Kansas City, also known as the Heart of America and the City of Fountains, is a vibrant metropolis packed full of quirky and fun attractions. It is well known for its outstanding barbecue and Jazz music roots, but there truly is much more to this midwest city than meets the eye. That’s where we here at Road Affair come in! We have done all the work and research for you to compile this list of the best things to do in Kansas City. This way, you can build the ultimate Kansas City itinerary knowing that you haven’t missed out on any top-tier attractions.
Play Mini Golf at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is a must-see in Kansas City for any visitor. This neoclassical-style building is an icon of the city and well worth visiting even if you don’t go inside. Visitors can snap a picture on the well-manicured grounds with the museum building and the World’s Largest Shuttlecock in the background. The museum’s grounds are also home to the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park and the Art Course, a nine-whole, art-themed mini golf course. Inside the Nelson, visitors will find hundreds of beautiful artworks and artifacts from a range of exhibits spanning over 5,000 years of history. Those planning on visiting the artworks should make sure to download the Smartify app, as it offers free audio guides and ASL videos on the exhibits. The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday through to Monday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Check Out the National WWI Museum and Memorial
If you’re wondering what to do in Kansas City as a history buff, then make your way to the USA’s only public museum dedicated to World War I. The National WWI Museum and Memorial is a fantastic interactive museum suitable for all ages. You can design your own patriotic war posters, learn about the inner workings of a Lewis machine gun, or browse the collection of artillery and photographs. A highlight of the museum is the Liberty Memorial Tower, a 217-foot high tower with an observation deck offering incredible views of Penn Valley Park and Kansas City.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday and every day of the week during their summer hours.
Go Shopping on the Country Club Plaza
Those looking to purchase a souvenir or pick up a new outfit while visiting Kansas City should spend an afternoon shopping in the stunning Country Club Plaza area. This shopping district features eye-catching 19th-century architecture along with several fountains and artworks to admire. Visitors will find plenty of familiar brand stores such as Coach, H&M, and Tommy Bahama, as well as boutique shops and cafés. Those on the hunt for a souvenir should make their way to Made in KC Marketplace. Here you’ll find several locally made gifts and souvenirs like artist prints, hats, jewelry, and plenty of shirts and sweaters. The store even has an on-site bar in the back to help loosen up your wallets while shopping!
After a shop, make your way to one of the many restaurants in the area for a bite to eat. Jack Stack Barbecue is a great upscale barbecue joint for those craving Kansas City meats like pulled pork and brisket. Finish your visit to the plaza off with a stroll along Busch Creek, where you could also opt to sign up for a romantic boat cruise with Ambiance on the Water.
Try Some Famous KC Barbecue
Speaking of barbecue, we know many of you are highly anticipating trying some of Kansas City’s famous barbecued meats, but you may be wondering where the best barbecue in Kansas City is. That’s a much-debated question so we will answer it delicately. There are a few must-try places throughout the city. Probably the most well-known is Joe’s Barbecue Kansas City (originally named Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue), and while there are a few locations throughout the city, none of them beat the original located in a gas station in Westwood. Named by Anthony Bourdain as one of the top 13 places to eat before you die, Joe’s Barbecue Kansas City serves up some seriously mouthwatering pulled pork and burnt ends.
Another local favorite that was made famous by Queer Eye‘s Kansas City season is Jones Bar-B-Q. This sister-run roadside joint is known for its secret sauce, which is especially delicious on ribs and burnt ends. Q39 is also a great barbecue spot to check out if you’re craving Kansas City’s famous burnt ends. This family-friendly restaurant has won several awards over the years for its barbecue, including placing third in the American Royal Barbecue Contest in 2011 and fifth place for Brisket Team of the Year in 2007 at the Jack Daniels World Champion Barbecue Invitational.
Take a Tour of Boulevard Brewing Company
Visiting the brewery is a fantastic fun thing to do in Kansas City no matter what time of year you visit and Boulevard Brewing Company is easily one of the most recognizable local brews in the city. The brewing company offers a few different options for tours, from private and public one- or two-hour tours. The one-hour public brewery tour is the most popular, offering a guided walkthrough of the brewery with two expert beer guides. You’ll get to sample four 5-ounce samples along the way while learning about the brewing process, the history of Boulevard, how the beer is packaged, and what each beer entails. A bonus of the tour is the view from their rooftop area, which offers a great photo opportunity to take in front of their iconic Boulevard smokestack with the Kansas City skyline behind.
