Family Activities in Kansas City

A Guide to Powell Gardens for Summer Family Activities in Kansas City

Powell Gardens
July 25, 2023

Summer is here, and you’re probably looking for easy, fun, and affordable family activities in Kansas City. A time spent among flowering plants and lush grasses is the perfect quality time for your family (and friends!), and Powell Gardens offers that and much more.

Its prime location near Kansas City is well worth the drive, with over 175 acres of greenery and landscape open to the public for education, recreation, and exploration. If you’re worried about the summer heat, we’ve got you covered—we’re professionals at keeping both plants and humans cool and hydrated during the summer months!

Come visit Powell Gardens for a summer day of fun for the whole family. We’ll let you know exactly what to expect from your visit in this guide, including our notable blooming plants, family-friendly events, and ways to take breaks.

Summer Plants in Bloom

Discover which plants and gardens will be at their best during the summer months to plan your visit!

Aquatic Plant Collection

Our aquatic plant collection within the Marlese Lowe Gourley Island Garden is the summer jewel of Powell Gardens. Tiered pools in this water garden offer a diverse array of aquatic plants and wildlife in the summer. Kids and adults alike will enjoy seeing the combination of waterlilies, taro, umbrella palms, and bright goldfish in the water.

As visitors traverse the winding path through this area, they’ll come upon the Sunken Garden, a hidden space enclosed by stone walls and flower beds leading to a two-tiered pool housing lotus.   

Continuing along the pathway, you’ll see water-loving shrubs including Virginia sweetspire, buttonbush, and summersweet clethra along the shoreline of the 12-acre lake. Look for water-loving perennials such as iris, rose mallows, and cattails near the arbor and viewing deck. 

Powell Gardens’ waterlily and lotus collections have been designated as certified collections by the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society.


The bright green needles in our Conifer Garden complement all seasons, but they’re notably beautiful within the lush green and colorful wildflowers of summer. Our Conifer Garden thrives thanks to the valuable donations and development of the late Marvin Snyder. 

This exceptional garden is certified as a Reference Garden by the American Conifer Society. Take special attention to our newest additions: bonsai trees and shrubs!

Heartland Harvest Garden

The Heartland Harvest Garden features different crops and edible plant varieties throughout the year. Our Celebration Apple will greet you as you make your way into the Harvest Garden.  Here, you’ll learn more about what makes the Missouri farmland in particular so integral to agriculture in America. 

The Harvest Garden is actually made up of several gardens, including the notable Villandry. This massive French-style kitchen garden combines beauty and design with plant cultivation. It has four different quadrants with their own themes, along with our quilt banners that rotate out seasonally. 

In addition to the Villandry, our Garden Galleries feature our cacti and succulent collection and our crevice garden on one side, and a flowering seasonal display on the other.

As part of our Midwest Foraging exhibition, look out for blue plant tags with flower and leaf symbols within the Harvest Garden to learn more about different kinds of edible plants. You can also attend foraging classes or use a digital tour guide to see where exhibition plants are growing!

Each month, we also rotate through our Foraged Finds by selecting one plant grown on the Powell Gardens property. We take great care to educate both kids and adults about the plant, how it grows, and how to find it in the Midwest! So that everyone can learn from these finds all summer, we ask that visitors do not forage plants themselves. 

Features in previous years have included morel mushrooms, serviceberries, coneflowers, and osage orange trees. We challenge you and your kids to find this month’s Foraged Find at Powell Gardens!

The Meadow Pavilion

Made of redwood, metal, and limestone, the Meadow Pavilion offers a sweeping view of the entire meadow. Within the meadow grows many native prairie plants and grasses as an artistic expression of the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of this region. The Pavilion provides a shaded place to rest and picnic with your family and friends while surrounded by peaceful prairie grasses.

Children’s Garden

Our Children’s Garden is an opportunity for little ones to explore plants and nature with enriching activities. It includes a colorful maze of natural musical instruments, such as a drum set made from fallen trees and frog noise makers. 

The garden playground lets children explore with tunnels, balance beams, and a jungle gym, with garden beds and potting sheds right nearby. Plus, it’s right down the path from the Native Butterfly Habitat, a tent full of native caterpillars and butterflies during the summer months!

Featured Family Events

Our events held throughout the summer include educational family activities so you can enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer!

