When travelers plan a trip to Kansas City, people may ask them whether they're heading to Kansas or Missouri. That's because Kansas City's western section is in Kansas, and its eastern counterpart is in Missouri. An interstate system connects the two. Locals refer to the Kansas City, the KS side as "KCK," and the Missouri side as Kansas City. Each has its own unique identity and attributes, with both sides offering visitors a long list of intriguing sites and experiences to explore.
Most locals agree that the best time to visit Kansas City is between mid-May and early July and from late July into late September due to the hot, muggy temperatures that peak in mid-July. Around 2 million visitors each year beat the heat by heading to Swope Park, located on the Missouri side of the city. This 1800-acre park features a wide array of family-friendly fun. Visit the Kansas City Zoo, filled with more than 1000 animals from around the world. Check out the Beanstalk Children's Garden, or swing through the trees at the Go-Ape Treetop Adventure Course. Picnic tables, water fountains, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and a dog park are just some of the other activities available.
More than 95 million locals and tourists alike have explored this bustling neighborhood since its opening in 2008. The Power and Light District is a nine-block area on the Missouri side of the city. The district's name comes from the art-deco-style landmark, the Kansas City Power and Light Building, built in 1931. Jump on a KC Streetcar to explore the entertainment, shopping, and unique, world-class cuisine options available. The Sprint Center is nearby. Adults will love the thriving nightlife, but there are also kid-friendly activities as well. The Urbana First Fridays in the District is a recurring monthly street scene starting in June and continuing through October, offering food, live music, and art displays.
South of the Missouri River, the historic River Market celebrates the city's local culture with an added international flair. Visit the City Market, the region's largest farmers' market, filled with more than 140 vendors offering fresh flowers, vegetables, and specialty foods from around the world. Admission is free. For those interested in the area's Civil War history, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is within walking distance, just across from City Market. Concerts, food celebrations, and children's events take place in the River Market area between April and October.
For 120 years, the American Royal Association has hosted its annual livestock and horse show, one of the largest livestock shows in the nation. It has earned the reputation of being one of the most prestigious competitions in the country. Over 1500 exhibitors from 35 states travel to Kansas City each year in October to compete in the two-week-long event, showing off the best in cattle, goats, lambs, horses, and swine breeding. The American Royal organization also hosts other events at the American Royal throughout the year, including horse shows, rodeos, and barbecue events.
The Village West area in Kansas City, KS, is home to the Kansas Speedway, the host of two NASCAR race events each year: the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Night Race in the spring and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Elimination Race in the fall. There are options to purchase pre-race passes and VIP experiences that allow access to the drivers and a viewing of the cars before the race. The speedway also offers six RV campgrounds, including an area at the first turn and two infield areas in the center of the track.
There are more barbecue restaurants per capita in Kansas City than in any other city in the U.S. Kansas City barbecuers serve just about any type of meat, including ham, on their menus. Arthur Bryant's Barbeque is the most famous barbecue establishment and known for its large, open-faced beef sandwiches slathered in sauce. Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que is another favorite barbecue restaurant in the city and, surprisingly, is located inside a local gas station. Or, try the KC Barbecue Tour for a four-hour excursion to top barbecue eateries around the city.
Waldo is an entertainment district in Kansas City and home to the Kansas City Bier Company, which brews authentic German-style beers. Experience the Bavarian culture at the establishment's outdoor Biergarten, where patrons can also choose to bring their own food or have food delivered to them there. Tour the Boulevard Brewing Company's brewery on a 45-minute walking tour through the facility. Tours fill quickly, so it's better to arrive at the Tours and Recreation Center early to purchase a ticket. Bring a valid ID if you plan on sampling the brews at the end of the tour.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City, MO, is not only one of the largest antique toy collections in the U.S., but it is also home to the largest fine-scale miniatures collection in the world. Visitors can explore the wide range of nostalgic toys and historical collectibles, including handcrafted dollhouses, mechanical toys, and cast iron trains, cars, and planes. The miniatures collections include unique examples of tiny furniture, textiles, working lights, and more. The museum closes on Tuesdays and major holidays.
The National World War 1 Museum and Memorial is the only museum in the U.S. focusing solely on WWI. With interactive displays and a large collection of WWI artifacts, this is a must-see stop in Kansas City for anyone with an interest in our nation's history. There are firsthand accounts and eyewitness testimonies from those who served on the battlefields and from those who stayed behind on the homefront.
