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

Where are Kansas City's 'hidden gems' for cold-weather fun? Here's what locals suggest

Neighborhood residents take advantage of the Jan. 9, 2024, snowstorm to sled down the side of the Lakewood Lake east dam in Lee's Summit, Missouri.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Whether heading out in the snow or staying cozy inside, there's plenty to do around Kansas City during the winter.

Instead of staying inside your house, why not discover something new around Kansas City? Here are some of the metro's best-kept secrets for winter weather activities, recommended by residents like you.

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

KCUR recently asked Kansas Citians to share their favorite “hidden gems” around the metro for when the weather gets cold.

We love asking people for their local recommendations, to celebrate aspects of Kansas City that you wish were more widely known. It’s a chance to get outside of your frozen bubble and try something new (especially since, when national publications come and visit KC, they tend to go to the same old spots).

These latest suggestions will take you both indoors and out, from small businesses to nature trails to cultural institutions, and hopefully locations that’ll have you say, “I wished I’d known about this sooner!” Some suggestions may be brand new to you, while others might seem like an obvious option — it just depends on what side of Kansas City you usually experience.

Either way, we hope this brings you some diversion when planning a winter’s adventure.

Here are some of the coziest “gems” recommended by locals that shine during the winter season. (And if none of your favorites made it on this list, send us some recommendations of your own!)

Celebrate snowfall

Summit Ice
Summit Ice
Summit Ice in Lee's Summit, Missouri, is an outdoor ice skating rink.

There are many ways to enjoy the winter months, even when Kansas City gets an unprecedented amount of snowfall and historically low temps. Snowfall transforms the landscape, making something new from familiar territory.

KCUR has shared both ice skating and sledding adventures in the past, as well as a variety of different ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

If you can’t make it out to Colorado this time of year, you could try Snow Creek Ski Resort in Weston, Missouri, which a few readers suggested.

Of course, anytime you go outside in cold temperatures, be sure to dress appropriately and only stay outside a reasonable amount. There’s nothing like a wintery hike, especially when you can look forward to a warm space when you’re finished.

The Fox Hollow Trail behind Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park is a great location to get into the winter woods not far from the urban center. You can go with your own group or join a guided “hike with a naturalist,” usually on the first Saturday of the month. The next one is Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m.

Other urban hiking spots are the historic Union Cemetery (the grounds are open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) and Penn Valley Park, which surrounds the World War I Museum and Memorial, and offers some spectacular views of the skyline. (See more hiking suggestions with our beginner’s guide to local trails.)

Locals suggested the Charlotte Sawyers Nature Area, part of the Platte County Land Trust, for winter walks and bird watching.

A good spot to contemplate the fragile beauty of winter is Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden, along Brush Creek. Powell Gardens was a popular suggestion, too, but you’ll have to tag that for next December, as the gardens are closed to the public until March 1.

While not technically outside, the Kansas City Curling Club is a place for those interested in this enthralling winter sport. The club was founded in 1987 and has sessions for “learn to play” and “open play” at their rink in Blue Springs.

For an outdoorsy indoor activity, one local suggested visiting Cabela’s in Kansas City, Kansas, to watch them feed the fish they have on display, which is quite the sight.

A great place to be surrounded by animals in a warm environment is inside an aquarium, and Kansas City now has two. Take a walk through the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium, which has a combination of outdoor and enclosed areas. Each Saturday and Sunday during the winter, at 11 a.m., enjoy the Penguin March and commune with these Antarctic mascots.

The zoo’s Sobela Ocean Aquarium opened in 2023 with some 8,000 animals, including an iconic sea turtle named Tortellini. And if you like sea creatures, there’s also the Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium in Crown Center.

Indoor activities

A striped cat with a white chest and paws and green eyes lays on a shelf and looks at the camera.
Second Cup Cat Café
At the Second Cup Cat Café, enjoy a warm beverage while cuddling adoptable cats.

Arctic chill too… chilly for you? Sure, many folks choose to stay put in their homes, under piles of blankets with a warm drink and a good book, or gathered around a good game (if that’s the case, consider this virtual game night adventure or beginner’s guide to RPGs for some ideas).

But we don’t blame you if you’re feeling cooped up — especially if you don’t have a cozy pet to cuddle up next to.

In that case, consider a visit to the Second Cup Cat Café in Olathe or Whiskers Cat Café & Coffeehouse on Southwest Trafficway. Staffed by humans, but featuring adoptable cats, these are great places to spend some time in feline company.

