As the largest city in Missouri and one of the biggest cities in the entire Midwest, Kansas City is loaded with things to do. From one of the NFL’s most successful franchises to mouthwatering barbecue and the birthplace of Walt Disney, Kansas City is full of fun things to see and do.
The Best Things to Do in Kansas City
1. Visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The Negro Leagues are one of the most important aspects of baseball history, and Kansas City was the home of the most successful Negro League team. Nowadays, the country’s best museum celebrating the rich heritage of the Negro Leagues can be found in the heart of Kansas City.
Located in the same building as the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum walks visitors through the history and impact of the Negro Leagues. It showcases the bright moments, the dark history, and the ultimate triumph that the leagues experienced before baseball was ultimately fully integrated.
Tickets cost $10 for general admission and can be purchased online at the museum’s website.
2. Eat Some Iconic Kansas City Barbecue
Kansas City is known all around the United States for its barbecue, and it doesn’t disappoint. Kansas City barbecue is the real deal, and there are several great places to grab it while visiting the city.
We spent time visiting the best barbecue restaurants in Kansas City, and we ranked our favorites in the next section. From sandwiches to meat by the pound and everything in between, the barbecue restaurants we name below have you covered.
Keep scrolling to see our full KC BBQ list!
3. Visit a Jazz Club
Kansas City is not known as the birthplace of jazz, although it was a pivotal place in the jazz movement nonetheless. Kansas City jazz was developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s as a very distinct form of jazz music, shifting largely away from other contemporary styles.
To this day, jazz is near and dear to Kansas City locals, and the best way to experience it is by visiting a jazz club.
Many jazz clubs charge a meager cover for entry, but patrons claim the cover is worth every penny. From enjoyable music to great socialization, jazz clubs are some of the most popular entertainment venues in Kansas City, and the best place to find them is in the Historic Jazz District.
4. Explore the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is easily Kansas City’s most esteemed establishment. Located in the heart of the city, this museum boasts thousands of square feet of gallery space. Its impressive collection of invaluable paintings and sculptures by well-known artists solidifies the Nelson Atkins as one of the top art museums in the United States.
While the museum is worthy of a visit regardless of price, price isn’t even a concern. The museum offers free admission to all guests! After a visit to the museum, be sure to explore the outdoor sculpture garden and check out its giant shuttlecocks.
Art lovers might also enjoy the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, but if you are only willing or able to make it to one art museum it should be the Nelson-Atkins.
5. Hang Out in the Country Club Plaza
The Plaza is easily one of the most happening areas in all of Kansas City. This outdoor shopping and dining complex features some popular stores like Lululemon and J Crew, great local restaurants, and a little store that sells local KC products that you won’t want to miss. We spent several days here, as the Capital One Cafe is the best place to get work done in all of Kansas City.
In the Plaza, you can find popular national chains like Fogo de Chao and The Capital Grille as well as local spots, like Jack Stack Barbecue and Sweet Kiss Brigadeiro. I highly recommend checking out Sweet Kiss Brigadeiro for some authentic Brazilian treats!
6. Catch a Chiefs Game at Arrowhead Stadium
The Kansas City Chiefs have become one of the most successful teams in the NFL, and Arrowhead Stadium is their home. The Chiefs have one of the most devoted fanbases in all of football, and that is on full display throughout the season! If you aren’t able to visit during football season, another great option is to catch a Kansas City Royals baseball game at Kauffman Stadium, which is located in the same complex.
7. Grab Tacos in Kansas City, KS
Kansas City has a robust Mexican-American community, and some of the local taco shops are out of this world. While most of the city’s attractions are on the Missouri side, the best tacos are found in Kansas! We spent a couple of years living in Central Mexico, and a couple of the taco shops on the Kansas side of the border were truly reminiscent of our time in Mexico. Our favorite was Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio, whose tacos al pastor are to die for.
8. Pop into the National WWI Museum and Memorial
Of the several world-class museums in Kansas City, the National World War One Museum is arguably the best. While art lovers might enjoy the Nelson-Atkins more, the National WWI Museum is a very well-structured museum that most visitors love. It is located within walking distance of Union Station and the Crown Center, making a visit incredibly easy to tie in with other things.
9. Experience First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District
First Fridays are a fun event for art lovers in Kansas City. The first Friday night of every month, art galleries in the Crossroads District open up for free admission to admire the artwork inside. These works are mostly produced by local Kansas City artists, and this is a great way to support individual artists. Art types range from modern art to very intricate paintings, and there is a little something that can speak to anyone.
10. Head to the River Market on Saturday Morning
City Market, also known as the River Market, is a cute area up by the bank of the Missouri River filled with local shops and vendors. On Saturday mornings, this place comes to life with a local farmers market teeming with produce vendors and small business owners peddling their wares. The River Market is the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning in Kansas City, and I personally love the Italian grocery store located inside.
