Things To Do In Kansas City
There are a surprising number of things to do in Kansas City. Among other things, this gem of a city in the Midwest has a rich jazz history, great barbecue, some world class museums and lots and lots of fountains.
Here’s our list of the 15 best things to do in Kansas City.
1. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is one of the best cultural things to do in Kansas City. The world class museum has an impressive collection of more than 40,000 works of art.
Its collection includes works from North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Some of the items date back thousands of years, while others are much more recent. Be sure to take a selfie with one of the four giant shuttlecock installations on the museum grounds.
Leave yourself some time to wander around outside. The 22-acre sculpture park includes 12 sculptures by Henry Moore. Admission is free. Also, free guided and audio tours are available and provide additional insights.
2. Have Some BBQ
Barbecue is a big deal in Kansas City. In fact, there are more than 100 barbecue restaurants in the area.
So there’s no excuse not to try some barbecue while you are here. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-b-que is a top recommendation. They have three locations, but head to the original one on 47th, which used to be a gas station. Expect long lines, but the wait is worth it.
Other great options include Fiorella Jack’s Stack, Jones B-B-Q, Arthur Bryant’s and Harp Barbecue. Kansas City also hosts several big barbecue contests, such as the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle and the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, the world’s largest barbecue competition.
3. Country Club Plaza
Modeled after the Spanish city of Seville, Country Club Plaza is the premier shopping destination, and one of the best things to do, in Kansas City.
Stretching for 15 blocks, the charming area offers more than 150 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. You’ll find chain stores and high-end designer boutiques as well. There are also many dining options, including an outlet of the popular Jack’s Stack Barbecue.
But one of the best things about the plaza is the classic European architecture and the art. There’s even a half-scale model of the Moorish Giralda Tower. Other highlights include beautiful fountains, murals, tile mosaics and more than 30 statues.
Even if you don’t plan on shopping, Country Club Plaza is a great place to walk around and people watch. Live events are often held here.
4. City Market
Also known as River Market, City Market has a history dating back to 1857. It’s also one of the largest and most popular public farmers markets in the Midwest.
Open daily, there are more than 30 vendors selling fresh produce, meats, specialty foods, flowers, home decor and more. On the weekends, that number swells to more than 150 vendors selling local products.
On Sundays, a popular vintage sale is held here, with a wealth of unique items, collectibles and antiques. During the summer, the market hosts numerous live music events and festivals. The Arabia Steamboat Museum can also be found here.
5. Union Station
Built in 1914, Union Station was once a bustling railway station. The station closed in the 1980s and underwent major renovations.
Today, the beautifully restored historic landmark houses shops, restaurants and popular tourist attractions. The building itself is a sight to see. The Grand Hall features 95 foot ceilings, a six-foot wide clock and three chandeliers that weigh 3,500 pounds each. Amtrak trains still stop here.
Other attractions include a model railroad exhibit, a planetarium, IMAX theater with 3D movies, a live theater stage and the award winning Science City interactive science museum. Special events are frequently held here as well.
6. American Jazz Museum
Located in the historic Jazz District, where many of the top jazz musicians used to live, the American Jazz Museum offers an immersive experience on this uniquely American style of music.
Learn about the history of jazz in Kansas City and explore the music itself. Exhibits include a collection of photos, posters, sheet music and artifacts and personal items. See Charlie Parker’s saxophone, and Ella Fitzgerald’s gown. Interactive exhibits such as listening stations and custom mixing boards are also available.
The museum is also home to the Blue Room jazz club, which offers live music several times a week. The fully restored Gem Theater hosts different events and productions.
7. Kansas City Zoo
The Kansas City Zoo is one of the best things to do in Kansas City for families and animal lovers. Spanning more than 200 acres, the award-winning zoo also features an aquarium.
See more than 1,300 specials of animals from around the world. Highlights include their Kenya and Tiger Trail exhibits, the Helzberg Penguin Plaza and the interactive Stingray Bay. Get a bird’s eye view at the African Sky Safari, or explore the zoo on a tram, train or boat.
There are daily sea lion shows and chats with zookeepers. You can even watch elephants or orangutans painting. Other special programs include being a zookeeper for a day, or overnight campouts.
