Looking for the best things to do in Kansas City? We’ve put together a list to help you plan your next trip.
On our way across the country on our #EndlessCaravan, we made a stop in Kansas City. It’s hard to believe it, but I actually lived here for a few years as a kid and have very little recollection of it (other than playing lots of four square and tetherball).
With the help of our friends who were born and raised here, we put together the best things to do in Kansas City.
This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: January 20, 2023
11 Things to DO in Kansas City
We still have a hard time grasping how Kansas City works. It is not one city divided into two states but in fact two separate cities with the same name in two different states. They just happen to be neighbors. When you talk to people who live in either city, though, they give you recommendations from both and pretty much treat it like it is one city.
The funny thing is neither were originally named Kansas City. Maybe we’re making it more complicated than it needs to be, but we still find it confusing. Anyone from the area want to chime in?
1. Enjoy the Sunset Views from the Liberty Memorial →
2 Memorial Dr, Kansas City, MO 64108, map
The liberty memorial stands on top of the National World War I Museum and gives you a great view of the city. It is also the only US museum devoted solely to World War I.
2. Eat Kansas City BBQ
3002 W 47th Ave, Kansas City, KS 66103, map
When it comes to Kansas City BBQ, you’ll hear a lot of opinions on what’s the best, but Joe’s Kansas City BBQ (formerly Oklahoma Joes) always makes the list somewhere. It’s located inside a gas station, and you could be waiting hours just to order, but it’s worth the wait!
If you’re looking for a fancier spot, Jack Stack BBQ is also a popular spot amongst locals. We tried both on the trip, and if we had to pick only one meal to eat in KC, we’d choose Joe’s.
3. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art →
4525 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64111, map
This is a popular spot amongst tourists and locals. It is home to an amazing collection of rare European, American, and Asian art, but it also has a huge outdoor area with sculptures and plenty of grass to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
Local Tip: It’s also the home to the World’s Largest Shuttlecock.
4. Get Nostalgic at the National Toy Museum →
5235 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64112, map
If you loved toys at any point in your life, then you need to stop by the National Toy Museum. It originally started as a private collection that grew to become what it is today.
After a recent $8 million renovation, the museum has great interactive exhibits and the pieces are displayed beautifully. Our favorite part of the museum were the toys through the decades, where we reminisced seeing toys from the 80s and 90s.
5. Browse Giant Books at the Kansas City Public Library
14 W 10th St, Kansas City, MO 64105, map
The city’s library has created the perfect photo op for any bibliophile. Besides having a beautiful library, they have created a row of giant books along the outside of the parking structure.
6. See the Animals at the Kansas City Zoo →
6800 Zoo Dr, Kansas City, MO 64132, map
The Kansas City Zoo has over 1700 animals covering 200+ acres. In addition to that, you can book animal encounters, stay overnight, or go on a guided tour.
7. Leila’s Hair Museum →
1333 S Noland Rd, Independence, MO 64055, map
We had no idea what to expect when walking into the Leila’s Hair Museum. It’s a massive collection of hair art. On our cross country adventure, we were on the hunt for the weirdest and most offbeat attractions we could find and it was perfect!
What we thought would be a good laugh, however, ended up being a quite fascinating learning experience. They have hair from historic figures, presidents, celebrities and hair art in various forms. But what was most interesting was learning about the tradition of hair wreaths used in the past for documenting genealogy from the owner Leila herself.
Local Tip: If you want to learn more about the lost art of hair wreaths, Leila even teaches classes where you learn her techniques.
8. Union Station
30 W Pershing Rd, Kansas City, MO 64108, map
This building was originally put up in 1914 and the terminal for 12 main lines and 30 subsidiary lines. Since then, it has been converted into a #188 million entertainment center. Now it’s home to an exhibit on Kansas City’s railroad history, shops, restaurants, Science City – a hands-on children’s science center, movie theater, and Amtrak!
9. Grab a Pint at the Boulevard Brewing Company →
2501 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108, map
This brewery has become the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. Take the tour and be sure to try the Midwest’s best-selling craft beer, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer.
