The Plaza Lighting Ceremony is one of Kansas City’s most treasured traditions.
Every year for the past 90 years, a special guest — typically a locally beloved celebrity — flips a switch on Thanksgiving night to light up the Country Club Plaza. In weeks leading up to the Plaza lights, KCP&L workers labor for hours stringing up close to 80 miles of lights on every building in the district. It takes more than 200,000 bulbs to create something this pretty. When that switch is flipped, it’s officially Christmas time in KC, welcomed by the twinkling lights lining buildings and fireworks announcing the most wonderful time of the year.
What makes the Kansas City Plaza Christmas lights so distinctive is the architectural brilliance of the Plaza. This is no normal neighborhood Christmas lights show. The Plaza, modeled after the Spanish city of Seville, is a collection of some of the most unique buildings in the Midwest. With more than 80 miles of lights, every building feature is drawn out. The true beauty of the Plaza, visible any day, is highlighted by the Plaza lighting.
Whether you are a Kansas City resident or an out-of-town visitor, the Plaza Lighting Ceremony is something you need to see. It’s well worth your time on a Thanksgiving evening. There’s plenty to do on the Plaza before and after the lights are turned on, and Parkway Social Kitchen should be on the top of your list.
When Do the Plaza Lights Turn On?
The ceremony is held on Thanksgiving night each year. The schedule changes slightly each year. Generally, there is a pre-show starting around 5 p.m. A main stage will be set up, usually along the Plaza’s main strip of 47th Street, and musical guests will perform. In past years, this has included bands and a Plaza Lighting Ceremony orchestra.
Then, around 7, the special guest will be introduced. This could be a KC Royals’ player, someone from the Chiefs or any other local celebrity. With the flip of a switch, the KC Plaza lights spark to life and illuminate the chilly November night.
If you’ve got a big group, like extended family visiting for the holiday, you could consider booking Parkway’s private venue, the Scarlet Room for a family-sized Thanksgiving feast to go along with seeing the lights.
Visit Parkway During the Plaza Lighting Ceremony
Anyone visiting the Plaza has plenty to choose from before, during and after the Plaza Lighting Ceremony. We think you should choose Parkway Social Kitchen.
Parkway is in a unique building on the corner of Ward Parkway and Jefferson Street. Our mission is food with a sense of community, which is also the essence of Thanksgiving. We’d love for you to stop in anytime on Turkey Day, but especially for the Country Club Plaza lights.
If this is a romantic evening for you, our atmosphere strikes a perfect balance between relaxed and sophisticated. Parkway is designed to make conversation easy. On the other hand, you may be a family looking for the right place to eat before the lights come on. We’ll be serving up a traditional Thanksgiving meal the day of the ceremony, and with our menu of elevated comfort food, it’s sure to feature something for everyone.
After the Kansas City Plaza lights are glowing and the fireworks have gone off, walk over to Parkway for a nightcap at our Thanksgiving Social. Our bar menu is one of the best on the Plaza on any given day, but our Plaza Lighting Ceremony after-party will be a special event, featuring a modified happy hour menu from 9 p.m. to close.
We’ve got what you’re looking for during the Plaza Lighting Ceremony.
Other Things to Do During the Kansas City Plaza Lighting
The Plaza has over 100 shops and more than 30 restaurants. You have plenty of choices when you come to see the lights at the Plaza in Kansas City. Here are a few of our top recommendations:
- Stop at Parkway for appetizers and drinks: We know we’re biased, but there’s no better way to get things going at the Plaza Lighting Ceremony. Grab a refreshing beverage and fuel up with a couple appetizer plates before setting out to see the rest of the Plaza.
- Grab a cup of coffee at Kaldi’s: It’s going to be cold, so warm up with a cup from Kaldi’s. Founded in St. Louis, this Missouri coffee company is a nice place to stop during the Plaza Lighting Ceremony.
- Check out the Made in KC Marketplace: Opened in the fall of 2018, the Made in KC Marketplace brings some of KC’s best apparel brands under one roof. Right off 47th Street, this is a can’t-miss shop for anyone trying to find some local swag.
- Walk along the Brush Creek waterfront: Brush Creek is beautiful this time of year, especially along the southern edge of the Plaza. This will put you right by Parkway, so you can stop in to warm up and grab a drink after walking the waterfront.
After the Plaza Kansas City Christmas Lights Are Lit
Seeing the Plaza lighting in Kansas City is a great evening, and it’s only the beginning of the Christmas season. Even if you can’t make it to the see the Plaza Christmas lights turn on, you can see them any night in December on a nice walk through the Plaza.
The Christmas season features all kinds of deals from the stores on the Plaza. It’s a festive time to visit. After you’re done shopping and strolling through the streets, come warm up in Parkway with a hearty meal and great company.
Parkway is also a great venue for holiday parties. Personal events like family gathers or professional events like an office Christmas party are welcome in the Scarlet Room, Parkway’s private event space. See the lights in the Plaza and have a great party at Parkway, all in one night.
Plaza Lights FAQ
When do the Kansas City Plaza lights turn on?
The Plaza Lighting Ceremony is held each year on Thanksgiving night.
What time do the Plaza lights come on?
The Plaza Lighting Ceremony begins at 5 p.m. with festivities and games. Speakers and live music round out the schedule, and the light switch is flipped just before 7 p.m. Then, the ceremony closes with more music.
Where can I park for the Plaza lights?
Parking may seem intimidating for an event this big, but there’s no need to fret if you have a good plan in place. Check out this helpful Plaza parking map for all of the free parking spots around the district.
How much does it cost to go to the Plaza lights ceremony?
Nada, zero, zilch. The Plaza Lighting Ceremony is a free event, which is one of the reasons it brings so many Kansas Citians together each year.
How long are the Plaza lights on in Kansas City?
Can’t make it to the Plaza Light Ceremony? Don’t fret, there’s still plenty of time to see the lights. Crews begin removing the lights mid-January. You have the whole holiday season to spend a night under the lights.
How many people attend the Plaza lighting ceremony?
It’s hard to get a precise number because this a free event. A safe estimate puts the number in the tens of thousands.
The Plaza has so much to offer, especially during the Kansas City Plaza Lighting Ceremony. We hope you’ll put Parkway at the top of your to-do list for this festival. You can stop in anytime, or you can make a reservation online today.