You will find Kansas City on the western edge of the state of Missouri. There is a lot to love about the city and it will not take you long to discover it.
Famed for its barbeques, jazz music and (surprisingly) its fountains of which there are more than 200. If you are in the Great Plains it would make no sense to miss out on a trip to KC.
Besides the stand-out sights, top class museums and thrilling amusement and water parks, Kansas City is full of pretty neighborhoods and areas of effortless charm that will keep you easily hooked and enjoying the vibe of the city for at least a week.
These are the best things to do in Kansas City:
1. Visit the National World War 1 Museum
The National World War 1 Museum is renowned throughout the country for being one of the best of its kind. The museum is housed in a rather modern building with a glass walkway over a field of red poppies: a powerful reminder of the combat in the trenches in the First World War. Many Americans overlook the First World War but this museum, with its vast informative displays and cabinets full of weapons and uniforms, certainly does not. Visit the museum’s Liberty Memorial for some of the best panoramic views of Kansas City.
2. Get your thrills at Worlds of Fun
The Worlds of Fun theme park covers a whopping 235 acres and has rides for all ages including the legendary Mamba rollercoaster which, like the snake that shares its name, is one of the fastest and scariest in the world. The park is also home to the Dinosaurs Alive attraction which features life size dinosaurs that will thrill children and adults alike. In the summertime, the park is open from 10 in the morning until 10 at night.
3. Learn about African American Baseball
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is one of the few museums in the United States to explore the world of baseball when it was racially segregated. There were once African American only teams such as the New York Black Yankees and the story of the sports segregation and eventual integration is explored in depth at this museum. The museum itself can be found at the 18th and Vine Complex in Downtown Kansas City.
4. Go Wild at the Kansas City Zoo
The Kansas City Zoo was founded over a century ago in 1909 and continues to attract large crowds to this day. The zoo is set in an area of over 200 acres and is best known for its Kenya and Tiger Trail exhibits. The zoo has recently added koala bears to its already impressive roster. As with many zoos, the exhibits are spread out and you should expect to do plenty of walking and allow a full day for visiting the zoo.
5. Shop at the Country Club Plaza
The Country Club Plaza is the premiere shopping destination in Kansas City but the real reason to visit is to admire the architecture of the Spanish architecture. The district was built in the 1920s and has been a commercial area ever since. There are walking tour brochures available, allowing you to tour the sights of the area and providing details of the main sights, including the sculptures. Most notable are the bullfight mural on Central Street and the impressive Neptune Fountain.
6. Get funky at the American Jazz Museum
Another great museum housed downtown at the 18th and Vine Complex, is the American Jazz Museum. The museum is a great place to learn about the history of jazz in the area including the different styles, instruments and famous musicians that once resided in Kansas City. One of the most notable jazz musicians, Charlie Parker, actually lived and played in this very neighborhood. The museum is displayed in a stylish manner and is, on the whole, very interactive.
7. Marvel at lots of hair
This may sound like an odd thing to do whilst in Kansas City but hair art was actually a very popular form of art in the 1800’s. Leila’s Hair Museum, situated in Independence (just east of Kansas City), is a quirky but entertaining museum displaying the largest collection of wreaths and jewelery made from hair. The collection is the only one of its kind on display to the public making it a truly unique experience and one that is guaranteed to stick in your memory.
8. Appreciate Art at the Nelson Atkins Museum
The Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City is as well known for its impressive architecture as it is known for its collection of art. The building itself is built in impressive neoclassical style and looks almost like a chandelier emerging from the surrounding greenery. The collection housed at the museum consists of a number of paintings and photographs from Europe as well as a vast and impressive collection of Asian artwork both past and present.
9. Experience College Basketball
The College Basketball Experience is really just a jazzed up name for a basketball hall of fame. The museum is full of enough memorabilia to give any fan of the sport a thrill. Even guests who aren’t basketball nerds will enjoy having a go at free throws and commentating as others have a go. Whilst visiting the museum, you can also look at the adjoined Sprint Center which is currently used for concerts but is on the hunt its own franchise.
10. Learn about steamboats
The Arabia Steamboat Museum, located on Grand Boulevard in Kansas City, is unlike other museums. It is home to a whopping 200 tonnes of salvaged items (some may call it junk, others call it treasure). The items were rescued from the Missouri River when a steamboat sank in 1856 and, despite the river claiming many casualties over the years, there are no other museums that have managed to salvage lost goods and put them on display like this one.
11. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Located in a handy spot on Warwick Boulevard, close to the Country Club Plaza, this museum is a real trend setter. The exhibitions here consist of some of the worlds up and coming contemporary artwork and are regularly changing to keep things fresh. Free guided tours are available and are a great way to learn about the artwork whilst appreciating it. The cafe within the museum, Cafe Sebastian, has been voted as one of the best restaurants in the country and if you have some time (and money) to spare it is well worth eating here.
12. The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
Well, you might not be able to play with them, but the toys housed within this museum are some of the worlds most valuable and rarest. The collection began in 1982 when two private collectors joined forces. The museum was then 7,000 square feet in area. It now occupies 33,000 square feet and houses 72,000 objects. It is one of the largest collections of antique toys open to the public. At only $5 to get in (free for under 4s) it is pretty good value too.
