Our trip around the Midwest started in Kansas City. This is a large city that spans two states- Missouri and Kansas. The three things this city is most famous for are: BBQ, Jazz and fountains. In fact, Kansas City has more working fountains than any other city in the world! Another great thing about Kansas City is that many of the museums are free. Here is a list of the best things to do in Kansas City.
1. Ride a streetcar
The Kansas City Streetcar does a two mile loop around the downtown area stopping at all of the local attractions. The best part is that it is free to ride. Just jump on and off as needed.
2. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
This impressive art museum offers free admission. I would recommend parking in the museum garage for a fee of $12 (free for members). This allows you to walk straight into the museum.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is famous for having the largest badminton shuttlecocks in the world. The 18 foot high shuttlecocks lie scattered around lawn as if giants had just finished a game. There are two in the front yard and two in the back making the museum itself the net.
Other things not to miss inside of the museum: the knights in shining armor, the Mummy of Ka-i-nefer in the Egyptian room, and the statue of Guanyin in the Chinese Temple. While we only spent about two hours at the museum, you could spend much longer depending on your level of interest. We never even made it to the Contemporary building. It was a beautiful day, so we opted to wander the outdoor sculpture park.
3. City Market
City Market is the place to head to for lunch! There is a line of food stalls with a great variety that rivals Epcot. If you are traveling with a group and one person wants Indian and the next wants Mexican and the other wants Brazilian, you’re all covered! To finish up, you can get gelato from the Italian market for dessert. My son was a big fan of The Candy Wizard. The center area of has a Farmer’s Market set up.
4. The Arabia Steamboat Museum
Located in City Market, The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a fascinating stop. Kids will love this story about how real life treasure hunters recovered a steamboat in 1988.
See, as the American frontier expanded west, pioneers would use Steamboats to move their supplies up the Missouri River. On September 5, 1856, the Arabia sunk on it’s maiden voyage. It was filled with over 200 tons of cargo. Nearly 132 years later, a father and his sons set out to find the precious cargo now thought to be legend.
Their journey of discovery is unbelievable. The river had changed course over the years so the steamship was actually found in a cornfield. It took 4 1/2 months to excavate what is now the largest collection of pre-civil war artifacts in the world. We couldn’t believe how perfectly preserved everything was down to fine China and even a jar a pickles (and yes, someone ate one of the pickles!)
5. Betty Rae’s Ice Cream
Just a short walk from City Market is Betty Rae’s Ice Cream. It is some of the best ice cream I have ever had! Can’t decide between brownie, brown butter & toasted pecans, cereal & milk, cookies & cream, cookie dough or s’mores? No problem! Just get a flight and try them all!
6. National WWI Museum & Memorial
The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. For an additional fee, you can go to the top of the Liberty Memorial Tower. Note that the tower closes a half hour before the museum.
Whether you go inside of the tower or not, don’t miss the view over the North Lawn which will give you the best view of Kansas City. You don’t need to pay admission to walk in this area.
7. The Money Museum
Neighboring the National WWI Museum, The Money Museum is a part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. See how the bank processes millions of dollars in currency each day, lift a real gold bar, view the historic Harry S. Truman coin collection and enjoy fun, interactive exhibits while learning about the U.S. economy. Leave with a bag of (shredded) money. Admission is free.
8. Kansas City Public Library
I admit, we didn’t go inside of the Kansas City Public Library, but we had to see a 25 foot tall book. In an effort to hide the parking garage, the facade of this library was designed to look like a giant bookshelf.
9. The American Jazz Museum
There is a saying “while jazz was born in New Orleans, it grew up in Kansas City.” The American Jazz Museum is a jazz museum in the historic 18th and Vine district of Kansas City, Missouri. The museum preserves the history of American jazz music, with exhibits on Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others.
10. Go Fountain Hopping
The City of Fountains boasts over 200 fountains, 48 of which are publicly owned. The whimsical Boy and Frog Fountain is one of the most cherished. It is located outside a Starbucks within the Country Club Plaza. Each year in April, the city celebrates Fountain Day by getting them all up and running.
11. Eat BBQ
Kansas City is known as one of the best places in the world to eat barbecue. Check out this article about The 10 Best Kansas City BBQ Spots.
12. Worlds of Fun
Worlds of Fun is a more than 235-acre entertainment complex featuring the largest amusement park and water park in the Midwest. Thrill seekers will easily spend an entire day here.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best things to do in Kansas City. If I missed anything, please let me know in the comments below.
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