Straddling the midwestern states of Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is renowned for its saucy barbecue, abundant fountains, and tree-lined streets. Whether you’re eager to delve into the city’s rich history, cheer on the Chiefs, or savor melt-in-your-mouth barbecue, this guide will help you discover the best things to do in Kansas City.
Things To Do In Kansas City
1. Union Station
This beautifully restored, century-old train station is one of Kansas City’s most historic landmarks. More than just an architectural marvel, Union Station houses a wealth of fascinating exhibits and interactive experiences that detail its past and celebrate the dynamic present. Union Station is also home to Science City — an award-winning science center — and the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium.
2. National WWI Museum And Memorial
Perched atop a hill a short stroll from Union Station, you’ll find the National WWI Museum, the nation’s official museum dedicated to the Great War. It sits adjacent to Liberty Memorial, an iconic Kansas City landmark honoring those who served in World War I. Tour the museum to deepen your understanding of this pivotal time in history, then ascend the tower for unparalleled views of Kansas City’s impressive skyline.
3. Art Museums
Delve into Kansas City’s vibrant art scene by visiting its esteemed art museums. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Art welcome visitors without charging an admission fee. The Nelson-Atkins offers an extensive collection spanning over 5,000 years, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary masterpieces. You’ll definitely want to stroll through the museum’s sculpture park and snap a selfie with one of four oversized shuttlecocks during your visit.
If you’re eager to explore more modern works, head to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It houses a remarkable array of frequently changing 20th- and 21st-century artworks, ensuring every visit offers something new to discover.
4. Kansas City Zoo
The Kansas City Zoo is the perfect destination for animal lovers of all ages. Sprawling across an impressive 200 acres, this AZA-accredited zoological park showcases a remarkable array of creatures from every corner of the globe. The zoo offers several interactive experiences, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of its residents. These experiences include:
- The Helzberg Penguin Plaza
- The Lorikeet Feeding
- The Stingray Bay Touch Tank
- The Sea Lion Show
5. Country Club Plaza
Drawing inspiration from the architecture of Seville, Spain, the Country Club Plaza is an upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment district that has been charming visitors since 1923. Fashion enthusiasts will adore the variety of high-end boutiques such as Coach and Tiffany. However, Made in KC is also an excellent spot for unique souvenirs and gifts. Beyond shopping and dining, the Country Club Plaza hosts various events throughout the year, from art fairs to impressive holiday light displays.
6. Power & Light District
The Power & Light District pulsates as the heart of Kansas City’s lively entertainment scene. Check out KC Live! for live music events, grab a succulent bite at 801 Chophouse, or unwind with a craft cocktail at SoT.
7. Farmers Markets
If you’re visiting Kansas City on the weekend, shop locally at a farmers market. You can find locally grown produce, freshly baked goods, and handcrafted items at the most popular markets, including City Market, Overland Park Farmers’ Market, and Brookside Farmers Market.
8. Public Gardens
Kansas City has several public gardens filled with natural beauty. Located about 45 minutes southeast of the Power & Light District, Powell Gardens is a 970-acre botanical garden with various themed areas like the Island Garden, Perennial Garden, and Meadow Pavilion. The Heartland Harvest Garden, considered America’s largest edible landscape, is also worth exploring.
Closer to the city’s core, Kemper Memorial Gardens provides an intimate, urban oasis adorned with seasonal flowers and serene water features. This verdant retreat honors Ewing and Muriel Kauffman’s significant contributions to the community.
The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a 300-acre sanctuary showcasing diverse ecosystems and beautiful landscapes in a southern suburb on the Kansas side of the state line. With over 5 miles of trails and numerous themed gardens, like the Monet Garden and Erickson Water Garden, it’s an ideal place to immerse yourself in the splendor of nature.
9. Professional Sports
Kansas City is a playground for sports enthusiasts, offering games and experiences to pump your adrenaline. Experience the roaring atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Join a sea of cheering fans and feel the electric energy at the loudest stadium in the NFL as you watch the Super Bowl LVII champs. Or experience America’s favorite pastime at Kauffman Stadium. Root for the Royals, munch on barbecue brisket nachos, and create lasting memories amidst the crack of the bat and cheer of the crowd.
But Kansas City has more to offer than its NFL and MLB teams. Feel the rush of high-speed racing action at the Kansas Speedway with NASCAR races and other high-octane events throughout the year. Test your skills, learn about famed athletes, and delve into basketball’s celebrated past at the College Basketball Experience. And pay tribute to the African American pioneers of baseball at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. This inspirational institution highlights these trailblazers’ stories, artifacts, and achievements, presenting a testament to their profound impact on America’s favorite pastime.
Kansas City Restaurants
Kansas City has an impressive food scene, with its barbecue taking center stage. But it’s home to much more than burnt ends and tangy sauce, offering an array of eateries that satisfy any palate. These are some of my favorites:
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
No visit to Kansas City is complete without a trip to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. A household name in the Barbecue Capital of the World, Joe’s has won many awards for its smoky meats and tantalizing sauce. The original location, in a gas station at the corner of 47th and Mission, adds to its unique charm and character. Be sure to try the legendary Z-Man Sandwich, a mouthwatering combination of slow-smoked brisket, provolone cheese, and crispy onion rings served on a Kaiser roll.
Located on the edge of the Country Club Plaza, Cafe Trio features contemporary American cuisine with a twist. Try the slow-braised beef short ribs served over bacon and white cheddar polenta, or sip a premium frozen slushy (like The Platinum Blondie) while enjoying stunning views of the Country Club Plaza.
The Westside Local
In the Crossroads District, The Westside Local offers farm-to-table dishes highlighting local producers. Start with a creative cocktail and the elote tater tots. My favorite is the kale salad with shaved Brussels sprouts, but the burgers are all amazing. When weather permits, take advantage of their beer garden, an urban oasis where you can enjoy savoring the flavors of Kansas City.
Kansas City Hotels
If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Kansas City, I recommend Hotel Kansas City. Located in the beautifully restored Kansas City Club building, it’s ideally situated on the edge of the Power & Light District and just a few blocks from the Kansas City Convention Center. The rooms are spacious, comfortable, and beautifully decorated in a 1920s Victorian style. Other great accommodations include The Fontaine and the Crossroads Hotel.
As you explore its rich history, savor the delectable food scene, and appreciate its beautiful outdoor spaces, it becomes clear that Kansas City delivers a unique blend of midwestern charm and urban sophistication. So, whether you’re visiting for a weekend or planning a longer stay, prepare to be captivated by this delightful cosmopolitan cowtown.