Tours at Boulevard Brewing Company are quite popular, especially during summer, so the only way to get your tickets is by booking in advance. Day-of tickets are rarely released due to high demand.
Visit the Legoland Discovery Center
Legoland Discovery Center is a great place to visit in Kansas City for those traveling with little ones. Located in the Crown Center shopping mall, this family-friendly attraction boasts plenty of rides and interactive challenges. Visitors can test out skills in the ninja laser maze, immerse their senses in the Great LEGO® Race Virtual Reality Experience, or throw on their builders hat and get creative with Lego building blocks. Tickets to the Legoland Discovery Center can be purchased here on their own or combined with a ticket to SEA LIFE, which is also located in the Crown Center next door to Legoland. Legoland Discovery Center is open weekdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with special operating hours during holidays. The last entry is allowed two hours prior to closing.
Catch a Movie at Union Station
Union Station is a beautiful historical landmark in Kansas City that offers way more than just a cool, historic building to explore. While the building is more than 100 years old, over the last 20 years this feature attraction has been converted into the ultimate one-stop-shop for entertainment and learning. Several top-rated attractions are located in the building, including the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium, Science City, the Model Railroad Experience, Escape Room KC, and the Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre. The one-screen theater is of particular interest as it features the largest screen in the region, measuring 80 feet by 53 feet with a capacity of 400 people! The theater plays several new blockbuster movies, along with educational and classic holiday films. Visitors should keep an eye on the Union Station website as there are several traveling exhibits that come to the venue.
The building itself was designed in the beaux-arts architectural style that was popular in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. Those with an interest in architecture can enter and enjoy a self-guided tour of the building for free. Admission to the Railroad Experience is also offered free of charge.
Go for a Stroll in Jacob L. Loose Park
There are plenty of beautiful greenspaces throughout Kansas City, but few come close to the beauty and nature of Jacob L. Loose Park. This 75-acre park on the south side of the city has plenty to see and do, including a Rose Garden, a Garden Center, a playground, tennis courts, and a spray park for kids. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the paths, wave hello to the ducks in the pond, or set up a hammock or blanket for a picnic. Jacob L. Loose Park also has a fascinating history. During the Civil War, the Battle of Westport took place where the park stands today, where 29,000 Union and Confederate soldiers battled for control of Kansas City. The battle ended in Union victory, freeing the slaves of Missouri.
Tour the Artworks at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
There is no shortage of fantastic museums in Kansas City. However, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in a world of contemporary artworks, then the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is the place to go. This is a great attraction for those looking for free things to do in Kansas City. Visitors can roam the exhibits and explore beautiful and thought-provoking works which range from sculptures and paintings to mixed-media and textile installations. The museum is also home to an excellent café that serves lunch during the week and a surprisingly bougie brunch on weekends. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., except on Thursdays when they offer a late evening entrance until 9 p.m.
Explore Penn Valley Park
Penn Valley Park is easily the most popular park to visit in Kansas City and for a good reason. Located on one of the highest points in the city, this sprawling 175-acre park offers unmatched views of Downtown Kansas City. The park is also home to several memorials that are worth checking out when strolling through the park, like the Pioneer Mothers Memorial, the Firefighter Fountain, and the iconic Scout Statue, which sits watching over the skyline of Kansas City. Penn Valley Park offers plenty of outdoor facilities as well, such as baseball fields, an off-leash dog park, a skate park, and tennis courts. The most notable attraction in the park is the National WWI Museum and Memorial which is the only dedicated WWI museum in the country. In 1921, allied generals from Belgium, Great Britain, France, Italy, and the United States arrived in Kansas City for the opening of the Liberty Memorial (now known as the National WWI Museum and Memorial). This was the first time these allied generals were all together. Today, tourists can visit the museum and climb to the top of the Liberty Memorial Tower to enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the city.
Take the Kids to Science City
If you’re looking for a way to spend a fun afternoon in Kansas City with the kids, then add Science City to your list of places to visit! This award-winning science museum aims to spark excitement and encourage children to dive into the world of science and engineering. Kids can join in on several interactive experiences in spaces like the Engineerium, the Maker Room, and the Interactive Midway. With over 300 interactive exhibits and 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, families could easily spend an entire day here. A lot of the exhibits are super fun for adults as well! Visitors can get a better idea of the museum and its interactive exhibits on the website’s interactive map. Science City is located in Union Station and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Ride the Coasters at Worlds of Fun
Those visiting Kansas City in the warmer months should consider adding Worlds of Fun to their itinerary. This is a great Kansas City attraction for the young and young at heart. The park features plenty of thrill rides and roller coasters, along with a Snoopy-theme kids area, live entertainment, and a waterpark. During the spooky season, visitors can head to the park to join in their Halloween Haunt to experience a night of frights and fun as the park transforms into a haunted and devious breeding ground for monsters, ghosts, and ghouls that lurk behind mazes and scare zones. Worlds of Fun is open seasonally from April until November.
