Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the City of Fountains? Our guide to the best things to do in Kansas City is just what you need!
The home of barbecue and jazz music, Kansas City, Missouri, is a unique traveling destination on the Missouri River that is full of adventure, culture, and history.
Nicknamed the City of Fountains for its bountiful 200+ installations running second only to Rome, Kansas City is a beautiful and vibrant city with loads of attractions waiting to be explored.
First, quench your thirst at the Boulevard Brewing Company, the largest independent specialty brewer in the Midwest. Next, grab fresh produce and vintage items at the historic City Market that’s been running since 1857.
Afterward, take the family to the Crown Center, the bustling shopping and entertainment district with more than 30 different shops and attractions. And the list goes on!
In this article, we’ll be discussing what to do in Kansas City during your vacation with only the best Kansas City attractions listed below for a guaranteed exceptional experience.
So, get ready to quench your appetite with tasty barbecue, advance your knowledge of history, and make fond, long-lasting memories in the Heart of America!
The Best Things to Do in Kansas City
There are loads of fun and exciting things to do in Kansas City, Missouri.
From stepping back in time at the Arabia Steamboat Museum to refreshing your senses at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden, Kansas City is waiting to be explored!
1) Visit The Kansas City Zoo
Home to more than 1,300 animals, the Kansas City Zoo has been voted one of America’s best zoos boasting attractions like Keeper Chats, elephant painting demonstrations, and other interactive animal encounters.
Stretching 202 acres in Swope Park, this exceptional zoo ranked #1 in the nation for its African American Animals Exhibits and in the top ten for “Australian Animals and Exhibits” and “Pachyderms: Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos.”
Extending its repertoire leaps and bounds, the well-known ape expert Jane Goodall raved that the Kansas City Zoo had “one of the finest chimpanzee exhibits in North America”.
Visitors from all over the globe can enjoy this exciting zoo year-round with the added plus of free parking. You can also visit the nearby Lakeside Nature Center to see more wildlife or check out the ice sculptures of Helzberg Penguin Plaza and Penguin Park.
- Address: 6800 Zoo Dr, Swope Park, Kansas City
- Hours: 9:30am – 4pm (Closes at 5pm on Sat/Sun)
- Cost: $17 – $20 (Save money when you book online)
2) View The Extensive Collection At The Nelson Atkins Museum Of Art
Famous for its encyclopedic collection of art sourced from almost every continent and culture in the world, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened to the public in 1933.
To include further inclusivity to welcome all people, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has made admission free, which has been extended for nearly 25 years now.
Thanks to the generous support and dedication the museum has received, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hones over 42,000 pieces of art that can be seen, experienced, and shared with the public to inspire, motivate, and educate.
- Address: 4525 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64111
- Hours: 10am – 5pm Thursday – Monday
- Cost: Free
3) Quench Your Thirst At The Boulevard Brewing Company
Established in 1989, the Boulevard Brewing Company has grown to become the largest independent specialty brewer in the Midwest.
Combining the best of old and new brewing techniques, the company’s mission to provide only the freshest and most flavorful beers has been successful.
Guests can visit the Boulevard Brewing Company year-round, Wednesday-Sunday, for free 45-minute tours of the impressive brewery.
Throughout the walking tour, visitors will be educated on the brewing and production process as they tour the plant with the bonus of product samples.
- Address: 2501 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
- Hours: 12pm – 8pm Tuesday – Thursday, 11am – 9pm Fri/Sat, 10am – 6pm Sunday, closed Mondays
Exploring more of the US Midwest? Check out our 3 Days in Chicago Itinerary!
4) Witness The Stunning History Of Aviation At The National Airline History Museum
Located at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, the National Airline History Museum was founded in 1986 by two aviation enthusiasts — Dick McMahon and Larry A. Brown.
Since its founding, originally coined as “Save A Connie Foundation,” the National Airline History Museum has welcomed many other aviation enthusiasts to the team.
Visiting this magnetic museum, guests can scour the many artifacts, photographs, audio and visual displays, and printed material that transports them back to explore the history of air transportation.
Check out the exciting displays, including the first Boeing 727, an American narrow-body airliner. Or the full-scale replica of the TWA Moonliner, a rocket initially designed to transport civilians into outer space!.
- Address: 201 NW Lou Holland Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64116
- Hours: 10am – 4pm Wednesday – Saturday
- Cost: $10
5) Experience The Beauty Of Jazz At The American Jazz Museum
At the American Jazz Museum, guests can explore the history of American jazz music through magnetic exhibits that explore artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, and Louis Armstrong.
The American Jazz Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to jazz music, to its preservation, exhibition, and advancement. Visitors can explore the sights and sounds of jazz, a uniquely American art form, through the museum’s interactive exhibits and programs.
