I spent some of my childhood in the Kansas City area and what I enjoyed the most when I was young was seeing the Plaza lights. It is a 89 year old tradition that spans a 15-block area with Christmas lights over the Country Club Plaza. The lights come on in a special ceremony at each year’s Thanksgiving. We would not make this ceremony, but arrive the first week with our baby. We found a Holiday Inn that we could walk to the plaza.
The event started with a single strand of Christmas lights strung over a store entrance in 1925 and by 1930 it includes the whole plaza area. The lights start to be strung up following the Labor Day each year, it takes that long to hang this many lights. The plaza is built like a Seville Spain square there are towers throughout the complex adding to the beauty of the lighting.
We spent the evening checking out the stores including the Better Cheddar, which if your into cheese is the store to checkout. Luckily we had a slightly warm night in early December, which does not happen often. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the plaza, which was tasty with chips and enchiladas.
Hours: Daily from 5 p.m. To 3 a.m., Thanksgiving through mid-January. The lighting is free and can be seen as you walk from restaurant to stores in the plaza area.
Fun Facts from Visit KC
The big switch on the stage at the Plaza Lighting Ceremony really does turn on all the lights.
The child selected to help turn on the lights from the audience is always chosen at random.
The only time that the Plaza lights were not in operation occurred in 1973 when President Nixon called upon all Americans to curtail the use of Christmas lights to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports.
Guests who have been invited to turn on the Plaza Lights include: George Brett, Trent Green, Kate Spade, “Fastest Man in the World” Maurice Green, Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Eric Stonestreet, Walter Cronkite, Derrick Thomas, Marcus Allen, Buck O’Neil and Oleta Adams.
All of the Plaza’s parking garages are free and open to the public.
Best viewing options for the Plaza Lights include Halls rooftop, which would allow you to see the actual ceremony. Other rooftops with good views during the season of lights include McCormick & Schmick’s, The InterContinental Kansas City Hotel and the second floor of Barnes & Noble.
Besides the plaza, Kansas City’s Crown Center is decorated with lights and the Mayor’s Christmas tree. Santa Clause is on hand for
the kids. A huge ice terrace can be found to ice skate around in the evening. A huge Gingerbread station can also be explored. The center includes a Crayola store for always fun with coloring.
Union Station can also be visited and it has a huge Christmas tree. When we went they were having a huge Christmas market with lots of gift ideas. At the back of the market there was a model railroad displays and a train that kids could ride.
Outside of Christmas in Crown Center, you can go to SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND for more family fun.
For food, our son enjoy’s Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant where small trains deliver your burger and fries. The restaurant is on the bottom floor at the back of the center, but near where you would enter off the street. The center is definitely worth checking out for more Christmas fun!