The Midwest is a highly underrated location in the United States—and Kansas City, Missouri, is a prime example of why this statement is true!
Kansas City may be known for its barbecue (and for good reason!), but this city has so much more to offer than great food. Kansas City is nicknamed the “Paris of the Plains” because it’s filled with art, fountains, and more boulevards than any other city worldwide besides Paris (look it up—it’s true!).
If you’re ready to fall in love with Kansas City as we did, keep reading to discover all the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, during your visit to this vibrant city.
Best Things to Do in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City has so much hometown pride! People love living in KC, and you’ll understand why after visiting. Here are some of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, during your visit.
1. Visit one of the city’s world-class museums.
Whether you love history, art, or music—there’s a museum you’ll love in Kansas City! KC is home to several world-class museums, and visiting them is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri.
We loved visiting the National World War I Museum, the only museum in the United States dedicated to remembering the lasting impact of WWI. The museum was phenomenal and filled with fascinating information, including theaters, replicas of trenches, propaganda posters, and more. We also loved taking the elevator to the top of the Liberty Memorial Tower for incredible city views.
While we didn’t have time to visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, this museum is a must-visit for art aficionados. The museum features over 35,000 from Europe, Asia, and America, dating back thousands of years. Plus, admission is free! You can also visit the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art for free guided tours of some up-and-coming contemporary artwork.
If you’re interested in music, you may love visiting the American Jazz Museum. This museum celebrates the history and rich diversity of jazz music, including the styles of jazz, instruments, and famous musicians in Kansas City and beyond. And if you love sports, you may enjoy paying a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. This is one of the few museums in the United States that explains sports segregation.
Other popular museums in Kansas City include The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, and the Money Museum.
2. Travel down the KC Wine Road.
Did you know Kansas City has a booming winery scene that totally flies under the radar? In fact, exploring the city’s wineries is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, that you won’t find on many “best of” lists—but I think it’s worth mentioning!
The Greater Kansas City area is home to over 40 wineries less than an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Missouri. You can explore all these wineries on the KC Wine Road. If you want to check out several wineries in one day, you can check out the wine itineraries the KC Wine Road created to help you see the best wineries in each region.
We ventured over to Kansas to check out KC Wine Co. during our trip to Kansas City. We visited in the afternoon on a Friday, and we loved the laid-back atmosphere and live music. I ordered a wine flight, and it was super reasonably priced—only $9 for five wine samples, and I even got to keep the tasting glass as a souvenir! The staff was so helpful and friendly as well.
KC Wine Co. also makes ciders, seltzers, and beers, and they make wine slushies if wine by the glass isn’t your thing. I’d highly recommend stopping at KC Wine Co. during your trip down the KC Wine Road—it was awesome!
3. Explore the fountains around town.
Kansas City has more boulevards than any city in the world besides Paris, but this city has another impressive claim to fame—they also have more fountains than any other city besides Rome!
Kansas City is home to over 200 fountains, and roughly one-fourth of these fountains are open to the public. The oldest working fountain, the Women’s Leadership Fountain, dates back to 1899, and other fountains, like the Crown Center Square Fountain, have water jets choreographed to spurt to music from the Kansas City Symphony!
While you’re exploring some of the other things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, here are some of the most impressive fountains you can check out in Kansas City:
- Women’s Leadership Fountain (Paseo West Neighborhood)
- Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain (Union Station)
- JC Nichols Memorial Fountain (Country Club Plaza)
- Mill Creek Fountain (Mill Creek Park)
- Crown Center Square Fountain (Crown Center Square)
4. Tour the fantastic murals in Kansas City.
You don’t have to visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see some beautiful artwork in Kansas City—just check out all the fantastic street art while exploring the city. Snapping a photo in front of a mural is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri.
You’ll find the Kansas City Love Mural, pictured below, is in the Crossroads Arts District, along with the #KCLoves Mural. On the side of Tom’s Town Distilling in Downtown Kansas City, you can see the Chiefs Kingdom mural to honor the city’s championship football team.
