— KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI — Kansas City sits in the middle of the United States and although it is surrounded by more rural landscapes, you’ll find its urban core holds a wide range of activities for even the most discerning traveler.
The locals are friendly, and the recent rejuvenation of the downtown urban core provides opportunities for every taste. Finding some world-class BBQ is a given, but here are some of the best things to do in Kansas City Missouri.
1. City Market
Each Saturday and Sunday, a farmer’s market is held each weekend in the historic River Market District of Kansas City. Ranging from fresh vegetables, homemade crafts and bouquets of seasonal flowers, there’s something for everyone and it’s the perfect place to spend a morning or longer during the warmer months in Kansas City.
Bring your appetite as the City Market has had a recent rejuvenation in restaurants. Try Il Lazzarone for wood-fired pizza sure to solve your hunger. Stay on Delaware street and you’ll find fresh seasonal food options at the Farmhouse. Save room for Betty Rae’s ice cream, which offers more adventuresome flavors, Lavender and Honey, to the more traditional strawberry.
If the weather permits, enjoy the ice cream on the patio and people watch others enjoying the city scene. Staying on Delaware Street, visit Our Daily Nada, a self-proclaimed boozy bookstore. It’s a welcome add on to the district offering a variety of books with a comfortable setting to read or enjoy a coffee.
2. Garment District Museum
Although the times have changed, in the early 1900s Kansas City was a renowned garment district that rivaled New York City for the number of garments produced. Paying tribute to that legacy is the Historic Garment District Museum located in the Garment District at the crossroads of 9th Street and Broadway. The museum crosses two buildings with varying exhibits.
Check the website for what’s on schedule, but currently, the exhibit is “Pomp and Circumstance” and holds several gowns from various government inaugurations.
Check out the exhibit in the Poindexter museum as it holds a map of where the various factories that made Kansas City home. Including Nelly Don, a premier seamstress who created house dresses for women who were not only stylish but affordable. Be sure to have the guide tell her story as its one of entrepreneurship and scandal as she was once held for ransom!
3. Crossroads Art District
From colorful street art to elaborate art galleries, the crossroads district is Kansas City’s premier art area. On the first weekend of each month, the galleries stay open late offering a fantastic weekend activity for art gazing and people watching. You’ll find live music and food trucks from 5-9 PM. The area has some great restaurants so try something new.
The music and special events can vary each Friday, so check out https://kccrossroads.org/first-fridays/ for further information.
For a meal, I recommend Extra Virgin, a tapas restaurant offering small plates that’s perfect for sharing. From seafood to cheese plates, there is something everyone can enjoy. As the restaurant is right on Main street, you’ll be right in the middle of the action with easy walking distance to the various galleries.
Parking can be difficult to find so look into a rideshare or a convenient streetcar. The streetcar route follows a 2 mile stretch through the city and you’re sure to find a parking garage along the way.
4. Union Station
Although it used to be a transportation hub, these days there’s only one train a day heading to/from Chicago and some limited trains that will take you to Saint Louis.
The building itself has been lovingly restored to show it’s beauty. I dare say it is one of the prettiest buildings you can find in Kansas City. With tall ceilings and domes and marble floors, I can happily wander and keep gazing up! Currently, there are a few restaurants inside.
Recently it’s become a picture-taking hot spot as people celebrate the KC Chiefs heading to the Super Bowl taking with plenty of photo opportunities as Alpha-Lit KC has provided large signs announcing, “The Chiefs Kingdom” and “KC-AFC Champs”
Union Station is such a fun place to explore and its proximity to Crown center and the WW1 Museum make it the perfect place to add to your KC adventure.
5. Liberty Memorial and WW1 Museum
Liberty Memorial was built to honor the servicemen and women who took part in World War 1 and has been a Kansas City Landmark since the 1920s. In 2006, the site was designated a national historic landmark. The memorial sits on a hill and the skyline views can’t be missed. It’s a beautiful park area and as a local, I admit I do not visit here enough!
Museum opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Ticket prices range from $23 for adults with discounts provided for students and seniors. The primary exhibit focuses on the war and the timeline of 1914-1919 and provides artifacts, video and recreated trenches so that visitors receive an overall understanding of the war and its impacts.
Some exhibits change out periodically and you can find the most current exhibit information at this site: https://www.theworldwar.org/exhibitions
6. Science City
Housed in historic Union Station, Science City is a hands-on museum sure to delight the kids in your life. The exhibits are ever-changing but hold the interest of kids for hours! The simple machines at play are a playground that explores how simple machines impact daily life creating efficiency including levers, wheels, and pulleys.
A favorite is the zip line where children start at one end and try to carry themselves from one side to the other. Honestly, in today’s digital age full of screen time, it is great to see kids go back to more simple types of playing.
If you don’t have a fear of heights check out the sky bike. Putting the law of physics to the test, riders find themselves on a high wire 30 feet above the ground testing the center of gravity and nerves all at once! Riders ride forwards and backward across the line with a stunning view of Science City!
7. Lego Land & the Aquarium
For the younger crew or maybe just the young at heart, Lego Land and Sea Life Aquarium provide a perfect outing in the Crown Center area of Kansas City. Upon arrival, you can choose to tour one exhibit or both. You will get a discount if you choose to book both activities.
