Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Kansas City | Midwest Living
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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.
Hallmark Visitors Center.
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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of VisitKC.com.
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Boulevard Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of VisitKC.com.
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First Fridays at Crossroads Arts District. Photo courtesy of VisitKC.com.
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Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of VisitKC.com.
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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 visitors take self-guided tours for 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; hallmarkvisitorscenter.com

2) Kaleidoscope Hallmark also feeds young imaginations with this free creative workshop geared to kids 12 and younger. Set your little artists free to wander among 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-serve. (816) 274-8300; hallmarkkaleidoscope.com

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 stunning sculpture garden. Admission is free, but you’ll pay $5 to park in the garage. (816) 751-1278; nelson-atkins.org

4) Boulevard Brewing Company The largest specialty brewer in the Midwest accommodates curious visitors 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 to take home. Call ahead to save your spot; reservations are a must. (816) 474-7095; boulevard.com

5) 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; kansascityfed.org/moneymuseum/

6) 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. The mod exterior designed by architect Gunnar Birkerts 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; kemperart.org

7) Harley-Davidson Vehicle and Powertrain Operations Rev up with a free one-hour factory tour to see how motorcycles are born. This massive 358,000-square-foot facility was built in 1998 to turn out Sportsters, Dynas and V-Rods. Even nonbikers will be impressed by the sheer 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-serve for weekday tours; plan to arrive early to snag yours. (816) 270-8200; harley-davidson.com

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

9) 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 specific process to experience the flavors, aromas and mouth-feels 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; theroasterie.com

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 duvet linens 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; marriott.com

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