What are the top things to do in Kansas City?

Kansas City was founded at the confluence of the historic Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails and other lesser-known ones that opened the U.S. to the west in the early 1800s. Now, almost 200 years later, the city is a bustling metropolis of 2 million residents with sweeping, tree-lined boulevards like those found in Paris and grand, sparkling fountains reminiscent of Rome. When you’re there, shop at the City Market and Country Club Plaza, and meander through galleries in the Crossroads Arts District. Here are our top things to do in Kansas City:

City market: Operating since the 1850s, the City Market is one of the oldest U.S. farmer’s markets. Besides fresh produce, vendors hawk an eclectic array of baked goods, cheeses, flowers, jewelry and more.
Arts district: Visit during the first Friday of each month and tour more than four dozen art galleries in the Crossroads Arts District, just south of downtown. Many of the galleries offer wine, beer and small appetizers. There are also interesting retailers, including Birdie’s, for unusual and beautiful lingerie, Christopher Elbow Chocolates and Hudson Home. Visit the website for information, including gallery openings, restaurants and other special events in the district.
Country Club Plaza: Spend the day strolling the Country Club Plaza, one of the most revered and loved outdoor shopping centers in the U.S., with more 150 shops and dozens of restaurants. Retailers range from large national chains such as Restoration Hardware and Tiffany & Co., to locally owned shops, including Tomboy and Tivol. A must-see is Hall’s, one of the country’s finest upscale specialty stores. Owned by Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc., the department store sells goods from around the world at price points ranging from the affordable to sky-high. The plaza features tree-lined walks, statues, fountains and murals; re-creations of Spain’s Seville Light fountain and Giralda Tower; horse-drawn carriage rides; and free entertainment.

  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best attractions in Kansas City?

    The must see attractions include a mix of museums, neighborhoods and the Crown Center, the world headquarters of KC-based Hallmark, which includes the Hallmark Visitor’s Center, the city’s aquarium, the Crayola flagship store, Legoland Discovery Center and tons of shops and restaurants. As for museums, the top choices are the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, National World War One Museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the American Jazz Museum. Then there is unique Country Club Plaza, an entire pedestrian friendly neighborhood that was built in 1922 as the nation’s first suburban-style shopping mall specifically designed for the newly popular automobile. Patterned on sister city Seville, Spain, Country Club Plaza is full of white Mediterranean facades and fountains, home to KC’s best shopping and much of its top-shelf dining.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best nightlife in Kansas City?

    The renovated Power & Light District is the heart of KC nightlife, with indoor and outdoor bustling bars, an outpost of the popular PBR (Pro Bull Riders) Big Sky, serious urban nightclubs (Angel’s Rock, Hotel Nightclub), a huge outdoor beer garden in warm weather, dueling pianos (Howl at the Moon) and a new branch of Texas’ wildly popular Alamo Drafthouse, combing first run movies with treat food and drink. All of this is found in a four square block area.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best sports venues in Kansas City?

    Kansas City has two big time professional teams both of which have enjoyed much success over the years. Major League Baseball Royals play in open air Kauffman Stadium, which like the rest of KC, is famous for its elaborate fountains. The National Football League Chiefs play in historic Arrowhead stadium, which got a $375 million facelift in 2010, also under the open sky. But it might be more fun to check out one of KC’s less well known teams, like T-Bones minor league baseball at CommunityAmerica ballpark or the Renegades arena football at American Royal Court.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best overall restaurants in Kansas City?

    Depending what you want, KC has great food for all taste. Barbecue is paramount here and there is no single better place to enjoy the city’s full gamut of smoky taste than at the legendary Oklahoma Joes. It’s very casual – in a still functional gas station – but numerous critics have singled it out as the nation’s very best. A stockyard center, Kansas City loves red meat, and the Golden Ox, located in the stockyard district, has been doing it right since 1949, and is also full of historic KC memorabilia. The farm-to-table craze has taken off here, and Justus Drugstore, near the airport, has received plenty of national attention for its only from scratch, only from local farmers fine dining in a casual setting. Italian is huge here, and while beloved local red sauce institution Garozzo’s is famous for inventing another KC specialty, speidini, marinated skewered meat oozing juicy goodness, the best is Lidia’s, by the first lady of Italian American cooking, cook book author, TV personality and acclaimed chef Lidia Bastianich.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best kids activities in Kansas City?

    The Crown Center is the end all and be all for kids, with several marquee attractions in one vast complex including the Legoland Discovery Center, Hallmark Visitors Center, Sea Life Aquarium, the city’s only public outdoor skating rink, Hallmark’s hands-on Kaleidoscope creativity center, several theaters with love performances, almost daily live entertainment and special exhibitions, and kid friendly dining. Beyond the Crown Center are the Anita Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, a 10-acre self-guided wetlands park in the middle of the city; the Kansas City Zoo; and during baseball season, KC Royal’s Major league home games.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is Kansas City’s dining scene like?

