100+ Fun Things to Do This Summer in Kansas City

Your complete entertainment guide for the next three months.

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Powell Gardens, Conservatory

Powell Gardens, Conservatory


   Looking to take a walk on the wild side? Then hop in your car for an interactive experience where you’ll see exotic wild cats at Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education Center in Louisburg, Kan., about 20 miles south of Kansas City on U.S. Highway 69. The nonprofit organization with its all-volunteer staff is devoted to the care and preservation of endangered large cats like tigers, leopards and cougars. Visitors are encouraged to make use of the books, DVDs and other reference materials located in the education center. The staff provides additional information on the cats’ behavior, physiology, habitats, and the threats and dangers of extinction. Free to $8. 3783 Highway K-68, Louisburg, Kan., (913) 837-5515, saveoursiberians.org

   For an inspiring view of our vast Midwestern night skies, a trip to Powell Observatory is a must. Owned and operated by the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, the observatory in Louisburg, Kan., is open to the public Saturday nights, May through October, and for special astronomical events. Public programs include an educational presentation on an interesting astronomy topic, a tour of the night sky and viewing through telescopes, one of which is the largest available to the public in a five-state area. Free to $6 donation suggested. 26500 Melrose St., Louisburg, Kan., (913) 438-3825, askc.org

   When it comes to spectacular gardens, interesting architecture, a nature trail and year-round calendar of special events, there is nothing quite like Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s premiere botanical garden, to make your heart bloom. Its 970 acres of lush, rolling hills and windswept meadows are, indeed, awe-inspiring. A few highlights this summer are the Booms & Blooms Festival (July 1) and the Festival of Butterflies (Aug. 4-6, 7-10, 11-13 and 14-20). General admission: free to $10; festival admission: free to $12. 1609 NW U.S. Highway 50, Kingsville, Mo., (816) 697-2600, powellgardens.org

   A trip to historic and picturesque Weston, Mo., should definitely be on your summer calendar. After all, it has been named Best Small Town in Missouri by AAA Midwest Traveler magazine. It’s no wonder because there’s plenty to see and do, from shopping its quaint downtown, dining, museums, antebellum homes, wineries, breweries, antiques, festivals and special events, including Second Saturdays, with downtown shops open late. Weston is 40 minutes north of Kansas City, Exit 20 on Interstate 29. westonmo.com

   Home to the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan., represents the best of college-town life. Boasting a lively downtown that runs along and near Massachusetts Street filled with lots of good eats and unique shops and galleries, quaint residential streets and iconic Jayhawk Boulevard that runs down the middle of campus, historic Lawrence is also known for a thriving music and arts scene. A summer highlight is the Kaw Valley Riverfest (July 4, rain or shine), a community festival from 4 to 10 p.m. at Burcham Park with a Jaycees Firework Display over the river at 9:30 p.m. Free. unmistakablylawrence.com


Buffalo Soldier Monument Fort Leavenworth KS

Buffalo Soldier Monument, Fort Leavenworth


   One of the Kansas City area’s best-kept tourism secrets is picturesque Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Billed as the “Best Hometown in the Army,” the 1827 Army post is also known as the “intellectual center of the Army” because it is home to the Combined Arms Center and the prestigious Command and General Staff College. There, international military officers from more than 100 countries attend the college in this 8-square-mile post. The post, which is also home to a national cemetery, a frontier Army museum and the only maximum security prison for military personnel of all branches, is open to the public, but cars entering may be subject to inspection. Free. Visitors Control Center, 8 Sherman Way, kansastravel.org




Stems Garden Soiree

Stems: A Garden Soiree, Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical gardens

   When it comes to outdoor theater, Kansas City is a shining star. For example, did you know that Theater in the Park at Shawnee Mission Park is the country’s largest outdoor community theater? What’s more, it has a great playlist for the 2017 summer season: Grease (June 9-25), SPAMALOT (June 2-10), Crazy for You (June 16-24), Camp Rock (June 30-July 8), Back to the ‘80s (July 14-22) and Beauty and the Beast (July 28-Aug. 5). Free to $8. 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee, Kan. theatreinthepark.org. Then there’s the Leawood Stage Company, which will present the ever-popular Annie (July 13-16 and 20-22). For its 25th season, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents the classic tale of the doomed prince Hamlet (June 13-July 2). Free. Southmoreland Park, west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo., kcshakes.org. Gladstone Theatre in the Park presents two family-friendly classics:  Willy Wonka (July 7-9) and The Wizard of Oz (Aug. 4-6) Free. Ironwoods Amphitheatre, 147th and Mission Road. leawoodstagecompany.com; Free. Gladstone Amphitheatre in Oak Grove Park, corner of Northeast 76th Street and North Troost. gladstonetip.com

