When my son was born, my husband and I made a pact that we would take him to restaurants frequently so that we could train him to be a well-behaved restaurant kid. You know, the kind that sits there quietly, stuck in his seat for two hours, all while eating neatly (keeping all of his food on the table) and speaking to his parents at a polite and acceptable decibel level.
Honestly, this plan worked really well until our son became a toddler. Before our eyes, our son began to see the restaurant table in front of him as a world of possibilities. Is he in a high chair? OR is it a challenging climbing gym? Is it a table salt shaker? OR free confetti? Is this a fork? OR is it an effective projectile? Are the people just other customers enjoying a quiet meal, OR are they a trapped audience for well-rehearsed high-pitched elephant noises?
The restaurant tipping point for us was the Taquito Meltdown of 2020. I’m talking about flying salsa, non-stop screaming, and a full-on pass out in the middle of the restaurant. We got our food to-go and headed home to put the kid to bed early. That was our last family restaurant outing, partially from fear, but mostly because the world shut down a couple weeks later.
Luckily for us, Kansas City has many picturesque and kid friendly picnic spaces to offer because little did we know, that our dining experiences would be limited to at home, the car, or out in nature!
If you’re like us, you too are looking for the safest and most kid friendly picnic spots. So grab your favorite picnic blanket and head out to Kansas City’s great outdoors to enjoy a dining experience in which your kids are totally allowed to make all the obnoxious elephant noises they wish!
Here are 29 Picturesque Picnic Spots in Kansas City:
Metro-Area Picnic Spots
Lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum (also known as the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park)
Those iconic giant shuttlecocks that are on every KC postcard, t-shirt and commercial? You can dine under them! While you’re there, check out all the other masterful sculptures on the rolling green lawn of the Donald J Hall Sculpture Park.
Overlook at the Kangaroo Area Kansas City Zoo
While you are enjoying the zoo, stop at the overlook to the kangaroo area and eat while watching the critters hop around. After you’re done eating, you can even walk through the kangaroo area as they roam freely around you!
Green Roof Park
Take in the beauty of the cityscape at Kansas City’s rooftop park! This park is atop a parking garage in the Power and Light District. You can access it through the parking garage or through the grocery store elevator next door.
The crowning glory of KC’s beloved Loose park is the breathtaking Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden but if picturesque rolling hills, lakes, and fountains are more your speed, then Loose park has those, too.
Boulevard Drive-In Theatre
Have your picnic dinner while taking in a movie!
National WWI Museum and Memorial
The grassy area outside of the WWI Museum is beautifully landscaped. You can eat while taking in the view of the striking WWI memorial tower and peak over the side for one of the best views of Downtown KC and Union station!
You will have plenty of space to spread out in Kansas City’s largest park, Swope park. The park has picnic shelters, playgrounds, and garden areas.
Crown Center Square
The central gathering space of Crown Center features terraced lawns, fountains and an Entertainment Pavilion. And with all the restaurant offerings inside Crown Center, you don’t even have to pack a lunch if you don’t want to.
Southern KC Picnic Spots
This is my personal favorite picnic spot in KC. Unity Village has the largest fountain display in the metro and an award-winning rose garden. The wide-open spaces and distinctive Mediterranean architecture create a tranquil atmosphere.
Harrisonville City Lake
If you are down far south of KC, I suggest picnicking on the lake in Harrisonville. The City Lake park has several covered picnic areas, as well as a handful of different play areas.
Lake Olathe Is a GEM worth driving out of the way for (if you don’t already live in Olathe!) It has several picnic areas, as well as a nature play area, and a super cool creek system for water play.
Belton, Grandview and Kansas City Railroad
If your kid is as obsessed with trains as mine is, then head to Belton to eat lunch on TOP of a (stopped) train! With a little exploring you will find a open and accessible open-top train car with several picnic tables for eating! All aboard!
Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
The Arboretum has over 300 acres of gardens with more than 1,700 species of plants, a variety of landscapes, including meticulous gardens, and an open prairie.
James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area
Watch the fisherman at one of the 12 lakes at the James A. Reed Wildlife area! You will definitely want to bring a picnic blanket as there are not tables readily available for use.
Northern KC Picnic Spots
English Landing Park
English Landing Park is a dreamy 68-acre park laid along the Missouri river with three miles of walking trails, a large playground area, and picnic shelters.
Have you ever wanted to eat a meal in the shadow of a majestic giant penguin? How about under a majestic giant Kangaroo? If so, the very beloved and whimsical, Penguin Park, is the place for you!
Watkins Woolen Mill State Park
Step back into time and get a sense of life in the 1870s by visiting Watkins Woolen Mill, the only 19th century textile mill in the United States with its original machinery still intact. There is also a lake to visit in the park.
Weston Bend State Park
Weston Bend State Park offers secluded picnic sites and sweeping views of the Missouri River from trails and a scenic overlook accessible to persons with disabilities.
Eastern KC Picnic Spots
Lake Jacomo Overlook at the Jackson County Parks and Rec Building
Gather your family atop a great hill that overlooks Lake Jacomo. Use one of the many picnic tables or lay a blanket on the ground as you watch the sailboats float by! Once you’re done eating, don’t forget to make a side trip to the hooved animal enclosure inside Fleming Park to see the buffalo!
Cave Springs Park
Head here to dine next to a cave, a small waterfall, or among one of the park’s many historic homestead chimneys.
Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s Botanical Garden
Eat lunch among the flowers at Powell Gardens, a 970-acre botanical garden. The garden features 6,000 varieties of plants, with 225,000 plants in seasonal displays.
B&B Theatres Twin Drive-In
Snuggle in for a double feature while you eat your picnic dinner!
Bass Pro Waterfall Park
The Waterfall Park is located across a lake from the Bass Pro Shops. This picnic spot features playground equipment, a shelter, restrooms, and a walking trail past a large waterfall.
Burr Oak Woods Nature Center
If you are looking for a hike-in picnic spot, I highly recommend the The Bethany Falls Trail at Burr Oak Woods. It is an easy 1.33 mile loop that will lead you through some awesome rock formations and over many streams! There are lots of picturesque picnic places to choose from here.
Western KC Picnic Spots
Shawnee Mission Park
Tuck in at one of the many picnic spots around the beautiful lake at Shawnee Mission park! While you’re there treat your canine friends to trip to, in my opinion, the best off-leash dog park in Kansas city! It even has a swim beach for dogs!
Lakes, bridges, picnic tables, flowering trees, playgrounds, and an old west play town, what’s not to love at Antioch park?!
Wyandotte County Lake Park
Wyandotte County Lake Park is a rural retreat within city limits. The park provides 1500 acres of wooded area, a 400 acre lake with marina, kids’ fishing pond, a large playground, and picnic shelters.
West Flanders Park
While picnicking at West Flanders Park, you can enjoy the carefully curated rose garden and a castle playground, complete with dragon!
Mill Creek Streamway Park
Mill Creek Streamway Park has 17 miles of linear parking trails that span the length of a creek. There are plenty of areas perfect for a picnic blanket, as well as picnic shelters, and a playground.
In a year of rules and regulations, do you know what was the most liberating ? Finally realizing that children and picnics go together like peas and carrots. Out in the wide wilderness, I can eat HOT food while my son practices his animal noises, investigates ants, and sings me his favorite songs! I can eat food prepared by other people (or me) while having a relaxing and refreshing dining experience where no strangers glare at my kid? Glorious!
Eventually when the world is back to normal, I’ll have to address the toddler-in-a-restaurant issue, but until then, picnics!