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Best Things To Do in Kansas City
From interesting districts like Westport and the Power & Light to history museums like the National World War I and Steamboat Arabia, Kansas City offers its visitors a variety of things to do. Plus, there are all the stores you could want at the Country Club Plaza, an open-air, Spanish-design shopping district. For art – and a bit of whimsy (a giant badminton birdie installation) – there's the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Kansas City5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art appeals to many kinds of visitors, such as little kids who appreciate the giant badminton birdie installations (four 18-foot shuttlecocks, to be exact) on the 22-acre lawn, or adults who enjoy the play of light in Caravaggio's "Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness." The art museum's permanent collection spans thousands of years, includes more than 35,000 pieces and features art from Europe, Asia and America. The museum also displays interesting architectural pieces like centuries-old furniture and stained glass windows, in addition to more modern paintings, prints and drawings, sculptures and photography. What's more, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art showcases different exhibitions every year across a variety of mediums; check the site for upcoming exhibits during your visit.
Visitors are consistently impressed with this museum, saying they could spend hours perusing the interesting art. Recent travelers called out the massive sculpture park for its host of unique installations and said the grounds were delightful to stroll on a nice day. Many said they also appreciated that there was no fee to browse this museum's extensive collection of works.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Kansas City2.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The side-wheel steamer Arabia was constructed in 1853 for powering through the muddy Missouri River waters with up to 200 tons of supplies in tow. But later, it snagged a felled tree trunk and quickly disappeared under the sea. More than a century later, David Hawley discovered the sunken steamer a half-mile from the river bank beneath 45 feet of earth; it then became the focus of the Arabia Steamboat Museum.
Today you can take a tour of the steamer's deck and hull, but there's also a great deal more to see. The museum features a general store, a cargo gallery and several other galleries with odds and ends recovered from the excavation of the great Steamboat Arabia. In addition to seeing many of the well-preserved cargo pieces that were excavated from the wreck, the tour includes a video summarizing the history of the Arabia and how they were able to retrieve the supplies.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Kansas City3.8 miles to city centerFree, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.8 miles to city centerFree, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Kansas City residents are a little bit prideful about the Boulevard Brewing Company, as if to say: "So what if St. Louis has Anheuser-Busch, we have Boulevard." Among its many beers, this brewery offers its fans everything from unfiltered wheat (a favorite) to pale ale to pilsner. The brewery has become the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest and ships its beers to more than 30 states across the U.S, and Washington, D.C. The brewery has seen such success and growth that it opened a visitors center in the summer of 2016 with beer exhibits, a larger tasting room and an expanded retail shop.
Beer connoisseurs are in for a treat at this brewery. Visitors can take a free guided tour, which includes a short video of how the beer is made, a history of the Boulevard Brewing Company, a walk-through and also some samples. Travelers said the tour guides are insightful, entertaining and funny and offer a thorough presentation of the various types of beer.
- #4View all PhotosfreeWestport#4 in Kansas City4.9 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.9 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Just north of the Country Club Plaza, Westport is a popular neighborhood where people flock to enjoy shopping, dining and a night out on the town. It's known for being the oldest established community in Kansas City and, fun fact, Westport was where pioneers began their trek along the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. Today, the area is filled with bars, restaurants, local shops, entertainment venues and hotels. There's everything from Ernie Bigg's Piano Bar and The Kick Comedy Theater to laid-back and upscale eateries. (Travelers recommend stopping in Ca Va Champagne bar to try its sparkling wines and creative cocktails.)
According to visitors, Westport is a lively neighborhood brimming with local businesses and restaurants. Many say it's easy to maneuver on foot and the bars come to life at night and on the weekends.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Kansas City5.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND5.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
One of Kansas City's most popular places to dine, shop, movie watch or simply just walk around is the Country Club Plaza. This outdoor shopping district offers mostly chain stores (Anthropologie, Gap and the like), hotels and eateries, but also a handful of high-end shops like Michael Kors and Coach. The biggest draw here, though, is the architecture. The plaza boasts Spanish-style fountains (modeled after those in Seville), tiles and statues that fill the district and make for some excellent photo ops.
Recent patrons said Country Club Plaza, while not all that exciting, is something visitors should take at least a stroll through to enjoy the fountains and expertly designed buildings.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Kansas City3.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The National World War I Museum is arranged in narrative form, as if WWI soldiers were telling visitors their own war stories through the exhibits. The museum features replicas of trenches, theaters, propaganda posters and guns. What's especially moving is the glass bridge, which spans an abyss of 9,000 poppies, symbolizing the 9 million lives lost during the war.
