From visiting the River Market and exploring the American Jazz Museum, to amazing places to eat and drink, these are the best things to do in Kansas City.
Kansas City is a unique destination with an atmosphere like no other. If you’re looking for authentic experiences, there’s an abundance of fun things to do in Kansas City. One day you could be flying through the trees on a GoApe course, the next you could be seeing some incredible contemporary art at one of the best galleries in the US. When it comes to entertainment, you’ll love getting to know this city’s vibrant jazz scene and digging deep into the cuisine (get ready for some tasty BBQs!) Offering all of this and more, it’s no wonder Kansas City has become a must-visit destination.
If you’re not familiar with the geography of the region, you might think Kansas City is in Kansas State. It actually lies on Missouri’s western edge, right on the border with Kansas State. So, when you arrive in the city centre you could actually say “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”
Whether you’re planning a weekend away or a bigger trip around the region, it’s time to follow the yellow brick road to the most wonderful Kansas City tourist attractions!
16 Amazing Things To Do in Kansas City
Outdoor Activities in Kansas City
Whether you want to stroll around the neighbourhoods or go off on some exciting adventures, there are plenty of great outdoor activities in Kansas City.
Shop until you drop at this open-area market. With over 150 years of history, it’s easy to spend hours at the well-established River Market. Nibble on pastries as you walk around the market, looking at stalls selling flowers, gifts, and local goods. If you’re all shopped out, sit back and people watch at one of the many charming cafes and eateries.
Fun for kids and grown ups alike, a trip to this amusement park is one of the best things to do in Kansas City in the summer. Inspired by Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, you’ll definitely get your adrenaline fix riding rollercoasters across the globe before heading to the water park to cool down.
A few top outdoor activities surround Swope Park, making it a great base for adventuring. Swope Park has beautiful rolling lawns with manicured gardens. This is also where you’ll find Kansas City Zoo, Lakeside Nature Centre, and even a treetop adventure park. With so much to do, it’s a great place to visit for a family day out.
If you’re an adventurous sort, book in for a fun session at Go Ape in Swope Park. The course takes you on an adrenaline-filled treetop adventure, navigating suspended bridges and flying through the air on zip lines.
While you’ll be safely strapped in with a harness, this isn’t one for the faint-hearted or anyone with a fear of heights! You also might get shown up by your children, who tend to love these treetop courses!
The best view comes after the hardest climb… or something like that! Kansas City has plenty of beautiful natural parks with gorgeous views but one of the best for a day trip is the Ernie Miller Park and Nature Centre (southwest of the city).
This is somewhere to immerse yourself in nature, as you enjoy the calm and tranquility along the park’s many trails. There are lots of pretty spots, ideal for photos, especially by the bridges. As well as lots of beautiful birds, you might even spot deer here too.
If you’re looking for other places in Kansas City for lovely walks, you could follow one of the pretty trails at Loose Park, one of the city’s most popular for a bit of fresh air.
Indoor Activities in Kansas City
From seeing the art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum and learning about World War I at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, to tales of the Missouri River at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, no matter what the weather, there’s a Kansas City Museum for everyone. Some of my top recommendations are coming up.
Also, top tip if you’re looking for a wet weather option, watch out for the red double-decker buses. These hop-on, hop-off buses take you around the city, stopping at all the key sights while keeping you warm and dry!
Focusing on 20th-century art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has a collection of contemporary art from around the world. Not only are the artists international, but the mediums vary as well.
You’ll find paintings, architecture, photography, and decorative arts all under one roof in this popular gallery. It’s a wonderful place to appreciate the cultural diversity and creativity of the city, as landscape and architecture are fused together. If you’re really interested in art, you could also pay a trip to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Along with cities such as New Orleans, Boston and New York, Kansas City is famous for its jazz scene. The city didn’t really enforce the liquor laws during Prohibition, and as a result the jazz scene flourished. The American Jazz Museum is an amazing place to learn about American jazz history and the influence the style of music has had on Kansas City. With endless vinyl records, famous memorabilia, and even a jazz club inside, new and old blend seamlessly to give you a taste of what this genre is all about.