More than 40 nightclubs in the Kansas City area feature jazz, connecting the city's current music scene with its past. The city has deep connections with both jazz and blues music dating back to the 1920s. According to city historians, at one time, there were more than 100 venues in Kansas City featuring jazz. The American Jazz Museum is in downtown Kansas City and displays rare photos, album covers, memorabilia, and personal items belonging to the greatest names in jazz. Guided tours are available.
In the Crossroads Art District south of downtown, former warehouses have transformed into dozens of galleries displaying the fruits of artistic labor. Expert graffiti covers the exterior walls, eclectic boutiques draw casual shoppers, and eateries and watering holes are in no short supply, either. The First Friday of the month is the liveliest, with a party atmosphere and galleries and studios in the district spotlighting art from far and wide. Attendees make a night of the event and eat, drink, and linger for a performance at one of the many entertainment spots like the Green Lady Lounge.
The Midwest loves its art. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is one more notch in the region's rust belt. It's a world-class institution with plenty to see outside, like the sculpture garden featuring works by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore, giant badminton shuttlecocks, and a glass maze. Step inside the spacious museum, and you'll stumble across rare Renaissance paintings, an extensive Asian art collection, and a contemporary wing filled with natural light, photography, and modern art. Entry is free, but special temporary exhibits command a fee. You'll want to return for more.
With its mesmerizing architecture, KC's Union Station is worth visiting by itself. Throw in a family-friendly interactive science center, and the excitement levels may reach a boiling point. Science City offers curious minds plenty to mull over with a planetarium, brain games, and exhibits on genetics, engineering, and archaeology, to name a few. The children's activities are some of the best you'll see anywhere, and there's a toddler corner for good measure. You can while hours away here, which is a win in our books.
Shopaholics, KC's got just the spot for you. The Country Club Plaza's been trading for over a century—it was the first regional shopping center designed to welcome automobiles. Today, the Plaza has more than 120 stores where you can flex your buying power. If you're trying to cut back on consumerism, that's fine too. Just be sure to dine at one of the many Plaza chain restaurants that get two thumbs up from locals—Chuys, Fogo de Chão, and The Melting Pot come to mind. P.S. The yearly art fest here is worth checking out, as are the Christmas lights—they're magical from day one when the lighting ceremony draws crowds right until early January.
The now-iconic Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is an architectural gem that will have you blinking in wonder at its clamshell feet. If it reminds you of the Sydney Opera House, good on you—the venues share an architect. But the sophisticated exterior is just a taste of the value Kansas City places on the arts. Inside, the facility is world-class, with astonishing acoustics and a rotation of charming and erudite shows.
One of the quintessential experiences of Kansas City is catching a Kansas City Royals baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals, a Major League Baseball team, have a passionate fan base and a rich history dating back to their founding in 1969. The team has seen success over the years, including two World Series championships in 1985 and 2015.
When planning your visit, be sure to check the Royals' schedule for game dates, promotions, and special events like fireworks nights or themed games. Arrive early to tailgate with fellow fans and soak in the pre-game atmosphere before cheering on the home team.
Sporting Kansas City is KC's Major League soccer team. They're based at Children's Mercy Park near Kansas Speedway. The state-of-the-art stadium is new, having opened in 2011, and seats around 20,000 cheering fans. SKC has won the MLS Cup once since then. You can catch a game or watch a concert when you're in town—try and get into the Cauldron section to soak up the vibes and chants.
It happened during apartheid South Africa and when America was segregated—separate leagues and teams formed so players of color could compete. You'll find this fascinating and much-needed museum in the 18th & Vine district in KC. It takes visitors through the history of African American baseball teams like the New York Black Yankees before turning its eye to integration pioneers.
Lovers of horror movies and jump scares will take particular delight in the creepy but fantastic haunted tours Kansas City offers. From the Odd Fellows compound, featured on Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," to Folly Theatre with its thespian specter in top hat and coattails, there are loads of frights to unfurl.
The KC Street Car opened in 2016 and is free to ride—that's the first thing you need to know. Secondly, it covers a two-mile route through downtown and the Crossroads, connecting Union Station and River Market. A full loop takes 27 minutes, and the streetcar stops every two blocks for your convenience.