Visit the Penguins at the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium
Another excellent way to spend a day in Kansas City is with a visit to the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium! With over 17,000 animals across 200 species, this large zoo has plenty to see and do. Not only can visitors learn and visit with some of their favorite animals, but the zoo also offers several interactive experiences with animals and a fun tram train that runs through the park. One of the highlights of this attraction (especially in the heat of the summer) is the penguin and polar bear sanctuaries where visitors can get up close and personal with these cold-weather creatures. One advantage of the zoo is that an entrance ticket also grants tourists entrance to the Aquarium, where stingrays, clownfish, jellyfish, and more can be found.
Listen to Live Jazz at Green Lady Lounge
Kansas City is known for its blues and jazz music, and there are few better places in the city to check out the Jazz music scene than at Green Lady Lounge! This retro cocktail bar is a 21+ establishment and features live music nightly. Only original Kansas City Jazz compositions are played by the artists to ensure visitors get an authentic local experience. There are no televisions or reserved seating inside the venue, just good music, velvet red walls, ambient lighting, and two stages. Visitors can see upcoming performances or listen to Green Lady Lounge radio on the official website. Green Lady Lounge is open Sunday to Friday from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. and Saturdays from 2 p.m. until 3 a.m.
Learn More About Jazz at the American Jazz Museum
While we’re on a Jazzy note (pun intended), why not complete your Kansas City Jazz experience with a visit to the American Jazz Museum? Not only will you learn about Jazz legends and the evolution of the genre, but you’ll also find several hands-on exhibits throughout the museum. You can even mix your own song! If that hasn’t sold you on a visit to the museum, then maybe this will. The museum is also attached to The Blue Room, a live jazz music venue open to all ages and one of the best places to hear Jazz music in Kansas City. So unlike at the Green Lady Lounge, you can introduce your little ones to the world of Jazz music. The American Jazz Museum is open every day except Monday.
Check Out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Those with an interest in sports, particularly baseball, should make sure to include the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to their Kansas City itinerary. This is a niche but interesting museum focusing on the careers and lives of the most prominent African-American baseball players in the segregated league, known as the Negro National League (NNL). From 1920 until the late 1940s, African-American baseball players were not permitted to play in the MLB but instead had their own league, the Negro National League, which was created only two blocks away from the museum in 1920 by Andrew “Rube” Foster. This fantastic museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to NNL, the players, and the social impact of the segregated league. Inside, visitors will find hundreds of photographs, artifacts, and films that will walk them through the history of the sport and some of the NNL’s most notable players.
Catch a KC Royals or Chiefs Game
Kansas City is home to two major sports teams, the MLB baseball team the Kansas City Royals, and the NFL American football team the Kansas City Chiefs. If you’re visiting Kansas City during any of these sports seasons, consider spending a day cheering on the teams (or a rival one). The Chiefs most notably won the Super Bowl in 2020 and 2023 and are especially fun to watch play against their biggest rival team, the Las Vegas Raiders. The Kansas City Royals are also a great team to see play, especially during their “I-70 Series” which sees them play against their biggest rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Both the Chiefs and Royals play in their respective stadiums which are located right beside each other about a half-hour drive from Downtown Kansas City.
Enjoy a Drink on a Rooftop Bar in the Crossroads
Some would argue the best way to spend a hot afternoon in Kansas City is with a refreshing cocktail or beer at one of the many rooftop bars in the city. Actually, some of the best rooftop bars can be found in the Crossroads/Downtown neighborhoods! For a fun and funky bar, head to Up-Down KC. This retro-themed bar features over 50 arcade games from the 80s and 90s, along with a rooftop bar and plenty of draft beer options. For those looking for an excellent view of the skyline, make your way to Percheron Rooftop Bar located above the Crossroads Hotel. It has a great cocktail and food menu as well as live music during the summer. The Mercury is another great option for those looking for a more elegant and luxurious rooftop bar. Not only does this enclosed glass rooftop bar offer a more posh setting, but their specialty craft cocktails are truly unique!
