kansas city art galleries
Jones Gallery

Are you planning to attend Kansas City’s First Fridays in Crossroads Arts District? If so, you’re in for a memorable evening!

As Kansas City locals, we love stopping by First Fridays – as does much of the rest of the town!

This monthly celebration of Kansas City’s arts and culture is a unique blend of art galleries, pop up events, street performances, and local culture, all set against the backdrop of one of the city’s most vibrant, eclectic neighborhoods.

What is Kansas City’s First Fridays?

You may already be aware that Kansas City has an exceptional art scene, and First Fridays is just one piece of that.

First Fridays is a monthly event that takes place in the downtown Crossroads Arts District.

On the first Friday of every month, the streets come alive with a vibrant blend of locals and visitors looking to experience the best of Kansas City’s art scene.

Art galleries and studios open their doors to the public, displaying a wide array of artworks and creative pieces, while performers and musicians fill the air with vibrant tunes.

In addition to the art scene, many of Crossroad’s local boutiques and shops extend their hours on First Fridays.

While this event provides a unique opportunity for community members to explore the local art scene, engage with artists, and take part in the creative atmosphere, it offers even more.

Visitors can spend their evening really getting to experience all aspects of Kansas City’s trendiest neighborhood, including the exceptional culinary scene.

kansas city art gallery
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art

Where Do I Park for Kansas City’s First Fridays?

Unless you arrive around or before 5pm, parking will be a challenge.

There is street parking in the Crossroads Arts District, and it’s possible you’ll be able to snag a spot. If you’d like to avoid potentially driving around in circles, there are two options we’d recommend.

The first is to pay to park at Union Station. The cost is $15 for 4 – 8 hours. From Union Station, you can take the KC Streetcar just a few stops to Crossroads.

If you don’t want to pay, something we will do is park at River Market. It is typically not crowded in the evenings, leaving plenty of free parking.

There are two stops for the KC Streetcar in River Market – the ride will be a bit longer than if you park at Union Station, but you’ll get to see all of downtown Kansas City.

kansas city art galleries
Cerbera Gallery
kansas city art galleries
Jones Gallery

First Fridays Art Galleries

The heart of First Fridays is the art galleries, which open their doors to the public for this monthly event.

You’ll find a wide variety of art, from traditional paintings and sculptures to avant-garde installations.

You’ll also have the opportunity to meet some of the artists behind the work – and observe live paintings.

As Kansas City locals, we’ve attended many First Fridays.

The galleries are set around Crossroads in two different locational groups, so we’ve separated this guide into those two sections: 20th and Baltimore and 18th and Walnut.

There are over 30 local restaurants in Crossroads, so to help you narrow it down, we have included restaurant and bar recommendations in close proximity.

Map of First Friday Art Galleries

For a description of each gallery, continue reading.

Art Galleries at 20th & Baltimore Street

If you’re wanting to see as many galleries as possible, we recommend you visit this area – there are several galleries all within a short walking distance.

Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
Established in 1985, this gallery is one of the oldest sustained contemporary art galleries in Kansas City and the Midwest. They represent emerging, mid-career, and internationally established artists, showcasing their technically proficient and exciting works in various fine art mediums.

First Friday Hours: 5pm – 8pm
Beggars Table Gallery
Beggars Table is an event space that opens their doors for a pop-up fair on First Fridays. When we have visited, there were 16 local Kansas City artists and makers selling a variety of artwork and goods.

First Friday Hours: 6pm – 9pm
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
The Leedy-Voulkos Art Center showcases rotating exhibits of exceptional artwork by local artists, including painters, sculptors, ceramicists, photographers, designers, printmakers, and craftsmen. The space is rather large with several rooms, each dedicated to showcasing a different artist.

First Friday Hours: 5pm – 8pm
Cerbera Gallery
Cerbera Gallery for Contemporary Fine Art showcases a diverse range of art, including small to large-format innovative and abstract works by talented artists from Europe, North America, and Asia. The small exhibition showcases a rotating collection of artwork encompassing functional and sculptural ceramics, paintings, photography, mixed media, limited edition prints, lithographs, and jewelry.

First Friday Hours: 4pm – 9pm
Blue Gallery
Blue Gallery, a fixture of Kansas City’s vibrant art scene for over 22 years, represents and showcases 40+ local and nationally known artists. Recognized as one of the premier galleries in Kansas City, it has received numerous awards and accolades for its exceptional contributions to the art community.

First Friday Hours: 11am – 7pm
Belger Arts Center
Technically located a couple of blocks away from the others, it is totally worth the short walk to visit Belger Arts Center. The space has been showcasing a diverse range of 2D, 3D, and 4D artworks since its inception in 2000. With over 100 major exhibitions, it has become a platform for local, national, and international artists. Through its thought-provoking exhibitions, the center encourages viewers to explore and deepen their understanding of contemporary art.

First Friday Hours: 10am – 8pm

Nearby Restaurants and Bars

Below are the restaurants and bars in the area – within walking distance – that we recommend for before and after visiting the art galleries near 20th and Baltimore Street.

romantic kansas city restaurant cozy in crossroads arts district
Rockhill Grille

Lidia’s, Italian
Pricing: $$$
When it comes to Italian cuisine, Lidia Bastianich reigns as the culinary matriarch of Kansas City. Housed in a historic railroad building, the restaurant features the charming ambiance of an old Italian farmhouse. And the pasta! Many opt for the Pasta Trio, served tableside, is a daily three course pasta special – and you can get as many seconds –  thirds, fourths – as you want.

