1) The Kansas City Zoo It’s more than a century old, but the recent arrivals of animals such as polar bears, penguins and red panda cubs keep visits fresh. The original building dates to 1909 and now houses an indoor rainforest. For some of the best views, glide 45 feet in the air in a ski-lift-style ride over the African Plains habitat. When you come back down to earth, take the renovated suspension bridge to the Congo section, where you’ll meet gorillas, red river hogs and a rare Amur leopard. (816) 595-1234; kansascityzoo.org
2) Legoland Discovery Center In downtown’s Crown Center, this playland holds more than 3 million tiny toy bricks. Marvel at the painstaking re-creations of Kansas City landmarks and miniature scenes from The Wizard of Oz in the Miniland area, then let the kids build and test race cars, zap trolls on the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride or watch one of several 4-D movies. (Combo tickets are available if you also want to hit the Sea Life Aquarium next door.) (816) 471-4386; legolanddiscoverycenter.com
Legoland Discovery Center. Photo by Jess Hoffert.
3) Coterie Theater Bringing restless preschoolers probably isn’t a good idea, but the Coterie makes a great introduction to theater for school-age kids. All seating is general admission, and staffers will guide you toward the best shows for your crew. (816) 474-6552; thecoterie.org
4) Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant All aboard! This diner serves tasty signature burgers, crinkle-cut fries and milk shakes with a hearty dose of railroad nostalgia. Model trains chug overhead as you eat after delivering food you order via a telephone at your table that rings back to the kitchen. The recipe for the old-fashioned, grilled onion-garnished burgers hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened in 1954. Why mess with a good thing? Three locations; fritzskc.com
5) Cedar Cove Feline Conservation Park This sanctuary about 45 minutes south of downtown Kansas City is like a small retirement home for lions, tigers and leopards. An all-volunteer staff keeps the place afloat, giving these beautiful creatures lots of TLC and educating the public. And Cedar Cove isn’t just for cats; you’ll also see other rescued animals, such as wolves and coatis (a member of the raccoon family). (913) 837-5515; saveoursiberians.org
6) Sea Life Aquarium Sharks, starfish, sea horses, stingrays and other creatures of the deep live in this 260,000-gallon underwater world. The new turtle shelter is a great place to learn all about these humble retile; some of the tanks are even shaped like turtles. Buying tickets online instead of at the door saves you a few bucks. (816) 471-4386; visitsealife.com/kansas-city/
7) Moon Marble Company Adults harboring fond memories of shooting giants and peewees on the playground will love this Bonner Springs store just across the Kansas state line. Kids enjoy browsing the traditional wooden toys, sock monkeys and board games. Owner and artisan Bruce Breslow is an expert when it comes to glass marbles; if you’re lucky, you'll get to see him demonstrate how these colorful beauties are made. (913) 441-1432; moonmarble.com
8) College Basketball Experience You might work up a sweat at this sporty Sprint Center museum downtown. The 41,500-square-foot facility celebrates over 100 years of college hoops with interactive exhibits and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. On-site courts let you shoot free throws, sink your own buzzer beater and dunk on a series of rims. Other activity stations focus on rebounding and passing skills, and you can test your broadcasting chops at the ESPNU desk. (816) 949-7500; collegebasketballexperience.com
College Basketball Experience. Photo courtesy of Erik Miner.
9) Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun This vast amusement park celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013 by renovating its adjacent water park and adding six new slides. Twofer admission tickets get you into both facilities for one price. The Planet Snoopy section has more than 20 rides, shows and attractions for young guests and their families. Looking for something more thrilling? Thier newest 2014 edition was the SteelHawk ride with 32 seats that swing around a spire 300 feet in the air. (816) 454-4545; worldsoffun.com
Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun. Photo courtesy of Worlds of Fun.
10) Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center Accessible to Crown Center-area attractions like Legoland, Sea Life Aquarium and the Money Museum via enclosed skywalks, the Sheraton makes a great base for family stays. The hotel keeps its outdoor pool heated for year-round swimming. (816) 841-1000; sheratonkansascityhotel.com