10 Best Kansas City Museums

Last updated: October 9th, 2023 | Originally published: October 8, 2023
Kansas City Museums
Kansas City Museums

Kansas City is a classic American town with a number of well-deserved recognitions. The Kansas City Chiefs are the toast of football, and Kansas City BBQ claims their share of the title, “World’s Best.”

In this article we’re going to touch upon one of the less-obvious features of this mid-western Metropolis: The enviable collection of high-quality Kansas City museums found around town. We hope you enjoy!

1. The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Kansas City Museums
WWI Museum — Kansas City Museums

Kansas City’s top-rated museum is the worlds’ most comprehensive WWI collection. In 1919, Kansas City leaders formed the Liberty Memorial Association, and along with the citizens of Kansas City they raised more than $2.5 million in just 10 days.

The exterior of the museum is visible from all over town — the tower stands over the city like a sentinel. The interior of the museum is sleek, tasteful, and loaded with artifacts and information.

If you are coming to Kansas City you don’t want to miss the WWI Museum. It is one of the finest collections in our nation and arguably the best museum in Kansas City.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00-17:00. Closed Mondays.

Admission: Adults ($18); Seniors/Military ($14); Youth under 16 ($10)

Parking: Free

2. Arabia Steamboat Museum

Kansas City Museums
Steamboat Arabia Museum — Kansas City Museums

This is our personal favorite museum in Kansas City because it is so unusual. The mid-1800’s was an era of river boat transportation, and over 400 of them sank during their useful years across the United States. While many boats were recovered (or scavenged), many of them disappeared from sight, nestled deep into the mud, and were forgotten by time.

The Steamboat Arabia Museum tells the story of one such boat that lay in hiding for over 130 years. After a series of fateful conversations between brave and curious men, the hunt for the Arabia began. The boat would eventually yield the the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.

The story is simply incredible, the kind that sends shivers up the spine. We strongly rec’ this one.

Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00-17:00. Sunday 12:00-17:00.

Admission: Adults ($16.50); Seniors ($15.50); Kids under 15 ($6.50); Kids Under 3 (free).

Parking: Lots of free parking on nearby streets.

3. Negro Leagues Museum

Kansas City Museums
Negro leagues Museum — Kansas City Museums

African-Americans began to play baseball in the late 1800s on military teams, college teams, and company teams. They eventually found their way to professional teams with white players, however, racism and “Jim Crow” laws would force them from these teams by 1900. In 1920, an organized league structure was formed that led to the creation of the Negro Leagues.

Learn about this seldom discussed chapter of Americana at the Negro Leagues Museum. The history is laid out chapter by chapter. Some of the greatest players to ever play the game came from the Negro Leagues. Some you’ve heard of; some perhaps not.

This is the kind of place that any baseball fan would not want to miss.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-17:00; Sunday 12:00-17:00; Closed Mondays.

Admission: Adults ($10); Seniors ($9); Kids 5-12 ($6); Under 5 (free).

Parking: Street parking is free.

4. Nelson-Atkins — Kansas City Museums

Kansas City Museums
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is the preeminent Art Museum in Kansas City. Self-proclaimed Kansas City’s Art Museum, the Nelson Atkins houses a broad collection of artwork, including: African American, Ancient Egyptian, Asian, Native American, European, Contemporary, Modern, and Photography. They also have rotating feature exhibits and a calendar of workshops and art classes.

Perhaps the most enjoyable exhibit is the exterior sculpture garden. Here you will admire the world’s largest shuttlecocks, as well as many more interesting works of art.

The Nelson Atkins is one of the best Museums in Kansas City, especially if you enjoy art.

Hours: Saturday-Monday 10:00-17:00; Thursday-Friday 10:00-21:00; Closed Tuesday-Wednesday.

Admission: Free. Reserve tickets online in advance (yes, even though it is free).

Parking: $14. Free Parking is across the street on 45th near Rockhill Rd (MAP).

5. Independence LDS Visitor Center

Kansas City Museums
LDS Historical Museum — Kansas City Museums

A significant chapter in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) took place here in Independence, MO. Before settling in Salt Lake City, there was a time when the LDS church advanced west to the Kansas City area. The locals became hostile towards the Saints as they increased in numbers, and forced them to flee from their lands at gunpoint.

The LDS church maintains ownership of a land plot in Independence, which is where the Visitor Center resides. Here you can learn about the early history of the church, including this dark and interesting chapter. Across the street is the massive temple you see below, which is owned by the Community of Christ Church (an off-shoot of the LDS church). And even more intriguing is, the other two corner plots are owned by yet another off-shoot of the LDS church, including the original LDS temple plot.

If you’re looking for a Kansas City Museum that is outside the box, this is a great experience.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00-17:00; Sunday 13:00-17:00.