Explore The Blue Room, a functioning jazz club, and The Gem Theater, a modernized 500-seat performing arts center, where guests can experience the beauty of jazz.
- Address: 1616 E 18th St, Kansas City, MO 64108
- Hours: 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, 12pm – 5pm Sundays, 10am – 2pm Mondays
- Cost: $10 (You can book your ticket online!)
6) Go Shopping At The Country Club Plaza
Take time to explore Country Club Plaza, Kansas City’s favorite shopping center!
Renowned as a premier retail center, Country Club Plaza features 15 city blocks of Spanish-inspired architecture, including dozens of fountains, designer brand stores, and favorite local restaurants.
Take a break from shopping for a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride or float down the adjacent Brush Creek on a gondola.
If you’re more inclined to obtain some much-needed retail therapy, stop at shops like renowned labels like Micahel Kors and Kendra Scott or local shops like Charlie Hustle and Hallmark Gold Crown.
Or sit down to eat at local favorites like Gram & Dun and Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue for delicious eats.
- Address: 4706 Broadway Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64112
- Hours: 10am – 7pm daily (12pm – 6pm on Sundays)
7) Go On An Adventure In Downtown Kansas City
Downtown is packed with fun activities and attractions to explore during your time in Kansas City!
Step over to River Market, a popular waterfront shopping and dining area, for some desired retail therapy combined with decadent local eats. Or head to the Green Lady Lounge to see some live music in a retro atmosphere.
Tour the grand Union Station, a historic train station established in 1914 that offers a planetarium, a science city, and exhibits for guests to explore.
Finally, join the audience at the Kauffman Center for a Kansas City Ballet performance or a symphony by the Kansas City Symphony.
The options in downtown are endless, with live music, fresh air, and plenty of attractions. To see it firsthand with an experienced local, join this guided sightseeing segway tour to learn more about the landscape, architecture, and art of this bustling hub!
8) Witness The Historical Glory Of The Grand Union Station
A historic train station established in 1914, the Union Station is often referred to as an “architectural masterpiece” and a place of “living history,” and for a good reason.
Spanning 850,000 square feet that once housed 900 rooms originally, Union Station is not your average train station. Instead, the station was once a working station that included a cigar store, a barbershop, a railroad office, and the nation’s largest Railway Express Building, which was used to ship freight and mail.
After shutting down in the 1980s, the station wasn’t opened to the public again until 1999, with the inclusion of Science City, an interactive science center, theaters, exhibits, shops, restaurants, and more.
The Union Station’s reopening is dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and collecting artifacts and materials connected to the history of Kansas City.
To safeguard these items to inspire and educate future generations, which can be seen through their world-class traveling exhibits like Diana, Titanic, Dinosaurs Unearthed, and Bodies Revealed.
- Address: 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108
- Hours: 6am – 12am daily
9) Step Back In Time At The Arabia Steamboat Museum
In this 30,000-square-foot museum, visitors can explore artifacts salvaged from Arabia, a steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1865.
Opening its doors in 1991, the Arabia Steamboat Museum has become a popular Kansas City attraction for tourists and locals alike.
The museum is a time capsule that allows visitors to step back in time to the American frontier of the mid-19th century through everyday objects that pioneers once used in the 1800s.
The Arabia Steamboat Museum also boasts the most extensive collection of pre-Civil War artifacts. As a result, it has been featured by Good Morning America, CNN, the History Channel, and other reputable organizations.
- Address: 400 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64106
- Hours: 10am – 5pm daily (opens at 12pm on Sundays)
- Cost: $14.50 adults, $5.50 kids
10) Visit The Striking Kansas City Public Library
To witness the architectural glory of the Kansas City Public Library, you must visit the Central Library – the main library located in downtown.
Established in 1904, the building that houses the library was initially the home of the First National Bank and soon housed renowned books in 2004. Inside, prepare for jaws to drop at the intricate architectural design of high ceilings, marble, dark wood, and tall columns.
The striking outside features of the Central Library garage are shown by the enigmatic display of a signboard mylar that appears to be books lined up on a shelf. These “books” reach 25 feet in height and span nine feet in width.
This giant bookshelf display makes for an outstanding feature, especially when noting the titles of the books include a wide range of famous literature like “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- Address: 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City MO, 64105
- Hours: 9am – 9pm Monday – Wednesday, 9am – 5pm Thursday – Saturday, 1pm – 5pm Sunday
- Cost: Free
Heading east? Here is our guide to the best things to do in Nashville, Tennessee.
11) Get Ready For Race Weekend At The Kansas City Speedway
A 1.5-mile tri-oval racetrack, the Kansas City Speedway is home to the nation’s top professional auto racing, hosts two major NASCAR Cup Series weekends annually, and is considered the premier motorsports facility in the Midwest.
