15 Top Things to Do in Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri

Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Kansas City, Missouri, is home to world-class shopping, places where you can sample famous Kansas City barbeque, entertainment like the riverboat casinos, and great museums like the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and the extensive collections of an antique toy museum.

Families will enjoy the 235-acre amusement park, Worlds of Fun, and the adjacent water park, Oceans of Fun.

01 of 15

Shop and Dine at Country Club Plaza

Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Missouri

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With amazing shops, great restaurants, and those famed Kansas City fountains, the world-famous Country Club Plaza gets the top pick of the Kansas City's attractions and destinations. The Plaza (as the locals call it) was the first outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment district in the United States and is wonderful any time of year.

Sit in the courtyard and enjoy an evening of jazz, or enjoy dinner and drinks on one of the many patios around the district, enjoy a romantic carriage ride, and be amazed by the Plaza Lights during the holidays. See why over 170 shops and restaurants make the Plaza KC's top destination.

02 of 15

Peruse the Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Eddie Brady / Getty Images

The world-renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is one of Kansas City's most treasured gems. With amazing exhibits both inside and out, the Nelson-Atkins boasts impressive collections with everything from ancient Egyptian sculptures to a Japanese collection with more than 2,000 works of art dating as far back as 10th century B.C.E. You can easily spend days looking at everything. Admission is free, although to see most special exhibits, a small fee is charged.

03 of 15

Visit the Animals at the Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo Hippos showing an unusual amount of activity

Andy Harris / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Kansas City Zoo is a great attraction for those young and old alike. The Zoo is spread over 200 acres with habitats for over 1,300 animals. You'll see animals like penguins, polar bears, and orangutans covering species from all of the continents. The Zoo does have trams, shuttles, and a train but even so, you'll get in a lot of walking.

04 of 15

Savor Kansas City BBQ

Babyback BBQ Ribs

Trip Savvy / Marianna Massey

When it comes to Kansas City, barbeque is the one thing they do better than everyone else. With rich traditions of dry-rubbed meats cooked to perfection and covered with spicy sauces, it truly is what made Kansas City "The Home of Barbeque."

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que with its original restaurant housed in a repurposed gas station is a favorite with both locals and visitors. Another eatery serving up local barbeque is Jack Stack Barbecue - Freight House which serves a long menu of barbecue meats as well as fish and salads. Located in the Crossroads Art District, this historic converted Freight House has 25-foot ceilings, a fireplace lounge with full-service bar, and indoor and outdoor private dining.

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05 of 15

Check Out Union Station

Union Station

Courtesy of Union Station 

The fully restored Union Station is one of Kansas City's favorite attractions with plenty of great things to see and do. With everything from the fully interactive Science City and its famed Rail Exhibit to movies, planetarium shows, and world-famous exhibits. Visit traveling national exhibits, 3D movies on the Extreme Screen, or enjoy a cup of coffee or a nice meal in this beautiful, historic building.

06 of 15

See the Collections at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

Truman Presidential Library

gnagel / Getty Images

Harry S. Truman was not only the 33rd president of the United States, but he was also an Independence, Missouri native. The Harry S. Truman Library in Independence is home to an amazing collection of over 30,000 presidential artifacts including everything from Presidential gifts that he and wife Bess received during his term of office, political memorabilia, and other artifacts from the Truman era. The Truman Library is also a well-known research library and has a massive collection of photographs, a motion picture collection, as well as a political cartoon exhibit.

07 of 15

Gamble at a Riverboat Casino

Isle of Capri


Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

You may or may not sail down the river, but you'll find some great gambling venues on riverboats. During the last decades of the twentieth century, many states began allowing riverboats to offer casino gambling, thus limiting the spread of casinos to the boats, while still bringing in some revenue to the states. Many riverboats are actually stationary barges that never leave the dock.