8. Boulevard Brewery
The story of Boulevard Brewery is a remarkable one. Founded in 1989 by a local entrepreneur, they’ve now grown to be the biggest and most popular speciality brewery in the Midwest.
A pride of Kansas City, a visit to the brewery is a must while you are in town. Learn about Boulevard’s history and brewing process on a free 45-minute tour. Afterwards, enjoy some free samples.
In-depth and specialized tours are also available and cost extra. The brewery’s beer hall offers a wide range of their products to enjoy, from pale ales to pilsners to unfiltered wheat and more.
9. Worlds of Fun
Enjoy a day of thrills at Worlds of Fun amusement park. Spanning 235 acres, the popular theme park features more than 100 thrill rides, family rides, kids rides, water slides, shows and other attractions.
There are seven world class roller coasters, including the extreme Mamba roller coaster. Planet Snoopy offers rides suitable for younger kids. Be sure to check out the 35 lifesize animatronic dinosaurs in Dinosaurs Alive!
Your ticket also includes admission to the Oceans of Fun water park, ideal when the temperature soars. Worlds of Fun also hosts special seasonal events such as Halloween Haunt and Winter Fest.
10. Arabia Steamboat Museum
In 1856, the steamboat Arabia hit a fallen tree on the Missouri River and sank, with more than 200 tons of cargo onboard. Then in the 1980s, the ship was discovered underneath a cornfield.
Today, the Arabia Steamboat Museum holds the world’s largest collection of pre-Civil War items. You can tour the steamer’s deck and hull. The museum also features a general store, cargo gallery,and other galleries filled with an incredible assortment of items recovered from the ship.
See everything from toys and tools to the world’s oldest pickles. In the restoration area, you can watch technicians prepare more items for display. A fascinating video covers the history of the Arabia and how they were able to excavate the contents onboard.
11. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Watching a performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is one of the best things to do in Kansas City. Architecturally stunning, the building alone is worth seeing.
It also boasts incredible acoustics, making it an ideal place for the performing arts. There are two distinct venues inside. The center is home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet.
In addition, the center puts on a variety of shows throughout the year, including kid-friendly shows. The center also offers a variety of art programs and other special events. Tours of the center are also available.
12. National World War I Museum and Memorial
Learn all about World War I at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of artifacts related to World War I, with more than 75,000 items.
See films about the war. Read letters. Or see items such as uniforms, weapons and paraphernalia. There’s a recreation of the crater that was created when a howitzer shell hit a French farmhouse. Multiple reproduced scenes give visitors then experience of what it looked and sounded like in the trenches.
Afterwards, pay your respects at the Liberty Memorial, commemorating all those who served in the war. It also offers one of the best views of Kansas City.
13. See the Fountains
Kansas City is known as the “City of Fountains” and the fountains are some of the best things to do in Kansas City.
There are more than 200 fountains in the city. 48 of those are publicly-operated and every spring they are re-energized in April. The fountains can be found everywhere, and range from small and intricate to large and minimalist.
Don’t miss the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain near Country Club Plaza. Other highlights include the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain in front of Union Station, the Fountain Basin at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Crown Center Square Fountain in Crown Center.
14. Loose Park
Enjoy the outdoors and more at Loose Park, one of the most popular parks in Kansas City. The historic park covers nearly 75 acres and was a strategic location during the Civil War.
You can explore various historic markers in the park, such as antique cannons. The park also offers a wealth of amenities and recreational activities, including a lake, hiking and biking trails, tennis and volleyball courts, playgrounds, a rock climbing wall, picnic areas, a rose garden and a garden center.
There’s a popular splash park in the summer. Many events are held at the park, including poetry sessions, live music, wine tastings and a range of different classes.
15. National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
Revisit your childhood at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Located on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, the unique museum contains more than 72,000 toys and objects, from scaled miniatures to antiques.
Some items in the collection are incredibly rare and valuable, and showcase impressive craftsmanship. See a collection of dolls dating back to the 1750s. There’s a 9-foot Coleman dollhouse, original Barbies and vintage Hot Rod Cars.
The museum is also home to the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures. In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts many interactive and temporary exhibits throughout the year.
Looking to explore outside of Kansas City? Check out our guide to the best day trips from Kansas City.