Find Sunken Treasures at The Arabia Steamboat Museum
This unique museum in Kansas City is great tourist attraction in Kansas City to spend a few hours learning about American pioneer life. The museum features artifacts from the Arabia steamboat, one of nearly 400 other steamboats that sank along the United State’s longest river, the Missouri River. The Arabia set sail in September of 1846, carrying over 200 tons of cargo intended to be delivered to 16 midwest pioneer settlements. However, the steamboat snagged on a tree just six miles west of Kansas City and sank 45 feet deep to the bottom of the river. Over time, the path of the river changed and the Arabia no longer sat at the bottom of the river, but instead, buried in the Kansas City cornfields protected from light and sun. This created the perfect conditions for preserving the cargo contents and the boat itself. In 1988, five families gathered together with the goal of retrieving the Arabia and all its treasures, and what they found was the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world!
Today, visitors can view the collection and the boat at the Arabia Steamboat Museum. Some of the more interesting finds from the boat include the world’s oldest pickles, children’s toys, and carpentry tools.
Spend an Afternoon at the River Market
The River Market district in Kansas City is one of the best for strolling and shopping. This hip and historic neighborhood is chock-full of restaurants serving global fares, boutique shops, and luxury grocery stores. The City Market, which is the city’s farmer’s market, has been running since 1857. But instead of horse trading, medicine shows, and the circus, visitors will find plenty of stalls selling fresh produce, artisan works, sweet treats, and even imported goods. The City Market is open all year round on Saturday and Sunday with varying hours depending on the season. Also located in the River Market are the Arabia Steamboat Museum and the Chinatown Food Market.
Catch a Concert at KC Power and Lights District
The KC Power and Lights District is an entertainment hub located near the T-Mobile Center and well worth a visit for those sightseeing in Kansas City. The area is home to KC Live!, a two-story building with several pubs and restaurants that encircle an open-air venue where visitors can catch a concert. This is a unique venue that does not have reserved seating, instead, it’s first come first serve or tourists can book a VIP experience and watch the concert from the second story. Visitors will find a few familiar musical acts make their way to KC Live!, but concerts are only hosted during the warmer months. Those interested in attending a concert can check KC Live!’s event calendar online.
Visit a Niche Museum
There are plenty of niche museums in Kansas City that are worth a visit, especially if you have an interest in the wonderful and the weird. First up is the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, where you will find an eclectic and nostalgic collection of toys like vintage marbles, dollhouses, and miniature furniture. If you happen to be a coin collector or have an interest in old bills and coins, then make your way to the Money Museum. Here, you’ll find a huge cash vault, a collection of historic coins and bills, and more all set in a federal banking building. Another great museum (that’s free) to check out is the Hallmark Visitors Center, where you can view exhibits on the company’s history and cultural impact, as well as see how to properly tie a bow from the bow machine! Other niche museums include the Jesse James Bank Museum, the Shoal Creek Living History Museum, and the Twa Museum.
Learn About the 33rd President at Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Located on the east side of Kansas City, the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site is a great attraction to visit with the whole family. The home was the house of the 33rd president of the United States, who was born in Lamar, Missouri. The house was originally built by Truman’s great-grandfather-in-law in 1867 and has now been converted into a museum depicting the life, accomplishments, and family history of the “people’s president”. Visitors can stroll through the grounds and home on a self-guided, guided, or audio tour while viewing thousands of artifacts from the Truman family. Tickets for the Truman National Historic Site are free but must be booked in advance at the Visitor Center in downtown Independence.
Tour a Pre-Civil War Home
Have you ever wondered what life in the 1800s looked like? Well, wonder no more as you can step back in time at one of the converted Victorian home museums and get a glimpse into what American life in Kansas City used to look like. The first mansion to visit is the Alexander Majors Historic Museum & Barn, which was built in 1856 and features 300 acres of property. The home was built by pioneer businessman Alexander Majors and visitors can learn more about him, his empire, and his family history on a guided or self-guided tour of the home. The second home to visit is the John Wornall House. The house has been kept in almost the exact way it was back in the late 1800s and features a fascinating collection of Civil War artifacts from the Battle of Westport, along with personal artifacts of the family from the same time period. Both of these charming historic homes are part of the Wornall/Majors Homes Museums and offer a chance to step back into mid-nineteenth-century America.
There may be no place like home, but there is truly no place like Kansas City! Now that you’re well-versed in all the top attractions, all you have to do now is figure out how many of these awesome attractions you can fit into your itinerary.