Most agree that this private museum is a national treasure. Visitors were pleased with the wealth of information available, the interesting exhibits and the memorabilia on display.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Kansas City4.8 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.8 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals make their home at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals are beloved by their Kansas City fans. The stadium was renovated in 2009 and, even better, this team has seen a resurgence over the past few years, bringing a new wave of enthusiasm across town. The Royals made a trip to the World Series in 2014 and secured a World Series win in 2015 – the first championship won by the baseball team since 1985. The stadium itself is filled with food and drink vendors, plus tickets to a game are on the more affordable side. Kauffman Stadium also offers ballpark tours during the offseason and on select Saturdays; these range in price from $17 to $55, based on the type of tour (discounts are available for children).
Baseball fans say this stadium is beautiful and encourage visitors to attend a game during their trip to Kansas City. Travelers say the energy inside the stadium is impressive and add that the fans are welcoming and friendly.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Kansas City2.6 miles to city centerCafes, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerCafes, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
As one of the largest public farmers markets in the Midwest, City Market features more than 30 permanent merchants selling produce, specialty foods, fresh meat, home decor, flowers and more every day of the week. On the weekends, though, you can expect to find more than 150 vendors bursting with local products. (Be sure to get an early start on Saturdays and Sundays, as the stalls are only open from 7 or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. year-round.) When you’re finished exploring the pop-up shops, you can stop into a clothing boutique or grab lunch at one of the surrounding restaurants and cafes.
The market’s significance extends beyond fresh fruits and veggies, though. Founded in 1857, the space was once a site for commerce, horse trading, political rallies, circuses and more. In fact, this Kansas City staple is also home to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which displays a collection of artifacts that were recovered from the bottom of the Missouri River 132 years after the Steamboat Arabia sank in 1856. Among the once-lost cargo items were dishes and other fine china, clothing, guns, children’s toys and even the world’s oldest pickles. Admission into the museum ranges from $5.50 (kids ages 4 to 14) to $14.50 for adults. Seniors receive a $1 discount and children 3 and younger get in free of charge. Your ticket includes a guided tour, which takes place every 30 minutes until 3:30 p.m. The museum itself is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Kansas City2.7 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.7 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
This district (right next to downtown's Sprint Center) consists of more than 50 shops, restaurants and nightlife venues – and it's one of Kansas City's newer and most popular areas. One of its coolest features is its two-floor KC Live entertainment venue, which hosts about 150 concerts and other performances each year. But on an off night, there are plenty of other places to keep you busy – like PBR Big Sky (where you can ride a mechanical bull), Shark Bar (where you can dance to '90s music) or Howl at the Moon (where you can sing along with the dueling pianists).
Travelers say this is the place to go if you're looking to let your hair down and enjoy Kansas City nightlife, adding that with such a wide variety of restaurants and bars everyone should be able to find something to suit their fancy.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Kansas City6.9 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND6.9 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Kansas City Zoo opened in 1909 with a modest collection of animals: four lions, three monkeys, a fox, a wolf, a badger, a lynx, an eagle and some other birds. Since then, it has expanded to become one of the most respected zoos in the country, with exhibits ranging from the $15 million Helzberg Penguin Plaza to the interactive Stingray Bay to a chimpanzee habitat praised by Jane Goodall herself. Guests can also enjoy daily sea lion shows, zookeeper chats and elephant painting demonstrations, as well as safari boat rides across the zoo’s African Plains and overnight campouts in various exhibits for kids ages 6 and older.
Recent visitors were impressed by the cleanliness of the zoo and the amount of exhibits throughout the property, but they warned that you should wear comfortable shoes. The 202-acre park requires a lot of walking, and you shouldn’t expect to see everything during your visit. Past zoogoers also recommend packing your own snacks and lunches if you plan to stay for most of the day, as the food in the park can be a bit expensive.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Kansas City5.9 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND5.9 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you’re looking to take a trip down memory lane during your Kansas City vacation, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is the place to do it. Open since 1982, this museum has the world’s largest fine-scale miniature collection and one of the most robust antique toy collections on public display. You’ll find exhibits with Queen Anne-style dolls dating back as far as 1750, original Barbie dolls and vintage Hot Wheels cars. Many recent guests were thrilled to see the toys they played with as children from decades ago. Though – for that exact reason – some patrons felt this museum was better suited to nostalgic grown-ups than to children, who may quickly lose interest in the glass cases filled with old toys. Still, guests of all ages can appreciate the vast collection of small-scale items, from miniature handcarved tables and chairs to pint-sized animal figurines.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays). It is located on the University of Missouri-Kansas campus, a few blocks south of Country Club Plaza. Admission is free for children ages 5 and younger; $5 for minors between 6 and 17 (and college students with an ID); $7 for adults older than 65 and $8 for those ages 18 through 64. Free parking is available in front of the museum. For more information, check out The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures’ website.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Kansas City3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Chances are you've given or received a Hallmark greeting card at some point in your life. What you may not know is that Hallmark originated in Kansas City. In 1910, 18-year-old Joyce C. Hall of Nebraska gathered two shoeboxes filled with postcards and set out to create a greeting card company. More than a century later, Hallmark – still run by Hall’s descendants – is one of the largest card brands in the world.
