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34 Things to Do in Kansas City During Your Next Trip
Prepare for you next trip to the Midwest by reading up on the best things to do in Kansas City.
Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri. It also ranks as the 29th most populated city in the United States, with over 500,000 residents.
Typically, you can find them scattered around the 100 barbecue restaurants located around the city, admiring its 200 some fountains, or soaking up some local jazz. Fun fact: The city boasts its own special musical style. Back in the 1920s, "Kansas City Jazz" emerged out of the big band tradition, eventually transforming into the bebop rhythm we recognize today.
The city also contains even more fountains than Rome, which is why many have come to call it the City of Fountains. If that's not enough to make you curious about the popular travel destination, then be sure to keep reading below. We've collected a list of the very best things to do in Kansas City!
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Best Things to Do in Kansas City
Whether you're traveling with kids, as a couple, or doing some solo adventuring, there are plenty of things to do in Kansas City, MO. Refer to the list below when putting together your itinerary.
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art was first opened back in 1933 with funds donated from the combined estates of William Rockhill Nelson and Mary McAfee Atkins. In the time since, the museum has centered its mission around the inclusivity of "all groups, all races, all creeds." The institution is now home to over 42,000 pieces of art, including creations that date back over 5,000 years.
Sea Life Kansas City
Sea Life Kansas City accounts for the metropolis' only aquarium. There, you'll find 11 breathtaking exhibits and over 5,000 sea creatures—some of which you'll even have the opportunity to feel and touch!
The aquarium also contains the city's only ocean tunnel, which provides a 180-degree underwater experience. Visitors have the opportunity to come "face to fun" with sharks, rescued sea turtles, and countless species of fish. They even offer an "activity trail" for anyone aged 3+, so bonus points if you're traveling with kids!
Legoland Discovery Center
Speaking of things to do with kids, the aquarium also connects to Legoland Discovery Center, which contains a massive indoor playground. You can even buy combo tickets to both attractions to save on costs. The Discovery Center also contains a 4D cinema, Virtual Reality experiences, rides, and a replica of the city built from over 1.5 million LEGO bricks!
Downtown Kansas City
Be sure to take a break from formal attractions to explore downtown Kansas City. Voted one of America's "best downtowns" by Forbes, the region is home to some amazing skyscrapers, art deco architecture, and historic districts.
Find a scenic spot and hole up at one of the metro's many eateries (if you like barbecue, you're in luck—Kansas City is home to over 100 restaurants honoring the city's signature style). There are also tons of outdoor markets for shopping and people-watching.
18th & Vine Jazz District
While we're on the subject of historic districts, 18th & Vine is where the city's signature musical style was born. Jazz music, also known as America's only indigenous art form, first surfaced in the city back in the '20s. Residents continue to celebrate the legacy today with a slew of live music venues, jazz clubs, street festivals, and more. Some of the most talked-about places to visit include the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the Blues Room, and Jamin' at the Gem.
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American Jazz Museum
Also located around 18th & Vine is Kansas City's American Jazz Museum. The venue celebrates the legacy of jazz through exhibition, education, and research. Visitors will enjoy interactive exhibits and films, along with live performances hosted within the museum's jazz club and arts center.
Since opening its doors back in 1997, the museum has hosted thousands of students, scholars, musicians, and fans for over 200 performances, education programs, exhibitions, and community events.
Airline History Museum
Adding to the list of Kansas City's many museums is the Airline History Museum. There, you'll be able to inspect both operational and retired aircraft, as well as flight simulators. Save time for the interactive exhibits as well. That way, you'll walk away with plenty of new information on how the aviation industry influenced the city's development.
Some of the most impressive vessels housed at the National Airline History Museum include the TWA Moonliner (a passenger rocket concept), the Lockheed L-1049 Constellation, and the KC Eaglet.
For those who haven't yet heard, Union Station has been nicknamed Kansas City's "visual voice." First opened in 1914, the railroad also contains over 100 years of history and attractions designed for all ages.
This is also where Science City takes place, which consists of over 300 interactive exhibits and STEM-based events. Other attractions include a planetarium, movie theater, and a live performing arts center. Union Station also contains plenty of shopping activities and restaurants to enjoy.
Boulevard Brewing Company
Speaking of great places to eat, the Boulevard Brewing Company is a popular place to come for some fresh, local brews. The beer hall also offers tours for groups interested in learning more about the warehouse.
Founded in 1989, the Boulevard Brewing Company is now recognized as one of the largest specialty brewers in the Midwest. Inspired by a trip to Europe, the company founder prefers using a combination of old and new brewing techniques. According to him, it's the only way to bring out the flavor, aroma, and body that beer lovers crave.
Kansas City Public Library
Often celebrated for its lavish exterior, the Kansas City Public Library contains enough resources to serve all 1.7 million metropolitan residents of greater Kansas City. First established back in 1873, the institution now serves as a cultural center for the city and is often recognized for helping transform KC from a country town into a thriving metropolis.
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art contains an internationally recognized collection of emerging and established artists. Each year, over 100,000 visitors come to admire its many sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and photography.