If you’re looking for a formal night out, dress to the nines and book tickets to a ballet or opera at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This amazing venue hosts opera, dance, and musical performances. Tickets are a little on the expensive side, but a trip to to this performing arts centre is likely to be a highlight of your trip to Kansas City.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll enjoy learning all about college basketball at this fun Kansas City attraction. This popular interactive experience gives you the chance to shoot some hoops as you spend the day playing your fave game. This experience is really fun, with different drills and games throughout. For example, you could play against the clock where you can try to recreate some of college basketball’s greatest moments! It also features the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Distilleries have always been an important part of Kansas City’s history. Tom’s Town Distillery proves that handcrafted distilleries aren’t just for hipsters! You can book tickets for an interesting distillery tour which also includes a tasting (the best bit, right?!) During the tour you’ll learn about the distillation process, the city’s history, and most importantly, you’ll get to taste each award-winning spirit.
Where to eat in Kansas City
If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love your time in Kansas City. Just be warned, what can be barbecued, will be! From ribs to pulled jackfruit sandwiches, carnivores and vegans unite in front of the firing flames of a Kansas barbecue.
KC Original Barbecue Tour
My advice when looking for a great meal in a new destination is to go where the locals go. Why not take the KC Original Barbecue Tour and get the insider’s info about the best barbecues in town. Your tour guide will take you to four restaurants, stopping at iconic Kansas City landmarks along the way. Just make sure you turn up hungry!
Ça Va is one of the best places to go for brunch in Kansas City. Make your own mimosa at the mimosa bar while deciding what to choose off the delectable brunch menu. Whether you want to go for sweet or savoury, Ça Va is guaranteed to start your day off the right way.
Places to drink in Kansas City
Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated cocktail bar or a lively pub, Kansas City has you covered.
If you’re looking for a special start or end to your night in Kansas City, head to The Mercury Room. This chic cocktail bar is located on the 14th floor, so you’ll get the chance to see the city skyline lit up through floor-to-ceiling windows. The views are quite something, but the cocktails don’t disappoint either. With plenty of delicious cocktails to choose from (with really interesting combinations of ingredients), each drink offers up a special cocktail experience.
I don’t think I’ve been to a city in the world where there wasn’t an Irish pub, and Kansas City is no different. O’Dowd’s is a really popular spot among locals and tourists alike. You’ll find a menu of familiar dishes like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, Guinness on tap and live music throughout the week. It’s a vibey spot with a great atmosphere for a bit of drunken revelry!
Jazz Clubs in Kansas City
Jazz is the soundtrack to this fun and vibrant city. Setting its roots in the 20s, jazz is alive and well in Kansas City’s live music world. Visit a jazz club and sway to the sultry sounds. With a unique ambiance, jazz clubs are top of the list for fun things to do in Kansas City at night.
Green Lady Lounge’s interior will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to a 1920s speakeasy. The red velvet walls, classic cocktails, and local musicians give this jazz club an intimate feel. There’s live music every night of the week, just check the calendar before your visit to see who’s playing.
Free activities in Kansas City
If you’re travelling in Kansas City on a budget, don’t worry! There are still plenty of free things to do in Kansas City.
Take a stroll through Kansas City Public Park, the beautiful Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden, take a photo of the J.C Nichols Memorial Fountain in Mill Creek Park (one of the most photographed sites in the city) or visit the Kansas City Public Library. The library is striking as the exterior is a bookshelf of 8-meter book spines! It’s one of the most Insta-worthy spots around.
Unusual Kansas City Attractions
Think you’ve seen all the city has to offer? Perhaps, it’s time for a visit to Leila’s Hair Museum. This unique museum is quite a bizarre find! The museum showcases the of the history of hair… turned into jewellery, brooches, and much more. If you’re the curious sort and love returning home with a few memorable stories, this a fun place to add to your Kansas City itinerary.
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out some of the best things to do in Kansas City. If you’re looking for other places to visit, don’t miss Union Station, Crown Center and Country Club Plaza. They all offer lots of things to do, including shopping and dining experiences.
There are plenty more hidden gems, just waiting to be discovered! So, let the adventuring begin…