If you crave a more oxygenated environment, check out Café Equinox, a “humid plant-filled paradise,” as one local wrote, located inside the greenhouse at Family Tree Nursery in Shawnee, Kansas.

To forget completely about winter, try Garden House, a coffee-and-plant shop located on Southwest Boulevard in the Rosedale neighborhood. They specialize in cacti, so the environment is a world away from the snow crusting the sidewalks outside.

Other frequent mentions included Harry’s Bar and Tables in Westport (the large windows facing the intersection of Westport Road and Pennsylvania offer great views for both people and weather watching), as well as the nearby Parisian-inspired Westport Cafe (a recent James Beard Award semifinalist!). For more French-inspired fare, warm up with a cuppa at Emilie’s French Teas in Waldo.

Browne’s Irish Marketplace — which claims to be the oldest Irish business outside of Ireland — offers traditional Irish food and warming musical performances. Westside Local — especially their soup — also got a shout out.

Enjoy a mix of hot and cold with the hibachi and sushi menu at Wolcano Teppenyaki in North Kansas City. Or savor the smokey goodness of Fritz’s Meats & Superior Sausages in Leawood.

Wishing for warmer climes? Take a lesson in indoor wall climbing at an ROKC location or Sequence Climbing Gym in the Crossroads while you wait out the season.

Some more local business where you can try a new activity and even get a bit of exercise are SERV (for pickleball and eats), Winnwood Skate Center (see KCUR’s skating adventure to find more skating rinks near you), KC Bowl, the 403 Club (for pinball fun), and Ludo’s Shuffleboard Bar.

And if a virtual reality seems like a nicer atmosphere than our real-life one, try gaming at Sandbox VR and DoubleTap Virtual Reality Arcade and Pub.

Cultural escapes

Exterior view of the Kansas City Museum with snow on the lawn, patio, and trees.
David Remley
Kansas City Museum
The newly renovated Kansas City Museum on a snowy day.

Even though the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a major institution in Kansas City (and free to visit), there’s so much to discover that you can’t fit it all in one stop. Multiple Kansas Citians suggested getting lunch at the restaurant in Rozelle Court, which feels like dining in an Italian piazza, far, far away from the Midwest winter.

Just up the road is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which has the sunny and art-immersive Café Sebastienne, or the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, at Johnson County Community College out in Overland Park.

If you want to go out for music, but don’t want to be out late, check out Indigo Hour at the Blue Room, part of The American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District. Music starts at 5 p.m. on Friday nights and it’s free to attend the happy hour set. (And you can find more locales for jazz with this clubs and venues roundup from 2021.)

Libraries were a frequent suggestion, since they don’t require you to buy anything to enjoy the atmosphere. The Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch got a shoutout due to the armchairs and large windows that provide a great view of Brush Creek, where you can enjoy the flight of the area’s resident gaggle of Canada geese.

Maybe you’ll use these hours spent indoors to get a jump start on the family history project you’ve been meaning to do, with help from the Midwest Genealogical Centerwith Mid-Continent Library in Independence, the Missouri Valley Special Collections at Kansas City Public Library, or the Johnson County Genealogical Society via the Johnson County Library. (Learn about more specialty libraries in this adventure.)

Or perhaps you can catch up on classic cinema? The restored Screenland Armour in North Kansas City, which garnered multiple suggestions, shows films from all eras as well as current blockbusters. (Kansas City has plenty of other cinemas that make for perfect cold-weather retreats.)

The complex at Union Station has a ton of great indoor activities, including Science City, escape rooms, model trains, another enormous movie theater, and fine dining (heck, you could even catch a train if you wanted – one reader suggested taking the train to Lee’s Summit for an adventure).

But what many people miss is the Union Station Stories gallery on the second and third floors, detailing the history of the building and offering a great view of the beautifully restored structure.

Other popular suggestions for spending time in the winter were the newly reopened and renovated Kansas City Museum, which is free to visit, the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, another free option, the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth (learn more in this carousels adventure).

You can find more great things to do at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center (with the Johnson County Museum, KidScape and a variety of classes), the Arabia Steamboat Museum in the City Market, and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on the campus of UMKC.

There will always be more to share about Kansas City and the surrounding communities. If you love it, someone else probably will, too, so keep your suggestions coming for future Adventures.

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.
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