Kansas City is large, accessible, mid-western city with expansive historical implications, friendly citizens, and an abundance of entertainment. In this article we are going to discuss the 20 best things to do in Kansas City.
We lived and worked in Topeka for three months in the summer of 2023. During our time in Kansas we drove the 70 miles to KC a dozen times. Our family grew to appreciate Kansas City not just for the family-friendly activities and award winning barbecue, but for the clean and comfortable atmosphere found all throughout downtown. The people of this town deserve credit. You have made a special place for yourselves and all of us who visit. Thank you.
KC is a town known for many things: Barbecue, jazz, fountains, winning football and world-class museums to name a few. In this article we’re going to include a lot of these effects, but as you’ll see further down, there are many other sights around town that should not be missed.
The municipality feels large enough to keep you on your toes, yet is not overwhelming to navigate, and quickly becomes familiar. Some of the roads are tricky — some are downright crazy.
It is also amazing that all the ingredients of a metropolis are present without the typical problems and concerns found across the American landscape (at least not on the surface). In a dozen visits not once did we feel unsafe. When it comes to large, livable cities for families to raise children, Kansas City has to be in the running for nation’s best.
We’re obviously impressed with the “Paris of the Plains” because we can’t stop gushing. So let’s get moving along. We hope you enjoy this classic, American town as much as we did.
These are what we found to be the 20 best things to do in Kansas City.
Kansas City’s top-rated museum is the worlds’ most comprehensive WWI collection. 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.
This is our personal favorite thing to do in Kansas City because it is so unusual. Over 400 river boats sank in US rivers. While many were recovered, many were forgotten by time when they disappeared. The Steamboat Arabia Museum tells the story of one such boat that lay in hiding for 130 years; a boat that would eventually yield the the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.
Kansas City is known for BBQ as much as any other US city — which is why we made it our mission to eat all of it. We visited a dozen highly-rated Kansas City BBQ restaurants. I reckon we spent the better part of $900 on KC BBQ when all’s said and done. As you can imagine, it was a glorious, life-changing event. The BBQ in Kansas City prevails over anywhere else we’ve traveled, except maybe Austin, Texas. We recommend you eat all of it.
We invite you to read up on the 12 Best BBQ Restaurants in Kansas City.
People love public markets because they are awesome, and we love the River Market in Kansas City more than most! This is a true farmer market with stall after stall of gorgeous produce, some of which is very unusual. There are dozens of permanent stores and restaurants, as well as a large Asian Market (which is out of this world). The Arabia Steamboat is found next door.
Powell Botanical Gardens is the premiere botanical garden in Kansas City, in-state-bested by only Missouri Botanical Garden in Saint Louis. Powell Gardens creates surprises as it sprawls from one garden to the next. Some highlights are: the Island Garden, the Chapel (last photo in article), the Fountain Garden, the Barn and Silo, and Fortopia, a collection of kids’ forts designed by children.
In the late 1800s, black ballplayers were on professional teams with white players, however, racism and “Jim Crow” laws would force them out by 1900. In 1920, an organized league structure was formed that led to the creation of the Negro Leagues. Some of the greatest players to ever play the game came from the Negro Leagues. All baseball fans will want to visit.
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, which includes: African American, Ancient Egyptian, Asian, European, Contemporary, and Photography. They also offer rotating feature exhibits, workshops and art classes, and an awesome exterior sculpture garden.
On 202 beautiful acres in Swope Park, the Kansas City Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals. Voted one of America’s best zoos, it’s also ranked number one in the nation for African Animals Exhibits. Be sure to ride the ski lift in the back — it costs a couple of bucks but it’s worth it. The Kansas City Zoo is a guaranteed crowdpleaser for families with children. Open year round. Parking is free.
If you’re looking for a thrill ride or waterpark in Kansas City, Worlds of Fun / Oceans of Fun has both. This is largest fun park in Kansas City, home to more than 20 thrill rides, 8 roller coasters, countless water slides, a wave pool, Halloween Haunt, and more. Be sure to ride the Prowler, Mamba, Patriot, and Timberwolf. Here’s ticket information.
