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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Home for the holidays? Here's where to celebrate around Kansas City

Make a stop at Union Station to view its 2021 holiday setup, including a mighty Christmas tree, a walk-through village and more.
Roy Inman
Union Station
Make a stop at Union Station to view its 2021 holiday setup, including a mighty Christmas tree, a walk-through village and more.

Celebrate the season with a trip to Weston, have a great skate escape at Crown Center and enjoy these classic holiday spots in Kansas City.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Whether you’re spending the holidays at home, traveling to see family elsewhere or not celebrating at all, the lead up to the end of 2021 offers ample opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of Kansas City this December.

After another stressful and unpredictable year, it’s a good time to take stock and focus on what matters most: celebrating the people, places and moments that enrich our lives, uplift our spirits or offer peaceful refuge. It’s a chance to indulge in old-fashioned nostalgia or create a new tradition while home for the holidays.

Explore the festive sights of holiday lights across Kansas City, or stray a little further beyond city limits for a more intimate hometown holiday experience. Here’s where to start.

Holiday staycation

If you’re homebound for the holidays, there are dozens of ways to celebrate the season in Kansas City.

Stay merry and bright with a tour of holiday lights around Kansas City. Make a stop at Union Station, which houses a mighty holiday tree, a walk-through village, live performances and the region’s largest movie screen playing holiday classics such as “Jack Frost,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “The Polar Express” for $3/ticket.

Christmas in the Parkin Lee’s Summit, Missouri, features more than a half-million lights and numerous animated displays to create a magical winter wonderland. Donations at the exit benefit nearly three-dozen local charities. Zona Rosa hosts several holiday events in December, including pet photos with Santa on Dec. 13, and its North Park is illuminated with holiday lights and a 55-foot-tall tree.

Bop over to 18th and Vine to explore the Third Annual Soul of Santa Christmas Tree. Of course, the Country Club Plaza’s historic display of lights throughout 15 blocks includes multiple spots for selfies and upper garage-level views.

Stroll along the Luminary Walk for a serene wintry experience at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Powell Gardens hosts its fifth annual Festival of Lights that displays 20 miles’ worth of lights along outdoor paths, botanical installations, a tiki bar, fountain of light and warming station. You might even spot some reindeer at the Missouri Barn.

Holiday on Main Street

For the holidays, Weston, Missouri, is a cozy and picturesque place to spend a day.
Weston Chamber of Commerce
For the holidays, Weston, Missouri, is a cozy and picturesque place to spend a day.

Take a day trip to visit festive streets in nearby communities with a charming Main Street feel.

Downtown Belton, Missouri, has transformed its Main Street district with displays of holiday lights, a Mayor’s Christmas tree and holiday events each Friday and Saturday evening through Jan. 8. This weekend you can compete in Belton’s ugly sweater contest. Belt out your favorite seasonal tunes at Christmas Karaoke on Dec. 17. Bring the kids along for breakfast with Santa or to meet the Grinch on Dec. 18.

Recently voted as Kansas City’s Best Day Trip by The Pitch, Weston, Missouri, is a cozy and picturesque place to spend a day. This time of year, shops and historic homes in Downtown Weston are dressed up for the holidays. Stroll along Main Street and you might see why it was chosen as the filming location for an upcoming Lifetime movie, “Rebuilding a Dream Christmas,” which airs Dec. 23.

While you’re there, sip and feast at local restaurants, cafes, wineries, a historic brewery and more. You can enjoy an evening of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trivia or an Ugly Sweater Murder Mystery at Weston Wine Company. Swing over to nearby Fulk’s Christmas Tree Farm in Platte City to choose and cut (or purchase a pre-cut) tree, and hear how COVID-19 has pushed their farm into a frenzy from KCUR’s Luke X. Martin.

Head to Parkville, Missouri, for its Gallery of Trees event on Dec. 9. This fundraiser features a raffle for holiday-decorated trees, food from local downtown faves and a silent auction for sports memorabilia, including a helmet signed by Patrick Mahomes. Visit Santa Claus at his workshop on Dec. 18, or simply shop at small businesses and enjoy dining and drinking at local establishments.

The Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton, Kansas, hosts one of the biggest Christmas tree displays in the Midwest, featuring 200 trees decorated with Victorian, antique and themed ornaments. View a European feather tree, 1950s silver aluminum tree, ceramic tree and more.

Lawrence, Kansas, is another great day trip destination. This month, you can experience the Lawrence Lights Drive-through Holiday Light Show, shop at the Holiday Farmers Market on Dec. 11 and enjoy a free holiday concert with the Lawrence City Band on Dec. 18. Marvel at holiday lights along Mass Street as you shop for gifts, eat at local spots such as Merchants or Free State Brewery, or pick up some books at Raven Book Store.

Celebrate naturally

Celebrate the season with a great skate escape at Ice Terrace at Crown Center.
Crown Center
Celebrate the season with a great skate escape at Ice Terrace at Crown Center.

Some may find the season’s holiday lights, music and festivities less than thrilling. If you prefer avoiding the crowds this time of year, consider exploring nature to get in sync with the winter season in a simpler way.

The Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center offers a class on Holiday Greenings. Learn how to use native plants to create a swag or wreath to hang.

Visit penguins, polar bears, cold-weather creatures and a menagerie of animals from around the world at the Kansas City Zoo. Meet a pack of alpacas at YaYa’s Alpaca Farm in Garden City, Missouri, just 45 minutes south of Kansas City.

Have a great skate escape at Summit Ice in Lee’s Summit, The Ice at Park Place in Leawood, Kansas, and Ice Terrace at Crown Center.

Want more adventures like this? Sign up for KCUR's Creative Adventure Email.

Pete Dulin is a Kansas City-based writer and author of four books, including Expedition of Thirst and Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland.
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