Legoland offers many opportunities to build Legos, play Lego-themed games and climb around a playground. My favorite area was a room full of Kansas City landmarks built entirely of legos. From KC Joe’s BBQ to the Kansas City Chief’s stadium, it’s a fantastic replica of the city and truly a work of art.
From a turtle rescue center allowing you a closeup view of rescued turtles to a view of penguins, the aquarium is sure to bring joy as you navigate throughout the aquarium. At the end of the tour, there is a doodle reef where you can create your sea creature on a tablet.
Wait just a couple of minutes and you’ll see your creature “come to life” on the huge screen spanning the whole room. Kids are amazed as they see their creatures swimming around and it’s fun to make more than one.
8. Country Club Plaza
Kansas City holds sister city status with Seville Spain and the Plaza area proves why. The architecture is truly Spanish like with mosaic tiles and fountains at the ready. It’s a pedestrian-friendly area begging for you to wander around and casually stroll.
For many years it was one of the most “posh” areas of Kansas City home to the major department stores and fine dining. The atmosphere remains but recently turnover in shops has become more common. Highlights now include the Made in KC shop, which focuses on products featuring KC at its best in memorabilia and souvenirs. You’ll find luxury stores like Kate Spade along with chains like H&M and the gap.
The plaza comes alive at Christmas time as each building is covered in classic Christmas lights of red or white. It’s a treat to bundle up and view the beauty of the lights. Some of the best bird’s eye views are on top of parking garages. From Thanksgiving through January, it’s a delight to bundle up and take a Christmas light stroll.
Each summer the plaza hosts an art fair that brings out a huge crowd. The streets are closed to drivers and stalls of photographs, paintings and metalwork fill the area for review. If the weather is right, enjoy some live music and al fresco dining as you join fellow art lovers.
If you’re not a fan of crowds, this probably isn’t you’re scene but the artists display some beautiful work that’s worth viewing.
9. Nelson Atkins Art Museum
Google shows over 8, 640 visitors enjoyed the Kansas City art museum and sculpture park ranking it one of the top attractions. Showcasing various periods of art from across the globe, it’s a great way to spend a rainy day or better yet visits when It’s sunny when the sculpture park can be fully enjoyed.
Providing free entry (apart from special exhibits) the museum is a great place to visit with friends or family. The museum is closed on Tuesdays but is open longer hours on Thursdays and Fridays.
The sculpture park covers 22 acres of land providing an excellent green space in the urban core. The Shuttlecock sculpture is the most recognizable piece of art in the park. You’ll find it splashed across Kanas City logos and T-shirts. The sculpture has been around since 1994 and stands 19 feet tall. Hard to miss as you wander around the area!
Find yourself back in the art gallery and explore the many rooms housing paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. I always lean towards the European section which contains a variety of portraits and landscapes. I can’t help but marvel at the talent shown in those paintings and the level of detail viewing paintings up close.
If you find yourself a bit peckish, head to the Rozelle Court Restaurant. The setting is a beautiful courtyard with all the extravagant beauty I might find in the European settings I admired in the paintings before. If not in need of a full meal, head to Thou Mayest coffee, a Kansas City staple for coffee or espresso drinks.
10. West Bottoms First Weekends
Kansas City West Bottoms became a hub of trading activity with steamships offloading goods as it traveled along the Missouri River. The area was a manufacturing hub through World War II as it built tanks for the U.S Army. The end of the war and a flood in the 50s saw the area go through a decline but left behind large manufacturing buildings.
Over the past 10 years, the area has seen a rejuvenation as the area is home to several shops selling home goods, repurposed furniture and antiques. Each first weekend, the shoppers visit the historic area for some quality shopping and exploring.
As the area has gained popularity, some shops remain open on other weekends and the area seems to be the next “go-to” area as apartment buildings are starting to pop up and new restaurants filling previously vacant buildings.
Check out Good JuJu which contains several floors full of repurposed furniture and knick-knacks that will inspire a home refresh with something truly unique.
11. Enjoy some world-class Kansas City BBQ
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the world-class BBQ scene in Kansas City. The annual American Royal competition is the largest in the world bringing global BBQ experts to compete for the top prize in BBQ meat and sauce. Held each fall in the September timeframe, it’s a fun event where you can try some BBQ, watch some demos and enjoy live music.
You will not lack options for BBQ when you visit but for a laid-back vibe, find yourself at Kansas City Joe’s. Go to the original restaurant in a gas station on the Kansas side of the metro area only 10 minutes from downtown Kansas City.
Try the Z man, thinly sliced brisket smothered in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce and topped with provolone cheese and onion ring held between a Kaiser roll bun. Joe’s is generous with portions and it’s so delicious!
For a more refined atmosphere, head to Jack Stacks in the crossroads. I enjoy the smoked turkey but a Kansas City Classic is burnt ends. Considered some of the most flavorful pieces of meat you’ll see why it’s every Kansas Citian’s favorite choice. While at Jack Stacks be sure to enjoy some side dishes with cheesy corn being a highlight.
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