Kansas City, MO: SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center

For over a year I have been seeing advertisements for the new SEA LIFE Aquarium & LEGOLAND Discovery Center being built in Kansas City’s Crown Center, so I was very excited to visit both.  We decided to make the drive to Kansas City for one night to celebrate the 4th of July holiday and check-out these much hyped attractions, which turned out to be great additions to the heavily family-focused Crown Center/Union Station area!

We began our 1-day trip by driving from St. Louis straight to Crown Center, where we arrived mid-afternoon.  Our plans included LEGOLAND KC & SEA LIFE that afternoon, dinner at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, a walk through the Power & Light District that evening; the next day we headed to breakfast at Ingredient in Country Club Plaza, off to the Kansas City Zoo for most of the morning, lunch at Rosedale BBQ, and then the afternoon at Crown Center & Union Station, including the Model Railroad Experience.  As usual I used Priceline’s Name Your Own Price for our hotel, and for $65 won the 4-star Hotel Phillips located in downtown Kansas City.
NOTE:  For a more recent and complete review of Legoland, please click HERE for my room-by-room review with my kids of Legoland KC!

Initially I was a bit worried that LEGOLAND KC & SEA LIFE would be crowded based on other reviews I had read, and the fact it was a holiday.  To our surprise, there were no lines and plenty of open space to roam.  We purchased the combo ticket, which for $29 per person included admission to both attractions (otherwise it was $19 per person for each attraction, so you save $10 with the combo ticket).  I would note it’s actually even cheaper if you just buy online ($13.50 each). 
LEGO Factory

We decided on visiting LEGOLAND first, which begins by riding elevators up to the 2nd level where you arrive in LEGO Factory, a museum-like exhibit on how LEGOs are manufactured.  It was hands-on and interactive for kids.  From there, you move to the first of two rides, Kingdom Quest, which was very much like the Buzz Lightyear rides found at most Disney parks, only a bit dark & scary for our toddler.

MINILAND = Kansas City made of LEGOs

After Kingdom Quest, we explored MINILAND, which essentially is the Kansas City skyline & major KC attractions built out of LEGOs.  The MINILAND exhibits were all very detailed and well-done.  The room even changes from day to night with the buildings lighting up. 

Riding a LEGO dog

After MINILAND most of the attractions within Discovery Center required that you be at least 3 feet tall, which unfortunately means our toddler got excluded (I knew this going in, so no disappointments).  That said, it did appear that slightly older children would have a blast at many of their attractions, including another ride (Merlin’s Apprentice), and huge play area (LEGO City Play Zone), and several areas focused either on boys (LEGO Racers) or girls (LEGO Friends).  They had a 4D movie (again we skipped as we were with a toddler) and a hands-on workshop area (Master Builder Academy).  There was a small area dedicated to younger kids, DUPLO Village, which was actually a hit with our toddler! 

SEA LIFE Aquarium
Next up was SEA LIFE Aquarium.  Both attractions are located in the same building (LEGOLAND on the 2nd level, SEA LIFE on the 1st) so after riding the elevator back down to the LEGOLAND Shop we went straight into the aquarium.  We have been to several other SEA LIFE aquariums (the one at Mall of America and another in London) and have always had a great time; luckily the Kansas City location just as impressive!  

Inside the shark tunnel

They had all the usual aquarium exhibits, including a large hands-on pool that our toddler really enjoyed.  All of the exhibits were educational, and I really enjoyed the “fun facts” that were spaced throughout the aquarium.  Each exhibit was unique, and the ambiance changed from one room to another, which was a nice touch and kept the flow entertaining.  Overall, I actually found this to be one of the better aquariums we have visited! 

Touching various sea life creatures

The aquarium ended up being much larger than I expected, as it does not appear to be very big from the outside.  We spent almost 2 hours here, and really had a great time looking at all of the exhibits.  At the very end, they also had a large kid’s play area, which was a nice touch and great way to burn off more energy.

Standing above sting rays
Admiring one of their exhibits

Overall I think LEGOLAND and SEA LIFE combined are worth the visit, especially for families with younger kids.  I found the staff at both to be very energetic and welcoming, the facilities well-done, and the location perfect for an all-day family outing.  I am sure there were several options of cities to locate these attractions, and Kansas City’s Crown Center/Union Station is a perfect match.  Certainly look out for coupons & buy online to keep the price reasonable, but I’d definitely recommend both SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center!

Playing inside SEA LIFE’s large play area

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  1. Great article, Adam. The online discount is certainly a benefit, especially for large families. It looks like everyone had a great day:-) Safe travels for you and yours.

    Love from the road, VisitMO

    • Yes the hotel was a great deal…I have been quite lucky using the Name Your Own Price feature of Priceline. I have won the Sheraton (former Hyatt) Crown Center in KC a number of times for less than $40 (its a AAA 4 Diamond hotel).

  2. So glad to see a comprehensive review, not just complaints about the crowds and the prices. We are taking our 5 year old at the end of the month. Sounds about perfect for kids this age as a quick summer get away from Des Moines. Thanks again for the review.

    • Kansas City certainly would be a great getaway city for a family in Des Moines! There is so much for families to see & do in KC! Its one of my favorite to visit…

      I also read a lot of compliants about lines, prices, etc before we went as well. Honestly I saw no issues myself. We did not wait in line at all for anything (granted this was 4pm on a Tuesday…so probably not peak time). I would definitely recommend buying a ticket to both LEGOLAND and SEALIFE, as you save money with the combo ticket. They are so different that kids will stay interested for both. Also, look for coupons at your hotel, or book in advance online (both methods will save more money).

      The SEALIFE Aquarium was actually one of the best of their’s that I have been to. Granted its not on par with Shedd Aquarium (which is likely the best in the world), but its a very good aquarium. We had a great time!

      Thanks for reading my blog :)

  3. Actually, now that I see you’re from Missouri, is there anything else you could recommend for a 2 year old? Already did Arthur Bryant’s, the public library, and Jesse James museum…I’ve had a hard time finding things in this area for my very similar blog :)

    • Yes, the zoo is great in KC. Corwn Center is my personal favorite though – great for kids, free, tons to do (its not a mall). These are both detailed on this site (go to the Stet-by-State Guide and look under Missouri).

      The Steamboat Arabia Museum is also awesome (and next to the KC farmers Market which is also really nice).

      Not for kids, but the WWI Museum is incredible. A must-see.

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