to just pull up the app to see what there is to do nearby if we have to kill time between meetings or appointments.
Go berry picking
I’m a photographer so maybe this is unfair, but I think all moms do this — I love a good, photogenic activity, and you-pick farms are my favorite fodder for kid photos. I love picking out a fun outfit for my son that ~maybe~ matches the fruit and watching him run through the rows, whether he knows how to pick fruit or not. Last summer, we picked strawberries at Benny’s Berries, now out south in Wellsville (2136 N 100 Road), and this year, we picked blueberries at Oregon Trail Farm up in Leavenworth (19022 Santa Fe Trail). And both times, the fruit made their way into some delicious pies. Win, win for everyone.
Ride the (miniature) train!
My husband and I were trying to plan a “family” day a few weeks back, and by that I mean I threatened I would go crazy if we did not leave the house that day — hello, I’m an extrovert. It was really hot out, so I kept requesting that we do an indoor activity, and he kept hinting that he wanted to go to the Kansas City Northern Miniature Railroad (6060 NW Waukomis Drive). I figured out once we got to the train “station” that it wasn’t so much that my husband wanted to take our son, but that ~he~ wanted to go. Crowd pleaser for kids and adults here, folks. At 75 cents a ride, it’s one of the cheapest things you can take your kids to do in Kansas City, and for us, that meant multiple rides. It didn’t take long, we didn’t have to walk anywhere, and hey — the train goes fast enough that you get a little breeze, so it isn’t even that hot!
My son is 18 months and sometimes it can be hard finding a pool that is suitable for his age, so splash pads are a great compromise — there’s no worry about drowning, and they don’t seem to involve as much logistics (Coolers! Chairs! Floatation devices!) as the pool. We’ve loved the splash pad at Dagg Park (701 E 21st Avenue) in North Kansas City, and Zona Rosa also has a small fountain right by the restaurant Bravo! (7301 NW 87th Street) that kids can play in. Liberty has a splash pad, called Ruth Moore Park (401 Grover Street), as well — do you have a go-to? Best news is they’re usually public parks, so they’re free!
Go to the zoo!
The Kansas City Zoo (6800 Zoo Drive) is a great way to spend a summer day — if you can pick one that isn’t too hot! We found a great break in the heat last week and took advantage of our free weekday passes that we got in the mail! Lots of Jackson and Clay County residents get these, so keep a lookout in your mailbox— and if you work Monday-Friday, maybe make an excuse to call in sick and take your kid to the zoo! The passes are for your household and another adult, so you can even bring a friend!
Get down on the farm
We haven’t had a chance to go yet, but my mom friends rave about Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead (13800 Switzer Road). There’s a lot more to do than see animals, such as go fishing, taking wagon rides and visiting the schoolhouse and dairy barn! It can be a cheap day, especially if you pack your own lunch, as it’s $3 a person (kids 2 and under are free).
Take a dip
Pools are essential summer activities for kids. We’ve been spending some time this summer at the Gladstone Municipal Pool (7011 N Holmes Street) ($6 for adults), though we’ve really been wanting to go to the Tiffany Springs Aquatic Center (9400 N Congress Avenue) ($6-$9), too. The Jarboe Pool (1640 Jarboe Street) is also a popular one for littles, as it’s designed for kids 12 and under — and best news? It’s free!
Be one with nature
When we moved back to Missouri, I really missed some of the hikes in our old surroundings — especially ones with creeks and waterfalls! A friend tipped me off to the Parkville Nature Sanctuary (100-198 E 12 Street), and it’s such a lovely place. The park features a waterfall and a great creek that are perfect for splashing around in. It also has a lot of handicap accessible trails, which also means it’s stroller friendly — plus, it’s free.
Visit the children’s museum
We’ve been wanting to visit the Wonderscope Children’s Museum (5700 King Street) in Shawnee for some time as a place to spend the day! We haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but it seems like a great place for many ages, especially little’s, and best of all, it’s free throughout the summer for military families, from May 18 to September 2!
Check out a farmer’s market
We struggle to get out of the house to make it to a farmer’s market before they close (who relates) but I’ve made it my mission to visit one this summer! The Leavenworth Farmer’s Market and the City Farmer’s Market are at the top of my list. Amy McDaniel of Instagram’s Veggie Bellie actually wrote a great round-up of farmer’s markets, with tips for newbie’s!
Take advantage of the library’s summer reading program
We love going to story time at our Mid-Continent Public Libraries — it’s a good thing to look forward to every week and a really easy, free way to meet other families who live near you! We had a blast taking part in the MCPL’s summer reading program this year, which gives points for every book read and every library activity you go to. The library group actually had a lot of summer activities for different ages, such as a horse day and a monarch butterfly day. We most enjoyed just reading as many books as we could and keeping track of them so we could earn free books!
See a cheap daytime movie
B&B Theaters throughout Kansas City do these cheap summer movies that are replays of old favorites. They play them at 10 a.m., so it’s usually naptime friendly, plus they’re $3, so if your kid has a meltdown in the middle of it, it’s not like you spent $50 to take your kid to the movies! It’s a great way to test if your littles are ready for the theater — and I hear that the new Liberty location (1903 Victory Drive) has an amazing playground inside that’s worth it for the tickets alone!
Get out the sprinkler and the bubble machine
Some of the best money I spent this summer was the $8 I spent on a sprinkler and the $10 I spent on a bubble machine that my toddler talks about daily. It can be annoying buying toys to entertain your kids, but when a toy like this gives repeated fun time after time, it’s worth it! Plus, isn’t a run through the sprinkler like a summer essential?