Paris may lay claim to the nickname “City of Light,” but during the holiday season Kansas City, Mo., runs a close second.
From Union Station, bathed in color, to the thousands of bulbs that outline Country Club Plaza’s Spanish-inspired architecture to businesses and homes whose windows shimmer and shine, the holiday spirit prevails at this time of year.
A good way to get in the spirit is to take the tour of Hallmark’s Visitor Center at Crown Center.
When my husband and I visited last year some window galleries were filled with presidential Christmas cards and others contained holiday trees made from Hallmark products — one celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas, another was all white, one had a toy train running through it.
At any time of year visitors can watch an artist at work as part of the self-guided tour.
When we were there Anita Marra Rogers was sculpting a Keepsake ornament. She showed us what it was, but we were sworn to secrecy.
We ended our tour by making a gift bow — which involved pushing a button and watching a machine fold the bright-red loops and spit out the finished product within just a few seconds.
For more information, visit hallmark.com.
Just outside is the Crown Center Ice Rink, where skaters can glide under the lights of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree and its surrounding trees and fountains. The 100-foot tree will be turned on at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, and will brighten the nights until Jan. 1.
For more information, visit crowncenter.com.
Within walking distance is the city’s iconic Union Station. The decorations alone are worth a visit, but lots of holiday activities take place here, too.
One such event is the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train, which will wind up its seasonal tour here from Dec. 15 to 19.
Visitors can walk through the six-car decorated train, and kids can chat with Santa.
Another such event is performances of “Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Christmas Adventure” on the station’s H&R Block City Stage.
For more information, visit unionstation.org and kcsouthern.com.
Country Club Plaza
The lights at Country Club Plaza have been a holiday tradition for more than 80 years.
This year they’ll be turned on at a program from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and as if that weren’t enough, fireworks will illuminate the sky at the same time.
For more information, visit countryclubplaza.com.
Downtown Dazzle offers more than a full month of holiday fun. This multimedia entertainment event will feature more than 100 different holiday-themed exhibits, shows, performances and attractions, lighting installations, homes tour and shopping specials.
The event will run from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31. Several buildings will be ablaze with light, most notably the Downtown Marriott, which features a synchronized display of 30,000 bulbs and 16.7 million colors.
For more information, visit visitkc.com/downtowndazzle.
At the City Market kids can dress up as a Whoville character and visit the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who in their Whoville homes.
The event is open for two weekends — Dec. 9-10 and 16-17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The price of admission is three cans of food for Harvesters or a new unwrapped toy for The Salvation Army.
For more information, visit thecitymarket.org.
Celebrations in many other parts of Kansas City will also be underway.
In Zona Rosa, for example, ornate and colorful lighted crowns (each weighing a ton) are suspended above the district’s busy streets. These harken back to a 1950s Christmas tradition of acknowledging the city’s connection to Hallmark and the American Royal horse show as well as celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.
For more information, visit zonarosa.com.
From Nov. 18 to early January, the Legends outlet shopping mall will spring to light every 15 minutes with thousands of lights synchronized to concert-quality music.
For more information, visit legendsshopping.com.
And between Nov. 22 and Dec. 31, Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake will once again be a drive-through winter wonderland featuring 300,000 lights and 200 animated figures.
For more information, visit jacksongov.org.
The city’s theme park, Worlds of Fun, is offering Winterfest this year for the first time on select nights between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31. This immersive holiday experience will feature holiday lights and decor, crafting, world-class live entertainment and seasonal treats.
For more information, visit worldsoffun.com.
And what better way to wrap up a day of shopping than to attend a performance of “The Nutcracker.” This will be the 45th year the Kansas City Ballet will perform this holiday classic. Performances run between Dec. 7 and 24.
For more information, visit kcballet.org.
The second annual Hanukkah Glow Party, a celebration of lights for the whole family, will be held Dec. 17 at Pinstripes, 13500 Nall Ave., in Overland Park, Kansas. The festivities will include music, games and food for all ages.
For more information, visit facebook.com/pjlibrarykc.
On Dec. 26, when Christmas is over, Kwanzaa will begin with seven days of celebration, the first six at the Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St.
Activities will begin at 7 p.m. each evening and include lighting of the kinara each night, dancing and drumming, jazz, theater, Black Business Awards and an African market.
The Karuma Feast will take place on Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. in the Nefertiti Ballroom, 1314 Quindaro Blvd.
For more information, visit nbufkc.org.
Winders is a freelance writer based in Indiana.
• Go to visit.kc.com for more ways to enjoy Kansas City during the holiday season.