Costing $225 million, the speedway opened its grandstand gates for the first time in 2001 for its first race, the NASCAR Winston West Series Kansas 150. Since its establishment, the Kansas City Speedway has contributed around $247 million to the area’s economy — annually!
This is attributed to the other 200-plus event days hosted every year, along with the largest barbecue competition in the world, the American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
- Address: 400 Speedway Blvd, Kansas City, KS 66111
- Hours/Cost: Check the website to view upcoming events and prices
12) Visit America’s Museum At The National WWI Museum & Memorial
Opened in 1926, the National WWI Museum and Memorial serve as the United States’ official museum for the First World War.
After World War I ended, the Liberty Memorial Association (LMA) and the citizens of Kansas City raised more than $2.5 million in only ten days in 1919 to create the National WWI Museum and Memorial.
And in 1921, more than 100,000 people gathered to witness a moment in history that had never occurred before — the supreme Allied commanders came together to dedicate the site of the Liberty Memorial.
Today, people from across the globe can walk through the National World War Museum and memorial to witness the Great War’s impact on the world.
- Address: 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City MO 64108
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
- Cost: $18 adults, $10 kids
13) Stroll Through The Rose Garden At Jacob L. Loose Park
As the third largest park in Kansas City, Jacob L. Loose Park is the perfect relaxing family-friend Kansas City attraction to enjoy.
The historical and stunning park is popular with locals and tourists. The site was a central historical point for the Battle of Westport in the Civil War when Union forces routed Confederate forces.
The park was then owned by William Bent, who traded with Native Americans using wagon trains. After Bent passed, the land was eventually bought by Ella Loose and named Jacob L. Loose Park in honor of her late husband.
At this stunning historical park, visitors can explore the municipal rose garden established by the Kansas City Rose Society. The rose garden now hones more than 130 varieties of roses in a 1.5-acre section of land for admirers to stroll through.
- Address: 5200 Wornall Rd, Kansas City, MO 64112
- Hours: 5am – midnight daily (parking lot gate is locked at 10pm)
- Cost: Free
14) Unfold The Chapters Of American History At The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
A privately funded museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is committed to preserving Negro league baseball history in America.
The only museum of its kind, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum operates only two blocks from the Paseo YMCA, where Andrew “Rube” Foster, in 1920, created the Negro National League.
Since its founding, the museum has established itself as one of the most important cultural institutions in the world, giving a voice to the previously forgotten pages of African American baseball and American history.
And in 2006, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum achieved National Designation from the United States Congress. It’s a true gem in the world of major league baseball.
- Address: 1616 E 18th St, Kansas City, MO 64108
- Hours: 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday, 12pm – 5pm Sundays, 10am – 2pm Mondays
- Cost: $10
Check out our new guide to the 30 Best Things To Do In Little Rock, Arkansas.
15) Grab Fresh Produce & Vintage Items At The City Market
Centered in the heart of the historic River Market neighborhood, the bustling City Market has been running since 1857. In the past, the market held horse trading, medicine shows, circuses, political rallies, and a place for commerce.
Today, the market features local boutiques, eateries featuring fresh eats, and unique gourmet grocery stores.
The restaurants and grocery stores sell fresh and imported ingredients at the region’s largest farmer’s market, including other popular items like locally grown produce and handcrafted and vintage items.
The main market is open daily and has a long list of vendors with varying opening hours. The Farmer’s Market is open on weekends from 9am – 3pm. Both are located on 5th and Walnut Street.
16) Check Out The Unique Money Museum
The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Money Museum promotes an exceptional one-of-a-kind experience where visitors can lift a genuine gold bar, witness how the bank processes millions of dollars in currency daily, and eye the historic Harry S. Truman coin collection.
The Money Museum is one of the most unique things to do in Kansas City. Guests can explore interactive exhibits to learn more about the United States economy — and the experience is free!
All you need to do is walk in through a self-guided experience of the backend of the nation’s financial system in action.
- Address: 1 Memorial Dr, Kansas City, MO 64198
- Hours: 9:30am – 4pm Tuesday – Friday
- Cost: Free
17) Take A Trip To Overland Park
The second most populous city in Kansas, Overland Park is known for its prime attractions like the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.
Established in 1978, the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is a step back in time with its pony rides, one-room schoolhouse, gardens, and 250+ animals. Through its attractions, the farmstead uses its educational farm environment to cultivate an appreciation of farm life, Kansas Heritage, and wildlife.
Stepping over to The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, this year-round destination offers its guests plenty of activity options, including a blood-pumping hike or a strolling walk through the woods surrounded by sculptures, flowers, and trees.