10. Walk Through History at the Harry S. Truman Home →
223 N Main St, Independence, MO 64050, map
Take a walk through the 33rd president’s “Summer White House”. This National Park unit gives you a glimpse into Harry S. Truman’s life and career. You do need to get tickets as they limit the tours to 8 people at a time, so be sure to stop by the visitor’s center since they are first come, first served.
Local Tip: This national park is free to visit!
See More: Your complete list of all National Parks in the US
11. Enjoy Music at BLue Room Jazz Club
1600 E 18th St, Kansas City, MO 64108, map
Right next to the American Jazz Museum is the Blue Room Jazz Club where you can enjoy music from up-and-coming bands, seasoned veterans, and big names. They have free shows throughout the week while other shows have a cover charge. Check their website for the latest lineup.
Map of the Best Things to Do in Kansas City
More THings to DO in Kansas City
Here are more spots to check out during your visit.
- American Jazz Museum
- Crown Center
- The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial
- Jacob L. Loose Park
- J C Nichols Memorial Fountain
- Kansas City Museum
- Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
- Harry S Truman Library and Museum
- Lake Jacomo
- Lakeside Nature Center
- Longview Lake
- Money Museum
- Museum at Prairiefire
- National Airline History Museum
- National WWI Museum and Memorial
- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
- Shoal Creek LIving History Museum
- Swope Park
- Vaile Mansion
- Worlds of Fun + Oceans of Fun
Best Places to STay in Kansas City
- Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.
- Find a great deal on Kansas City hotels.
- Arrange a rental car for your trip.
- Book a tour for your visit.
- Get airport lounge access.
- Buy a travel charger to keep your devices charged.
- Get a new backpack for your trip.
- Buy a Kansas City travel guide.
- Pack the appropriate shoes for your trip.
- Don’t forget your in-flight essentials.
Have you been to Kansas City? Anything you’d add to the list?
DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? PIN IT FOR LATER
SEE MORE FIRST TIMER CITY GUIDES
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
Follow along on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.
This Post Has 9 Comments
I moved to Kansas City for college and immediately fell in love. After living here for 10 years, I agree with Eric in that locals view Kansas City as one city. In addition to the Plaza, Zona Rosa is another fun outdoor shopping area. While in KC, I would definitely recommend checking out some of the sports, whether it’s Royals baseball, Chiefs football, or Sporting KC soccer. Near the Royals stadium is an old-fashioned drive-in called Hi Boy, and they serve the most amazing burgers and hot fudge sundaes! Another fun area worth visiting is Westport. It’s an area that has a great nightlife and some unique and delicious restaurants. Kansas City is also proud of its coffee that is produced locally, called the Roasterie. They have factory tours available. Kansas City is also the home of Hallmark greeting cards, and near its hub downtown is an area called Crown Center. This area has great restaurants and shops, and during the winter a beautifully decorated ice rink.
I would totally recommend Kansas City for your next get away :)
Thanks for the suggestions, Alex!
Great tips and pics about the city I admire the most.
It is simply an amazing experience altogether!
I didn’t know there was a hair museum! Lol Now I’m going to have to check it out. Thanks for the list!
Yup! haha we like to dig up some pretty bizarre stuff too. :) Let me know what you think if you visit.
I figured I’d chime in regarding your question about how the city works. You’ve got it right, but as a local, we basically look at it as one city (Kansas City) with suburbs throughout the greater metropolitan area (Kansas City, Kansas included).
You have a pretty decent start on your list, but you for sure should of dropped the hair museum and Glacé and replaced them with City Market (including Steamboat Arabia) and the Plaza. Also I’d highly recommend the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum over the Harry S. Truman house.
KC also has a lot of great Jazz clubs: The Green Lady and The Blue Room being two of the best.
Anyhow, thanks for the article and nice work!
Thanks, Eric. Thanks so much for the suggestions. We would love to go back and spend more time there. I grew up there and don’t think I had much of a clue how the city worked. It’s good to get more insight from a local. :)