Tell people you’re going to Kansas City, and you’re likely to hear a lot of jokes about tornadoes and munchkins. And sure, those of us who live in Kansas City are proud of our Wizard of Oz connection. But we also know that our city has much more to offer than Dorothy and Toto. If you have a day or two to spend in Kansas City, this list of things to do should keep you busy and entertained from morning until night.
Things to do in Kansas City
Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri by population and area. As of the 2020 census, the city had a population of 508,090 in 2020, making it the 36th most populous city in the United States. It is the most populated municipality and the historic core city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line and has a population of 2,392,035.
Most of the city lies within Jackson County, with portions spilling into Clay, Cass, and Platte counties. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a port on the Missouri River at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850, the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued, and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.
You can’t say you’ve shopped in Kansas City unless you’ve been to the Country Club Plaza, located around 48th Street and Nichols Road (Kansas City, Missouri), which consists of several blocks of upscale stores, delectable restaurants, lovely architecture, and some of the famous Kansas City fountains (more about them later). The Country Club Plaza features stores to cater to any taste including Barnes and Noble, Pottery Barn, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Laura Ashley. If it happens to be raining the day you visit, or if you’re not much for the great outdoors, check out Crown Center at 2540 Grand Boulevard (Kansas City, Missouri). It’s a huge indoor complex of shops, restaurants, and entertainment, with enough to do to keep the whole family busy for the day.
Kansas City is famous for its barbecue. Consequently, there are many restaurants that offer a variety of barbequed specialities. If you want to say you’ve eaten at the classic, however, go to a Gates Bar. B.Q., established in 1946. Gates now offers several locations throughout the Kansas City area. If barbecue isn’t your thing, consider Hereford House, a steakhouse that first opened in 1957. Hereford House has also expanded to other locations, but it hasn’t lost the unique taste that made it an instant favourite among meat lovers.
See The Fountains
Kansas City has the second largest number of fountains–over 160– of any city in the world. Only Rome, Italy has more. Several of the fountains, such as the J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain can be found around the Country Club Plaza. Other popular fountains include The Firefighters Fountain at 31st and Broadway, The Vietnam Veterans Fountain, The City Hall Fountains, and The Children’s Fountain. And if you visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, don’t forget to take a long look at the Rozzelle Court Fountain. It’s imported from Rome and was probably built around 200 A.D.
Enjoy The Arts
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street (Kansas City, Missouri), offers something for every taste, but is perhaps best known for its modern sculpture and collection of the arts of China. Kansas City, Missouri is also home to the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site, located at 3616 Belleview. Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) is best known for his paintings of life in America. He was born in Missouri and made Kansas City his home for the last several years of his life.
Learn African-American History
The area around 18th and Vine (Kansas City, Missouri) salutes Kansas City’s jazz scene and commemorates the foundation of the Negro National League. In the Jazz Museum, learn about the legends who entertained Kansas City citizens during the Depression. In the evenings, the Blue Room, a jazz club, still features favorite local artists. The Negro League Baseball Museum traces the history of the league from the Civil War to the 1960’s. The museum offers artifacts, pictures, re-creations of uniforms, and a video featuring some of the men who played in the league.
Visit The Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum And Library
A few miles outside of Kansas City, in Independence, Missouri (U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware Street, Independence, MO) stands the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library. Chock full of exhibits, photographs, writings, and memorabilia, this is the place to learn all you ever wanted to know about our nation’s thirty-third president.
Find A Sunken Treasure
In 1856, the Arabia steamboat left St. Louis on a voyage along the Missouri River which was supposed to take her to Kansas City, Missouri and eventually to Sioux City, Iowa. But she never reached her final destination. Shortly after leaving Kansas City, she hit a fallen tree that had embedded itself into the riverbed. The passengers were quickly rescued, but the ship and her cargo sank into the soft river bottom. The Arabia lay hidden until she was rediscovered in 1987. Today, you can visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum (400 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri) and take in the sights of 1856 luxury as well as information about Arabia’s excavation and preservation.
Make An Animal Friend
The Kansas City Zoo, located in Swope Park (Kansas City, Missouri), offers a pleasant environment and an amazing variety of animals, from meerkats to rhinos, to chimps, to lions. And if the little ones get bored with the beasts, there’s an awesome Sprint IMAX theater on site.
Ride A Roller Coaster
Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun (4545 Worlds of Fun Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri) offer a great opportunity for your group to run off some energy. Check out the MAMBA, the newest and wildest roller coaster if you dare, or if your stomach isn’t quite up for that, take a little ride on the Worlds of Fun Railroad or Le Carrousel. Oceans of Fun offers experiences ranging from the breathtaking Hurricane Falls to the romantic Castaway Cove (adults only, please). One thing to note: Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun are open primarily in the summer and a few weekends during the late spring and early fall. It’s best to call before you go to make sure of their hours.
Sleep…If You Must
Kansas City has a nice nightlife with bars and restaurants for all different tastes. If you want to stay up Vegas Style, check out one of the many riverboat casinos. But if you insist on resting, there are some lovely accommodations. Hyatt Regency and the Westin Crown Center both offer easy access to Crown Center (a shopping mecca). If you don’t mind a short drive, another excellent possibility is the Great Wolf Lodge, located in Kansas City, KS. Great Wolf Lodge offers suites, an arcade, a spa and fitness room, and indoor and outdoor water parks. It’s a bit pricey, but an excellent place to vacation with your family.