5. Order a cocktail at a local distillery.
Did you know Kansas City had a thriving drinking and bootlegging scene during prohibition? While you’re in Kansas City, you can visit some of the top-notch distilleries that pay homage to the city’s centuries-long commitment to serving great drinks.
J. Rieger & Co. is the most famous distillery in Kansas City. J. Rieger & Co. was founded in 1887 in Kansas City’s West Bottoms Livestock Exchange District. They offered over one-hundred alcoholic products and served 250,000+ customers across the country with mail-order delivery. When prohibition was enacted in 1919, the company took a hit and had to close. However, in 2014, the company reopened in its original location, and you can sample whiskey, gin, vodka, and other spirits! J. Rieger & Co. also offers guided tours, spirit tastings, and a lounge where you can sit and sip a cocktail while overlooking the production floor.
There are many other distilleries to visit in Kansas City, including Mean Mule Distilling Co., a distillery that makes agave spirits, including tequila, gin, and mezcal. We loved our drinks here—the Good Luck Golden Rod, one of their seasonal drinks, was excellent! I’d highly recommend trying it while you’re here. If you love bourbon, pay a visit to Tom’s Town Distilling, where you can enjoy craft cocktails, small bites, and distillery tours with a tasting of five spirits for just $20.
6. Go shopping at the Country Club Plaza.
Though I wouldn’t typically put “shopping” on a best-of list for any city, Country Club Plaza is a worthy exception. Country Club Plaza is a sprawling outdoor shopping mall with over 100 retailers and restaurants, making it one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri.
Country Club Plaza is filled with beautiful Spanish-style architecture, making it a beautiful spot to walk around on a date night. It’s a popular location for seasonal events, like the Plaza Lighting Ceremony in the winter and the Plaza Art Fair in the fall, but you don’t need to be here for an event to enjoy your time at this shopping center. You can even go on a segway tour in Country Club Plaza!
You can shop at high-end retailers, like Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co., or check out popular local stores, like the Made in KC Marketplace. I highly recommend checking out this boutique while you’re in town—they sell tons of locally-made goods, including appeal, food, home décor, beauty products, and more. This would be an excellent place to grab a souvenir from your trip to bring home! Plus, if you’d like to hang out, they also have a coffee shop, cocktail bar, and places to eat within the shop.
You can also make dinner reservations here at popular restaurants, like The Cheesecake Factory and The Melting Pot. However, I’d recommend eating at Gram & Dun. This local restaurant is considered one of the best places to eat in Kansas City and is the perfect location for a celebratory dinner, date night, or girl’s night out.
7. Take a walk around the Kauffman Memorial Garden.
Kansas City has dozens of beautiful parks and gardens you can’t miss the chance to stroll around during your visit to the city—and one of the most beautiful gardens is the Kauffman Memorial Garden.
Ewing & Muriel Kauffman were a beloved couple and two philanthropists in Kansas City, and the Kauffman Memorial Garden was built in their honor to commemorate their positive impact on the city. The Kauffman Memorial Garden is free to explore and includes tons of tulips, plenty of benches, and a few fountains to admire, making it one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Jacob L. Loose Park is another gorgeous green space to explore during your time in Kansas City. It has a lake, tennis courts, waterpark, rose garden, and even historical markers from the Civil War.
8. Venture through historic Union Station.
Union Station, established in 1914, was once a high-trafficked train station in Kansas City. It’s an impressive sight to behold—the architecture is exquisite, and the ceilings are nearly 100-feet high. Since 1999, Union Station has been a popular tourist attraction that houses restaurants, like Pierpont’s Restaurant and Harvey’s Restaurant, and tons of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, like the Planetarium, Model Train Gallery, Science City, City Theatre, and more.
Union Station is free to visit; however, you may need to pay for the cost of the attractions inside. We didn’t have much time to explore, so we popped into the Model Train Gallery with a suggested donation of $5 per person or $10 per family.
