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7 Free Holiday Things To Do In Kansas City This Weekend

Roy Inman

As everyone should know, it’s better to give than to receive. But what if it’s free? Then is receiving just as cool?

Wow, that got deep in a hurry. Suffice it to say that whichever end you may be on this holiday season – bestowing or getting – this weekend’s sampling of free holiday activities is a win-win during the most wonderful time of the year.

Imagine a world where everyone gives and receives free stuff in kind. Imagine no more!

1. KC Streetcar Holiday Jam

The bustle of downtown Kansas City during the holidays will be accompanied by weekend buskers entertaining KC Streetcar riders. From 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, there’s onboard singing and strumming from the Pine Drivers, a local quartet that delivers Americana-friendly originals along with sweet covers of such folksy classics as Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” which would be interesting to perform on the streetcar since it’s actually going somewhere. And KC rapper Sauce will do his thing in a special performance from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruby Jean’s Juicery on the streetcar line. Hey, anyone want to work in a version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”? Anyone? 

Saturday, 4-8 p.m.; the KC Streetcar runs between Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, and the City Market, 20 E. Fifth St., Kansas City, Mo.

2. Holiday Express Train

If you’re ready for the rail thing, here’s a can’t-miss kid-pleaser that combines a visit with Santa and the railroad. The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train will be outside Union Station, including a flatcar carting Santa’s sleigh, a “reindeer stable” boxcar, a gingerbread boxcar and the very busy elves’ workshop, among other choo-choo-related enticements. Inside the station, Santa’s knee will be ready to receive all of his little visitors, as will his ever-fascinating facial mane. Tug gently, children.

Friday, 2-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Union Station Sprint Festival Plaza, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.

3. Trombone Christmas Kansas City

This second annual assemblage of Christmastime trombonists won’t be going for a world record, like last weekend’s successful TubaChristmas effort to bring together the largest-ever tuba ensemble. Still, some 200 trombone players are anticipated to slide through a batch of holiday classics. More glissando!

Saturday, 11 a.m.; Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.

4. Holiday Choirs at Crown Center

Piped-in holiday music for shoppers can be serviceable. But it can’t come close to elementary, middle school and high-school choirs belting out the holiday hits right in front of you. Once again, the Crown Center Shops are hosting a load of such live vocal groups singing carols whatnot to enhance the gift-browsing/buying experience. But will it increase consumer spending? Perhaps, if listeners can pull themselves away from the fresh-faced singers.

Thursday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 1-4 p.m.; Crown Center Shops Atrium, 2450 Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.

5. Habitat Holiday Orchestra

Brassiness is not always called for, yet the Habitat Holiday Orchestra wouldn’t have it any other way. Four trumpets, four trombones and four French horns lead the charge, plus piano, bass, drums and percussion. Powerful arrangements by jazz great Stan Kenton (1911-1979) will only enhance the talent to be shared by some of Kansas City’s best jazz musicians. Want to show your appreciation and do a good turn? Consider donating to Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City, which helps folks work toward reasonably priced home ownership in the urban core.

Sunday, 2-3 p.m.; Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan. Donations accepted for Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City.

6. Christmas in the Park

After more than 30 years, the big daddy (or mama, if you prefer) of area holiday lighting displays still might be the drive-thru Christmas in the Park. It’s not only about the significant tradition, but also the 300,000-plus lights and 175 animated displays that invite visitors every year to give their own animated responses. So why is Santa golfing with a reindeer caddy? Don’t ask, just ooh-and-ahh.

Thursday and Sunday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.; Frank White Softball Complex, 3901 S.W. Longview Road, Lee’s Summit, Mo. Exit donations accepted for about 40 local charities.

7. Crow’s Coffee Waldo Open Mic

It’s the last open-mic Friday before Christmas at Crow’s Coffee in Waldo, so there ought to be some holiday songs in the mix. But before the bi-monthly batch of ambitious singers, pickers and other grinners takes to the stage, be sure to catch opener Ben Hopps on experimental electric banjo. Absolutely no cover charge to get entirely slathered in new, amped-up approaches to an old, downhome instrument. Merry feedback!

Friday, 6:30-10 p.m.; Crow’s Coffee-Waldo, 7440 Washington St., Kansas City, Mo.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com.

Brian McTavish follows popular culture in the belief that the search for significance can lead anywhere. Brian explains, "I've written articles and reviews ... reviewed hundreds of concerts, films and plays. And the thing is, these high arts all sprang from the pop culture of their day. Don't forget: Shakespeare was once Spielberg."
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