Kansas City Crown Center Staycation Guide: Day 1

Looking for the best Kansas City staycation or vacation? You can't miss out on a Crown Center staycation! It's perfect for families of all ages (and only minutes away from P&L for adults, too!) Here's a roundup and review of the best things to do!

Though I haven’t lived too far south of the metro for most of my life, and while I have been to Crown Center and seen a few of the sites and activities at one time or another, there was still plenty I was missing out on. For the longest time, I was spending my vacation time, energy, and money outside of my own city, trying to see other places. Then I got it through my thick skull that I needed a vacation, pronto. When a local homeschooling week offer came across my inbox, I knew I needed to take the leap and plan a Crown Center vacation for my little one, whether or not we went during that week. There was just way too much family-friendly stuff for us to miss out on Crown Center!

Our staycation started on a Monday afternoon when we first arrived at Crown Center. We were staying at the Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas City. The Sheraton hotel is one of two hotels that connects directly to Crown Center, which is really convenient– you park once and that’s all you have to do the entire time, since you can essentially walk wherever you’d like to go.

I will note that, regardless of what anyone might tell you when you book your hotel, the parking is $16 per night. I’d initially been informed that it was $16 for the duration of the stay, so I wasn’t a happy camper. However, the Sheraton worked really hard to make it right, which was awesome of them. You’ll also want to note that when driving to the Sheraton, the parking garage has the address of the Sheraton on it, not the Sheraton hotel name– I drove past it three times looking for a parking garage that said “Sheraton.” Oops. Keep an eye out for the garage and you can’t miss it, but if you’re expecting a clearly marked Sheraton garage, you’ll run into problems like I did.

Looking for a great place to stay in KC? Check out this review of the Sheraton Crown Center!

At the front desk, I talked to the really awesome desk attendant, who actually happens to be from the small town right next to mine. Because Sheraton internet is $10 each night, I asked if there was anything he could do for me there, and he was able to waive that fee– the point there is that it never hurts to ask for an upgrade or a special something thrown in when you’re checking into a hotel. When I had booked my room, they actually had me on a lower floor, but when I got there, he was quick to tell me that another room on a higher floor was available, and we were moved up to the 28th floor! Zach loved looking at the amazing view from our window, and watching all of the buses drive by. I’m so glad we were able to stay on the 28th floor, because one of the best parts of our stay was the incredible view.

Even though an SPG rewards account can’t guarantee you upgrades, getting one is a great idea, because it’s free, and if you stay at any of the Starwood Preferred Group hotels (including Sheraton, Westin, and many others), you’ll earn points for your stays that can be redeemed for free nights or even airline miles– it’s worth joining the club!

Finally, the desk attendant also asked us if we’d like to forgo housekeeping. If you’re making a short stay, it’s a wise choice– you’ll get a voucher for $5 off at the hotel restaurants if you do! To me, if I’m staying just a couple of nights, I’m fine using the same towels and sheets. How many of us really change our towels and sheets every night at home? Housekeeping on a two night stay just isn’t necessary for me, and saving $5 is awesome!

Looking for incredible Kansas City pizza? This review talks about why Minsky's pizza is the way to go!

For dinner, we decided to order Minsky’s Pizza. Our thought process was essentially that we wanted affordable pizza that would deliver to our hotel, and Minsky’s did just that. Plus, I’d read some good reviews online, and Minsky’s has the distinction of being rated Kansas City’s Best Pizza since 1976– no small feat! While there were definitely other pizza places that delivered to our hotel with a wider variety of options (like a pizza/deli that had cake!), Minsky’s was by far the most affordable choice, and it’s high rating for gourmet pizza made it a must-try. For around $30 including tax, tip, and delivery, we got a large cheese pizza, a good sized order of breadsticks, and some breaded mushrooms. Not bad!

One thing to note that threw me a bit was that even if they ask for your room number on the phone, Sheraton does not allow the pizza delivery to go up to your room (it’s a safety concern). You’ll need to meet them in the lobby, so be ready– they call when they’re approaching and you head down to pick it up. I was totally unaware of this (because I’d stayed in other hotels where pizza deliveries go right to your room), so I wanted to share this detail.

Review of Sheraton hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City

Because the Sheraton has a mini fridge in-room, we were able to save leftovers for a midnight snack. We are a big fan of bringing our own snacks and breakfast foods along to cut down on the expenses that room service incurs (the Sheraton doesn’t have a complementary breakfast, but there is complementary bottled water and coffee in your room!), so we paired our pizza with grapes we had brought along.

