Top 5 Festive, Secular Events to Get You Jazzed for the Holidays in KC

After 2020 provided a less than ideal (read: sad and abysmal) holiday season, 2021 is making up for all of the merry that was lost last year. The holiday season is back, baby, and Kansas City is really showing off! With new displays and better than ever events, there’s simply not enough time to cross off all of the festive fun our city has to offer before the jolly old man makes his yearly visit.

With December upon us, and a few weeks left before the big day arrives, we’ve rounded up our top five favorite destinations and experiences you should consider seeking out for some old fashioned merriment!

Holiday Cooking and Baking

Head to Taste Buds Kitchen for a unique date or family night this holiday, and you won’t be sorry. Learn to make something you would never attempt at home, and reap the rewards of a spectacular meal and possibly a new skill in your cooking repertoire! They offer a wide selection of family friendly and adult only classes, themed for the season. From gingerbread houses to donut making, this might become a yearly tradition! Hurry because classes are in high demand.

Another fantastic destination to help hone your skills and leave with a full belly, is the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Offering adult, child and family classes throughout the month of December, there’s something for every skill and taste level. Bonus for the parents: you get to experience the joy of cooking without the dreadful cleaning!

Union Station

Union Station has really outdone itself this year. A mainstay and Christmas favorite for generations, the Kansas City landmark is not messing around in 2021. You will want to plan accordingly, because once you arrive, your children will never want to leave.

Holiday Reflections at Union Station is bigger and more enchanting that ever.  A massive display inside the Grand Plaza with an expanded Rudy’s Wonderland where kids can ride the Mini Holiday Express Train makes this a must-see destination. The free model train exhibit is undoubtedly one of our city’s greatest gifts, and the seasonal Christmas village only adds to the magic. As a mom to three train-obsessed boys, it has been a dreary day drop-in during any part of the year, but during December, it is even more captivating for my little guys.

The attractions don’t end with the trains and lights. Afterward, you’ll want to rest your legs at the Extreme Screen, a fun and affordable ($3 tickets) theater showing holiday favorites. It is especially fun to dress the kids in pajamas and slippers as they cozy in for a show.

The cherry on top for your Christmas loving children, will be one last stop to the Planetarium for an out of this world experience. Another affordable family affair, it offers a compilation of holiday tunes set to laser choreography. If there’s still energy to be spared after all the fun, Science City is a hop, skip and a jump down the hallway from the Planetarium. It is always worth the visit!

Holiday Performances

Boost your children’s love for the arts by attending the long running Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The venue is taking safety seriously, as it will only admit those who are fully vaccinated, including children, so plan accordingly when purchasing tickets.

The Musical Theatre Heritage is presenting the third annual Spectacular Christmas at Crown Center. A show for all ages, this performance has two different times available during most days in December, making it easy to schedule for busy families.

Family Fitness

When the provided race gear is a Santa suit, you know it is going to be fun! The Westport Santa Dash 5K takes place Dec. 11, so reserve your spot quickly! Register for the fitness, but run for the delight in seeing hundreds of Santa’s jog through the city streets. This year the Elf Dash for children 12 and under is virtual, but if the kids are up for it, they can join in on the entire 5K to make it a family outing. Everyone leaves with a finisher metal, ornament and hot chocolate. Not a bad way to start a Saturday!

Light Displays

2020 was the year of outdoor light displays because it felt safe and still provided us the connection to the holidays we all so desperately needed. This year, the displays remain strong (if not better) but the crowds (thus far) seem much more manageable.

Historically infamous for long lines, Christmas in the Park’s wait is much shorter this year, but the display remains magical. With new additions, the free event is a favorite for this Lee’s Summit family. We hit up our favorite drive-thru and eat dinner in the car as we wait our turn!

With more than one location, Winter Magic is accessible for anyone in the area. A fun and interactive display that will delight everyone!

Get the wiggles out and enjoy Powell Gardens Festival of Lights, a one-of-a-kind event set amongst one of Kansas City’s best resources. Powell Gardens is not messing around this year with a new tiki bar experience and over 20 miles of lights.

The Overland Park Arboretum Luminary Walk is another fantastic and easy way to get in the Christmas spirit. One can’t help but feel the enchantment amongst all of the beauty. Pro tip: snag the 5 p.m. tickets to avoid the traffic and crowds.

And if you still want more lighted fun, check out the Best Neighborhood Light Displays in Kansas City!

This list is just a small glimmer of all our hometown has to offer for the Christmas season. We all deserve to feel the joy again, and these destinations will brighten the spirits that seemed a little less brilliant last year. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.


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