Guide to the Holidays in Kansas City: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Kansas City
Eric Bowers Photo/Moment

If you're planning on visiting Kansas City, there is no time more festive and full of activities than the holiday season. From the famed Plaza Lights display and abundant holiday shopping opportunities and ice skating, New Year's Eve celebrations, and metro-wide seasonal home decorations, Kansas City is full of things to do including family-friendly diversions.

Start planning your holiday trip to the central United States by discovering exactly what events are happening, where to take guests and children, and where to get the best holiday meals and deals.

01 of 10

Eat Out on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving meals
James Pauls/Getty Images

Begin the holiday season this year by being kind to yourself. This Thanksgiving, why not make a reservation at a fine Kansas City restaurant and leave the cooking to someone else?

Plenty of restaurants in Kansas City offer buffets, traditional sit-down dinners, or abbreviated menus with a casual approach on Thanksgiving so you can be thankful that someone else will be doing the dishes!

If you're looking for a real taste of Kansas City Thanksgiving, we recommend checking out Lidia's Italian-inspired Thanksgiving dinner, with a four-course prix-fixe menu from noon to 6 p.m.

02 of 10

Entertain Holiday Guests

Crown Center

Crown Center

Entertaining guests during the holiday season can be challenging, but there are plenty of opportunities to show your visiting friends a great time in Kansas City. For example, one of the most popular activities is ice skating at the Crown Center or a trip to the 18th and Vine Jazz District. The Jazz District features the Kansas City Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the historic Gem Theater as well as the Blue Room—one of the best Jazz clubs in the country!

03 of 10

Plaza Lights at Country Club Plaza

Kansas City Plaza Lights

The Plaza Lights display at Country Club Plaza is one of Kansas City's favorite traditions and the official kickoff of the holiday season with an official ceremony hosted in the plaza's center on the evening of Thanksgiving.

The famous ceremony, which began as 16 lights hung over a doorway, now includes more than 80 miles of lights with 280,000 multicolored bulbs illuminating the buildings and towers of the plaza.

These lights remain lit throughout the holiday season—turning on at sundown and shutting off around three in the morning—until they are finally retired for the year around mid-January.

04 of 10

Christmas in the Park

Christmas at Longview Lake

Fishwolfe Boro

Another favorite holiday tradition of so many Kansas residents, Christmas in the Park has more than 300,000 glowing bulbs and 175 animated figures and allows visitors to drive through and experience all of them from the comfort of their heated vehicles.

Driving through, you can't help but be amazed at the enchanting colors and designs as classic Christmas characters come to life in this stunning display. Every year, the campground at Longview Lake is transformed into a winter wonderland you won't want to miss.

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05 of 10

See More Holiday Lighting Displays

Legendary Christmas at Legends Outlets


Christmas in the Park and the Plaza Lights Event aren't the only way to experience the holiday cheer through the magic of lights. There are numerous Christmas lighting displays abound Kansas City, both on public buildings and private homes.

Head to any one of these great holiday displays around the metropolitan area, but don't miss the Legendary Christmas at the Legends Outlets of Kansas City or the Northern Lights at Zona Rosa.

06 of 10

Shop for Christmas Gifts in Kansas City

Zona Rosa is one of many shopping centers in Kansas City

Visit KC

Kansas City is a shopaholics paradise, especially during the holiday season when many local retailers offer deals and discounts to visiting shoppers. From quaint boutiques and amazing shops and department stores to discount outlets and vintage retailers, you'll find it all in Kansas City. Shopping districts like Zona Rosa or the Plaza are especially festive for the holiday season.

07 of 10

Look for a Unique Gift

Kansas City souvenirs

KC Parent​

Looking for a special gift for someone on your holiday list and can't seem to find it? Forgo the gift card and head to one of the great locally owned Kansas City stores for those hard-to-find gifts for the holiday season.

The top places to find unique gifts in Kansas City feature some one-of-a-kind, handmade items alongside kitschy folk art, vintage finds, antiques from bygone Wild West days, and, of course, a whole slew of Kansas City-centric merchandise and ​souvenirs.​

08 of 10

Go Ice Skating

Outdoor Ice Skating

KC Moms

Whether you want to throw on your skates and sip some hot cocoa during the winter months at an outdoor rink, or skate indoors year-round, Kansas City has numerous rinks and other options for your winter sporting enjoyment.

Although the most popular spot for tourists and residents alike to visit is the Crown Plaza's massive rink, there are a number of smaller attractions that are often less crowded.

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09 of 10

See a Holiday Show or Production

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, opened September 16, 2011, Kansas City, Missouri. Architect: Moshe Safdie

Tim Hursley  / Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

There are plenty of great shows and productions to see all through December in Kansas City, and you can get tickets to any of them—as long as you book early.

With multiple versions "The Nutcracker" and an appearance by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you're sure to be dazzled this holiday season by the great performances in the metropolitan area.

Plan your trip today and make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time to ensure that you and your family can enjoy the holiday magic of one of Kansas City's many great theaters.

10 of 10

Celebrate New Year's Eve

Fireworks at Longview Lake

KC Labor Beacon​

Kansas Citians love to party, so why not ring in the New Year at one of the best parties in town? Your options include private and public events, clubs, restaurants, and every other place where a crowd is ringing in the New Year.

There are also a number of fireworks displays with beautiful views of the city as backdrops, so make sure to plan out your New Years celebration before making the trek to Kansas City.

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