    Hearty beats out fancy here and the 800-pound gorilla of Kansas City dining is barbecue, and as an amalgam of the nation’s styles, this is the best place in the country to try great smoked meat of every description, from Texas brisket to Memphis-style ribs to Carolina pulled pork sandwiches and KC’s own creation, burnet ends, heavily seasoned and slightly crunchy cubes of twice smoked exterior brisket. Legendary options include Oklahoma Joe’s, Gates Bar-B-Q and Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ. KC also has a rich Italian history and for local flavor it’s hard to beat Garozzo’s, which has spent a quarter century in the Columbus Park neighborhood near downtown and whose claim to fame is the invention of spiedini, now a regional staple. Sort of like shish kebab, it involves marinated chunks of meats cooked on skewers but gets vastly more complex. Garozzo’s signature chicken spiedini is “Marinated chicken breast, rolled in Italian bread crumbs, skewered & grilled,” oozing explosive tastes of lemon, garlic, herbs and olive oil. There are several other versions as well. Finally, as a longtime stockyard locale, KC loves its steak, especially corn fed American USDA prime beef, and the classic steakhouses here are The Golden Ox, M&S Grill and Plaza III in Country Club Plaza.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best museums in Kansas City?

    For its size, Kansas City has a wealth of museums. The most prominent is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of the nation’s best. Heavily endowed and flush with cash during the Great Depression it was able to amass a world-class collection at fire sale prices. In 2007, the nearly $100 million Bloch wing, named for benefactor Henry Bloch, cofounder of accounting’s H&R Block fame (he changed spelling), opened and was promptly named a Top 10 New Architectural Marvel by Time Magazine. The other must-see is the National World War One Museum, by the same designer as the Holocaust Memorial in DC. The museum is heavily interactive: you can literally poke your head into the horrors of trench warfare or design your own War Bonds posters. The round museum is split into two halves, one for before the US entry into the war and one for after, with a great short film in between, complete with smoke and special effects. The other notable offerings are the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, with a Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture in front, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the American Jazz Museum.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Kansas City?

    Those seeking out retail therapy will be very pleasantly surprised to discover the unique Country Club Plaza. This was the very first suburban-style shopping mall in the nation, specifically designed with the newly popular automobile in mind, a centralized park and stroll concept that was revolutionary when it opened in 1922. It is patterned on sister city Seville, Spain, with white Mediterranean facades and fountains (the “City of Fountains,” KC has more than anyplace else in the US), and quite reminiscent of Addison Mizner’s South Florida architecture. The several streets comprising this open-air shopping district contain most of the city’s best retail (Tiffany, Burberry, Restoration Hardware, L’Occitane, Sur La Table, Athleta, etc.) as well a large share of the city’s top restaurants. The other notable spot is the Crown Center Mall with the nation’s flagship Hallmark and Crayola stores (both KC based) and many others. Since KC is famous for barbecue, it’s worth noting that nearby Olathe is home to the most amazing retail emporium of the genre, with everything from thermometers and spice rubs to the world’s largest collection of BBQ sauces and tow-behind competition smokers, all at the amazing Kansas City Barbecue Store.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best BBQ in Kansas City?

    There are three major regional variants of barbecue in the US, Memphis-style (ribs, tomato-based sauce), Texas-style (beef brisket, little or no sauce), and Carolina style (pulled pork and sauces of vinegar or mustard). Kansas City is a melting pot where they all come together, plus the city’s own contribution to the BBQ lexicon, burnt ends, crusty spiced exterior cubes of brisket. For this reason, KC has arguably the best barbecue scene in the world and excels at every style, and many critics rightfully consider Oklahoma Joe’s just across the border in KS the very best. They make perfect ribs, perfect brisket and amazing sandwiches, and usually have a line at the door when they open. A second, larger location is in Olathe, KS, nearby. KC has several other tops standouts, most notably Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ (great ribs) and the locally popular Gates Bar-B-Q chain, where you order at a cafeteria style counter. Gates and the more famous Arthur Bryant’s chain are locked in fierce competition but Gates is better.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best hotels in Kansas City?

    Luxury lodging is not Kansas City’s claim to fame, and the city does not have a single Forbes 4 or 5-Star rated hotel, but it still has some good choices for visitors. The classic art deco Hotel Phillips is a landmark that was recently renovated and has great location in the heart of downtown, within walking distance of the Power & Light District. The hotel bar famously serves the city’s shortest happy hour: $1 drafts of local microbrews from 5-5:15PM. Also located by the Power & Light District, the Hilton President is the city’s grand hotel, since 1920 and has been home to everyone from Houdini to Sinatra. The Ambassador is a new stylish downtown boutique hotel, with just 43 well-appointed rooms featuring modern technology and luxury bathrooms with large walk-in showers. The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center is a very reliable hotel with the chain’s Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Baths, but its best asset is its location, especially for families, directly connected to the downtown Crown Center, the headquarters of Hallmark, with an aquarium and Crayola flagship store.
  • On June 21
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    When is the best time to visit Kansas City?

    Kansas City rarely gets crowded, so seasonal influxes are not an issue, but weather can be, as the region enjoys four distinct seasons, with winter fairly cold and summer very hot and humid, 90-100° with high moisture levels. For climate, September and October are best and often feature an “Indian summer” with warm sunny days and cooler nights. This is also the season of the city’s biggest annual event , the American Royal, held from early September to mid-November at the fairgrounds, an ongoing series of rodeos, cattle exhibitions, live entertainment and other activities, with the highlight being the World Series of Barbecue in early October, the premier such event in the entire world. May and June are also quite nice though in late June summer temperatures begin to arrive.
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