   When it comes to a memorable alfresco experience, there’s nothing quite like Starlight Theatre, which offers premier Broadway musicals and concerts under the stars. Located in Swope Park near the Kansas City Zoo, you might even hear the roar of a lion while enjoying top-notch talent. The roster this summer is impressive. Broadway musicals: Disney The Little Mermaid (June 3-11); Jersey Boys (June 27-July 2); An American in Paris (July 11-16); Something Rotten! (July 25-30); The Bodyguard (Aug. 8-13) Motown (Aug. 22-27) and Grease (Sept. 8-14). Concerts include: Steve Martin & Martin Short (July 21) and Idina Menzel (Aug. 16). Ticket prices vary. 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 363-7827, kcstarlight.com

   Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Our Kansas City Zoo features world-class exhibits and exceptional programs that attract visitors from around the globe. In addition, check out Jazzoo, the zoo’s largest fundraiser that helps support children’s educational programs and feeds the zoo’s more than 1,700 animals. Jazzoo (June 2) features about 70 Kansas City restaurants and, of course, plenty of music on five stages around the zoo. Founded in 1990 by the Junior League of Kansas City, the event attracts more than 5,000 guests each year. $11.50 to $14.50, 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 513-5800. kansascityzoo.org; $175. jazzookc.org


Kansas City Zoo Front Entrance 435 Magazine

Kansas City Zoo


   You’re invited to the party of the summer!  Celebrating its 10th year, Stems: A Garden Soirée (June 24) is an annual fundraiser at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Hosted by the Arts & Recreation Foundation, this spectacular event raises money for recreational and cultural enrichment for the botanical gardens and Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, and public art in Overland Park. As you stroll the gardens sipping wine or beer, you can enjoy delicious food from more than 24 area restaurants and music by Funk Syndicate and the Gerald Spaits Quartet. Each guest receives a hand-painted wine glass, and an impressive fireworks display is a great way to cap off the evening. $125. 8909 W. 179th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 685-3604, stemssoiree.org

   In the mood for a glowing campfire, inspiring stars and get-away relaxation? Then glamorous camping, or “glamping” at Hoot Owl Hill in Paola, Kansas, may be just what you need. Taking the “rough” out of “roughing it,” the 14-acre glamping bed-and-breakfast overlooking a scenic river valley offers bell tents that feature queen-sized beds, lanterns and furniture. The Hoot House tent can accommodate a group of six or more. $99-$125 per person. 30750 Osawatomie Road, Paola, Kan., (913) 271-7451, hootowlgardens.com

   As the first nature center in Johnson County, Olathe’s Ernie Miller Nature Center provides a great getaway from urban hustle and bustle. Open from dawn to dusk from March 1 through October 31, the center features displays; live animals; a 500-gallon aquarium, a gift shop; room rentals; knowledgeable staff; and 3 miles of hiking trails traversing prairies, a forest and a beautiful stream. Free. 909 North Highway 7, Olathe, Kan., (913) 764-7759, erniemiller.com


Ernie Miller Nature Center Kansas City, 435 Magazine

Ernie Miller Nature Center


   Since 1977, the 86-acre George Owens Nature Park in Independence has given families the chance to reconnect with their natural environment, such as year-round access to forests, lakes, hiking trails and wildlife. With endless possibilities for adventure, the park also features new rotating exhibits, a pond display and four large aquariums. Free. 1601 S. Speck Road, Independence, Mo., (816) 325-7115, georgeowensnaturepark.org

   A favorite spot for birders, the 1,071-acre Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs may just become your favorite outdoor spot, too. With mostly forested land that features established prairies, restored glades, savannas, woodlands, numerous ponds and creeks, the center also provides exhibits and interpretive programs, picnic areas, pavilions, six hiking trails, viewing decks and bridges. Free. 1401 NW Park Road, Blue Springs, Mo., (816) 228-3766, nature.mdc.mo.gov

   Just a 10-minute walk from the Country Club Plaza, the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center supplies a hands-on urban education center for city dwellers and suburbanites alike. The 8-acre center offers demonstrations on butterflies, bird feeding, prairie wildflower, wetland and water gardens, and manicured upland and lowland forests. The center offers a quarter-mile, disabled- accessible Wild Sidewalk that takes visitors through a native gardens onsite. Free. 4750 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 759-7300, nature.mdc.mo.gov

   Located in Kansas City’s Swope Park, the Lakeside Nature Center is owned and operated by the Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Recreation Department. So you can bet there’s plenty to see and do, such as displays of local native wildlife, including birds of prey, snakes, amphibian, turtles, fish and invertebrates. The center also offers medical care for injured or baby wild animals. Free. 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 513-8960, lakesidenaturecneter.org


Symphony in the Flint Hills

Symphony in the Flint Hills


   Celebrating its 12th year of bringing the magical union between symphonic music and the prairie landscape, Symphony in the Flint Hills (June 10) provides a memorable Kansas tradition that now attracts about 7,000 attendees from all over the world. This year’s performance features special guest singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey, who will perform at Deer Horn Ranch in Geary County. $53.88 to $1,500. (620) 273-8955, symphonyintheflinthills.org

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