Top Things to Do in Kansas City, Missouri | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Kansas City, Missouri

The state’s second-largest metro has way more to offer than just its famed jazz and barbecue. See our guide for recommendations on what to do, where to eat and where to stay.


American Jazz Museum The interactive exhibits tap KC’s musical heritage. Visit in the evening for live sets (some free) in the Blue Room Jazz Club.

Arabia Steamboat Museum Well-preserved cargo recovered from a steamboat that sank in 1856 gives insight into life in that era.

Arrowhead Stadium Come to watch the National Football League’s Chiefs. The 2015 World Series champions Royals play in neighboring Kauffman Stadium.

Boulevard Brewing Company Sixty-minute tours end with tastings of one of the Midwest’s largest line of specialty beers.

Country Club Plaza High-end stores, restaurants and some of Kansas City’s signature fountains (one modeled after a 14th-century fountain in Seville) fill this Spanish-style shopping district.

Country Club Plaza

Crossroads Arts District The area contains more than 150 galleries and artists’ studios, as well as 60 restaurants and 40 shops. Outdoor murals reflect the creative spirit.

Crown Center Kids dig creating crafts with Hallmark materials in Kaleidoscope, as well as visiting the Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center.

Kansas City Zoo See nearly 1,700 animals, including 60-plus penguins, a sea lion show and a lively gang of orangutans who show off painting skills.

Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Two venues offer world-class acoustics for productions from the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art This free museum packs a lot into a relatively small space. The artistry continues at Cafe Sebastienne.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures Peer at tiny masterpieces and vintage toys among the more than 72,000 objects collected by this University of Missouri- Kansas City museum.        

National World War I Museum and Memorial Exhibits at the nation’s leading World War I museum reveal the high cost of a war often overshadowed by World War II.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Learn about racial segregation’s effect on America’s pastime and see tributes to players.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art A 22-acre sculpture park acts as prelude to the museum’s global collection.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Power and Light District The downtown entertainment area pulses with energy from bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and theaters.

River Market Kansas City’s oldest neighborhood has ethnic grocers, shops and loads of restaurants, plus it hosts a farmers market on weekends.

Taste of Kansas City Food Tours Between bites, get the lowdown on 1930s Missouri political boss Tom Pendergast’s bootlegging and the Crossroads Arts District renaissance.

Union Station A 1914 depot houses shops, Science City, a planetarium, traveling exhibits, a stage and movie theater. Pierpont’s at Union Station serves steaks and seafood in an upscale turn-of-the-century ambience.

Union Station

Union Station

Westport Since 1850, Westport has been known as a resupply spot; these days visitors hit the neighborhood’s cafes, galleries and boutiques.

Worlds of Fun One ticket grants entry to both the theme park and Oceans of Fun water park. The Nordic Chaser family boat ride debuts in 2018.


BBQ The town has too many barbecue joints to list, but here are a few to whet your appetite: Arthur Bryant’s, BB’s Lawnside BBQ, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Gates Bar-B-Q, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Snead’s Bar-B-Q, Q39 and Woodyard Bar-B-Que. 

Blue Bird Bistro This cheerful cafe just west of Crossroads puts locally sourced organic ingredients to tasty use.

Blue Bird Bistro

Blue Bird Bistro

Bluestem Choose a three-, five- or seven-course meal with inventive dishes such as house-made ricotta cappelletti with rabbit and Parmesan mousseline.

Bo Lings Seasonal specials round out a huge menu at this award-winning Asian restaurant, which operates six area locations.

Classic Cup Cafe Country Club Plaza shoppers nosh on fluffy buttermilk pancakes, Thai chicken pizza and bread pudding with caramel sauce.

Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room Live music every night amps up the energy at this KC newcomer. Try shareable plates at the Supper Club or a chef’s menu with wine pairings in the 18-seat Tasting Room.

Eggtc Start the day with a veggie-filled Garden of Eden Frittata or crepes with salmon and goat cheese.

El Pollo Rey The stacks of wood out front fuel indoor grills cooking chicken at the no-frills spot. (913) 371-4243

The Farmhouse Simple farm-to-table brunches and dinners star in the River Market neighborhood.

Glace Artisan Ice Cream Ingredients like dark chocolate, bananas and salted pretzels swirl together in fresh ice cream.

Gram and Dun Specialty beers pair well with starters of hand-cut potato chips served with three ketchups and meals of mac ’n’ cheese with burnt ends.

Happy Gillis Cafe and Hangout The owners admit they kinda like beer; you’ll kinda love meals here in the Columbus Park neighborhood.

La Bodega The only place in town for Spanish tapas and cuisine is always packed. Diners especially love the three paella dishes.

Lidia’s Kansas City North of Union Station, PBS TV chef Lidia Bastianich lends her name (and her recipes) to a menu of authentic Italian fare. 

McCoy’s Public House In the Westport neighborhood, its patio is the place to dine on burgers, oven-fired pizzas and beers brewed on-site.

Michael Smith You can easily drop a bundle at the James Beard Award-winning chef’s restaurant, but the eight-hour pork roast and risotto are worth it. Or go next door to Smith’s less pricey Extra Virgin. 

Port Fonda Chef Patrick Ryan, a James Beard Award semifinalist, serves bold, rustic Mexican cooking in Westport. Options like a salsa tasting and Bloody Maria bar let you experiment.

Port Fonda

Port Fonda

PotPie It’s hard to choose from among classic potpies and entrees like pan-seared scallops at this cozy Westport restaurant.

The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange A sedate place for dinner hides an old-school speakeasy in its basement.

Thou Mayest Coffee roaster meets innovative cocktail bar in this artsy Crossroads spot. Sip the beverage of your choice on the plant-filled patio or inside among vintage Americana decor.

Westport Cafe and Bar The black-and-white checkered floor and brick walls create a casual space for impressive French-inspired food.

Winstead’s The landmark diner serves the same classic steak burger it has since it opened its doors on Country Club Plaza in 1940.


816 Hotel Themed rooms (such as the Kansas City Zoo Room) add pizzazz to a former chain hotel on the western edge of Westport.

Crowne Plaza Kansas City Near the Power and Light District, this sleek place is central to everything.

The Fontaine A crystal chandelier in the lobby and hallway tiles signed by celebrity guests hint at the stylish accommodations.

Hotel Phillips Original Art Deco details and helpful staff make the 20-story downtown hotel sparkle.

Raphael Hotel Opened in 1928, this boutique hotel in Country Club Plaza mimics an elegant English manor.

Southmoreland on the Plaza Known for its breakfast BBQ, the 1913 Colonial Revival’s 12 rooms and a suite bear names of famous locals.

For information: Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association

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