Rockhill Grille, New American
Pricing: $$
Sophisticated, airy space serving elevated, modern American dishes. Notable dishes are the bruschetta, prime rib sandwich, brussel sprout salad, pig wings, and deviled eggs. Their cocktail game is exceptional as well.

Affäre, German
Pricing: $$$
Affäre presents a remarkable blend of traditional German cuisine and contemporary culinary artistry. The restaurant is celebrated for its modern and minimalist aesthetics with dramatic lighting and contemporary art. They take pride in their dedication to local Kansas City farmers, meaning the menu rotates seasonally in line with the farm-to-table approach. 

Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop
Pricing: $$
Lulu’s, a vibrant and cheerful eatery, delights patrons with generous portions of traditional Thai cuisine. Since 1997, they have been slinging noodles with expertise, using recipes inspired by the owner’s grandmother, or yâa in Thai. The dishes are delicious and approachable.

Up Down, Arcade Bar
Pricing: $
Up Down Bar is a unique blend of nostalgia and modern nightlife. This arcade bar features more than 60 arcade games from the ’80s and ’90s, pinball machines, four classic skee-ball alleys, and Nintendo and Sega console gaming, creating an immersive flashback for visitors. The bar serves an extensive collection of craft beers, among other options.

Afterword Tavern & Shelves, Cocktail Bar
Pricing: $$
Afterword Tavern & Shelves is a bookshop, board game library, and cocktail bar. Patrons can peruse a selection of current and past-loved titles while sipping on a handcrafted cocktail or local brew. The space has wooden bookshelves with a cozy seating area, perfect for conversation or solo reading. 

kansas city first fridays crossroads
Afterword Tavern and Shelves

Art Galleries at 18th Street From Walnut to McGee

Although there are fewer art galleries in this area, you’ll find the street performers and some pop-ups here, especially around Mod Gallery.

It tends to be a bit more lively than the other art gallery area.

Jones Gallery
Located in a historic building, this bright, spacious gallery offers two floors of displayed artwork from both local and national artists in a variety of mediums.

First Friday Hours: 5pm – 9pm
Mod Gallery
With its bold gallery space, hip urban vibe, and regular First Friday celebrations featuring local art, live music, and cuisine, it’s a must visit for those looking for an eclectic art vibe.

First Friday Hours: 5pm – 10pm (times may vary by season)
1739 Gallery
Although on the smaller side, it’s definitely worth dropping in.

First Friday Hours: 6pm – 10pm

Nearby Restaurants and Bars

Below are the restaurants and bars in the area – within walking distance – that we recommend for before and after visiting the art galleries in East Crossroads Arts District.

Novel, New American
Pricing: $$
Novel is a quaint restaurant known for its creative American cuisine. The restaurant occupies a charming historic building, its interior bathed in the warm glow of pendant lights with rich wood tones, granite bar, and tile murals. Novel’s menu changes seasonally, reflecting the restaurant’s commitment to incorporating fresh, local ingredients.

Parlor, Food Hall 
Pricing: $$
Trendy, industrial-chic food hall with several cuisines strewn throughout two floors. The food hall style is great for groups – order at the counter, grab a table, and receive a text when your food is ready. It does get busy, so you’ll want to get there earlier in order to find a table. The second floor covered patio has great views of Crossroads – a view that pairs well with a crafted cocktail. 

Corvino Supper Club, New American
Pricing: $$$$
The list of accolades for Corvino is lengthy, and includes a James Beard Semifinalist award. The upscale, elegant New American fare, mostly small plates for sharing, is paired with live jazz music. We have experienced a great meal – both in food and ambiance – with every visit to Corvino.

KC Wineworks, Winery
Pricing: $$
With vineyards located in rural Missouri, this family-owned winery has a trendy tasting room in Crossroads. Their blends in particular – Crossroads Red and Crossroads White – are excellent. They offer tastings as well as wine by the glass or bottle. End the evening with one of their wine and chocolate pairings with local Christopher Elbow chocolates.

Mean Mule, Distillery
Pricing: $$
Quaint, moody ambiance pairs with a southwestern vibe to serve up American Agave spirits. Try a flight – and definitely don’t skip the Paloma!

Lifted Spirits, Distillery 
Pricing: $$
Located in a restored circa-1800s stables, they offer beautifully crafted, creative cocktails made with their own small-batch spirits.

What About First Fridays in the West Bottoms?

The First Friday weekend in West Bottoms is a cherished tradition that attracts both locals and visitors to Kansas City’s historic warehouse district.

This district is known for its antique and home decor shops, offering a wide range of unique and eclectic pieces.

With many businesses only open on First Friday weekends, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore and discover rare collectibles, clothing, furniture, and more.

The district’s rugged, industrial architecture provides a distinctive backdrop for a memorable morning or afternoon visit.

Is the Crossroads Arts District Safe?

In our personal experience, Crossroads Arts District is safe. We have never had issues going out here at night.

As we would recommend for any urban downtown you visit, don’t leave valuables in your vehicle, don’t become too intoxicated to where you could be taken advantage of, and don’t wander around by yourself late at night.

Where to Stay for Kansas City’s First Fridays

Planning to make a weekend of it? There is so much to do in this historic district in downtown Kansas City.

If you’re in the art scene – and if you’re reading this article, you clearly are – we recommend you check out 21c Museum Hotel.

This boutique hotel is filled with contemporary art and is located in downtown Kansas City, right in the heart of most of the galleries, museums, and performance art venues.

kansas city's art scene
21c Museum Hotel