Kansas City Connection: How to spend the holidays in KC

The holiday season is upon us, and as is always the case, there’s lots to do in Kansas City between now and New Year’s. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights.

Union Station

The 100-year anniversary of Union Station is an excellent time to explore the building’s classic architecture, restaurants, special exhibits, giant strands of lights and vivid holiday decorations.

Don’t miss the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train with Santa, which will be at Union Station from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 18 to 21. The Holiday Express is an actual train that makes stops in several cities, with cars including Rudy the smiling tank car, a flatcar with Santa’s sleigh, a gingerbread boxcar, a mobile elves’ workshop, a reindeer stable and a red caboose.

Sponsored by the Kansas City Southern railroad company, the Holiday Express is free to enter, with donations accepted toward helping provide clothing for children in need. Visit unionstation.org for a full list of events.

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Ice skating at Crown Center

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Plaza lights

Crown Center

With its massive mayor’s Christmas tree, Santa’s playground, dozens of shops and an adjoining ice terrace, Crown Center is Kansas City’s de facto holiday headquarters.

The Sea Life aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center have added to shopping center’s appeal, though each has a separate admission fee.

Holiday shoppers won’t want to miss the dazzling new Hall’s Department store, which opened earlier this fall.

85th annual Plaza Lighting Ceremony

The Country Club Plaza is going strictly LED for this year’s lighting ceremony, which takes place on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27)  with the lighting ceremony from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The festivities will run an hour before and after, and include fireworks, giveaways and live music by The Mowgli’s, The Snow Globes and Gracie Schram.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore and left fielder Alex Gordon will flip the switch at 6:54 p.m. The lights will stay on through Jan. 12.

‘A Christmas Carol’

Charles Dickens’ classic tale of greed, redemption and Christmas ghosts is brought to life each year by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

This year’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” the company’s 34th, begins Nov. 21 and runs through Dec. 26. Tickets are on sale through KCRep.org or by calling 816-235-2700.

‘The Nutcracker’

This year’s traditional performance of the Nutcracker Ballet will be its final run before something new is announced to take its place.

The popular performance includes hundreds of professional and student dancers, the Kansas City Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s score, and a stunning array of costumes, lights and special effects.

The ballet opens at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 6, with 18 matinee and evening performances scheduled through Dec. 24. For ticket information, visit kcballet.org.

Hit the mall

“The malls are the soon-to-be ghost towns,” sang Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse in 1997. And for the most part, he was right.

But some malls seem to be doing just fine, including Oak Park Mall at 11149 W. 95th St. in Overland Park. Take the kids for a spin on the two-story Venetian carousel while you alternate browsing the 200 or so shops, which include larger retail outlets like Dillard’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and JCPenney, as well as a food court.

Visit thenewoakparkmall.com for more information.

In Kansas City, Kan., the Legends Outlets shopping center will be in full festive mode, with a tree-lighting ceremony scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 22, synchronized music and light displays from Nov. 23 to Jan. 2, a free holiday movie series for kids on Saturday mornings, and all kinds of giveaways. The area’s first Eddie Bauer outlet store also just opened this month at the Legends.

Visit legendsshopping.com for more information.

Ice skating

Get some wintertime exercise with family and friends by going ice skating at one of the city’s public ice rinks.

Crown Center’s outdoor rink is the most popular spot (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends), but the Ice at Park Place in Leawood (117th and Nall, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday) is a great facility as well.

Both rinks cost $6 for admission with $3 skate rental, and hot cocoa and other beverages are available.

Indoor rinks in the area include Kansas City Ice Center in Shawnee (19900 Johnson Drive) and Pepsi Ice Midwest in Overland Park (12140 W. 135th St.).

— Lucas Wetzel is a writer and editor from Kansas City, Mo. Know of an upcoming event in Kansas City you’d like to see featured in Kansas City Connection? Email us about it at kcconnection@ljworld.com.

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