exhibit at a children's nature center
Lakeside Nature Center

We know the struggle of finding activities that will be great for the entire family and keep the kiddos occupied and engaged. Fortunately, Kansas City has plenty of things for families to do – and several of them are free!

In this guide, we’re sharing the best free things to do for families in downtown and midtown Kansas City.

Free Things To Do For Families In Kansas City

1. Family Night at KC Public Library’s Plaza Branch

Neighborhood: Plaza Library Branch
Fridays, 5:30p – 7:30p

Stop by the Plaza Branch of the KCMO Public Library on Fridays at 5:30p for a hands-on family evening. The activities change each week – they might be a hands-on craft or an interactive storytime. 

Typically, the activities are meant for children ages three and up. The event calendar for the library will share the details of their upcoming Friday Family Nights. 

2. Family Weekend Activities at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Neighborhood: Midtown

On Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00p – 4:00p, visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for hands-on activities with museum guides!

The activities vary, so check with the museum beforehand to see what is offered on upcoming weekends. 

3. Movies at Durwood Film Vault

Neighborhood: Downtown, Kansas City Public Library
Family Movies on Saturdays 2:00p 

The Kansas City Central Library was once a prestigious bank, and the original vault located in the basement of the building has been converted into a 28-seat movie theatre. 

They offer free movies, typically every day at 2:00p, and sometimes more often, with no reservations required. Generally, the Saturday showing is family friendly. 

You can view their current listings on the calendar page of their website.

small movie theater with felt chairs
Durwood Film Vault

4. Ride The KC Streetcar

Neighborhood: Downtown

Explore Kansas City’s downtown neighborhoods with the modern streetcar!

Running from the River Market on the north end to Union Station and Crown Center on the south, KC Streetcar connects all the downtown neighborhoods with 16 platform stops and 2 miles of track. 

It’s free to ride and makes it easy to travel through downtown – strollers and bikes are welcome!

5. Rope Playground at Roanoke Park

Neighborhood: Midtown

There are several playgrounds around Kansas City, but the rope playground at Roanoke Park is pretty unique. 

The playground features a variety of ropes for climbing, tall mounds covered in artificial turf, metal slides, and even a zip-line. It’s a nature-themed playground, great for children up to age twelve. 

Roanoke Park was established in the early 1900’s. It features wooded hills and limestone outcroppings. 

6. Storytime + Crafts at the KC Public Library

Neighborhood: Plaza Library Branch and Central Library (downtown)

book themed entrance to children's library
Kansas City Central Library

Each week, the Plaza Library Branch hosts children’s storytime opportunities for different ages. 

  • Baby Storytime: Tuesdays at 9:30a, stories, songs, and play for babies ages 0 -18 months and their caregivers
  • Family Storytime: Thursdays 9:30a and 10:30a, storytime for children of all ages and their caregivers — join for stories, songs, crafts, and more.
  • Kindergarten Readiness Storytime: Fridays at 10:30a, storytime just for four and five-year-olds – join us for stories, music, movement, crafts, and more. 

Each week, the Central Library Branch hosts children’s storytime opportunities for different ages. 

  • Baby Storytime: Thursdays at at 9:30a, stories, songs, and play for babies ages 0 -18 months and their caregivers
  • Family Storytime: Tuesdays at 9:30a and 10:30a, storytime for children of all ages and their caregivers — join for stories, songs, crafts, and more.
brightly colored children's library in kansas city missouri
Children’s Library at Kansas City Public Library Central Branch

7. Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Friday 8:00a – 5:00p, Saturday 9:00a – 4:00p

We may be surrounded by quite a bit of concrete, but at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, children can be immersed in nature. The center houses interactive exhibits and diverse gardens that provide hands-on learning about our region’s plants and animals, fostering a love for the environment from a young age.

The outdoor area of the center features beautifully maintained native gardens. These gardens serve as outdoor classrooms where children can learn about native plants, pollinators, and the importance of biodiversity. The butterfly garden, in particular, is a favorite.

informational sign at the outdoor park of anita b gorman nature center
Anita B Gorman Conservation Center

There is a natural playground where children can build forts and other objects out of natural tools and items. 

There are also eight acres of natural areas with short paved and natural trails through forest, woodland, wetland, and prairie habitats. Throughout the trails, there is signage that provides an educational opportunity to learn about what is in the garden and the local ecosystem.

The Discovery Center offers regular events and programs throughout the year, including naturalist-led walking tours, storytimes, and activities for children, typically on Saturdays. Visit the calendar on their website for specific event information.

fake animals in a landscape indoors at the anita b gorman nature center in kansas city
Anita B Gorman Conservation Center
wooden boat in a building
Anita B Gorman Conservation Center

8. Crown Center

Neighborhood: Downtown

Crown Center – referred to as a “City Within A City” – is home to the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. 

The three-level Crown Center Shops feature more than thirty shops and restaurants. The center hosts free activities, such as children’s exhibits as well as occasional live music, seasonal markets, and ethnic festivals in the outdoor Crown Center Square. 

Crown Center Children’s Play Exhibit

On the first level of Crown Center near the Coterie Theatre, there is an interactive play area for children. The exhibits are themed and change several times a year, so you can visit each season and have different experiences. 

Typically, the activities are hands-on, engaging, and promote movement. It runs Monday – Saturday from 10:00a – 6:00p and Sunday from 12:00p – 5:00p. 

Crown Center
Crown Center
Crown Center
Crown Center


Kaleidoscope is a free art studio that combines creativity with imagination. Families can sign-up for 50-minute studio sessions that allow for children ages fourteen and younger to create self-directed art projects. They will create with bows, cardboard, jazzy junk, puzzles, and melted crayons – among other items! 