Admission: Free

Parking: Free

Kansas City Museums
Kansas City Museums

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6. Money Museum — Kansas City Museums

Kansas City Museums
Federal Reserve — Kansas City Museums

One of the most popular museums in Kansas City is the Money Museum. Here you can see how the Bank processes millions of dollars in currency each day, lift a real gold bar, view the historic Harry S. Truman coin collection (very cool), and enjoy an assortment of interactive exhibits while learning about the U.S. economy.

This is a wonderful place to for children to develop a greater understanding of how money and the economy work to allow our civilization to continue. The signage is written so that even gradeschoolers can understand. And everyone gets to take home a bag of shredded currency!

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30-16:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

Parking: Free

7. KU Biodiversity Natural History Museum

Kansas City Museums
University of Kansas — Kansas City Museums

One of the best museums in Kansas City region is in Lawrence at the University of Kansas. The KU biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum on the KU campus is packed with interesting exhibits.

Some of the highlights of the museum are: A satisfying assortment of dinosaur skeletons and fossils; birds and mammals; live snakes and insects; flora and fauna of the Great Plains; HIV virology; and a wild, mind-bending theoretical exhibit explaining how land mammals became whales.

The KU Natural History museum is worthy just for the dinosaur skeletons — a great place to bring the kids. While you’re here be sure to enjoy the University of Kansas campus.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9:00-17:00; Sunday 12:00-16:00; Closed Mondays

Admission: Suggested donation of $7 for adults and $4 for children

Parking: Free if you can find it.

8. Evel Knievel Museum — Kansas City Museums

Things to do in KC
Evel Knievel Museum — Kansas City Museums

Growing up in the 70’s/80’s Evel Knievel was America’s daredevil, and any attempt at bravery could draw reference to his death-defying feats. He was Elvis Presley on a motorcycle; the windy edge of the American dream. He jumped the fountains at Caesar’s Palace, 14 greyhound buses (a world-record), and fired himself in a rocket over the Snake River Gorge (which failed miserably). In the end he suffered 433 bone fractures.

Learn how it all went down at the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas. Admiring his stunts (and horrifying crashes) is one of the best things to do in any of the Kansas City museums.

We also recommend spending the measly $5 to experience the virtual Evel Knievel jump!

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-17:00.

Admission: Adults ($15); Seniors, Vets, Active Duty ($12); Students ($7); Children under 8 (free).

Parking: Free

If you’d like to know about all the interesting things to do in Topeka, Kansas this weekend, check out our Complete Guide to Topeka!

9. Brown Vs. Board of Education Nat. Hist. Site

Things to do in KC
Brown v. Board of Education Museum

The path to equality has been anything but smooth. It’s taken courage and dedication by everyday people coming together for a common goal to carry the country toward true equality. Parents, teachers, secretaries, welders, ministers and students drove their communities, and the country along with them, toward justice in a series of often unsteady turns leading to the Brown v. Board Decision

One of the Kansas “claims to fame” is the historical event, Brown v. Board of Education. The National Historic Site is located at the former Sumner Elementary-School-turned-museum where schoolgirl Linda Brown was refused admission.

The whole saga is represented here; it is interesting, painful, and horrifying. This dark chapter in our history will shock anyone born in the 1970’s or later. The drive to Topeka is worth the time and gas money, especially if you visit the Evel Knievel Museum while you’re here.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 09:00-17:00.

Admission: Free

Parking: Free

10. Glore Psychiatric — Kansas City Museums

Things to do in KC
Glore State Hospital — Kansas City Museums

The Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri has been called “One of the 50 most unusual museums in the country”. It is the largest of its kind in the world. On your exploration of the museum you will see historic treatments, sustainability practices, patient art work, therapy options and so much more!

Could you swallow a nail? How about 453 of them? One patient in St. Joseph’s State Lunatic Asylum did just that. At the Glore Psychiatric Museum you will not only learn about the history of this particular mental health hospital, but the ebbs and flows of mental health treatment over the past 150 years.

If you’ve never visited a psychiatric state hospital museum before, this is a great place to start!

Hours: Daily 10:00-17:00

Admission: Adults ($10); Seniors ($8); Students ($7); Children 4-6 ($2); Children under 4 (free).

Parking: Free

An Honest Conclusion for Kansas City Museums

Things to do in KC
Union Station — Kansas City Museums

Kansas City is one of the most underrated cities in America. The downtown is clean and full of interesting history and commerce.

We visited Kansas City a dozen times over our three-month assignment in Topeka and found the museums of Kansas City to be our favorite component of the experience.

That was a lie. It’s the BBQ. The BBQ was amazing. Read about the 12 Best BBQ restaurants HERE!

But after the BBQ the Kansas City Museums were our favorite. We strongly recommend the WWI Museum and the Steamboat Arabia. I wouldn’t leave town without seeing both (and maybe the Negro Leagues Museum if you’re a baseball fan). The others are wonderful as well.

We hope you enjoy Kansas City and their museums as much as we did!

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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