Ready to explore Kansas City with kids? Kansas City, Missouri’s Crown Center is a year-round draw for families, in part because of two high-profile attractions: LEGOLAND and Sea Life.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center:
A visit to LEGOLAND Discovery Center-Kansas City begins with a short demonstration of how the iconic bricks are made. Afterward, guests can opt to ride the Kingdom Quest laser ride, an instant hit for the video gamers in your family. Caution: this is a now-or-never proposition. You won’t be able to come back to it later, which can be tough on kids who need time to warm up to a new environment.
The day of our visit, our Star Wars-loving crew was over the moon to find a room dedicated to Episode IV (A New Hope). The detail is everything you would expect of LEGO. On one side of the Death Star, kids can try their hand at blasting TIE fighters.
Next door, we lost the ten-year-old to a large Ewok Village construction set. He didn’t resurface until we pried him away for a 4D movie. In the meantime, the younger kids found the play place and Earthquake Tables, where we tried to build earthquake-proof structures out of LEGO. (Although any child will tell you it’s far more fun to try to make them fall down!)
Kids can also build and test race cars, and there’s an area devoted to LEGO Friends as well as Merlin’s Apprentice, a carnival-style ride. Height restrictions apply, but the employee running the ride was very accommodating to families with small children.
LEGOLAND is a high-stimulus attraction, and my three-year-old was a little overwhelmed. But he found his niche in a sandbox-style pit filled with Junior LEGO cars—one of several sprinkled through the facility for free play.
We arrived early on a school day; even so, the building reached critical mass well before noon. It can be chaotic, so it’s a good idea to have a low adult-child ratio in your party. Plan to spend a minimum of three hours. Outside food and drink are not allowed, and re-entry is not permitted; however, there is a cafe inside. Admission is limited and often sells out, so I recommend booking online ahead of time. Online tickets start at $15.30* for both adults and kids (2 and under are free).
If you need a breather after the high-power intensity of LEGOLAND, Sea Life is just the ticket. From the moment the doors open, the low lighting and ethereal music transports visitors to another world.
The displays are beautifully designed and lit, and the aquarium is set up to guide the flow of traffic along a set pathway through the facility, which makes it easy to keep track of kids. Each child receives a passbook with activities and room for stamps to mark their progress through the aquarium.
Sea Life’s marquee attraction is the pair of walk-through tunnels in the shark and ray tank, but the kids will also love the “bubble” indentations in the center of several of the tanks., where they can get right in the middle of the marine action. A touch pool holds starfish and crabs, and a raised deck lets you look down on stingrays from above.
There are also several play areas; when we visited, one of them was devoted to the Octonauts. Our only problem in this area was that the competing video animatronics made it hard to hear the game instructions.
Sea Life-Kansas City advance tickets start at $15 for adults and $11 for kids 3-12*. You can see the whole aquarium in around an hour and a half, but you won’t exhaust the possibilities for learning and enjoyment in that length of time. If you can, give yourself time to read the displays, which are on video monitors rather than static boards, and attend some of the educational talks that are spread throughout the day.
Better yet, take advantage of the combination tickets that offer admission to both Sea Life and LEGOLAND, which share a building, a ticket counter, and gift shop. Start your day by exploring the lower-stimulus Sea Life, then switch over to LEGOLAND and return to the aquarium if your pack has time and energy.
Sea Life-Kansas City and LEGOLAND open daily* at 10 and close at 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursdayand 6p.m. Friday and Saturday. However, Sea Life remains open to guests already inside for two more hours.
*Note: Hours and ticket prices fluctuate by season and holiday, so check the website for the most up to date info.
Crown Center is located in the heart of Kansas City at 2450 Grand Blvd. Full directions to Crown Center.
Our family visited Sea Life and LEGOLAND as guests of Visit KC in exchange for an honest review.