My wife and I visit Kansas City a lot. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Omaha, so it makes for a fun and accessible getaway. It can also create challenging ways to view a city we’ve come to know well over the years. My brother-in-law once joked (I think) that I know my way around the KC area better than he does.
We enjoy exploring Kansas City’s neighborhoods, dining scene, and history, among other fun attractions. As my wife, Lisa, and I plan our visits to the City of Fountains, we strive to find something new or unique to try. So, signing up for guided tours offers an opportunity to see Kansas City through someone else’s eyes. From a gangster tour to local coffee shops, city tours are an excellent way to see something new and learn new things about an area’s history.
Here’s a look at a baker’s dozen of tours to help you explore Kansas City.
1. Urban Hikes KC
Whether you’re an art fan or history buff, Urban Hikes KC combines Kansas City attractions with a little exercise. Each hike covers 3 to 4 miles while including stops such as Crossroad Art District’s galleries, museums, and alley murals, or the history of Kansas City (Kansas), the ethnic groups calling the famous Strawberry Hill area home, and its beautiful historic murals. With 11 urban hikes available, there’s much to explore, including making your own pottery.
2. KC Fun Tours
Hop aboard a historic trolley for a 75-minute cruise through Kansas City’s history. Sit back and relax and learn about some of the city’s impressive history while enjoying its beautiful architecture during your adventure with KC Fun Tours. Among the history you can expect to learn about includes Union Station and City Market, Kansas City’s year-round farmer’s market. KC Fun Tours is perfect for seasonal celebrations, such as Country Club Plaza’s holiday lights. The Crazy Little Women Tour offers a two-hour look at some of the great women who have influenced the city’s history.
Pro Tip: Open seasonally March-December, the tour starts and ends at the historic Union Station.
3. KC Barbecue Tours
Of course, Kansas City has a barbecue tour. With more than 100 barbecue joints, KC Barbecue Tours takes you beyond the well-known eateries, offering a look at — and taste of — some of the off-the-beaten path barbecue restaurants in the metropolitan area. Tours typically visit four spots, with each providing delicious samples and water. Adult beverages can always be purchased during stops. The family-friendly tour includes transportation to each restaurant. KC Barbecue Tours also offers private tours.
Pro Tip: If you have dietary restrictions, let KC Barbecue Tours know in advance, so it can do its best to accommodate them. Vegetarian and vegan options will be limited.
4. The Roasterie Coffee Company
The historic DC-3 airplane outside The Roasterie Coffee Company’s main location hints that you’re in for a unique visit. Before sampling a delicious cup of coffee made with freshly roasted beans, enjoy a fun and informative tour of the warehouse and roasting process. An hour-long tour, which is free, takes you through a brief history of the creation of coffee — you can thank an ancient goat herder — as well as the roasting process. You’ll be salivating for a cup of brew by the end of the tour. You’ll also appreciate the work that goes into making the tasty coffee, espresso, or latte — with a cute heart or other artwork the barista adds — at The Roasterie.
Pro Tip: The Roasterie has four other locations in the area, as well as providing coffee packages in stores, restaurants, and hotels.
5. KC Segway Tours
Explore Kansas City’s history and art while riding a Segway. Featuring stops at some of the city’s sites, such as Nelson Atkins Museum, Country Club Plaza, and the historic Westport neighborhood, the museum, pranks, and history is one of the fun tours offered by KC Segway Tours. Art enthusiasts enjoy touring the public art at the Nelson Atkins Museum’s sculpture garden, as well as the fountains and sculptures at Country Club Plaza. History tours include looks into the city’s train and covered wagon trails, including stops at the Liberty Memorial and 18th and Vine District. Bicycle tours are also offered, featuring tours of Kansas City’s barbecue and beer scene.
6. Boulevard Brewing Company
Learn the story behind Kansas City’s popular brewery as you traverse the Boulevard Brewing Company’s campus, watching the brew-making process. Learn about the beer’s history and what makes it so popular, not just in Kansas City, but across the country. You’ll see artifacts and memorabilia, such as ads, bottles, and bottlecaps. Each tour’s conclusion includes a sample drink. While you must be at least 21 to drink, tours are open for people seven years old and older.