9. Explore the historic River Market neighborhood.
River Market is an awesome neighborhood in Kansas City right along—you guessed it—the Missouri River. While the most popular attraction in River Market is the Farmers Market, which occurs from 8 AM – 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday, you can also visit City Market, an indoor and outdoor market selling produce, spices, and handmade goods every day of the week. We particularly loved stopping at Carollo’s Italian Grocery & Deli to see all the authentic Italian groceries and goods on display.
River Market also has some other cool places to explore. Pigwich is a popular sandwich shop for lunch, and Tribe Street Kitchen is an excellent stop for a trendy brunch. Before exploring City Market, I highly recommend stopping at the Made in KC Trolley Café. This coffee shop is a sister company of the local business, Made in Kansas City, and operates out of a remodeled trolley. We loved the handmade pastries, and the coffee was great, too!
10. Sip on a refreshing beer at Boulevard Brewing Company.
Boulevard Brewing Company was founded in 1989 and, since then, has grown to be the most prominent brewery in the entire Midwest. Locals and visitors alike consider Boulevard Brewing Company one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri!
Boulevard Brewing Company’s two-story Beer Hall & Recreation Center is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri. On the first floor, you can explore the Recreation Center, filled with exhibits about the brewery’s history, and then check out the shop with tons of merchandise, like apparel, glassware, and of course, beer, which you can bring home with you.
Upstairs, the Beer Hall has tons of seating, dozens of beers on tap, and a great food menu. If it’s a nice day, you can also sit on the outdoor deck with great city views. We enjoyed the upbeat atmosphere at Boulevard Brewing Company, and the beer and food were great too.
If you want to check out some other (smaller) craft breweries in Kansas City, check out Casual Animal Brewing Company, Stockyards Brewing Co., and KC Bier Co.
11. Enjoy the shopping, dining, and nightlife in Old Westport.
Old Westport is a neighborhood in Kansas City that has history dating back to the 1800s, including the Battle of Westport, the largest battle in the Civil War on the west side of the Mississippi River. Old Westport is one of Kansas City’s central entertainment districts, in addition to the Power & Light District and Crossroads District, with tons of fun things to do and places to eat.
While you’re in Old Westport, don’t miss the chance to eat a Julep, a whiskey bar, or catch an improv show at The KC Improv Company. You can also grab brunch at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, or enjoy a glass of wine at Ça Va, a swanky cocktail lounge and wine bar.
12. Try some authentic Kansas City Barbecue.
Before you leave Kansas City, you can’t miss out on the city’s claim to fame—Kansas City barbecue! Compared to other prominent barbecue styles, Kansas City focused on sweet, thick sauces with a tomato, molasses, and brown sugar base. The meat itself is seasoned with a dry rub and slowly smoked over various types of woods.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is by far the most popular place to try barbecue in Kansas City, and they have three locations (all in Kansas!) where you can try their famous pulled pork, brisket, or ribs. Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque is another popular joint famous for ribs, and Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue is a great place to go if you’re looking for an upscale, sit-down dinner. Plus, they have five locations, making it easy to enjoy great barbecue wherever you are in Kansas City.
We ate at Jack Stack Barbecue, but I, unfortunately, didn’t get the chance to snap a picture of my food before it was gone (whoops). The photo below was of a pulled pork slider I enjoyed at Parlor, a food hall in the Crossroads District and one of the best places to eat in Kansas City.
For the best barbecue places and more fun restaurants to try during your vacation, read our post about the best places to eat and drink in Kansas City!
If You Have More Time…
Here are a few more of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, if you have more time to explore this vibrant city:
- Kansas City Zoo—The Kansas City Zoo is home to more than 1,700 animals and is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, with kids.
- College Basketball Experience—The College Basketball Experience is one of the most unique things to do in Kansas City. It allows you to learn about college basketball legends and the history of the game and can “experience” a game of college basketball.
