Top Attractions in Kansas City
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The restored 1914 train station is now home to shops, restaurants, Science City interactive science museum, a model railroad exhibit, an IMAX theater, a planetarium, an exhibit on the history of the American railroad and more.
It's fun just to wander the huge Union Station building -- the Grand Hall's 95-foot ceiling is beautifully restored -- imagining the days when tens of thousands of passengers passed through here each year (816/460-2020; unionstation.org).
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The acclaimed new Bloch Building houses contemporary and African art and photography, while the original, stately Nelson-Atkins Building shows other popular exhibits, including the new Egyptian galleries.
Outside, the 22-acre Kansas City Sculpture Park includes 12 Henry Moore sculptures. Make sure to pose for a photo with any of the four 18-foot shuttlecocks, designed by Claes Oldenburg, that dot the lawn. Free guided tours and audio guided tours offer visitors different ways to explore the museum (816/751-1278; nelson-atkins.org).
Country Club Plaza
High-end stores, friendly restaurants and several of Kansas City's signature fountains (including one modeled after a 13th-century fountain in Seville) fill this Spanish-style 14-block shopping district, built in 1922 as a trailblazing suburban shopping center (816/753-0100; countryclubplaza.com).
Don't-miss restaurants in Country Club Plaza include Classic Cup Cafe, with crowd-pleasers such as spicy Thai chicken pizza and bread pudding with caramel sauce (816/753-1840); and Jack Stack Barbecue, one of a local chain that serves great BBQ in classier-than-usual digs (816-531-7427; jackstackbbq.com).
Legoland Discovery Center
Kids will love this highly interactive Lego playground. Zap skeletons and other creatures on the laser-shooting ride Kingdom Quest, watch animated Lego figures in a 4-D theater, send your creation down a ramp at Lego Racers: Build and Test, and enjoy detailed recreations of Kansas City landmarks in Miniland. Book online for a discounted rate and to have less of a wait at the entrance to this popular attraction. See reviews and ratings. (816) 471-4386; legolanddiscoverycenter.com/kansascity
Power and Light District
The city's Power and Light entertainment district serves out-of-towners, visitors from the suburbs and Kansas City's burgeoning downtown residential population with bars, clubs, restaurants, movie theaters, free concerts and a high-end supermarket. Linking the Convention Center to the Sprint Arena, the area is in the heart of downtown (816/697-5347; powerandlightdistrict.com).
Steamboat Arabia Museum
The privately owned Steamboat Arabia Museum, at the edge of the City Market, tells the fascinating story of the Arabia, which hit a snag in the Missouri River and sank in 1856 with more than 200 tons of cargo. Over time, the river changed its course, and in the 1980s, a group of local residents found the boat deep in mud in a Missouri field, a half-mile from the river.
Thousands of artifacts have been recovered, ranging from jewelry to boots to kitchen utensils to pickles still in jars (and reportedly still edible). One of the most interesting sights is the restoration area, where technicians continue to prepare more items for display (816/471-4030; 1856.com).
Kansas City Zoo
Kids ooh and aah over more than 1,000 species, including a lively gang of chimpanzees, at the Kansas City Zoo. Four African elephants also keep visitors entertained and sometimes model their painting skills. Zookeeper talks and animal feedings are held throughout the day; kids will love the Discovery Barn's close-up animal encounters and two-story slide (816/513-5800; kansascityzoo.org).
Crossroads Arts District
The Crossroads Arts District lives up to its name with 400 local artists and 100 independent studios in a concentrated area. The neighborhood atmosphere and plenty of dining options makes this a great place to spend a few hours. Galleries, studios and restaurants in the revived neighborhood stay open late on the first Friday every month (kccrossroads.org).
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The first Negro National league started in a YMCA in Kansas City in 1920. The formation prompted rival leagues in Southern and Eastern states, which spread black baseball across the United States, Canada and Latin America. Through films, photos and artifacts, exhibits at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum explore and commemorate these African-American leagues that played from after the Civil War into the 1960s (816/221-1920; nlbm.com).
Worlds of Fun
Seven coasters and more than 30 other rides satisfy thrill-seekers at Worlds of Fun, while the slides and lazy river at neighboring Oceans of Fun give water bugs 60 acres of splashy fun (816/454-4545; worldsoffun.com).
Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City
On the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, a 38-room home holds thousands of vintage toys and meticulously crafted miniatures. On the miniature side, you'll find curiosities such as a tiny pair of functional dueling pistols, a desk with 19 compartments and a completely furnished American Georgian manor.
The Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City also boasts the world's largest collection of marbles. Play with some of the more than 1 million marbles or watch them wind through a marble maze (816/333-9328; toyandminiaturemuseum.org).
College Basketball Experience
Roll up your sleeves and get ready to slam-dunk a basketball at this energetic destination. Interactive exhibits allow you to test your basketball skills such as jump shots, passing and 3-point shots. You can try out sportscasting, get a feel for training techniques or play a pick-up game on a full-size basketball court.
College Basketball Experience also offers a timeline of basketball history, films of historic moments in basketball, and a Gallery of Honor of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, where visitors can view videos about legendary coaches and players (816/949-7500; collegebasketballexperience.com)
Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope
Hallmark Cards started in Kansas City and employs 4,300 there. At the free Hallmark Visitors Center, you'll find vintage cards, works by Grandma Moses and Winston Churchill, Christmas ornaments and clips from Hallmark Hall of Fame TV programs and company commercials (hallmarkvisitorscenter.com). Next door, kids get to create their own free art with leftover items from Hallmark at the Kaleidoscope playland (pictured; hallmarkkaleidoscope.com).
National World War I Museum
The National World War 1 Museum offers a poignant counterpoint to Kansas City's livelier attractions. Buried below the 21-story Liberty Memorial, the museum engages and educates visitors while paying somber tribute to the victims of this war. A glass bridge connects the lobby to the galleries above a field of red poppies representing the war's 9 million casualties (816/784-1918; theworldwar.org).
American Royal World Series of Barbecue Contest
More than 500 teams vie for smoky glory on 20 acres in Kansas City's historic Stockyards District during this popular annual fall event. Vendors sell barbecue and other festival foods to hungry spectators. Admission charged. (816) 569-4000 americanroyal.com
American Jazz Museum
In the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, the first museum of its kind pays homage to America's original music style. Check out the American Jazz Museum's exhibits by day, but include a nighttime stop at the Blue Room. Other events at the museum include jazz storytelling, poetry jams and workshops (816/474-8463; americanjazzmuseum.com).
North of Country Club Plaza, cafes, nightclubs and galleries fill the reborn historic district of Westport (westportkcmo.com). Specialty shops range from floral design boutiques to a custom screen-printing shop.