After dinner, we decided to head over for a swim. The Sheraton has an outdoor pool, but it’s heated, meaning even when it’s chilly, you are able to go for a swim. To get to the pool, you need to go down to the Mezzanine level from your room, then go across a walkway and over to a small, gold elevator. That will then take you up to the health club, where you can take the stairs or another elevator up to the key-access pool. If you get lost, the front desk is always happy to give directions as to which elevators to take and where they’re at.

Kansas City-- sunset over Union Station, as photographed from the Sheraton Crown Center pool deck

One unique feature of the pool is the little tunnel– there’s an area where you can enter the pool indoors (no larger than a hot tub) and then swim out through a tunnel. In the cooler months, it helps you get adjusted to the water before hitting the cool air, and allows you to exit and enter in a heated room instead of the cold breeze. Plus, what kids don’t love swimming through a short tunnel? My big recommendation with the pool is to visit around sunset. Whether or not you choose to swim, the pool deck is the best place to watch the sunset– it’ll set just past Union Station, giving you an amazing view. We loved watching sunset over Union Station from the pool– it’s the perfect viewing place! Because the pool is open from 5am until 10pm, there are plenty of hours in the day for a dip in the pool.

I will note that, when we returned from the pool, we had thought we’d watch a little TV before bed. There’s very little children’s programming on the hotel TV, so if that’s part of your routine, I’d suggest just bringing some books to read or a device like we did, so we could Netflix on our Kindle. There is PBS, but that programming ends around 5 or 6pm, and then there’s Nick, but that programming ends fairly early before switching to Nick at Night, also, so definitely plan to bring a backup plan for kiddos.

Overall, we had a wonderful experience at the Sheraton hotel, and definitely plan to stay there again the next time we’re in Kansas City. I’m also a huge fan of Minsky’s pizza now, and can’t wait until I’m able to grab those breaded mushrooms again– yum!

 

Stay tuned to hear more about our staycation adventure, with reviews of other great Crown Center hot spots like Legoland, Sea Life Aquarium, and Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant!

Quick and Easy Beans and Rice

This quick Beans and Rice takes only minutes to make. It's so delicious and easy-- a great side dish for any meal!

I love easy meals. Anyone who has been reading for long knows a quick and easy meal is definitely the way to my heart! When I was fixing dinner the other night, I took a look and… oh no. No sides. I had nothing to pair with the chicken I had already started boiling! So, I took to the pantry to see just what I had inside… and out of my pantry findings, this very flavorful, very easy beans and rice came to be!

You’re going to start with 4 cups of minute rice, a bag of frozen corn, a can of kidney beans (drained), a can of diced tomatoes (also drained), a finely diced bell pepper, a can of chicken broth, and a package of ranch dressing mix. But here’s the best part: if you don’t have one or more of those ingredients, sub them out! These beans and rice are totally flexible!

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The Best-Ever Cupcake + Frosting Recipe Guide

Looking for the ultimate cupcake and frosting recipes? You'll love these-- they're the BEST ever!

Do you remember last week when I shared with you secrets from the world of cupcake bakeries? Well, this week I’m back… spilling secrets wasn’t quite enough. How could I share so much about cupcakes and not tell you how to make them?! Now, I’m giving you the best when it comes to cupcake recipes and frosting recipes, because you cannot miss this.

Last week, I told you that most of the time, the secret to cupcake shops making a ton of different kinds of cupcakes easily is that they only really make 2-3 flavors of cupcakes and vary the frosting recipe on each one to make awesome varieties for their store. The best starting place is to have one really solid chocolate cake recipe, and a really solid vanilla recipe. To me, there’s really only one option when it comes to a great chocolate cake or vanilla cake recipe, and that’s what’s called a “White Almond Sour Cream Cake.” If you love wedding cake, this is the cupcake recipe to go with.

If you make it according to the directions I’ve listed, and use an ice cream scoop to measure it out, you’ll get roughly 40 cupcakes, and trust me, they’ll be so good your friends and family will be begging for more.

