Back-to-school time is upon us (yikes!), but if you’re looking for a fun outing with the kids in these final weeks of summer vacation, look no further than the Art Course at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The Art Course is a nine-hole mini golf course on the south side of the museum in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. Each hole is an interpretation of pieces of art in the museum, which is so cool! Recently, my husband and I took our kids (ages 8 and 10). Here are some things to remember if you plan to hit up the Art Course this month:
• Buy tickets online. Yes, this is a ticketed exhibition – $14 for adults, $9 for kids ages 4-12, free for kids 3 and under. If you have a membership to the museum, tickets are $11 for adults. You reserve a tee time when you purchase tickets – tee times are every 10 minutes, from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. On Thursday and Friday, the course is open until 9:00 pm.
• Play early or play late. August in Kansas City can be HOT. We had a tee time for 10:40am, and that was perfect. It was already getting sticky, but not as bad as it would’ve been mid-afternoon. They do have misters in a few different places along the course, so you can let the kids cool down. If you want to wait until after dinner, they have lights strung up all along the course. Hello…date night option!
• Liquid refreshments are available for purchase, but I just tossed a water bottle in my bag. The beverage stand is close to where you check in, so keep the kids busy with choosing the perfect putter and ball, if you don’t want them begging you for drinks. And yes, they sell alcoholic beverages for the aforementioned date night option … or a long day with the kids. Ha!
• Be prepared to wait about 5-10 minutes between holes. There was a bit of a backup between the first few holes, but then the groups started to spread out. My son knows no stranger, so he struck up a conversation with the group behind us. Soon we were rooting for each other, sharing putting tips, and taking group photos for each other. Each hole does give information about the artwork featured, so you can google the artist while you wait. My kids mentally designed their own hole, using famous works of art like the Mona Lisa or Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
• Be ready to play in front of a gallery. Since we were often stacked up between holes, the next group was usually right behind us. We talked with the kids about thinking about your shot before you took it, instead of just hitting and hoping for the best. With littler ones, you may just need to help them get close to the hole so they can putt it in. You don’t want to hold up other groups while your child takes 20 strokes on a par 2 hole.
• Take some time to visit the museum afterwards. The course only took us about 30-45 minutes to complete. After we were finished, we strolled through the sculpture garden, took pictures by the famous shuttlecocks, and went through the glass maze nearby. Then we went in the Bloch Building, which houses the Contemporary Art collection and coincidentally some of the artwork featured on the Art Course. The kids loved seeing the “real art” that inspired the course. Contemporary art also captures my kids’ attention more than some other collections, so that’s why we stuck with that wing of the museum.
• The museum is FREE, so stay for a little while, then come back another time. After being outside, my kids were excited for the air conditioning, but their attention faded after about 30 minutes. Strollers are welcome, as are bags that are no bigger than a standard backpack. You can also take all the personal photos you want. Museum parking is $10, or you can take a chance on finding some free street parking on Rockhill Road and 45th Street.
The Art Course is around through Labor Day. If you can squeeze it in, definitely add it to your bucket list for this summer!