Festival of Butterflies (July through August)

A summer favorite activity for families in Kansas City for over 25 years, the Festival of Butterflies is an opportunity to appreciate the interconnecting cycles of nature. Butterflies, moths, and caterpillars fill the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Conservatory, while our Butterfly Meadow and Native Butterfly Habitat come alive with these gorgeous winged pollinators.

Throughout the Gardens, you’ll find innovative ways for your kids to learn more about butterflies and their value to the ecosystem. Our botanic displays support butterflies from around the world to bring a cross-cultural experience to education. 

Not only are these butterflies vital to the survival of plants and animals, but they also add a unique beauty to every landscape with their spotted and striped colorful hues.

Our newest features include the Butterfly Lab, Moth Cave, and our Science Exploratorium for your young lepidopterologists (which simply means, scientists of butterflies and moths).

Fortopia (May through September)

Explorers of all ages can discover Powell Gardens through our exhibition of playful forts for summer family fun. Children and adults can climb and maneuver together through these intricate forts that invite discovery. 

Fortopia represents the variety of creative perspectives from our selection of designers, such as a team of preschool children, artists, landscape designers, architects, and more. This exhibition is available to all who purchase general admission during its running period.

Dog Days (Select Sundays May through September)

A Dog Day at Powell Gardens is truly a fun activity for the whole family—even your furry loved ones! Bring your dog for a stroll through the magnificent Powell Gardens to take in the summer blooms and sunshine. Other than select areas in the Heartland Harvest Garden, you and your furry partner(s) are free to peruse our entire garden of 175 acres.

Please note that dogs must be up to date on their vaccinations and remain on a non-retractable leash at all times. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pooch.

Desert Days (June)

As a new offering, Desert Days at Powell Gardens bring the arid climate and its botanical inhabitants to the Missouri public. This special viewing of our cacti and succulents integrates a crevice garden, living walls, and combination containers in the Garden Galleries.

Trail Days (Select Days in June and September)

Embark on a trail adventure with other Missouri hikers by hiking the Byron Shutz Nature Trail System. This system, comprising the 1-mile Family Discovery Loop and 3.25-mile Prairie Ridge Trail, supports regionally distinct ecological communities and unique off-grid experiences. 

Hikers will walk through the natural landscape and immerse themselves in the natural prairies and woodlands of the region. Several vendors and staff members will be onsite to offer beer tastings, plants for sale, trail education, and more.

With free admission available to the first 100 hikers, Trail Days provides a unique chance to explore the best-kept secret of Kansas City’s botanical garden. Make sure you bring plenty of water for you and your young ones!

Guided Summer Programs for Youth

Powell Gardens offers a variety of themed summer programs for grades K through 6. Each guided program is 60 minutes and incorporates field journals, nature investigations, crafts, and nature games. One example of our guided program is an engineering lesson about the basics of building, design, and problem-solving to build a fort like the ones at Fortopia!

Once the summer program is finished, spend the day touring the other garden areas and nature trails. Ample space is available for each group to take lunch before or after programs.

We welcome chaperones to attend the guided programs with their children. Other family members are free to explore the rest of the Gardens during the 60-minute session! 

Ways to Stay Cool At Powell Gardens

The Marketplace

The Marketplace in our Visitor Center offers everything a visitor might need for their family activities in Kansas City, from refreshments to snacks and sandwiches. It’s always smart to prepare before venturing outdoors, but in case you forgot something, the Marketplace has you covered. It’s open during regular hours for you to return throughout the day and pick up anything you might need!

Fountain Garden

Encircled by vibrant flower beds, our 42-foot diameter water feature provides relief from the summer sun with its cooling spray. Sit down on one of the low walls for a refreshing mist, or step directly into the fountain for an immediate cool-off!

Stumpery Garden

This quaint garden is nestled within the forest for relaxing shade and bird-watching. 

David T. Beals III Woodland & Stream Garden

Enjoy the sounds of flowing water at our Woodland & Stream Garden, with several sections secluded within the shade.

Experience Summer At Powell Gardens

The staff at Powell Gardens continues to brainstorm new ways to bring the fun of the outdoors into incredible family activities. If you’re looking for a variety of family activities in Kansas City, our botanical garden offers new ways to experience the outdoors every season. 

Come fall, we’ll have different offerings of events and blooming plants that will make your visit to Powell Gardens a whole new experience.

Take a look at what’s current at Powell Gardens to plan your day and purchase admission!