11. Share a Pint at One of KC’s Award Winning Breweries
Kansas City has a slew of great breweries, but there were two that stood out to me as exceptional: KC Bier Co. and Boulevard Brewing Company. KC Bier Co. specializes in traditional German varieties of beer, and their taproom serves up delicious German food along with exceptional beers. Boulevard Brewing Company, on the other hand, is the city’s most popular and prestigious brewery and they make a wide variety of beers and serve a pretty extensive food menu. Both are exception options, but the Boulevard brewery tour really stands out as one of the best things to do in Kansas City!
12. Visit Some of the Best Children’s Museums in Kansas City
Kansas City is an incredibly family-friendly destination. We visited with our toddler and were amazed at the long list of things to check out with him! We wrote an entire post on the best children’s museums in Kansas City. From the money museum to Science City and Wonderscope, there are some really cool places to spend a day with your little ones while in Kansas City.
Each of the museums in that post are filled with interactive exhibits that are sure to keep any little one entertained. Wonderscope, especially, is worlds of fun and is a place you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting Kansas City with kids!
13. Eat Fresh Bagels from Meshuggah Bagels
Meshuggah Bagels is a local bagel joint that makes some of the best bagels we’ve ever had. We loved them so much that we returned several times to buy bagels by the dozen. If you enjoy bagels, you won’t want to miss this place. They also make fresh cream cheese in house each day, and the cinnamon sugar variety will melt in your mouth!
14. Check Out the Kansas City Zoo
Zoos are usually great places to visit while traveling to a new city with kids, and the story is the same in Kansas City. The Kansas City Zoo is a very nice place that makes for a great afternoon outside. General admission costs between $19 and $22 at the door, and is cheaper if you purchase tickets online in advance.
15. Peruse the American Jazz Museum
As I mentioned earlier, jazz music is very important to Kansas City’s history. This is well-documented at the American Jazz Museum! Its blue room is a great spot to catch some live music, and entrance to the museum only costs $10 for adults.
Where to Get the Best BBQ in Kansas City
Kansas City is known all across the United States for its barbecue. In fact, Kansas City-style barbecue is one of the most popular styles of barbecue in the country! We visited Kansas City directly after a trip to Austin, Texas which is equally famous for its barbecue.
In our opinion, both styles are great. But there’s no denying that Kansas City has some really great barbecue joints to check out! Be sure not to skip out on the burnt ends, which are an especially famous BBQ dish in Kansas City.
Of all the barbecue joints we visited in Kansas City, Q39 was easily our favorite. The brisket was perfectly cooked, the side dishes were really something special, and the service was top-notch. There are two Q39 locations around the city, but we chose to visit the one in Midtown.
2. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Located across the border in the state of Kansas, Joe’s is a tourist favorite. They’re known for their delicious sandwiches, long lines out the door, and casual environment. We tried a full gamut of plates here ranging from sandwiches to brisket and burnt ends, and we left very satisfied. It is a bit of a hike from most places in Kansas City, but it is worth the drive.
3. Jack Stack Barbecue
Jack Stack Barbecue doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom of any list. The food is really tasty and the environment is top notch! Friends told us that Jack Stack was the ritziest of the barbecue joints in Kansas City, and it didn’t disappoint.
The ambiance at Jack Stack feels much more upscale than the other two places. In fact, there appeared to be several groups of people there for a business dinner. While it felt ritzy, the prices were pretty much the same as anywhere else in Kansas City, which was a very welcome surprise.
How to Get to Kansas City
How to Get Around Kansas City
RENTAL CAR | BUS | STREET CAR
Best Time to Visit Kansas City
Kansas City is not known for its beautiful weather. This city experiences the full seasonal swing that other midwest cities experience, typically meaning frigid winters, generally cold springs and autumns, and toasty summers. While you will get an occasional warm day in the spring and fall months, you’re more likely going to be signing up for sweater weather during these seasons.
During this time you are the most likely to get warm, sunny weather. This is ideal to experience all of Kansas City’s great outdoor attractions!
While this is the most popular time of the year for tourism, the crowds in Kansas City aren’t nearly as absurd as they are in many other major cities. In fact, summer crowds might even be smaller than the crowds you’d see on the weekend of a Chiefs game!
Is Kansas City Worth Visiting?
Missouri isn’t at the top of most bucket lists, but the City of Fountains deserves more credit than it gets. Kansas City is both bigger and busier than we imagined before visiting.
The people in Kansas City are very nice, which is one huge draw. The food is spectacular, the local Kansas City pride is off the charts, and everything about the city feels laid back.
There is a lot to do in Kansas City, and I think it is absolutely worth visiting. It’s usually too remote to be a good weekend trip, but there’s plenty to do to occupy a full week. We visited for almost two weeks and there was plenty more than we wished we had time to do!
The downtown area is walkable and clean and the Nelson Atkins Museum is as esteemed as it gets. On top of that, the food is quite good! I wouldn’t rank Kansas City among the best places to visit in the United States, but it’s a great place that I’d recommend visiting if you have the time.
Do you have more questions for us about Kansas City? Or did we miss any big attraction?
Please comment your thoughts and questions!