When travelers plan a trip to Kansas City, others may ask them whether they are 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, 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 Friday’s 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. More than 1500 exhibitors from 35 states travel to Kansas City each year in October to compete in the two-week long event, showing off the very best in cattle, goats, lambs, horse, 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 to choose from, 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 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.
There are more than 40 nightclubs in the Kansas City area featuring 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.