- Kansas City Public Library—Even if you just walk by, you must see the unique exterior of the Kansas City Public Library, modeled to resemble books on a shelf.
- Kauffman Stadium—If you’re visiting during baseball season, one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, is to watch a Kansas City Royals game at Kauffman Stadium, nicknamed “The K.”
- Arrowhead Stadium—Kansas City loves its sports teams! If you’re in Kansas City during football season, watch the beloved Kansas City Chiefs square off against another NFL team at Arrowhead Stadium.
- Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts—Just across the street from the popular Power & Light District, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a great place to watch a concert, musical, or show in Kansas City.
- SEA LIFE Kansas City—The SEA Life Aquarium in Kansas City is another one of the best things to do in Kansas City with kids and features fish, sharks, rays, and other marine animals.
Kansas City FAQs
Is Kansas City in Kansas or Missouri?
Is Kansas City in Kansas or Missouri? Well, technically, both! Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri, both by population and area. However, there’s a smaller “Kansas City” in Kansas, also part of the Kansas City Metropolitan area. We were told locals feel strongly whether they are from the “Missouri” or “Kansas” side of Kansas City. We’ll let you decide which side is best!
Personally, when we visited Kansas City, we stayed in Missouri for 99% of the time. We did cross over into Kansas to visit a winery, but this totally isn’t necessary. You can stay in Missouri the entire time during your visit to Kansas City and still enjoy all the best things to do in Kansas City.
What’s the Best Way to Get to Kansas City?
Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is the best place to fly into when visiting Kansas City. It’s a short half-hour drive from Downtown Kansas City.
If you’re planning to explore all the things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, on this list, I’d highly recommend getting a rental car. Although the public transportation system is well-developed and easy to use in Downtown Kansas City (not to mention, it’s free!), this list of things to do in Kansas City, MO, will take you outside the city’s center.
What is Kansas City, MO, best known for?
Kansas City is best known for its world-famous steaks and barbecue and has often been dubbed the “Barbecue Capital.” Kansas City is also well-known for its jazz history and jazz music icons, like Charlie Parker and Big Joe Turner. You can explore the city’s jazz history in the Historic Jazz District and American Jazz Museum.
Kansas City is also known as the “City of Fountains” since it has over 200 fountains—more than any other city in the world except Rome! Kansas City is also known as the “Heart of America” because it’s situated between the population and geographic centers of the United States of America.
Is Kansas City, Missouri, worth visiting?
Yes, Kansas City, Missouri, is worth visiting—and for more reasons than just the barbecue! Kansas City has a thriving jazz scene, tons of interesting museums, vibrant nightlife, and more working fountains than any other city in the country.
What food is famous in Kansas City?
Kansas City is famous for Kansas City strip steak, burnt ends, cheesy corn, and an innovative Italian dish called Chicken Spiedini.
Best Places to Stay in Kansas City, Missouri
It’s important to be close to all the best things to do in Kansas City, so you can fit as much as possible into your vacation! Check out these awesome hotels in the heart of Kansas City:
- The Fontaine—The Fontaine is located near the Country Club Plaza area in Kansas City and offers a rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, and upscale Mediterranian restaurant on the top floor of the hotel.
- 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City—Do you love art? If so, you need to stay in this contemporary hotel just steps away from the Power & Light District and Downtown Kansas City.
- Loews Kansas City—We loved staying at Loews Kansas City! It’s close to all the main attractions downtown, and the hotel has a swimming pool, jacuzzi tub, rooftop bar, coffee shop, and other incredible amenities.
If you’d like to read about these hotels (and more places!) where you can stay in the city, check out our post about the best luxury hotels in Kansas City.
Enjoy the Best Things to Do in Kansas City, Missouri
Are you surprised by all the amazingly fun things to do in Kansas City, Missouri? I sure was, and I’m so glad I had the chance to experience all this awesome Midwest city has to offer!
Which of these best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, would be at the top of your list? Let me know in the comments below.
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