Holiday Fun: Activities to celebrate the season

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The holiday season in Kansas City begins each year with a quick flip of a switch on Thanksgiving night, as thousands of locals and visitors flock to the Country Club Plaza to witness the annual Plaza Lighting Ceremony. The event serves as the area’s official start to the coming weeks of holiday festivities, and the city’s signature sculptures, fountains and twinkling lights paint a picture more than worthy of appearing on any Hallmark Christmas card. 
 
Whether you prefer to escape the chill in the air by taking in one of the many holiday-themed productions – or you plan to participate in the area’s numerous outdoor activities and winter sports – there is no shortage of places to go and things to do to get you in the holiday spirit.
 
Crown Center Ice Terrace
The Ice Terrace at Crown Center is one of the area’s most popular outdoor winter spots. Open through March, both amateur and sophisticated skaters alike can gain admission for only $6 (adults older than 60 and children younger than 4 get in free). Don’t have your own skates? Skate rental is available for an additional $3. 
 
Enjoy views of the mayor’s Christmas tree and other holiday decorations throughout Crown Center Square as you glide across the ice. Crown Center is home to many other holiday activities, too, like Santa’s Gingerbread Village. Three trains travel through the village created by chefs at The Westin Crown Center hotel, and children will love checking out the reindeer, elves and Mr. & Mrs. Claus’ home. During weekday lunch hours and weekday evenings, you’ll also be treated to holiday music courtesy of more than 130 area school, church and community choirs. Both events are free throughout December. 
 
The Nutcracker at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
A Kansas City tradition since 1972, this year audiences will experience The Nutcracker in the city’s new and majestic Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The center is the performance home to the Kansas City Ballet. The ballet’s beloved production of The Nutcracker, which tells the story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they journey to the Kingdom of the Sweets, runs through Dec. 24. Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased at kcballet.org. 
 
Snow Creek in Weston
Perhaps no other pastime can get you in the holiday spirit like playing in the snow. For a more structured romp in the white stuff, head to Snow Creek in Weston, Mo. It’s just a short drive north of downtown Kansas City, and you can get your winter sport fix with skiing, snowboarding and tubing down one of the 12 trails. At Snow Creek, you can take your pick of beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes, and lessons are available to introduce you to the sport or to help you brush up on your skills. 
 
Not one for skiing or snowboarding? Tornado Alley allows family and friends to slide down a 700-foot slope in individual tubes linked together. Visit skisnowcreek.com for more information. 
 
A Christmas Carol at Spencer Theater
Enjoy the Charles Dickens classic by the Kansas City Repertory Theater through Dec. 26 at Spencer Theater. Last year, the show received a “makeover” of sorts with a new revolving stage and other features. But according to kcrep.org, you can still expect the show you’ve come to love: “For more than three decades, the Rep’s enchanting holiday show has captured the true meaning of Christmas for many Kansas City families, who year after year are inspired by its strong family values and message of hope and redemption.” Tickets range from $25 to $50 and can be purchased online. 
 
Volunteering at the charity of your choice
Given the state of the economy, local nonprofits are finding themselves stretched to the meet the needs of the unemployed, homeless or otherwise needy Kansas Citians. If the holiday season puts you in a giving mood, consider volunteering at one of the area’s many shelters, soup kitchens and other organizations. If you aren’t sure of the opportunities, check out the Holiday Giving and Volunteering Guide at unitedwaygkc.org. The guide is a project of United Way of Greater Kansas City, compiled from responses to holiday needs surveys mailed to more than 1,000 nonprofit agencies and organizations in the metro area. 
 
Volunteer opportunities include adopt-a-family, serving meals, delivering holiday cards or even singing at holiday parties.
 
Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake
Enjoy more holiday cheer at Longview Lake’s Christmas in the Park, an annual event that turns Longview Lake Park into a winter wonderland complete with 300,000 lights and 175 animated figures. This is a favorite holiday event for many Kansas Citians. Be prepared to wait, though, as weekend trips through the park can take up to a few hours. “Even the LONG wait in line has become sort of a tradition for our family,” says Chelle Cooper, mother of two. 
 
To cut down your waiting time, visit the park during the week. The displays are free, but charitable donations are accepted at the end of the drive. Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Christmas in the Park is located in the Longview Campground at Longview Lake at Interstate 470 and View High Drive; follow the signs to enter the campground.
 
Holiday movies at Screenland Crown Center and AMC Mainstreet 6
Get the family or a group of girlfriends together to see some of the best holiday films, old and new, on the big screen at Screenland Crown Center and AMC Mainstreet 6. At the Screenland, the Family Fun Holiday Movie Series runs through Jan. 5 and includes such flicks as Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Zookeeper. Admission is $3 per person; add a small popcorn and juicebox or small soft drink for $2 more. For more information, visit crowncenter.com. 
 
Holiday movies at Mainstreet are voted on annually and options include classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Tickets are $5 per person and the series continues through Dec. 17. For more information, visit amctheatres.com. 
 
Sledding at Westwood Park 
Snow days off from school are sure to brighten any child’s face. If you can swing it, take your own “mental health day” and pack up the kids or call your friends for an afternoon of sledding at Westwood Park, 47th Street and State Line Road, near the Country Club Plaza. Makeshift sleds such as laundry hampers and tote covers can do the job in a pinch. When you’re finished, head home and bake cookies for the perfect end to a snow day. 
 
“Sledding was something I only did as a kid until moving to Kansas City,” says Rebecca Vesconte, a Chicago native who now calls Kansas City home. “Living blocks away from Westwood Park allowed me, my boyfriend and his kids the opportunity do a fun winter activity together. At first I just went to watch the kids, but shortly thereafter I was sledding too. People of all ages sled there and you will even a see a few brave canines mastering the hill. It is a ton of fun and great exercise too.”
 
KCP&L Plaza Lights
Christmas in Kansas City would not be complete without a trip to the Country Club Plaza. The tradition began in 1925 with just one strand of lights and continues today with an astonishing 80 miles worth of luminosity. The 15-block shopping district now features hundreds of thousands of white and colored bulbs adorning the Spanish-influenced architecture. The lights turn on each day at 5 p.m. through mid-January. 
 
While viewing this time-honored spectacle you’re also able to grab a last-minute gift at any of the Plaza’s dozens of specialty stores. Complete the annual tradition with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to quietly take in the sights and sounds of the season with your sweetie–but be sure to bring a blanket and a thermos of coffee or cocoa to keep warm. Or, if you’re feeling truly adventurous, take a gander at the lights from 2,000 feet above the Plaza in a helicopter ride, courtesy of KC Plaza Flights, KC Copters or another provider of your choice.
 
“The Plaza lights are definitely a Kansas City tradition,” resident Cristalle Johnson-Bozarth says. “There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.”
 
 

Comments

Sancy's picture

Great content.I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. Thank you so much for sharing. Sancy

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