Free museums help families learn and have fun

There are two big challenges to finding a family activity: finding something cheap, and finding something the entire family can enjoy. To help your family have a good time, we are presenting this handy guide to free museums in the Kansas City metro area.

In the east: 1827 log courthouse
107 W. Kansas Ave., Independence, MO 64050

Jackson County's first government building, constructed with slave labor, was the only courthouse between St. Louis and the Pacific at the time the Santa Fe Trail trade began. The two-room log structure was home to the roots of Jackson County where controversial slave state, land disputes and westward expansion issues were dealt with. Once a Mormon mercantile store, this structure has great significance to members of the LDS church. Harry Truman held court here in the 1930s. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tours can be given after 2 p.m. by appointment.

In the west: Johnson County Museum of History
6305 Lackman Road, Shawnee, KS 66217

See what has lured people to Johnson County for the past 175 years. The Johnson County Museum of History opened in 1967, in the former Greenwood School. Over the years, the museum has continued to achieve its mission of preserving and sharing the community's history through its award winning permanent and changing exhibits. This museum includes 14 hands-on stations and changing exhibit gallery. Youth programs include tours and classes. The facility includes permanent and changing galleries, a research library, an education center and a museum store. Visitors are welcome Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In the north: Historic Liberty jail
216 N. Main St., Liberty, MO 64068

Historic Liberty jail features a reconstruction of the original Clay County jail on the same site of its initial location. The museum offers free tours, including art, sculpture, photographs and an audio-visual presentation focusing on social and religious history of the area during the 1830s, with special attention to events associated with the Liberty jail. Families can visit seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In the south: Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, KS 66210

Johnson County Community College is home to the largest contemporary art museum in the four-state region. The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art is a two-store facility that features major exhibitions of internationally, nationally and regionally renowned artists. Both admission and parking are free. Other attractions include the museum store and the Café Tempo restaurant. Doors are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

In the center: Hallmark Visitors Center
2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108

Located in Kansas City's Crown Center complex, the Hallmark Visitors Center celebrates the Hallmark story in a display of 14 remarkable exhibits, from our founder's humble beginning in 1910, to the creation of one of the world's largest greeting card companies. The timeline exhibit shows historical artifacts that reflect various eras and trends throughout 20th century America into the new millennium. Visit with some of our Hallmark craftspeople, a graphic arts technician or press operator as they demonstrate hot foil stamping and die cutting, processes used in the manufacture of greeting cards. You can even press a button to create a star-shaped bow that you can take home as a souvenir. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.