A nationally recognized city, Overland Park is right outside Kansas City, with plenty of fun activities waiting to be explored!
18) Take The Family To The Crown Center
In this bustling shopping and entertainment district, there are plenty of Kansas City activities to explore.
Stretching three levels, the Crown Center has more than 30 shops and restaurant options for everyone. So prepare your bank account! Shopping at the Crown Center is widespread, with all the exceptional shopping options catered to different specialties.
Family-friend options are also available, with musically inclined individuals heading over to The Coterie for youth-oriented shows or the Music Theater Heritage for shows.
For an adventure with the family, head over to LEGOLAND Discovery Center or the SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium on the square for a fun day.
19) Refresh Your Senses At The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden
Part of the Kauffman Legacy Park, the Ewing, and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden is a botanic garden that spans two acres.
One of the top things to do in Kansas City, the nationally recognized garden center hosts exotic and local botanicals, using pruned foliage and flower planting to shape the fountains and stone walls of the garden artfully.
Visitors can view the garden’s elegant creations, including fountains and sculptures by sculptor Tom Corbin.
Step over to the Orangery for a relaxed and shaded pause to sip in the fragrant scents of the seasonal plants at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden.
- Address: 4800 Rockhill Rd, Kansas City, MO 64110
- Hours: 8am – 7pm daily
- Cost: Free
20) Test Your Athletic Skills At The National Collegiate Basketball Hall
At the College Basketball Experience, a 41,500-square-foot facility in downtown Kansas City, fans can step over to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall. This section of the facility includes two floors of fun.
Here visitors can challenge others to a full-court press, broadcast live from the ESPN-U desk, and get in award-winning slam dunks. It’s important to note that this facility is not a museum but a place of interactive fun.
This official hall of fame for men’s college basketball is meant to inspire others to warm up, jump, and play with fellow fans through the interactive exhibits.
- Address: 1401 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64106
- Hours: 10am – 6pm Thursday – Sunday (Opens at 11am on Sundays)
- Cost: $17
21) Meet The Unique Rescue Marine Animals At The Sea Turtle Rescue Center
The Sea Turtle Rescue Center is a new addition to Kansas City’s aquarium, a home for rehabilitated sea turtles that could otherwise not survive in the wild.
The intimate aquarium setting allows visitors to see these incredible rescued sea creatures up close and personal.
During the experience, the aquarium promotes an educational experience to teach others about the threats that sea turtles encounter in the wild. At the same time, guests can observe the spectacular glory of these stunning sea animals.
- Address: 2475 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City
- Hours: 11am – 4pm weekdays, 9am – 5pm weekends
- Cost: Tickets start at $22.99
22) Visit the National Museum of Toys And Miniatures
Another one of the most iconic Kansas City landmarks is the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.
Home to the world’s largest collection of miniature figurines, this museum is a great addition to any Kansas City itinerary.
Here you can also find one of the largest collections of toys in the world. Browse through an adorable display of toys and miniatures from throughout history.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is an especially fun place to visit if you’re in town with kids.
- Address: 5235 Oak St, Kansas City
- Hours: 10am – 4pm Wednesday – Monday
- Cost: $8
23) Be Amazed At The Kemper Museum Of Contemporary Art
Another one of the best things to do in Kansas City is visit the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Art lovers will enjoy the impressive collection of contemporary art on display inside this captivating, modern building.
Complete with a nice cafe, plenty of rotating exhibitions, and works by some of the best artists from around the world, this is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Check the website to see what events, installations, and exhibits are on when you’re in town.
- Address: 4420 Warwick Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64111
- Hours: 10am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday
- Cost: Free
Where to Stay in Kansas City
Now that we know the best things to do in Kansas City, it’s time to figure out the best play to stay!
Unfortunately, there are no hostels in Kansas City, mainly because it’s not a super popular backpacker destination. But there are some great hotel rentals for travelers of all budgets.
Best Cheap Hotel in Kansas City
At Modern MW Studio with Gym by Zencity, guests can enjoy city views and free Wifi in their downtime between activities. Nearby is the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City Convention Center, and Kauffman Center for an optimal location for all the top Kansas City attractions.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Kansas City
Featuring excellent desirable accommodations, TownePlace Suites by Marriott Kansas City Airport boasts free bikes, private parking, WiFi, and more.
Grab a complimentary continental breakfast in the morning before heading out to explore the best of Kansas City.
Best Luxury Hotel in Kansas City
Popular with couples, Loews Kansas City is a top luxury hotel in Kansas City.
Its decadent on-site restaurant, 24-hour front desk and room service, and indoor swimming pool upgrade your vacation to Kansas City, Missouri. You can also enjoy a stunning view of the city skyline.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!