The art museum is also located on the campus of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, allowing for classrooms, preparation areas, and an impressive auditorium. In total, visitors will get to explore 11 expansive galleries dedicated to its temporary exhibitions and permanent collections.
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Country Club Plaza
We told you Kansas City was the city of fountains, and this is where we deliver! Country Club Plaza is the city's shopping mecca, consisting of 15 blocks of shops, restaurants, art exhibits, and more. It also houses one of the city's most recognizable landmarks: the fountain in Mill Creek Park. The structure was actually built in Paris back in 1910 and brought to Kansas City a few decades later in 1951.
The fountain depicts four heroic horsemen who supposedly represent four of the world's most powerful rivers: the Mississippi River (fending off an alligator), the Volga River (with the bear), the Seine, and the Rhine. It also contains four smaller moldings of children playing on fish. These figures are often referred to as "dolphins."
Kansas City Zoo
The Kansas City Zoo first opened its doors back in 1909, with four lions, three monkeys, a wolf, a fox, a coyote, a badger, a lynx, and an eagle, along with a few other birds. Today, the zoo is recognized as one of the top 60 zoos in the nation. The 202-acre nature sanctuary even features cameras that allow individuals to get a glimpse of animals from home!<
Worlds of Fun
If you're worried about running out of things to do in Kansas City, just remember, a super fun amusement park exists within the city limits. The Worlds of Fun theme park spans over 325 acres containing unique themed areas, a record-breaking waterpark, thrill rides, as well as an all-inclusive resort in case you need a place to crash.
The Missouri River
Not only is the Missouri River a stunning natural site, but it's also home to lots of fun activities. The River Market contains tons of shops, restaurants, and museums. There are plenty of military and war memorials to explore around the area, too. It's also just a short drive away from scenic small towns and other historic sites.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial
The National WWI Museum and Memorial provide the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of artifacts from the era. The famous Kansas City attraction contains exhibitions and educational programs. It also houses the Liberty Memorial, which remains an important symbol of freedom, courage, and patriotism.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) remains the world's only museum that celebrates the history of African-American baseball players and their influence on social advancement in America. The museum is located within a 10,000-square-foot home in the heart of the 18th & Vine Jazz District.
There, you'll find memorabilia and statues of some of the nation's most historic players. The institution also provides education programs to promote literacy, celebrate art, and even help kids learn the art of scorekeeping.
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The Kansas City Symphony
The Kansas City Symphony provides a major contribution to the city's cultural life and community. Their free and low-cost performances led by Music Director Michael Stern reach more than 70,000 people annually.
If you can, try to plan a visit around the holidays. Each year, the city hosts TubaChristmas, a musical celebration involving players of different generations and skill levels. In the past, the tradition has brought together as many as 500 players at once!
Lakeside Nature Center
Supported by the Parks and Recreation Center, this Kansas City attraction offers a variety of wildlife and environmental science programs for families, children, school groups, and adults.
Kansas City community members can even look to the Lakeside Nature Center for information on how to rehabilitate mammals, birds, and reptiles, along with the status of different community conservation projects.
The 1,800-acre wooded park also houses the Kansas City Zoo, Starlight Theater, Blue River Golf Course, Swope Memorial Golf Course, a Disc Golf Course, Swope Park Pool, ball fields, picnic areas, and a pond for fishing.
Overland Park Arboretum
The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens contain over 300 acres of education, recreational, and cultural space. The gardens alone house more than 1,700 species of plants. Nature lovers can also locate various landscapes, hiking trails, and open prairies on the property. Education programs and a discovery garden are also available for those traveling with young kids!
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art accounts for yet another popular Kansas City museum. The institution first opened in 1994 and continues to grow its permanent collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world.
There, you'll find exhibitions, installations, lectures, and workshops. These programs are designed for individuals of all ages, so there's even more incentive for parents to bring the kids.
Kansas City Speedway
The Kansas City Speedway is one of the most notorious attractions in the area. Here, visitors can enjoy the high-speed thrills of NASCAR. You can also reserve an RV camping spot to make it a multi-day experience. Pre-race concerts and driver introductions are available as well.
It's even possible to make it out onto the track yourself. The Richard Petty Driving Experience allows visitors to drive a NASCAR racecar over a 1.5-mile tri-oval race track with 17 to 20 degrees of banking in the turns. Sorry kids, you need a valid driver's license to enjoy this activity, but you can ride along as a passenger!
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Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden
The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden serves as the final resting place of its founders. It's also a part of the greater Kauffman Foundation, a place where Kansas City residents can run, walk, picnic, and enjoy time outside (visitors enjoy free admission). There's also a conference center to host various events on the grounds.
If you haven't yet gotten your fill of the outdoors, head over to Loose Park. There, you'll find 75 acres of recreational land, complete with a municipal rose garden containing over 3,000 flowers. The park actually has some pretty significant history behind it, having served as a major site for the Battle of Westport, where Union forces in the area routed the Confederates.
