Kansas City conjures up images of Cowboys and Indians, a chaotic, brothel-strewn city on the banks of the muddy Missouri River, far from civilization… you couldn’t be further from the truth. Kansas City is an eclectic city, home to one of the earliest craft breweries, world class museums, a rich African-American history, and more. We’ve compiled a list of what to see and do in Kansas City. From panoramic views over the city from the Liberty Memorial to sipping local brews on the patio of a barbecue shack, the city has plenty to offer the discerning traveler.
Top Kansas City Attractions for Fun
The Crossroads arts district in Kansas City is a dynamic neighborhood filled with galleries, boutiques, coffee roasteries, and more in a former warehouse district. Crumbling facades bely the imaginative interiors, the wealth of talent that comes from these buildings. Weekends are happening, especially the first weekend of the month, when First Fridays and First Saturdays take to the streets. Galleries, like Blue Gallery, stay open late, restaurants set up street stalls and bars, roads are closed, and the atmosphere on a summery night is electric.
East of the Crossroads is the 18th and Vine Jazz District, home to some of the country’s earliest jazz clubs, Negro Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, and the original Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue. Jazz got its start in the walls of these buildings and luckily, visitors can still get a taste for it. The Blue Room is one of the city’s best jazz clubs while the Mutual Musicians Foundation stays open til 5am and is the home of the jam session - so join in if you’re so inclined.
Tucked between Broadway and Main Streets, between downtown and the Plaza, is the oldest settlement in Kansas City: Westport. This is where Lewis and Clark provisioned for their expedition, and where later settler wagons stocked up on goods and animals. Named Westport by the founder John McCoy, the town thrived on itinerant traffic from pioneers heading west. Saloons, general stores, and churches grew up. McCoy also convinced riverboats to dock at a closer landing, and that town eventually became Kansas City, Kansas. Westport became absorbed by the growth of the new city. Straddling the state line between what would become Kansas and Missouri, Westport saw frequent clashes during the Civil War. Tours of the historical precinct are well worth taking. Be sure to stop at Broadway Cafe for a pick me up beforehand and settle on to the patio at McCoy’s Public House afterwards. Sunny days here are perfect for a long session at the bar and you’ll be in great company with most of KC’s alternative hipster crowd.
The Country Club Plaza
The country’s first planned outdoor mall, the Country Club Plaza is a shopper’s paradise. Considered the first mall to integrate the new automobile, the plaza comprises about 55 acres of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and apartments. Back in the day, the Plaza was full of independent department stores, locally owned restaurants, and family-operated shops. Today, many of the shops are high end designer brands, like Michael Kors, Burberry, Tiffany, and Prada. The restaurants have transitioned into national boutique brands, although mainstays like JJs and Classic Cup are still in operation. JJs was the site of a gas explosion in 2012; they’ve since reopened in a different building.
Top Kansas City Restaurants - Food, Barbecue & Drinks
Say “Kansas City” to anyone and you’re likely to get responses about barbecue. The city has long been considered one of the nation’s best barbecue destinations, since it’s one of the country’s first major stockyards. Home to the annual American Royal Rodeo, which is no longer just a rodeo, the West Bottoms transforms into a mecca for barbecue lovers. People come from across the Midwest with their smokers, ready to try their hand at creating the best barbecue of the year. Competition is fierce and only the best get in. The nights are long; competitors work around the clock to create award-winning delicacies. If you know someone, you can hang around but if not, buy a ticket and then purchase food and drinks once inside.
There are so many things to do in Kansas City for people of all ages. If you are planning a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, take some of these Kansas City vacation ideas into consideration and add the into your itinerary!