KC Kid-Friendly City Walks (with a view!)

My son started walking this summer, and what I’ve noticed most in this early toddler phase (besides his ability to place himself in danger every 0.2 seconds) is how happy  walking makes him. He’s so delighted to be able to explore the world on his own two feet, discovering everything from fallen tree limbs outside to stale Cheerios hiding in the carpet (mmm … delicious).

Watching him, I’ve been reminded that I’m equally happy when I can get out and explore my world on foot. So, I’ve been looking for walking spots around the city that allow our family to walk together! I personally love routes that offer a great city view. Although my toddler is still small enough to ride in the stroller, it’s a MUST to have kid-friendly stops along the way to let him get out and burn off some energy.

Below are just a few city walking spots between the Plaza and the River Market that meet these criteria. I’ve included any information you might find helpful, as well as attractions for you and your kids. And since I’ve always appreciated how hiking guides give you that ever-handy “degree of difficulty” for each trail, I’ve provided my own, unscientific-but-mom-tested rating for each walk.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring Kansas City on these walks as much as we do!

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 9.02.06 PMHospital Hill & Hospital Hill Park. This is our family’s go-to walking route. It’s enough of a challenge to really get the blood pumping while offering several great stops for kids.

Route: Begin at 26th and Holmes near Succotash Restaurant. Walk north on Holmes to 25th Street, then turn left onto 25th Street and walk on the north side of the road (the UMKC School of Dentistry will be on your right) to Gillham Road. Follow the sidewalk up the hill until it turns into Locust Street, which will take you through the property of Children’s Mercy Hospital. Just past 24th Street, you will find Hospital Hill Park. Take a few laps around the path if you wish (6 laps = 1 mile), or soak in the city view and return the way you came.

IMG_6271Catch a view: Hospital Hill Park beautifully showcases the downtown skyline, including the Kauffman Center, Sprint Center, Western Auto Building, etc. I walk this route often, and I’m always in awe when we crest that last hill.

Family-friendly stops: Start or end your journey with a delicious brunch at Succotash, then hop over to nearby Teocali for some of their yummy fish tacos. This route also takes you through the Sybil Silkwood Nutter Playground at Children’s Mercy, where the kids can play or walk across the giant musical sidewalk! (Yes, a musical sidewalk! It’s magical.)

Length: 1 mile round trip, but you can add distance by taking laps around the park.

musical sidewalkMom rating: Moderately challenging. Although this walk passes some fun locations, it does cross a few busy roads and involves climbing Hospital Hill. So it’s not the best choice for a preschooler who only wants to ride his tricycle, but it’s excellent if you’re looking for a workout while pushing a stroller.

The Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The Nelson-Atkins is not only home to beautiful indoor art (which is FREE to visit!), but it has an impressive display outside as well. The sculpture park contains 22 acres of beautiful green space, peaceful pathways, and, of course, amazing sculptures. The park is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer – so it’s a perfect time to take a stroll and celebrate!

Route: You can park on the street (I look for spots on Oak Street between Emmanuel Cleaver and 45th), or in the Nelson-Atkins parking garage for $8. Enter the sculpture park at any point along its perimeter and follow the path however you choose. Audio tours are also available.

Catch a view: Make your way to the east side of the south lawn and follow the path as it winds uphill, toward the Bloch Building. When you’re standing near the sculpture entitled Three Bowls, stop and look back to the southwest: you’ll see a lovely view of the sculpture park and many Plaza buildings.


Family-friendly stops: Make sure to check out the new Glass Labyrinth (disorienting and fun!) and lounge on the south lawn, where you can have a picnic or let your kids play. Don’t forget to journey inside the museum sometime, too!

Length: A walk around the park’s perimeter is 0.7 miles, but you can walk more or less depending on your journey through the pathways.

Mom rating: Moderately easy. Though the paths do climb some hills, you can customize your route as you wish. There is plenty of beautiful, wide open, safe space for your kids to explore, and the physical activity even doubles as an art lesson!

Riverfront Heritage Trail. The 15-mile long Riverfront Heritage Trail is another great walking path (not that you need to walk all 15 miles)! Parts of the route offer both city views and views of the Missouri River.

Route: You can start at any point of the trail, but I recommend walking between City Market and the Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. Park near the west side of City Market, around 2nd/3rd and Main (if you walk the other direction, there is parking at the intersection of Front St. and Riverfront Drive). From Main Street, walk south onto the Town of Kansas bridge. Take the elevator down to the trail and follow the path until you reach Riverfont Park. Return via the same route.

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 9.09.14 PMGreat view: At Riverfront Park, you can view both downtown to the south and the Missouri river to the north.

Family-friendly stops: Riverfront Park has plenty of space for picnics or games of football. The route also runs near train tracks, which may be exciting for your kids to watch. City Market is full of endless family fun, from the Farmers’ Market on the weekends to a variety of shops and eateries throughout the week.

Length: 2.4 miles round-trip from Riverfront Park to City Market. Discover other sections of the Heritage Trail using this map.

Mom rating: Moderate. Although the full route is a bit lengthy (good for wearing everyone out!), the trail is largely flat with smooth sidewalks, so you don’t have to worry about navigating tricky terrain. I might recommend using the mom buddy system on this trail, only because parts of the route are slightly remote.

While the above routes are some of our favorites, don’t forget about these other popular KC attractions hat are musts to have in your walking and city-viewing routine:river

Liberty Memorial. After catching the quintessential view of Kansas City from the memorial, take a stroll on the many pathways in surrounding Penn Valley Park. Parking is free! Learn more about Liberty Memorial here.

The Link at Crown Center. The Link is a mom lifesaver for days when it’s too hot, cold, or rainy to walk outside! The covered walkway connects Crown Center to Union Station and surrounding hotels and shops. You can catch a cool view of the Sprint Center on the walkway between Crown Center and the Sheraton Hotel. Plus, no kid can be bored with all of the fun things to do in the area. Learn more about Crown Center and The Link.

I’d love to hear more of your ideas: where does your family like to walk or catch a view in Kansas City?

Jenna lives in Midtown with her husband and two kids (ages 6 and 4). She has an M.A. in English and too many overdue books at the library. She has been working with writers for over a decade, as a high school teacher, college instructor, and writing coach. She loves good coffee, serious conversation, and not-too-serious fiction.