It might surprise you to learn that Kansas City consists of more than a dozen neighborhoods, each distinctive in architecture, scene, and history. Go for a drink at a dive bar in the industrial West Bottoms, wander through art galleries in the Crossroads Arts District, or stroll the Seville-inspired Country Club Plaza on Brush Creek. A lot of cities claim they have something for everyone but Kansas City does, whether you’re looking for culture, history, or a craft cocktail in a speakeasy, Kansas City has it all. It won’t take long to understand why it has earned the nickname The Paris of the Plains.
Established in 1831, think of Westport as the original neighborhood, existing before Kansas City even did.
Though the district is small by square miles, it packs a lot of variety into its surface area and is easily walkable, encouraging bar-hopping. Choose from piano bars, karaoke, and gaming like bocce ball and croquet at Char Bar or snookball at Gambal's Social Club. The district peaks at nighttime due to its entertainment focus but that’s not to say it’s a ghost town during daylight hours. Westport has some of the best brunch options in the city like the French-informed Westport Cafe & Bar or Beer Kitchen. Catch an independent film at Tivoli Cinemas or flip through vinyl records in the shops along Broadway Boulevard.
The Crossroads Arts District
If Kansas City had a soul, it would be The Crossroads. The aptly-named creative center is home to more than 200 art galleries and studios of local artists. On the first Friday of every month, the district comes together to throw a half-indoor, half-outdoor block party with live music, vendors, and galleries that stay open late for cocktails and shopping. If you’re looking to spend the night, the Crossroads Hotel is a chic art gallery, bar and Italian restaurant in one. It’s also a short walk to the streetcar so that you can continue exploring neighborhoods to the North and South.
River Market District
Situated on the south bank of the Missouri River, the River Market District is made for wandering. Get a cup of coffee at Quay Coffee or City Market Coffee before heading to the City Market farmers market which sells fresh-cut flowers, perfectly ripe produce, and spices from around the world at Al Habashi Mart. Dine at one of the diverse restaurants like the New Orleans-inspired Beignet, Taste of Brazil, Hien Vuong Vietnamese Restaurant, or the Ethiopian Blue Nile Café. After shopping, recharge at the Berkley Riverfront where you can work out, play a game of volleyball, or walk the Riverfront Heritage Trail with views of the Heart of America Bridge.
For those looking to take it easy, Brookside feels like a second home. Walk or bike your way through the neighborhood via The Trolley Trail which runs through the charming suburb, connecting mom-and-pop shops like Stuff (a unique boutique), art galleries, and restaurants like Bella Napoli. Refresh at The Roasterie with a can of Nitro cold brew before continuing on. If tea is more your style, beloved Pakistani restaurant Chai Shai has an assortment of offerings. Just down the street and accessible by the path, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures has one of the country’s largest antique toy collections.
Country Club Plaza
If the soul of Kansas City is in the Crossroads, its heart is undoubtedly Country Club Plaza. The open-air shopping center was the first of its kind in the United States. Its architecture is modeled after KC’s sister city, Seville, Spain, giving it a decidedly European feel replete with brick pathways and fountains that are best explored on foot. Go from shopping to cocktails but be sure to visit the JC Nichols Memorial Fountain – one of Kansas City’s most recognizable landmarks. Continue on, and a five-minute walk will take you to the world-renowned Nelson-Atkins Art Museum.
When you see photos of Kansas City, they’re likely of Midtown. The photogenic neighborhood also happens to be a historic center, home to The National World War I Museum and Union Station. Pre- or post-museum visit, explore the Egyptian revival-style grounds for panoramic views of downtown and the Westside. Nearby Crown Center is a hub for shopping and more with luxury department store Halls, the Hallmark Visitors Center and Sea Life Aquarium. In the winter, skate under string lights on the seasonal Ice Terrace. Martini Corner is a nearby, quaint block of bars and restaurants.
The Westside is one of Kansas City’s most eclectic neighborhoods, reconciling old and new together. Along Southwest Boulevard, which cuts through the majority of the area, streets are lined with colorful buildings, where panaderías, paleterías, and restaurants serve Latin American, Mexican, and Spanish cuisine. Shop at Westside Storey for a mix of vintage and new items that make perfect souvenirs. Down the street is the headquarters of Boulevard Brewing Company, the Budweiser of Kansas City. Take a tour and try a flight of beers in the tasting room. If you’re more about caffeine than craft beer, Kansas City coffee company, The Roasterie Factory offers tour of its roasters at its flagship.
The West Bottoms have long been known for spareness, its industrial aesthetic a vestige from the area’s original use as animal stockyards. But that’s rapidly changing as breweries (Stockyards Brewing Company), coffee shops (Blip Roasters), and craft cocktail bars (The Campground) keep opening. A less-trafficked area, The West Bottoms is the perfect place for a low-key night out. For an authentic West Bottoms experience, head to The Ship, a local favorite since the 1930s nestled between two abandoned buildings. Spot it via a flashing neon sign and get onboard for a drink.
Power and Light District
Take the streetcar from the Crossroads Arts District straight into the Power and Light District, signaled by a jazz mural paying tribute to legends of the genre. If you’re looking for a wild night out, head to multi-level complex Kansas City Live!, home to multiple nightclubs including Mosaic which hosts DJs like Cedric Gervais and Cash Cash. Live! also has a large courtyard and a massive screen where you can watch sporting events outside. Stop into No Other Pub, a multi-level sports bar and game complex with shuffleboard, golf, bowling and more. The nearby Sprint Center hosts concerts and the Big 12’s Men’s Basketball Tournament.
18th and Vine Jazz District
Kansas City will forever be associated with two things – barbecue and jazz – and you can find some of the best of both in the 18th and Vine District. Learn more about the city’s baseball and jazz history under the one roof. The American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum are both housed in the same building. After the exhibits, stop by Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, a perennial favorite of celebrities and locals alike. Arthur Bryant’s has been around for over one hundred years.