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DIY String Art

 

Don't pay $24.99 at Target for String Art! Make it yourself with a few nails, some embroidery floss, and a corkboard! #diy #easy

I was walking through Target the other day, and, as much as I love the fact that there’s a million things inside I just have to have, there’s definitely a limit. You see, not long ago, I was looking for some new wall art. I came across some adorable animal string art at Target, and I was totally smitten! Then I saw the price tag. $24.99. Really? To me, I was looking at $25 for some nails, a bit of string, and some wood. I had to try it myself at home!

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The Ultimate Staycation Planner Printable– Plan a Staycation in ANY Area!

Want a getaway but can't seem to figure out where to start? Use this handy Staycation Planner to help you plan a vacation in your own area, then take along the handy confirmation number sheet to keep track of your finalized plans!

When planning a vacation, it’s typically pretty easy. You start by picking a destination, and then you plan what you’d like to do. But for some reason, it’s so much harder when you go to plan your staycation! Part of it is because it seems like you may have been to everything there is to do in your area. Or, some of it may be that you feel a bit stuck on ideas of what to do. But, I have 7 great questions that will help you plan your staycation, no matter where you’re hoping to experience it! I’m also providing a handy 4-page staycation planning guide that you can use to stay organized and jump-start your brainstorming using the ideas in this post!

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Secrets of the Cupcake World

The cupcake world is full of secrets-- like how to get the perfect two-flavor swirl frosting, or how cupcakeries can achieve so many different flavors quickly! Here are your cupcake questions-- answered!

Who doesn’t love a good cupcake? I mean, really– perfectly portioned fluffy, moist cake with delicious frosting in as many different flavors as there are cupcake lovers. It’s part of why cupcakeries are all the rage. And, despite many news articles saying that the cupcake is dying, more and more cupcake shops open up across the country, and even around the world. It appears the cupcake is here to stay…. and now, I’m going to give you all of the tips to get the perfect cupcakes at home.

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Educational Nature Walk Activities– for Any Age!

An educational nature walk is a great way to get your child in touch with the senses they experience in the outdoors. Here are some tips for planning your nature walk, and ideas for nature walk activities for any age!

I’m a big advocate for education wherever it happens… the idea that I can teach my child as much at the grocery store comparing prices and I can at home doing a math worksheet, or the thought that I can help him establish a love for reading by taking a trip to the library rather than reading what’s at home in our book basket. One of my favorite activities each season is to take a nature walk. Regardless of your child’s age, there’s so much they can learn from nature walk activities that stimulate all of their senses and help them shape a better idea of seasons in the world around them.

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5 Reasons Everyone Should Take a Staycation

Planning on a vacation this year? Here are some great reasons to consider a staycation instead!

It seems so often these days, the stress of every day life, the overwhelming (at times) nature of the information pouring at us through channels like Facebook and Instagram, and the beautiful images we see on other networks like Pinterest have us longing to just get away from it all. But sometimes, a vacation just isn’t in the cards. And even if it is, why limit yourself to a vacation where you have to get away? There is another option right in your backyard, and I definitely think it’s worth exploring! That’s why a staycation is a must-try for every person, couple, or family at least once in their lives!

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Applewood-Style Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork with Homemade Apple Cider Barbecue Sauce

This applewood-style pulled pork is made in a slow-cooker using apple cider! Even better? That barbecue sauce is homemade, a sweet, tangy sauce packed with flavor. You won't be able to resist this hearty apple-inspired meal.

I have to say, I’m a Kansas City girl at heart. So if there’s one thing that gets my heart beating a little bit faster, it’s good quality barbecue. You see, barbecue is such a part of my city that our soccer team even has a chant that revolves around barbecue. It’s a staple here in KC. You know what else is a staple? Louisburg Apple Cider. Ask anyone who knows what they’re talking about, and they’ll say that, when it comes time for cooler weather, you can’t beat hot apple cider doughnuts and a cup of warm Louisburg apple cider. I had to combine the best of both worlds and create a delicious applewood-style slow cooked pulled pork. And what does that need? Apple Cider Barbecue Sauce.

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14 Plus-Sized Fashion Updates for Fall at Under $20 Each!

Looking for plus-sized fall fashion on a budget? Check out this awesome style guide-- 14 different clothing and accessory finds for under $20 each!

I was at the grocery store in yoga pants again. As I looked around at all of the smartly dressed moms, I couldn’t help but be a little bit envious. After all, it seemed you had to have money, or the perfect figure, to make cute clothing work for you. But after a little digging, I found a ton of adorable plus-sized fashions that would work for me during the fall season! I was floored, and I knew I just had to share it with you.

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