Favorite Holiday Events in Kansas City

GloWild: Around the World (now-Dec. 30)

The popular lantern festival GloWild runs from September 28 through December 30 and has brand-new theme, “Around the World,” which features gorgeous handcrafted lanterns celebrating the iconic landmarks and animals of the seven continents. Along with individual, combo, and group ticket options, we are excited to once again offer an unlimited pass so that guests can enjoy the lantern festival multiple times throughout the season. Friends of the Zoo (FOTZ) members receive a discount on individual tickets!

The Coterie’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical (Nov. 7-Dec. 31)

Rudolph and his friends, Clarice, Hermey the Elf, and Yukon Cornelius learn what makes you different makes you special. As one reviewer put it, “If adorable is at the top of your Christmas list, save an afternoon or evening for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical… as rich as eggnog!”

For more holiday theater, see your guide to Holiday Shows in Kansas City.

Festival of Lights (Nov. 16-Dec. 30)

During the Festival of Lights at Powell Gardens, more than 20 miles of lights turn Kansas City’s botanical garden into a winter wonderland. Enjoy a breath of fresh air during a hectic holiday season! Bundle up with family and friends while you stroll a lighted outdoor path, pausing for plenty of Instagram and holiday-card worthy photo moments along the way. Encounter immersive botanic installations that show off the exceptional architecture and landscape elements of the Gardens and accentuating the natural joy of the most festive season. 
Fore more festive lights, see our Holiday Lights in Kansas City Guide.

Lighted Christmas Parade, Excelsior Springs (Nov. 18)

Join us for Excelsior Springs’ greatest parade, The Lighted Christmas Parade!  The parade kicks off following the Mayor’s Christmas Tree and Rooftop Lighting Ceremony. Pick a spot on Broadway or Thompson and enjoy the show!

Holiday Reflections at Union Station (Nov. 20 – Jan. 1)

Union Station expands and adds to its magical Holiday Reflections walk-thru holiday village. This spectacular themed experience fills Union Station’s massive Grand Plaza and features sky-reaching lights, dozens of decorated trees, forest friends and giant, floating mirrored ornaments PLUS a bigger-than-ever Rudy’s Wonderland where kids can ride the historic Jones Store Train (Mini Holiday Express Train).

New this year: While Kansas City’s famous outdoor fountains will soon be turned off for the season, Union Station’s newest addition to Holiday Reflections “Fountain Forest” will be turned on. This 4,500 sq. ft. indoor, illuminated fountain will make its debut inside Holiday Reflections. From the makers of similar fountains around the world – currently delighting guests at Universal Studios, Sea World and Walt Disney World – this custom fountain features a 30-foot liquid fireworks dance show set to the beat of favorite holiday songs.

Also new this year, all 17 iconic Grand Plaza windows will be covered with “12 Days of Christmas” themed blackout curtains, making the brilliant lighting experience the same regardless of the time of day or night.

A Christmas Carol by the KC Rep (Nov. 21 – Dec. 24)

Join Ebenezer Scrooge on his redemptive journey with Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and rediscover the true meaning of the holidays. You’ll meet the Cratchits, Tiny Tim, and the irresistible Fezziwigs, and hear the lush and joyous Candlelight Carol — all this and more, to kindle your Christmas spirit. Share the season with the people you love at A Christmas Carol.

Enchant Christmas (Nov. 24-Dec. 31)

Enchant is an immersive experience weaving magic into its every corner, perfect for joyful seasonal celebrations. Adventure through The Mischievous Elf, a captivating, larger-than-life light maze that is the cornerstone to the Enchant experience.

The Arboretum by Candlelight (Nov. 24- Dec. 16)

Take a stroll along the lit pathways to experience the magical Gnome and Fairy Villages, Marder Garden by candlelight, and the colorful Children’s Garden and enjoy musical performances throughout. The gardens are bright with color –  while the walkways through quiet woods are lit with candles. Trees, buildings, and bridges are all part of the show, with thousands of lights aglow. Photos with Santa are available from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and the trains run in the Train Garden from 5 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Complimentary hot cider is available in the Children’s Discovery Garden.

For a quieter date night experience, a Candlelight Stroll will be held Nov. 30 and Dec. 14.

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train (Nov. 27)

The 2023 CPKC Holiday Train tours Canada and the United States raising money, food and awareness for the important work that food banks do in their communities. The train will stop at Kansas City’s Union Station at 6:45 p.m. on November 27. The train is free and open to the public to walk through. Professional musicians play free concerts from the brightly decorated train’s stage.

Electric Glow (Nov. 28 – Dec. 20)

Enjoy a low-key version of the Arboretum Luminary Walk where only the electric lights are on. At Electric Glow, there is no Santa, no candlelit woods, no musicians, no free cider, no trains running, and NO CROWDS. Capacity will be significantly limited on these nights, making them ideal for wandering through the lighted gardens and studying the intricate gnome and fairy houses.

The Strawberry Swing’s Holiday Swing (Nov. 25-Dec. 17)

Kansas City’s top destination for handmade holidays, The Holiday Swing, returns for it’s 13th year at a new venue: Crown Center Square! Ice skating, The Mayor’s Christmas Tree, holiday decor and lights plus your favorite makers, bakers, shakers alongside food trucks, seasonal sips and more. Stroll along the holiday lights, cheerful decor, roast marshmallows on the fire pits, grab a holiday drink from the bar or some hot cocoa and enjoy the season at historic Crown Center. You don’t want to miss this fantastic holiday experience.