If you’re looking for the same warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a card from a loved one, recent visitors say this museum is a must-see. Wander through the exhibits at your own pace, or give the visitor center a call to sign up for an hour-long guided tour (offered every day at 2 p.m.). Either way, you’ll take a journey through the history of Hallmark with interactive displays and detailed exhibits, and you can also view a short film about the company or take a break at the gift shop. For children, the Hallmark Visitors Center offers a scavenger hunt that will send them on a mission to find specific artifacts throughout the museum.
- #13View all Photos#13 in Kansas City3 miles to city centerEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3 miles to city centerEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For a unique outing during your Kansas City getaway, consider seeing a performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Unveiled in 2011, the center is home to the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony. It also welcomes visiting artists ranging from famed photographers to well-known actors and actresses. Recent travelers were amazed by the property; they described the building itself as stylish and beautiful and the performances as phenomenal. Kid-friendly shows are also available throughout the year.
Parking for the events can be found in the adjacent Arts District Garage for $10 per vehicle. Though the garage has space for 1,000 cars, visitors are encouraged to arrive early to secure a spot.
- #14View all Photos#14 in Kansas City3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Monuments and MemorialsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Kansas City’s Union Station was built in 1914 and primarily used as a train station at that time. During World War II, the 850,000-square-foot compound continued to welcome patrons with restaurants, a barber shop and a cigar store, as well as professional spaces like railroad offices and the country’s largest Railway Express Building (for shipping freight and mail). Union Station shut down in the 1980s and almost faced demolition on several occasions. It reopened in 1999 (following a three-year revitalization project) and has since drawn tourists from around the world with its stunning chandeliers and 95-foot ceilings.
In addition to hosting weddings and business meetings, Union Station also displays exhibits ranging from the newly redesigned KC Rail Experience to an interactive center known as Science City. There is also a planetarium and theaters featuring giant-screen movies and live shows. The station still shows its roots, though; just like a century ago, you can still hop on an Amtrak train and head to a new destination. Recent visitors said the historical, beautifully restored building is a must-see. They also said it’s especially great for families traveling with kids (thanks to a number of child-friendly exhibits) but noted there is something there for people of all ages.
- #15View all Photos#15 in Kansas City3.1 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Science City is an interactive science center within Kansas City’s Union Station. It is geared toward children, which makes it a great place to go with your littlest travelers. Daily exhibits include the Dinolab and Digsite, where kids can unearth fossils and learn more about paleontology; a genetics lab, where budding scientists can learn how the human genome makes everyone unique; the Mr. E Hotel, which is filled with more than 20 optical illusions; the Sky Bike ride, which is suspended on a high-wire 30 feet in the air; and more. Recent visitors loved Science City, noting that they had just as much fun as their kids. Many recommended arriving early, as the center can get very crowded (even during the week, due to school field trips) and some activities and demonstrations may finish earlier in the day.
Admission into Science City costs $13.25 for ages 3 and up, plus a $1 reservation fee if you book ahead of time. This ticket allows you to go in and out of the building as you please on the day you reserve. Children younger than 3 can enter Science City free of charge. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays, though you can visit on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Parking costs between $5 and $15, depending where you park and how long you stay. Not every parking garage accepts all major credit cards, so be sure to check Science City’s website before your visit.
- #16View all Photos#16 in Kansas City4.8 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.8 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Arrowhead Stadium has been the home of the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team since it opened in 1972. It is adjacent to Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team plays. (In fact, there is even a private underground service tunnel between the two.)
Football fans can tour the roughly 80,000-seat Arrowhead Stadium in a number of ways. Public, guided tours last 90 minutes and take visitors through the press box, the CommunityAmerica Club Level, the locker room, the field and the Chiefs Hall of Honor Presented by Spectrum. Public tours are offered on Fridays at 2 or 4 p.m. and on Saturdays at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m., and tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for kids. If you’re looking for a more exclusive experience, consider a private guided tour (which visits the same areas of the stadium, but in a one-on-one setting) or a game day tour, which includes a 60-minute walk through the press box and the Chiefs Hall of Honor Presented by Spectrum, followed by 20 minutes on the sidelines of the field during the pregame activities. To schedule a tour, visit the Chiefs website.
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