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, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Should visitors rent a car in Kansas City?

    Yes, it is helpful since the city is relatively spread out, there is little traffic and parking is generally easy. In short, it is an easy place to use a rental car and a helpful place to have one, especially if you are visiting the many museums, seeking out Kansas City’s famous barbecue joints, or heading to popular suburbs like Olathe. And whether you stay downtown or in Country Club Plaza, the two most popular areas, many of the sights are far enough away to require driving.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best overall restaurants in Kansas City?

    Kansas City is known for its world-famous barbecue; but it’s also on the forefront of the locavore movement. You’ll see that dichotomy throughout the city’s culinary landscape. Restaurants can be as casual as tasty Mexican-style street tacos in an old gas station or as formal as white-glove service in elegant, soaring dining rooms. Either way, this city has a robust, delicious foodie scene. Here are the best restaurants in Kansas City, in our opinion:

    1. The American Restaurant. The flagship restaurant of the Crown Center, Four-Star The American Restaurant has attracted Kansas City diners for 40 years. With a concept designed by the legendary James Beard, the father of American cooking, and Joe Baum, the restaurateur of the former Windows on the World in New York City, the restaurant is as elegant as ever, with downtown views, polished service and one of the city’s best wine lists. The kitchen staff, led by James Beard Award-winning executive chef Debbie Gold, prepares American fare using local seasonal produce, like applewood-grilled Piedmontese côte de boeuf with candied yams and smoked mushrooms.

    2. Bluestem. Bluestem is the product of two acclaimed chefs, Colby and Megan Garrelts, who worked at such restaurants as Aureole in Las Vegas and TRU in Chicago. The space is divided into a 40-seat restaurant, with cobalt blue walls and warm candlelight. Three-, five- and seven-course prix fixe menus are available, as is a 12-course tasting menu. Entrées might include a torchon of foie gras, wild Tasmanian salmon with oxtail or LaBelle duck with sweet potato gnocchi and apple emulsion. Desserts are outstanding - simplistic in their approach but full of intense flavors. Try the tempting vanilla-marinated nectarines with peach nectar, cinnamon-toasted feuille de brick, sweet corn ice cream, fresh sheep cheese, popcorn dust and caramel. For more casual fare, head to the adjacent wine bar.
  • On November 12, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    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.
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  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best sports venues in Kansas City?

    Kansas City’s professional football team, the Chiefs, calls Arrowhead Stadium home. During pigskin season, you can tour the stadium, press box, Hall of Honor, broadcast booth and more. Then there’s the Royals, Kansas City’s professional baseball team, who play ball at Kauffman Stadium. You can take a tour of the ballpark and check out its trademark 322-foot-wide fountain, the home dugout and the visiting team locker room.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are Kansas City’s best cultural offerings?

    Partly due to being the world headquarters of Hallmark Cards and home of the Kansas City Art Institute, which trained such artists at Robert Rauschenberg and Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton — who later taught Jackson Pollock — Kansas City has a thriving arts community. Check out the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, which features productions throughout the year, such as Carmen, Madama Butterfly and The Marriage of Figaro. They take place April through May and September through November.

    For theater, check out Kansas City Repertory Theatre, which presents classic and contemporary productions, like Cabaret, Saved and Little Shop of Horrors, along with a holiday performance of A Christmas Carol. To see Broadway and musical concerts, head to Starlight Theatre, the city's outdoor amphitheater, from June to September.

    And if you happen to be visiting in March, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is sure to please. It's one of the nation's largest, at just over a mile long, so there's plenty of themed floats, bands and performers.

  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best boutique hotels in Kansas City?

    Located within the Westport entertainment district with an interesting array of nightclubs, restaurants and shops within walking distance, the Q Hotel and Spa can only be described as a friendly, fun-spirited, eco-conscious boutique hotel. The hotel hosts a manager’s happy hour each evening in the Quench bar off the lobby. Each morning, you can head to the downstairs dining room for complimentary breakfast, which includes a waffle bar and made-to-order omelets. The property underwent a renovation in 2009 that outfitted all 123 rooms with an eye toward sustainability and minimized the footprint of the hotel and of its guests, including adding energy-efficient lighting and water-saving shower heads. The bathrooms come with Aveda products and refillable bath gel, shampoo and conditioner in the showers. The coffee and tea service uses cups made from recycled paper.

    If you want to stick to your exercise routine, get passes to the Gold’s Gym across the street, though if you’re looking to get pampered, the Q does manicures, pedicures and massages onsite. The hotel offers free shuttle services and bicycles. The comfy rooms are a tad on the small side, but the large framed mirrors on the walls help make them feel bigger. The beds have fun, round decorative pillows; soft, comfortable linens; and a light cotton throw to ward off any nighttime chills. Other amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi Internet and free bike rentals and shuttles.

    The Raphael Hotel overlooks the renowned Country Club Plaza and underwent a top-to-bottom multimillion-dollar renovation in 2009. The result is an elegant but updated boutique hotel that has a comfortable, Old World feel and a staff that’s eager to please. The property was built in the 1920s as an upscale apartment residence and many of the 120-plus rooms are unique and cater to different desires, including a dining suite and a Jacuzzi suite that also has a separate glass-wall, walk-in shower with two large rain-style showerheads, one of which is mounted on the ceiling. The rooms are spacious and have an elegant, understated atmosphere with comfortable seating areas, flat-screen TVs, luxurious linens and down pillows. The bathrooms feature black marble and cherry wood vanities, extra-deep soaking tubs and European toiletries, including bath salts.

    The Chaz Restaurant and Lounge has also been completely renovated and offers a cool respite for those weary from a day of shopping and sightseeing. The Raphael is steps away from the shops and restaurants of the plaza and is especially popular during the holidays, when more than 80 miles of holiday lights are set ablaze on Thanksgiving night.