Pro Tip: The majority of the brewery tour is accessible, but a few spots are stairs-only.
7. KC Walking Tours
Explore Kansas City architecture, history, art, and even its food scene, close-up with KC Walking Tours. Lasting from 1 to 2 hours, adventures cover half-a-mile to 1.5 miles. Explore the historic River Market area, including City Market and the neighborhood’s architecture. Downtown walking tours showcase the city’s beautiful architecture and historical anecdotes. A food tour explores cuisine in the River Market, while a brewery tour covers beer joints. You can also enjoy a hop on and off streetcar tour. Each tour is led by a guide knowledgeable of city history and fun facts.
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes for the tour. KC Walking Tours will do its best to accommodate wheelchairs and walking frames on tours. Pets are not allowed on the tour.
8. Taste of KC Food Tours
Everyone knows Kansas City is home to great barbecue, but its culinary scene is so much more than great ribs, brisket, and burnt ends. Taste of KC Food Tours takes you on a 3-hour tour of unique local eateries in the River Market and Crossroads Art districts. Bring your appetite, as you’ll be sampling local dining spots featuring pizza, hoagies, and even international fare. Check out the Prohibition Tour, taking you to speakeasies and brothels that once thumbed their noses to the ban on alcohol and fun. You’ll also enjoy a private tour of a distillery in the 3.5-hour tour. Of course, there will be cocktails.
Pro Tip: As you travel by bus between restaurants, your guide will share fun historical facts about the area.
9. First Fridays
First Fridays celebrate Kansas City art, as galleries, studios, and museums in the Crossroads Art District open their doors, staying open late on the first Friday of the month. Enjoy a self-guided walk through the area, taking in the eclectic art scene, celebrating local artists, as well as nationally known creators. Stop in at any of the unique shops and boutiques in the district. Don’t forget to enjoy dinner at a local eatery or a drink at a bar or tasting room.
10. Gangster Tours
From the Kansas City “Massacre” and mobster boss Tom Pendergast’s rule, the city has seen its share of organized crime. The KC Gangster Tour starts at Union Station, site of a major shootout in 1933, when Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd and others attacked law enforcement officers escorting a colleague to jail. You can still see a bullet hole outside the renovated train depot. Learn about Kansas City’s seedy history on your 90-minute guided tour.
Pro Tip: Tours are offered each Saturday.
11. Pioneer Trails Adventures
See where President Harry S. Truman worked as a youth, the jail where outlaw brothers Jesse and Frank James were held, and first lady Bess Truman’s birthplace among the historical sites on tours offered by Pioneer Trails Adventures in Independence. Horse-drawn covered wagons take you on 20–30-minute tours of Truman’s hometown. Taking off from the National Frontier Trails Museum, Pioneer Trails Adventures also offers an hour-long city tour, holiday lights outing, and ghost tours.
Pro Tip: Combine your tour with a visit to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.
12. Caffeine Crawl
Originating in Kansas City in 2011, Caffeine Crawl has become popular around the country. But, maintaining its roots, Caffeine Crawl traverses the city highlighting unique local coffeehouses and tea shops. Crawlers select a tour route and meet their guide at the participating locations, where they learn about the coffee shop’s history and bean roasting before sampling drinks specially created for the tour. With five to six stops, a Caffeine Crawl lasts up to five hours.
Pro Tip: You may want to bring a bottle of water along on the tour to hydrate between stops.
13. Self-Guided Tours
Create your own tour of Kansas City with a self-guided tour. From exploring downtown architecture, Crossroads art, and the city’s water fountains, Kansas City is your blank canvas. How about creating your own Kansas City film tour? The neat thing about a self-guided tour is that you can mix and match attractions, such as exploring Union Station and the World War I Memorial along with the historic Crown Center and Hallmark.