Everyone who goes to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art loves to play in the huge Kansas City Sculpture Park amid such works as the larger-than-life Shuttlecocks of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and major pieces by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Auguste Rodin and others. Head inside to explore nearly 40,000 works, including a vast collection of Native American art, in one of the finest general art museums in the United States. Admission is free.
4525 Oak St., Kansas City
Grab your lawn chairs and blankets and head to the Free Friday Night Flicks at Crown Center, one of the nation's first mixed-use redevelopments, with offices, residences and shops; two large hotels; and the monumental Crown Center fountain. Films are shown in July and August on the huge outdoor screen at Crown Center Square located across from the Crown Center Shops. Admission is free, and the movies begin at around 9 p.m. Food truck snacks are available.
Crown Center Square, 2405 Grand Blvd.
Consult the website for information.
Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead is a great place to go with children any time of year. The 12-acre park has some 250 farm animals where children can feed baby goats and milk cows, beautiful gardens, a country schoolhouse, a fishing pond, rides in horse-drawn wagons, pony rides and much more. Admission is $2 a person (not quite free but close).
13800 Switzer at 135th, Overland Park, Kansas
For hours and fees, consult the website.
Kaleidoscope is the brainchild of Hallmark Cards Chairman Don J. Hall, who dreamed of a place where kids could "explore, create, imagine and do." In a magical atmosphere, children and their adults create art from leftover Hallmark materials in 40-minute sessions. Free tickets are available every day in the Kaleidoscope lobby at Crown Center
Independent sessions for kids ages 5–12 and family sessions are offered throughout the week. Check the website for session times.
2501 McGee St.
The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank on Memorial Drive is truly an experience, and it's open to the public free of charge. Here you'll watch millions of dollars in currency being processed at KC's Federal Reserve Bank and see an impressive collection of coins. Walk-in and guided tours are available, and all guests undergo a security screening. No weapons and only limited use of cameras are allowed. If you are over 18, you'll need to bring your ID.
William M. Klein Park
The William M. Klein Park (formerly the Cave Spring Historic Site and Nature Center) sprawls over 35 acres of wildlife and native plants coupled with walking trails, a wildlife habitat pond, a small cave for kids to explore and the remnants of historic cabins. Amazingly, it's located in the middle of the city. Admission is free, but small donations are accepted.
8701 E. Gregory Blvd.
Confirm hours by consulting the website.
The Kansas City Northern Miniature Railroad is the perfect ride for anyone who loves trains. The restored miniature trains travel around a half-mile, 16-inch gauge track at a good clip, with hair fluttering in the wind and happy passengers. The all-volunteer train operates weekends seasonally: from the first weekend of May to the last weekend of September. Rides are not free, exactly, as it costs 75 cents for one ride, but it is quite close to being free.
60th Street and NW Waukomis Drive
Line Creek Park Area (Northland)
Confirm hours by consulting the website.
Lakeside is one of Missouri's largest wildlife rehabilitation centers and boasts several resident raptors. People who spot wild animals in need of help are encouraged to call the center; the animals often end up at the center's animal hospital, where they're cared for and typically released back into the wild.
There are plenty of free activities at the Lakeside Nature Center, from guided hikes and reads to speakers series. Check the center's website for the latest activities, with their time and location. You can also contact the Lakeside Nature Center to rent Camp Lake of the Woods facilities for boys and for girls.
4701 E. Gregory Blvd.
Confirm hours by checking the Lakeside website.
Kansas City is known for its big beautiful (free) parks with everything from swings and slides to hiking trails, lakes, and picnic areas. Start with Kansas City Metro's top 10 parks. If you don't find what you need on that list, you have plenty of other choices. Kansas City is a Tree City USA and there seem to be leafy parks everywhere. The city's Parks and Recreation department maintains 220 parks, 12,242 acres of parkland, 158 miles of trails and bikeways, 29 lakes, hundreds of athletic fields and tennis courts, 103 playgrounds and five public golf courses. There are as well miles of scenic boulevards and parkways crisscrossing the city.