Top Things to Do in Kansas City | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Kansas City

Kansas City's urban development highlights new attractions while the old favorites still shine.
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

    The acclaimed 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;


  • 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;

    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;


  • Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association

    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;


  • Kansas City Zoo
    Photo Courtesy of Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau

    Kansas City Zoo

    See 1,100 animals, including a sea lion show and a lively gang of orangutans showing off their painting skills. Want to get your hands dirty? The Keeper for a Day program puts visitors to work alongside staff. (816) 595-1234;


  • Crossroads Arts District

    The Crossroads Arts District lives up to its name by showcasing more than 150 galleries and artists' studios, as well as 60 restaurants and 40 shops. The neighborhood atmosphere and plenty of dining options makes this a great place to spend a few hours.

  • National World War I Museum

    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) 888-8100;


  • Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts

    Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

    Take in a show and admire the architecture at the Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts; its stunning arch design breaks through the city's skyline. The Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City perform here.

  • Photo Courtesy of Visit KC

    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.


  • Worlds of Fun
    Photo Courtesy of Visit KC

    Worlds of Fun

    One ticket grants entry to both the theme park and Oceans of Fun water park. Planet Snoopy has rides for the youngest kids; thrill-seekers line up for the SteelHawk, a 301-foot tower that swings riders around eight times every minute.


  • Photo Courtesy of Visit KC

    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.


  • American Royal World Series of Barbecue Contest

    American Royal World Series of Barbecue Contest

    More than 550 teams vie for smoky glory during this popular annual fall event. Vendors sell barbecue and other festival foods to hungry spectators. Admission charged. (816) 569-4000;


  • 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. Steamboat Arabia Museum

  • Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association

    Union Station

    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;

    Union Station

  • Photo by Jess Hoffert.

    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. (816) 471-4386; 

  • Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association

    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 ( Next door, kids get to create their own free art with leftover items from Hallmark at the Kaleidoscope playland (pictured;


  • American Jazz Museum'
    Photo Courtesy of Visit KC

    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.


Add Your Comment