Christmas on the River (Dec. 1)

Join Downtown Parkville for holiday entertainment, holiday character photos, hayrides, treats, hot chocolate, train rides, reindeer food and a holiday fireworks shows at 8:45 p.m.

Christmas Open House at Mahaffie (Dec. 1)

Start your Christmas season at Mahaffie! Make an ornament and visit with Santa! Find those unique gifts and stocking stuffers at the Mahaffie Market located inside the Heritage Center. This event is FREE to attend! Gingerbread kits will be on sale for $4/kit. On the historic site you will find a blacksmith demonstrating their skill, a chef at the cookstove, scavenger hunt, and horse-powered farmwork. The stagecoach will be on hand to offer rides to visitors (weather and grounds conditions permitting) for $3/visitor.

Candy Cane Quest (Dec. 1)

Santa will be dropping over 6,000 Candy Canes at Heritage Park on December 1! This is a free event for children ages 0-12. Bring a flashlight and bag to search for candy canes. The Candy Cane Quest will only last a few minutes so don’t be late! The hunt will begin at 6:00 sharp (think an Easter egg hunt but with flashlights and candy canes). Make sure to check your candy canes to see if you won a special prize!

Morning at the North Pole (Dec. 2)

Kansas City Mom Collective is excited to bring back our Morning at the North Pole event on Saturday, December 2 at The Martin Event Space in Martin City.

Holiday fun is the name of the game when you take part in this awesome and stress-free morning full of games, crafts and treats and finished off with a visit with Santa! Choose one of two sessions that best suits your family.

This event includes TWO SESSIONS, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. with identical activities for both sessions. Choose what works best for you and your family’s schedule! We will have something for everyone so all guests 1+ need a ticket.

Lawrence Christmas Parade (Dec. 2)

The Lawrence Christmas Parade is one of the most unique parades in the nation. Authentic horse-drawn carriages parading down Massachusetts Street is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Cozy up with hot cocoa and blankets. Feel the true holiday spirit while watching dozens of beautiful horses and wagons adorned in garland and bells. Join us to celebrate American heritage and keep our tradition alive this holiday season.

Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball (Dec. 2)

An enchanting experience awaits you at Kansas City Ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball! A delicious three course luncheon, face painting and a photo with the Sugar Plum Fairy are all part of the guest experience at the Children’s Ball. You are sure to feel the magic of the holidays as the Sugar Plum Fairy leads you on an adventure filled with lobby entertainment, activities and a performance by the Kansas City Youth Ballet. Following the event, guests are whisked away to attend the matinee performance of Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

A Christmas Celebration – 19th Century Style (Dec. 2)

Bundle up and kick off the season at this annual event! Warm up by the fire, help decorate our historic houses, join in with carolers and say “hello” to Father Christmas, as you explore the holiday traditions of Christmas in the 19th century.

Nutcracker Tea Party (Dec. 2 and 3)

The Nutcracker Tea Party is especially suited for children ages 3-10 who are not quite ready to enjoy a 2-hour performance of the ballet. Our ballet is shortened to less than 1 hour but includes beautiful costumes and all your favorite scenes. And the tea party – with traditional tea-party fare served – is so much fun! Everyone will love meeting the costumed dancers as they visit each table. And there’s the Nutcracker Boutique featuring an extensive collection of unique nutcrackers for your collection, tiaras, and ornaments. Nutcracker Tea Party is a fundraising event for Friends of Overland Park Arts. Proceeds benefit arts education in low-income schools as well as city-sponsored arts and cultural activities and art installations in Overland Park.

Fore more details on different Nutcracker experiences in Kansas City, see our Nutcracker Guide.

Naughty or Nice Games (Dec. 8)

Enjoy an evening of fun holiday-themed activities featuring a special grumpy guest. Join the Lenexa Rec Center from 6-8 p.m. for story time, cookie painting, heart-growing holiday crafts, grouchy games and more.

Winter Wonderland (Dec. 9)

Come visit Whoville at the NKC Parks and Rec Center! The first 150 kids, 13 and under, visiting will enjoy themed crafts, cookie decorating, games, Grinch themed punch to enjoy, and more. Santa will be telling some stories and be available for pictures. You might even see The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who!

Tivoli Presents: Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 15)

In this Christmas classic, an old man who calls himself Kris Kringle assumes the role of Santa Claus at the iconic Macy’s in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle begins to claim that he’s the “real” Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and authenticity. See this class at the Nelson-Atkins Auditorium. Tickets here.

Great Santa Run 5K (Dec. 18)

The 14th annual Great Santa Run 5K is a great way to celebrate the holiday season while supporting Operation Breakthrough, one of Kansas City’s favorite charities. We are excited to once again hold the event at Johnson County Community College, where we will provide a post-race breakfast for race participants at no extra charge.

Sarah McGinnity
Sarah grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (Go Cats!), she moved to Minnesota where she met her husband, Shea. Realizing how much she hated snow in May, she convinced him to move to Kansas City in 2010. Together they have lived in Midtown, Waldo, the Plaza, and now Overland Park. Sarah is mom to 10-year-old, Henry, 7-year-old Clark and 5-year-old Lucy. She has her master’s in urban administration and is passionate about making Kansas City a more equitable and supportive community. In between the crazy, she likes to drink coffee, run, hike, travel as much as possible, and experience all things Kansas City!