Last Updated on September 1, 2021 by Jody Halsted
I remember when we began traveling with our children so many years ago. Family road trips across the US, and even multiple tours around Ireland while they were still toddling.
At that time so many people commented on how difficult it must be to travel with very young children. I never thought it was hard – it just took planning. And, looking back, I think it actually may have been easier than traveling with teens!
In our ‘been there, done that, saw it on YouTube' world, it feels like it can take a lot to engage a teen when traveling – especially if your budget or other restrictions keep you from visiting a ‘wow' location.
With the help of the Kansas City, Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau I was able to create a getaway close to home that was filled with fun, challenges , and delicious food.
Many thanks to the Kansas City KS CVB for assisting in our planning and hosting our trip.
Images and opinions are my own.
Fun with Teens in Kansas City, Kansas
When planning our girls trip to Kansas City, Kansas I had a few ‘wants'.
- A fun and unique accommodation. No hotel chains or home rentals.
- Activities that would challenge the girls – both mentally and physically.
- Really great food (a must when traveling, in my opinion).
Suite Tea Glamping at Watkins “C” Ranch
Exiting the interstate and driving through residential areas of Kansas City, I was sure Google maps had to be confused. Looking at Paula, my friend, navigator, and adult companion for this trip, I said, “There is no way this is right. There isn't a ranch in the middle of the city.”
I was wrong. There is, in fact, a ranch in the heart of the city – and it will surprise you. A family legacy, the Watkins “C” Ranch is known as ‘Kansas City's friendliest horse ranch' with a mission to share rural values in an urban setting.
Beyond the barns and horse pens, along a rutted path that is nearly impassable after rain, are the glamping tents.
Side story : As we approached the north side of Kansas City we drove into a massive storm system. Torrential rans fell for over an hour – buckets and buckets of rain, with brief intermission before the next round began.
The rain stopped and the sun appeared about 10 minutes before we arrived at the ranch. The dirt path back to the glamping tents was mud. And not just any mud, but a slick, almost oily mud.
I've never been anywhere that I couldn't traverse in a Jeep Wrangler (or my Gladiator). Until this. And I tried. Thankfully the ladies at Suite Tea have a 4WD Gator that can get through anything.
It took a few trips to get 5 people, luggage, and our coolers back to the Jasmine Suite – our luxury tent for the next couple nights.
The large bell tent, outfitted with 6 very comfortable twin beds, has a feminine boho vibe with plenty of decorator pillows and coordinated bedding. Set between a large tree and a fire pit, this private oasis seems miles away from the city.
Glamping at Suite Tea is a wonderful combination between luxury and roughing it. While you won't need to pack sleeping bags you are, essentially camping. The tents have no electricity or running water. And while there is a toilet, it's likely not what you are used to.
This combination pushed the girls outside their comfort zone almost immediately when our first visitor – a wee gecko – entered the tent and ran around in a frenzy trying to find a way out. Spiders in the compostable toilet was another surprise the girls weren't quite prepared for.
And then there was the very weak data signal – a huge bonus, in my opinion. Instead of burying themselves in text messages and mindless videos, the girls enjoyed the supplied board games and had actual conversations (even with us adults!).
Packing List for Suite Tea Glamping
- Cooler with drinks and easy to eat snacks or foods that can be cooked over fire
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- A hat
- Shoes and tall socks (for the walk to the toilet tent)
- Portable device charger (fully charged)
- Picnic or ground blanket
- Camp chairs (optional)
Teen Approved Adventures in Kansas City, Kansas
When looking for activities with teens I want a combination of activity, education, and adrenaline. We found all of these in KCK!
Legendary Kansas Scavenger Hunt at Legends Outlet
Our first ‘adventure' was at an outlet mall. Seems a bit cliché, I know – girls going shopping. But the Legends at Village West has a hidden, yet in-your-face, element : Kansas history.
More than 80 Kansas legends- musicians, athletes, pioneers, writers, and so much more- are highlighted as sculpture, medallions, murals, and posters throughout the outdoor shopping area.
Audio tours and tour maps are available at guest services.
Sure, there may have been a bit of shopping, but I like to think they may have learned something, as well. And, after being in a vehicle together for nearly 4 hours it gave the girls time to escape us adults (and vice versa!).
