Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Kansas City | Midwest Living

Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Kansas City

For a fun, well-rounded Midwest weekend getaway that’s easy on the wallet, check out free Kansas City attractions, such as the Hallmark Visitors Center, the Money Museum, Harley-Davidson factory tours, and the Nelson-Atkins and Kemper museums.

1) Hallmark Visitors Center You’ve sent the cards; now, you can see how they’re created. The world’s largest greeting card company makes its home downtown in Crown Center, where self-guided tours give a behind-the-scenes look at the creativity that goes into each product. You’ll see artists, writers, sculptors and painters at work, along with interactive displays and an exhibit highlighting the beloved Hallmark Hall of Fame television series. Keep an eye out for pieces of original art here and there, and cuddle up to the life-size Maxine mannequin for a photo op on your way out. (816) 274-3613;

Photo courtesy of

2) Kaleidoscope Hallmark also feeds young imaginations with this free creative workshop geared to kids 12 and younger. Set your little artists free at activity stations where they can create masterpieces by repurposing materials left from the card company’s manufacturing process. Projects and supplies vary but can include puzzles, melted crayons, black lights, die cuts, paints, markers and lots of scrap paper. Grown-ups can get in on the action, too: Tickets for family art sessions (also free) are available first-come, first-served. (816) 274-8300;

3) The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Known worldwide and recognized as one of the leading art museums in America, this recently renovated cultural powerhouse packs in more than 34,000 works of art. Asian and African art, European masterworks, American classics, photography, sculpture—whatever your interest, you’ll find something to admire. For a more in-depth experience, grab an MP3 player and headset in the lobby for a free audio tour about the collections, architecture and sculpture garden. Admission is free, but you’ll pay $5 to park in the garage. (816) 751-1278;

Photo courtesy of

4) The Money Museum It may seem ironic that a museum about money would wind up on a list of things to do on a budget, but this intriguing attraction is free. The Money Museum is part of Kansas City’s Federal Reserve Bank, a facility that sorts and transports cash to commercial banks and holds one of the largest automated cash vaults in the region. During self-guided visits, you can design currency, then e-mail a copy to yourself to print at home. Kids will get a kick out of the bags of shredded money the museum hands out as souvenirs. (816) 881-2683;

5) Boulevard Brewing Company The largest specialty brewer in the Midwest accommodates the curious with a 45-minute walking tour of its production facility. Knowledgeable, beer-loving guides fill you in on the company’s history and brewing process before pouring free samples. The basic public tour is free; $20 gets you upgraded to the 90-minute “unfiltered” version with a detailed look at areas usually off limits to the public, expanded tasting opportunities and a memento. Call ahead to save your spot; reservations are a must. (816) 474-7095;

Photo courtesy of

6) Harley-Davidson Vehicle and Powertrain Operations Rev up with a free one-hour factory tour to see how motorcycles are made. This 358,000-square-foot facility was built in 1998 to turn out Sportsters, Dynas and V-Rods. Even nonbikers will be impressed by the scope of this process. Watch a video before walking the factory floor to see assembly in action, and sit on bikes from the current production lines. Tickets are handed out first-come, first-served for weekday tours; plan to arrive early to snag yours. (816) 270-8200;

7) The Roasterie Warm up with a cup of joe and a free tour to see how this local plant creates its distinctive air-roasted Arabica coffee. “Cupping” is to coffee what tasting is to wine; the Roasterie uses this process to experience the flavors, aromas and mouth feel inherent to each batch of coffee (and to keep a tight lid on quality control). If you’re lucky, you might get to hit the switch to start up one of the roasters. Can’t get enough caffeine? Stick around on the first Saturday and third Thursday of the month for the free Coffee 101 workshop. (816) 931-4000;

Photo courtesy Nathan Borror CC BY. Color corrected.

8) Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art If you like your art edgy, funky and sometimes challenging, put a visit to the Kemper on your KC to-do list. Designed by architect Gunnar Birkerts, the mod exterior sets the tone for an offbeat experience. Inside, the soaring atrium leads into two wings showcasing a buzzy international collection of works from the likes of David Hockney, Georgia O’Keeffe and Willem de Kooning. Hungry? The edible creations at the museum’s critically acclaimed Cafe Sebastienne taste every bit as good as they look. (816) 753-5784;

9) First Fridays Thousands of visitors flood the Crossroads Art District from 7 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of each month for this 65-gallery art crawl. The vibrant district has plenty of parking and a slew of restaurants for dinner beforehand, and food trucks line the streets. (816) 994-7313;

Photo courtesy of

10) Kansas City Marriott Downtown Conference-goers make up the bulk of this hotel’s clientele, but reasonable rates and a prime position in KC’s vibrant Power and Light District make the downtown Marriott an attractive choice for vacationers, too. Guest rooms have comfy beds with duvets and upscale touches like granite countertops; staffers go the extra mile to be accommodating; and you can get coffee and snacks in the lobby 24/7. (816) 421-6800;

Want to receive weekly digests of the midCetera blog? E-mail with the subject line "Subscribe."