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Things to do in Kansas City

Things to do in  Kansas City

Barbecue is just the beginning

Often regarded as a big city with small-town charm, Kansas City is one of the most vibrant hubs of the Midwest. While most people flock here for barbecue and sports (and for good reason), there are plenty of things to do in this Missouri hot spot beyond the immediate associations. Visitors should get a dose (or two) of culture at one of the city’s many museums and family-friendly attractions, then fill the rest of their trip with street art, jazz clubs, and brewery tours—and yes, at least a few plates of burnt ends and brisket.

Top 6 attractions in Kansas City

SEA LIFE® Kansas City Aquarium

With more than 30 displays of unique marine life, the SEA LIFE® Kansas City Aquarium is an engaging exhibit showing the diversity of life under the sea. Exhibits are themed by habitat and include thousands of aquatic creatures, a 1800 degree saltwater tunnel tank, and interactive touch pools. The aquarium works both to educate visitors and advocate ocean conservation, particularly of the sea turtles, seahorses, and seals that are threatened in the wild. Aquarium displays feature fascinating creatures such as reef sharks, rays, octopus, and jellyfish.Colorful, well curated exhibits full of sea life grant a glimpse into the underwater world. Informative talks with aquarium staff as well as feedings take place throughout the day and allow for an even more in depth experience. Interactive cartoon journeys with quiz cards are available to help teach children about the importance of conserving our world’s oceans.More

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Kansas City

Based on the popular brick toys, LEGOLAND® Kansas City is a colorful world of play and discovery for kids. Interactive experiences encourage creativity through 4D cinema, master classes on LEGO® building, play areas, and an exciting laser ride. Special to this LEGOLANDlocation is an exhibit featuring the buildings of Kansas City made entirely of LEGOs (MINILAND). There are also several rooms built for celebrating special occasions, making it a popular spot for birthdays and other parties.Walking throughout, it's almost as if someone has taken the toys so many of us know and love and created a life-size playground with them. Many of the exhibits focus on a theme from the toys, whether ninja training or acting as Merlin’s apprentice. Kids can also learn how LEGOS are made in the factory tour. Though the discovery center is especially suited for fans of the LEGOs toys, there is something for everyone to enjoy.More

Boulevard Brewing Company

While it could be argued that the craft beer craze gained steam in the mid-2000s, Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing Company has been brewing batches of yeast and hops since 1989. As one of Missouri's most popular craft breweries and one of the largest craft breweries in the United States, Boulevard has served as an industry leader over the years.Visiting guests can enjoy an informative tour following the entire brewing process and learn how the company went from delivering cases from the bed of a pickup truck to producing over 130,000 barrels of beer served in dozens of states. At the end of the tour, travelers can sip on samples of Bavarian classics such as the popular KC Pils, or crank up the hops with the Pop-Up Session or Heavy Lifting IPA. Don't have time for the entire tour? Stop in the tasting room for affordable $1 four-ounce pours.More
CoCo Key Water Resort

CoCo Key Water Resort

Whether you visit in midwinter or peak summer, enjoy a full-fledged water park experience at CoCo Key Water Resort in Kansas City. This indoor park offers numerous features, such as an arcade, kid-friendly jungle gym, and towering slides that propel riders in darkness. CoCo Key is ideal for families and thrill-seekers alike.More
American Jazz Museum

American Jazz Museum

Celebrating what is perhaps the most American form of music, the American Jazz Museum catalogs the sound and history of jazz from its origin. With interactive exhibits and media, a jazz club, theater, and rotating gallery, it is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to jazz music.Exhibits showcase the legacy of jazz music’s legendary artists. There are more than 100 recordings of what most consider to be the finest jazz music ever performed, so there is plenty to be heard. The permanent collection details the historical, cultural, and artistic evolution and impact of the music through memorabilia and storytelling. Objects on display include iconic instruments and stage costumes worn by the greatest. Rare photos, film screenings, and interactive touchscreens also bring the music to life.The museum holds exceptional live performances and community educational programs. With the aim of encouraging the next generation of great jazz musicians, there are also a variety of programs for youth. Tours often include a further stop at the nearby Kansas City Juke House or the nearby Negro Leagues Museum.More
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM)

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM)

This Kansas City museum celebrates African American athletes and their contribution to the sport of baseball. Dating back to as early as the 1800s, it examines the evolution of the sport through hundreds of archives, artifacts, and stories.The exhibits tell the story of the formation of The Negro Leagues, an important but often overlooked period of sports history. Operating from 1920-1960, the Negro Leagues were of a period of time when baseball was still segregated. The museum preserves uniforms, statues, signed memorabilia, and more from this era. A short film takes visitors through the history of the league with video footage and personal stories. Another highlight is the collection of bronze statues, most of which are life-sized tributes to National Hall of Fame players.Often combined with a visit to the nearby American Jazz Museum, it’s one of the largest specialized collections of its kind in the country.More

Top activities in Kansas City

All about Kansas City

When to visit

In terms of must-visit attractions and festivals, fall is the best time to visit Kansas City. The season kicks off with the American Royal World Series of Barbecue (the world’s largest BBQ competition) in September, followed by KC PrideFest and KC Oktoberfest in October. It’s also worth sticking around through the end of November to watch the City Lights turn the Country Club plaza into a dazzling winter wonderland after Thanksgiving.

Getting around

While Kansas City is generally car-friendly—especially around the Plaza and other outlying neighborhoods—visitors should stick to public transportation in downtown KC. The Kansas City Streetcar is the best way to explore some of the most popular downtown neighborhoods, stretching 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) along Main Street with 16 stops in between. The best part? The streetcar is free, meaning you don’t have to worry about passes (and can save your money for the many restaurants along the route).

Traveler tips

Try to time your visit with the beginning of the month so you can participate in First Fridays, a monthly event that draws thousands of people to the Crossroads Arts District for food trucks, gallery shows, and art vendors galore. Alternatively, the City Market is a locally beloved farmers market open all year on Saturday mornings (plus Sunday mornings from April to December). Aside from loading up on fresh produce, you can sample some of the city’s most popular restaurants and cafes in one convenient stop.

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A local’s pocket guide to Kansas City

Caitlin Morton

Caitlin is a Kansas City-based writer and editor. You can find her wandering through the Nelson-Atkins, visiting boutique hotels, and popping in and out of every coffee shop in town.

The first thing you should do in Kansas City is...

eat! The barbecue restaurants are no joke, but you’ll also find some of the best tacos, shawarma, and cinnamon rolls of your life here.

A perfect Saturday in Kansas City...

starts with an espresso cream soda at Monarch Coffee, involves shopping and lunch at the Plaza (plus a bonus visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), and ends with drinks at a Crossroads jazz club.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the Plaza Lights during the winter holidays. People gather every Thanksgiving night for the official lighting ceremony, and it really is as magical as it seems.

To discover the "real" Kansas City...

go to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum—arguably the best attraction in the city.

For the best view of the city...

climb to the top of the 217-foot-high Liberty Memorial Tower at the National WWI Museum.

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