Even if you are not a gambler, the Kansas City Riverboat Casinos are also great places for dining, shopping, and entertainment. The casinos boast everything from great movie theaters and restaurants to concert venues, hotels, and spas. Some favorites are Harrah's Casino with its Voodoo Lounge hosting name entertainment, Ameristar with a great buffet and its Pearl's Oyster Bar. For relaxation, there's an amazing spa at Argosy.

Other riverboat casinos in Missouri are in St. Joseph, St. Charles, St. Louis, Caruthersville, La Grange, and Boonville. In addition, gambling at Indian tribal casinos is legal in Kansas. 

08 of 15

Visit the 18th and Vine Jazz District

The American Jazz Museum and the Negro League Baseball Museum

Chris Murphy / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The historic 18th and Vine Jazz District is a fitting tribute to what put Kansas City on the map—world-famous Jazz and Negro Leagues Baseball. The district, which was resurrected in the late 1990s, is home to the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the Gem Theater.

With great restaurants and clubs like the Blue Note, jam sessions and great acts abound. There's always something going on at 18th and Vine.

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09 of 15

Stroll Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens

Kelly Garbato / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Located just east of Kansas City, Powell Gardens is an amazing 900-acre botanical garden that boasts amazing displays of plants and flowers that are in bloom any time of year. The displays change with the seasons, so you'll never see the same thing twice at Powell Gardens and is beautiful year-round. Have lunch at their great Cafe Thyme or see their beautiful chapel, home to many weddings throughout the year.

10 of 15

Reflect at the Liberty Memorial and National WWl Museum

National World War I Museum in Kansas City

Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

Liberty Memorial and the WWI museum is the official WWI museum of the United States and honors those who served and sacrificed in WWI. This interactive exhibit shows the impact the war had on the United States. The museum and memorial serve as the leading educational institute and resource of WWI. Head to the top of the Liberty Memorial for some of the best 360 views of Kansas City.

11 of 15

Take the Family to Worlds of Fun

Worlds of Fun

 Courtesy of Worlds of Fun

Worlds of Fun, a 235-acre amusement park in Kansas City, opened in 1973. Admission to Worlds of Fun includes access to Oceans of Fun, a water park adjacent to the amusement park. There's something for everyone from roller coasters and thrill rides, to Planet Snoopy for the little ones. Year 'round there are special events marking holidays like Halloween and Christmas.

12 of 15

See the Sea Life

From Stingray Bay to an undersea exhibit where you can view tropical marine life, SEA LIFE Kansas City has something for all ages to learn about and enjoy. There's a Turtle Rescue Center where you can get up close to Green Sea Turtles. A favorite is a special exhibit devoted to seahorses.

SEA LIFE Aquarium Kansas City is located in the center of Downtown Kansas City. You can find it in the Crown Center District, situated in the Crown Center Square along with LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City. 

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SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center are both situated in the Crown Center Square in downtown Kansas City. Both attractions can be visited on a combination ticket. This indoor attraction includes Lego rides, a soft play area, a 4D cinema, and a gift shop. There are 10 build-and-play zones for the Lego enthusiast who wants to try building something new. Human-sized Lego characters stroll the building meeting visitors and posing for photo ops.

14 of 15

Find Out About Steamboats

Kansas City - Steamboat Arabia

Ian Morton / Flickr

At the Arabia Steamboat Museum, you can learn about steamboat history as you peruse salvaged items brought up from the Missouri River from the Arabia Steamboat which sank in 1856. The attractive museum, located on the river, offers guided tours where you can watch preservationists working on artifacts. Items brought up from the bottom of the river include clothing, fine china and carpentry tools, guns, and children’s toys.

15 of 15

Explore the World of Toys

The toys housed within the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures are said to be some of the worlds most valuable and rare. The collection began in 1982 when two private toy collectors joined forces. The present-day museum occupies 33,000 square feet and houses 72,000 objects. You'll find dollhouses, mechanical toys, and even political toys within this immense collection of antiques.