Union Station is an architectural masterpiece; a place for great adventure where Kansas City Connects. That’s what their website says. For those of us not selling something, it is a beautiful building that is home to a few family friendly excursions: Science City, The Planetarium, the Model Trail Gallery, and the Regnier Extreme Scream Theater (showings). A definite must-do in KC.
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Topeka is seldom discussed on a national-level, but it’s a nice town in a beautiful setting with some solid attractions. Our strongest recommendations are taking the Dome Tour at the Kansas State Capitol, the only domed US capitol building that gives tours, the Evel Knievel Museum, and the National Historic Site of Brown v. Board of Education, which will break your heart.
If you’d like to know all the best things to do in Topeka, here’s our Complete Guide.
If we were to designate one of the 20 Kansas City things to do a “hidden gem”, the Historic West Bottoms neighborhood would be it. In this old, industrial neighborhood on the Kansas side of the city you’ll find a large assortment of antique stores, restaurants (including famed barbecue joint Chef J BBQ), and some really incredible architecture. A great place to stroll, shop, or take photos.
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 above, 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 Kansas City things to do that are outside the box, this is a great experience.
Not all baseball stadiums are created equal and Kauffman Stadium is a good one. Despite being one of the older stadiums still in use (built in 1973), it’s held up well (with two renovations), and is quite beautiful considering the thing is made of concrete. There isn’t much to do in the area around the park because it is outside the city a ways. Rather than eating corn dogs, get some Harp BBQ before the game!
One of the most popular Kansas City things to do is the Money Museum. Here you can see how the Bank processes millions of dollars in currency each day, as well as lift a real gold bar, view the historic Harry S. Truman coin collection (very cool), and enjoy interactive exhibits while learning about the U.S. economy. And everyone gets to take home a bag of shredded currency!
If we were wealthy and moved to Kansas City — two things unlikely to happen — we would want to live in Loose Park. The mansions are exquisite on the south side of downtown, yet the community feels open and accessible to everyone. We drove up and down the streets admiring the beautiful neighborhood, then parked ourselves at a lovely rose garden to devour Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue.
The Kauffmans’ world travels inspired the creation of a space comparable to parks throughout Europe. The garden features bronze sculptures among lush and colorful annual and perennial plantings, pruned foliage framed by stone walls, brick walkways and playful fountains. The garden is free to enter and absolutely worth an hour to contemplate the colorful arrangements.
The bohemian town of Lawrence, Kansas offers more than your average mid-western city. Between the beautiful campus of Kansas University, the more than 50 public parks and trails, the nationally-recognized art scene, and a compelling place in our nation’s history, there are an abundance of culturally significant and fun things to do. A day trip to Lawrence is one of the best things to do in Kansas City.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1994 and was founded by R. Crosby Kemper Jr. and Bebe Kemper. It was the first museum established to collect and present contemporary art in the state of Missouri. Kemper Museum exhibitions connect visitors with artists from all over the world and provides a platform for emerging and mid-career artists to realize ambitious projects.
Country Club Plaza was designed in 1922 as the nation’s first suburban shopping district. Since then, its open-air public art gallery has continuously added to its collection, with fountains, sculptures and murals that bring the very best of the Old World and the New. If you’re looking to shop and eat in an upscale section of town, this is one of the best things to do in Kansas City.
We came to town wanting to love KC and we left town more than satisfied with our experience. Kansas City was largely pleasing to the eye with a generally pleasant, clean, and self-respecting citizenry.
The blight that dons so many large US cities was not apparent in Kansas City; we are told it is in the outer parts of the city; we had no need to travel there so it was essentially invisible.
Kansas City never feels overwhelming, even in afternoon traffic. It is easy to get around in town and parking is plentiful. The historical buildings are ubiquitous and not necessarily in prime condition, but they are kept clean, have been repurposed, and are charming as heck. A big part of KC’s allure is the 100-year-old ambience.
If you’re looking for a couple of great days in KC, try the following ideas:
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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