13. Swat up at the Public Library
The Kansas City Public Library is at once noticeable due to the so-called Community Bookshelf outside the main library building. The Community Bookshelf consists of model book spines, each measuring 25 feet, which depict certain books recommended by readers in the city. The Central Library is currently home to an exhibition showcasing Shakespeare in his early years and even has his first folio, thought to be one of the rarest and most valuable books in the world.
14. See Kansas City’s Crown Jewel
Referred to as Kansas City’s Crown Jewel, the Kauffman Stadium is home to the Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball team. Since it opened in 1973, the stadium has played host to an impressive 77,000,000 fans. Tours of the stadium include access to the Royals hall of fame, a close up look at the largest HD screen at any baseball stadium and an interactive kids area. A tour of the stadium is a great experience for Royals fans or fans of the sport in general.
15. Visit another of Kansas City’s Crowns
Another crown in Kansas City worth visiting is the Crown Center, a complex in the Downtown area of the city. The main attractions within the Crown Center are the Sealife Aquarium, home to 5,000 sea creatures, and the Legoland Discovery Center, an interactive Lego experience with an impressive Lego shop. The Center is also a great place to see a musical or play with the nationally renowned Coterie Theater and Musical Theater Heritage.
16. Drink the Nectar of Kansas City
The Boulevard Brewing Company has grown from a small local operation to the biggest, and most popular, brewery in the Midwest. The brewery produces a range of fresh and flavourful beers using local ingredients. Tours of the large facility are free and last for forty minutes. The tours explore the history of the company, the brewing process and, of course, the obligatory tasting room, where you can sample the best Boulevard Brewing Company has to offer. There are also more specialized tours available for those who don’t mind paying for more knowledge (and more tasting.).
17. Visit the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts
Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts looks rather like the Sydney Opera House and within the city it is just as iconic. The unusual building began life as a drawing on the back of a napkin and, now complete, covers an area of 285,000 square feet. The venue is one of the best places in Kansas City to see a musical or play and the restaurant here, which describes itself as Modern-American cuisine, is also top notch.
18. Chill out in Loose Park
Loose Park is only the third largest park in Kansas City but it is arguably the city’s most popular. Located on 51st Street, the park is home to a lake, water park, picnic area and a rose garden which is home to an impressive collection of over 4,000 roses. There are also some Civil War markers within the park that mark the locations that General Sterling Price once commanded his gunmen to situate themselves. Its location within the city makes it a perfect place to get some fresh air and relax win natural surroundings.
19. Learn about the history of flight
This impressive aviation museum hidden away in hanger 9 of the Missouri Downtown Airport started life with two men pondering upon the best way of restoring an aircraft. The collection has vastly grown within the last thirty years and is now home to a number of aviation related vehicles both flying and non-flying. There are also a number of flight simulators on display which offer an intriguing insight into the training of pilots past and present. Entry to the National Airline History Museum is $8.
20. Visit two house museums
The Wornall House Museum in Kansas City is the former home of John Warnell and his family. It is open to the public and has been furnished and restored to represent how life would have been for a family in the American Civil War. The nearby Majors House, former home of Alexander Majors, was built in 1856 and sits on 300 acres of farmland. The building has nine rooms, is open to the public and, like the Wornall House, is decorated and fitted out in period style.
21. Feel the need for speed at Kansas City Speedway
Fancy watching some high-speed, exhilarating motor action after the relative tranquility of the museums in Kansas City and don’t mind to head over to the Kansas side of KC? If so, then the Kansas City Speedway is the place to head to. The Richard Petty Driving Experience puts you in the saddle of a 600 horsepower monster, with the opportunity of doing 50 breathtaking laps of the course. If the thought of driving such a powerful machine worries you, then why not let one of the professionals take you round the track.
22. Get wet at Schlitterbahn
Also located on the Kansas side of KC is the Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The park Storm Blaster ride is a blend of a water slide and a rollercoaster where water jets propel you to the top of a massive tower before you rapidly begin your ascent back down to earth.
23. Visit a Temple
Just East of Kansas City, in Independence, is the Independence Temple. Construction of the Temple was completed in 1994. The Temple is a very unusual and striking building that looks like something out of a fairytale. The building is a house of worship and place of education and it dominates the skyline of the area. It is the headquarters for the Community of Christ.
24. Go to a biker bar
One of Kansas City’s most popular bars is the Knuckleheads Saloon. The bar is popular with tourists and locals alike. Knuckleheads serves American food and hosts a number of bands and other music including a number of Elvis impersonators. The bar is as close as you can get to a proper biker bar without visiting the “wrong side of the tracks”.
25. Escape from the Union Station
The Union Station building formerly served Kansas City and the surrounding are before closing in 1985. The building is still put to good use however and is full of attractions that are worthy of making it onto your Kansas City itinerary. Current attractions include the Escape Room which pits members of the public together in an attempt to escape from a room by solving a series of puzzles. There is also a Da Vinci Exhibition and events throughout the year including the Kansas City Makers Fair.