The Money Museum
That's right, we're still adding to our list of Kansas City museums. Located in Kansas City's Federal Reserve Bank, visitors will learn how the bank processes millions of dollars in currency each day. They'll also get the opportunity to hold a real gold bar, view Harry S. Truman's historic coin collection, and explore a variety of digital exhibits.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
The Shoal Creek Living History Museum spans over 80 acres of land, nestled within the greater Hodge Park area. The Museum contains 21 structures, including 17 authentic 19th-century buildings that date back from 1807 to 1885. The grounds are open daily and entry is free.ae0fcc31ae342fd3a1346ebb1f342fcb
Visitors are encouraged to embark on self-guided walking tours. So long as you avoid the winter months, you're likely to catch a glimpse of the bison roaming nearby. You can also visit the chickens in the coop behind the Strollings House.
Kansas City River Market
Located downtown, this urban city market is crowded with local merchants selling exotic ingredients and homemade goods. You can also enjoy a sit-down experience at one of the many international restaurants, breweries, and bars. The area even lends itself to hiking excursions as well as biking and boating adventures.
This "eclectic enclave" is full of shops, studios, art galleries, and boutiques restaurants. The Crossroads Art District is also where you go to take in comedy shows, live theater, and Q&As with local artists. Be sure to keep an eye on the streets—the area is known for its creative wall murals and alleyway art.
Tom's Town Distillery
Next up on our list is Tom's Town Distillery, one of the top gin distilleries in the United States and Canada (that is, according to Yelp). Head over there to enjoy the tasting room, craft cocktails, and tours.
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Sports fanatics won't want to miss the opportunity to explore Arrowhead Stadium. The arena is home to the Kansas City Chiefs, though you don't need to go during game day to enjoy the grounds. Visitors can explore the stadium's event space or take a walk through the Hall of Honor, which celebrates six decades of legendary players, unforgettable moments, and two Lombardi Trophies.
Penguin Park has been in operation since 1957 after the grounds were acquired by the city. Originally celebrated for its collection of statuettes, the park's supervisor began creating other animals for the space, such as a giraffe, elephant, and kangaroo. During the holidays, the area floods with families eager to get a glimpse of its original "Santa's Workshop." During the summer months, residents can take advantage of its hiking trails, tennis courts, and dog park.
Arabia Steamboat Museum
The Arabia Steamboat Museum has served as a popular Kansas City attraction for over 25 years. The institution serves as a time capsule of life on the American frontier during the mid-19th century by housing a number of everyday objects that made life possible during the 1800s.
Each item was rescued from the sunken Steamboat Arabia. The vessel was unable to survive the perilous journey down the Missouri River, which claimed nearly 400 other steamboats during the same era.
Independence Temple is a Kansas City staple. Not only does it serve as a place of worship, filled with historic artwork and a 1,600-seat Temple Sanctuary, but it also populates a significant chunk of the Kansas City skyline. The structure boasts some of the most impressive architecture in the city as well, with award-winning stained glass windows, a 195-foot spiral ceiling, and a 102-rank, 5,685-pipe organ. There's even a Meditation Chapel overlooking a landscape designed by master gardeners from Japan.
Formally known as the Sprint Center, this is the place to go to concerts and other major live events. The venue is also home to the College Basketball Experience, an interactive facility where fans of all ages can explore two stories of authentic basketball exhibits to put their skills to the test.
It may seem like an extensive list, but Kansas City has so much to offer! Feel free to deviate from our itinerary and simply roam around the metropolis, taking in the art, music, and city culture as you please. If you are looking for something a little more structured, there are plenty of activities designed for children and adults alike. From family trips to romantic getaways, the "City of Fountains" will appeal to a little bit of everyone.
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What is the number one attraction in Kansas City?
While it's hard to narrow it down to just one attraction, the historic jazz district on 18th & Vine remains one of the city's most celebrated regions. The area became a popular relocation zone for Black families leaving decaying neighborhoods by the Missouri River. In addition to its musical roots, the district is also known for the culture surrounding barbecue, baseball, and blues.
Where should I go for a weekend in Kansas City?
If you only have a weekend in Kansas City, you should do your best to experience some live jazz music, enjoy authentic barbecue cuisine, and squeeze in some sightseeing to admire the city's historic fountains. The city is also home to some world-class museums, including the Nelson Atkins Museum, the American Jazz Museum, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
What are some fun things to do with kids in Kansas City?
Kansas City provides a host of activities for the whole family to enjoy. From Science City to Legoland Discovery Center, there are tons of spots designed with kids in mind. Other sites, like Union Station and Crown Center, offer places for the family to eat, shop, and explore together.
What are some things to do in Kansas City for adults?
Adults have plenty of things to do when visiting Kansas City. Not only is the city known for its live music venues, but there are also tons of opportunities for bar-hopping and visiting breweries. In fact, Kansas City has been celebrated for maintaining one of the best nightlife scenes in the Midwest.
Is there anything to do in Kansas City for couples?
Couples can enjoy a wide range of activities in Kansas City, from romantic walks in city parks to a more lively night out on the town. The city is also packed with local markets where couples can shop, eat, and people-watch. If there is an art lover in the mix, then you should head over to one of the city's world-class museums of contemporary art. Or, if history is more your scene, you can enjoy one of the many walking tours around the city's more significant spots.
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