Visit their website or call to reserve a studio session. 

9. Federal Reserve’s Money Museum

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Monday – Friday, 9:30a to 4p

The Federal Reserve System in the United States consists of twelve regional banks, each serving a specific district, one of which resides in Kansas City! 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has a Money Museum where children can get a real-life lesson on economics, currency processing, and the history of money. 

It’s a self-guided, engaging tour through several different rooms and includes features like lifting a real gold bar valued at nearly $400,000 and the historic Harry S. Truman Coin Collection, a dazzling display of 450 coins minted throughout history.

The exhibits are interactive and teach valuable insights into the U.S. economy. You can catch a glimpse of the Federal Reserve’s cash processing area and the vault. It’s an interesting look for all ages into this important piece of the American economy!

Federal Reserve Money Museum kc
Federal Reserve Money Museum
Federal Reserve Money Museum KC
Federal Reserve Money Museum

10. Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park

Neighborhood: Swope Park, Eastern KCMO
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Sunday 9a – 4p

The Lakeside Nature Center is a true hidden gem in Kansas City. As one of Missouri’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities, it provides educational and recreational opportunities that focus on the local environment. 

The center typically houses about 75 rehabilitated animals native to this region, including two bald eagles, two turkey vultures, three barred owls, three varieties of hawks and two Kestrel falcons. 

IMG 3118
Lakeside Nature Center

With each animal exhibit, there are signs and informational panels to learn from. Additionally, there are several other areas in the center that provide opportunities for hands-on learning about local nature. Children can participate in the “scavenger hunt” and collect a stamp from the front desk upon completion. 

A ‘touch table’ near the upper displays provides an opportunity for children to interact with and investigate natural items like furs, fossils, and skulls.

interactive childrens table area at the lakeside nature center
Lakeside Nature Center

The center also features nature trails – we love the two-mile Fox Hollow Trail. 

On the first and third Saturdays of each month, the center hosts events, such as a hike with a naturalist, nature storytime and crafts – sometimes with an animal appearance – and educational programming for children. Visit the calendar on their website for specific event information.

entrance of nature center in kansas city with eagle stickers on the floor
Lakeside Nature Center

11. Kansas City Museum

Neighborhood: Historic Northeast
Open to the Public: Thursday 10am – 8pm, Friday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm

The Kansas City Museum is housed in the majestic Corinthian Hall, built in 1910 as the estate of a local lumber baron. The Beaux-Arts style building itself is a sight to behold with its grandeur and historical significance.

While there are interactive aspects of the exhibits, this museum is probably best for children who are able to read the informational signage and are interested in history.

exhibit of aviation at the kansas city history museum
Kansas City History Museum

Walking through the halls takes you on a stroll through time. The museum showcases the rich history of Kansas City, from its early days to the vibrant city it is today. 

You’ll find exhibits that transport you to different eras – like jazz, aviation, immigration, and Native American history, among others, each of which captures the essence of Kansas City’s evolution.

exhibit of a historical bike at a museum
Kansas City History Museum

Corinthian Hall has four floors with history exhibits and art installations. Approximately 400 historical artifacts plus numerous images from the museum’s archives, exhibits, media, and site-specific art installations by Kansas City-based artists are on display.

The first floor details the life of the family for whom the estate was built and showcases what it was like to live in the 1800’s. The second and third floor are exhibits of Kansas City history.

exhibit of a jukebox at the kansas city history museum
Kansas City History Museum

12. Loose Park

Neighborhood: Midtown

Locals adore Loose Park, and for good reason! It’s expansiveness makes it a great park to let children run around and be in nature. It’s not uncommon to see picnics and kites flying on sunny weekends. 

There are several parts of the park that can appeal to children, including the large playground, rolling hills, and the pond where you can watch the ducks and spot some fish near the surface. 

It’s a quick drive – or a longer walk if you’re so inclined – from the Country Club Plaza. 

13. City Market

Neighborhood: River Market

City Market is not just a market; it’s a vibrant hub of culture, food, and local charm. 

City Market has a rich history dating back to 1857 as a site for commerce, horse trading, political rallies, revivals, medicine shows, and circuses. Strolling around the historic area is an activity in itself.

It’s best to visit on Saturday and Sunday mornings when the farmer’s market is underway. Children will like meandering through the stalls where locals are selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and artisanal goods. There’s a variety of items to check out. 

Oftentimes, there is live music. 

The City Market is known for its diverse food options – along the perimeter of the historic market are several small counter service eateries. Many of these are family-owned, and options include Middle Eastern, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Indian, among several others. 

14. Union Station

Neighborhood: Downtown

Union Station isn’t just a train station; it’s a grand piece of history, brimming with charm and exhibits – some of which are free. 

The beaux-arts architecture constructed in 1914 is worthy of a visit in itself – the ceiling in the Grand Hall is 95 feet high and features three chandeliers. 

Children will like the model train gallery – with more than 80 trains moving along the tracks, from tiny N-scale model trains to the big G-scale giants of the model train world, you’ll love this expansive gallery of model railroading.

Model Train Exhibit Union Station
Model Train Exhibit Union Station
model train exhibit union station
Model Train Exhibit Union Station

That’s A Wrap!

We hope you found this list of the best free things to do with kids helpful!

If you’re able to spend money on activities, read our list of the best things to do in Kansas City with kids.

And if you find yourself with the kiddos, read our general list of the best free things to Kansas City.