Christmas 2016: Kansas City dazzles as the Midwest’s ‘City of Lights’

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Editor’s Note: This holiday season we are taking a look around the country at events and attractions that celebrate the holiday season. Today, we visit Kansas City to check out this year’s events and some of the wonderful light displays and events the area has to offer…

Forget being the City of Fountains. Kansas City can be called the City of Lights…as in Holiday lights. From checking out the holiday decorations at the City Market in downtown to the Plaza lights, Kansas City can light the season excitement with any other major city.

This year, Kansas City is ratcheting it up another notch with the “Downtown Dazzle” celebration. Visitors can participate in anything from scheduled shopping tours to holiday-themed tours of residents’ homes. Downtown Dazzle links activities in the major urban attractions – Crown Center, Uni0on Station, Power and Light District and the City Market. People can use the free street car to travel around between events and attractions.

The City Market – the oldest farmers market west of the Mississippi River – is home to the Grinch. But, don’t worry. He’s not out to steal Christmas from Whoville. Instead, he and Cindy Lu Who team up to pose for pictures with children. The duo work for charity – people donate canned goods or cash to help area food banks. Free movies featuring the Grinch – animated and live action – will be shown Dec. 9-11 and 16-18.

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Grown up kids can participate in a Bar Hunt. KC Crew’s Bar Hunt features four-member teams, which will compete against other teams in a scavenger hunt style pub crawl. Teams receive a series of clues as to where the next bar/location on their designated route is; and, upon successfully identifying the next stop, they jump on the streetcar to get the team there safely.

The Power and Light District has one of our favorite stores to check out holiday decorations – the Polished Edge jewelry store. Shopping in the P&L offers unique opportunities. People can share a S’more with Santa at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet at 11 a.m. Dec. 3. How can we have s’more when we haven’t had one yet?

Visitors can sip a hot cup of chocolate with the big elf himself. Santa Claus will share free cups of hot chocolate at the Kansas City Live! Block and participating stores 4-8 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17. We plan to have a cup with him when we visit Dec. 10.

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The pop band The Fray will highlight “Rock the Red Kettle” concert Friday, Dec. 2. KC’s David Cook of “American Idol” fame, will kick off the show. The concert is scheduled 6:30-9 p.m.

The grown ups can again participate in a charitable bar event – “The 12 Bars of Christmas.” People can register for $30, with donations based on which team they sign up under. The event will be Dec. 16-17.

When in Kansas City, we almost always visit Union Station. This time of the year, it is decorated in festive style. Large wreathes hang above entrances. The decks are decorated with holiday themes. Christmas trees are located throughout the terminal area. The main tree is front and center. It’s decorated in beautiful colors and themes. At the foot of it, people can pose form family or group pictures. A bench is even provided for guests.

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A Kansas City holiday favorite at Union Station is the Holiday Express Train. It delivers Santa Claus to Union Station just before Christmas. Guests can visit with Santa and tour the train for free. This magical holiday train will roll into Union Station for a five-day visit Dec. 16-20.

The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair and Union Station team up for the the 6th annual Holiday Swing. The craft fair will include more than 100 handmade and vintage vendors, kids crafts, a photo booth and  beautiful holiday decor.

At night, Union Station at night looks beautiful with light blue shading.

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Next door, the Crown Center Mall is always decorated big. Crown Center is home to the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. It sits in the middle of the mall’s outdoor area. Life-sized wooden toys – trains, soldiers, etc. – sit under the tree.

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The Mayor’s Tree stands 100 feet tall. It’s a symbol of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree trust fund, which raises money to help the area’s less fortunate. After the tree is removed following the holiday season, the wood is cut up and made into ornaments. The funds from the ornament sales are used for the trust fund.

Inside the mall, decorations continue. Trees, wreathes and more provide a festive atmosphere. Santa’s Gingerbread station is part of an interactive area – featuring the Crown Center Express train engine – families enjoy annually.

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Continuing our quest for holiday lights, we moved on the Country Club Plaza area. Our first stop was the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Lisa had read about the Christmas tree the museum displays and thought we should stop. She was right.

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The tree – in the middle of the lobby – was beautiful. It is 22 feet high, but decorated elegantly. The nativity scene at the bottom of the tree was beautiful. The figurines were handmade from 18th century Italy. I was amazed that they were from the 1700s. Some of the figures had to be touched up by a Missouri history professor, but they retain their authenticity.

The Plaza lights are always a nice view. We walked the main street of the Plaza. The building tops were strung with lights of various colors.

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After checking out the attractions and events that make up “Downtown Dazzle,” head to one of our favorite holiday spots in KCMO – Zona Rosa. The outdoor shopping center hangs large holiday crowns above various intersections. They resurrected this practice from the 1950s-60s. The city used to hang the crowns over intersections in downtown. The crowns have a variety of designs and light colors.

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In the plaza area of Zona Rosa, a holiday tree stands with the crown near the top of it. The walk is lined with trees with white lights. It’s a beautiful area and a great winter walk, even with brisk temperatures.

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We’ve enjoyed our holiday light viewing in Kansas City each time we’ve visited. We look forward to checking out the new activities with “Downtown Dazzle.” If you haven’t done it yet, check out Kansas City for a wonderful holiday experience.

Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas.

For more information on Kansas City’s holiday attractions, please check out www.visitkc.com.

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