Urban Hike through Eclectic Strawberry Hill
Getting the girls on board with an ‘early morning' hike was easier than I thought when I explained that we would be beginning at a coffee shop (and, bonus, ‘hikers' get a discount!).
Rebekah, our guide for the 5 mile jaunt with Urban Hikes KC, took us through the historic Strawberry Hill neighborhood, a storied area of Kansas City that hugs the Missouri River. An area where immigrants from many nations settled and created small communities, the many ‘flavors' of its residents blend together to create a diverse yet tightly woven community.
Much of the city's history can be seen on the many murals throughout downtown KCK. Each one tells a story of the people and cultures that created the city.
Learning the history of the Wyandot, a Native American tribe that settled in the area, was especially moving. From their first campsite on Kaw Point (also a Lewis and Clark historical site) to the Wyandotte Native American National Burial Ground, the stories of strength and perseverance are enlightening.
The biggest surprise on the tour was the Police Athletic League community garden. This wonderful community space is filled with vegetables, herbs and… chickens. When we visited garden director Marcella Morales-Goana was working and was more than willing to take the time to talk with the girls about the garden, let them try a few berries off the vines, and answer all their questions.
Urban hiking tips
- Wear good walking/ hiking shoes with cushioned soles. Cement and concrete is hard on the knees.
- Bring water. There is a stop on the tour to refill water bottles (or buy water).
- Moderate fitness level. The hike has a few hills and is a continuous, though not fast, walk.
Horseback Riding at Watkins “C” Ranch
When booking a stay with Suite Tea you can book into experiences with local vendors – including the Watkins “C” Ranch! Our guided trail ride was a terrific way to explore the ranch.
We traversed wooded pathways, crossed watery ravines, and even meandered past our campsite.
The horses at Watkins “C” Ranch are incredibly gentle and no previous experience is necessary for guided trail rides.
Add these items to your packing list
- Jeans or longer pants
- Sturdy boot or shoe
- Long sleeved shirt (light weight for summer) or jacket
Ziplining with Zip KC
I wanted to do something that would get our adrenaline pumping while giving the girls a mental challenge. The Tower Tour at ZipKC was perfect!
Though we have been ziplining in the past, it has been quite a few years and, the last time we tried, the mental challenge of jumping off a tower was too much for my youngest.
Our guides, Nathan and Stephen, put the girls at ease right away, telling jokes as we secured harnesses and assigned the secret nicknames we would be called throughout our tour.
Approaching our first line – 65 feet in the air and a 77 step climb – I could feel the apprehension building in myself (I am terrified of falling from high places!) and the girls.
After a quick overview and pep talk, Nathan stepped off the platform and zipped away.
Because the first zip is the most terrifying I summoned all my courage – to show the girls it was safe (and to get it over with, let's be honest)- an went first, leaving Stephen (and Paula) to convince the girls to leave the sturdy tower and fly.
It was the only time I went first.
Though the remaining lines weren't as high, each had a different challenge, be it speed, angle, or 12 foot free-fall. And each was met with excitement. Except, maybe, the freefall. A few quick prayers may have been uttered before that one.
- Wear a small backpack and bring a water bottle
- Some helmets have GoPro attachments so bring your camera
- Wear longer shorts or pants to avoid pinched skin
- No open toed shoes
Exploring the KCK Taco Trail
Could you eat the same type of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
While in Kansas City, Kansas we ate every meal at one of the stops along the KCK Taco Trail. Yep – tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There are over 50 locations along the KCK Taco Trail. You'll find Tex-Mex restaurants, authentic Mexican street tacos, and traditional mercados (markets) that serve delicious meals. There are even a few ‘non-traditional' spots on the trail that aren't Mexican food but serve a very special taco.
Though the girls didn't want to ‘tacobout‘ Mexican food after our trip my attitude was very ‘uno mas‘ – and I can't wait to return for more!
Before Leaving Kansas City, Kansas
Head a wee bit west to Merriam and visit the ‘Unofficial Croatian Welcome Center of Kansas City' – Strawberry Hilly Povitica Baking Company.
From humble origins in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood this bakery ships their sweet Croatian bread nationwide.
Stop in, watch the ‘show' as the bakery assembles hundreds of ‘povi', try a few samples, and take home a loaf (or 4).
My favorite is Lemon Cream Cheese, English Walnut is the best seller, and the chocolate is as rich as a brownie.