exhibit of aviation at the kansas city history museum
Kansas City History Museum

There are truly endless opportunities for exploring Kansas City! As Kansas City locals for over a decade, we are still discovering exceptional parts of the city that we didn’t realize existed. 

If you’re visiting Kansas City, it can be overwhelming to decide how to spend your time. While there are plenty of activities that vary in cost, there are several free things to do as well!

To help you narrow it down, we’re sharing the best free activities in Kansas City. We have curated a range of interests – from outdoorsy to artsy and many opportunities in between. 

We just know you’re going to love visiting our City of Fountains – and why not enjoy it for free?

Scroll to the bottom for a map of the best free things to do in Kansas City. And if you’re visiting with kiddos, read our guide to the best free things for families to do in KCMO.

Free Activities and Exhibits in Kansas City

These are the best activities and exhibits that you can access for free in Kansas City!

1. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Monday, Saturday, Sunday 10am – 5pm; Thursday – Friday, 10am – 9pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City was founded in 1933 and is a truly world-class museum that should not be missed. 

The museum itself is a work of art, seamlessly blending modern architecture with classical elements. Over the years, the museum has grown and now houses over 42,000 works of art. 

exhibit at nelson atkins museum of art
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art includes works from all corners of the globe, spanning over 5,000 years of human history. Visitors can explore ancient Egyptian art, European paintings and sculptures, Asian art, photography, and contemporary pieces. The museum also features temporary exhibitions that showcase various themes and artists.

With an extensive collection ranging from ancient to contemporary, this museum is a cultural jewel. The sprawling lawn with the iconic Shuttlecocks installations is perfect for picnics and photos.

exhibit in the nelson atkins art museum
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The museum is free to visit, but you will need to register for an advanced ticket. In our experience, if they are not at capacity, you can get a ticket at the time of your visit from the front desk.

egyptian exhibit at the nelson-atkins museum of art
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

2. Street Mural Tour in Crossroads

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District

The Crossroads in Kansas City, known as the Crossroads Arts District, is the heart of the city’s vibrant culture and arts scene.

From its humble beginnings as an industrial warehouse district to its transformation into an artistic haven, the Crossroads has always been a place of change and innovation.

The neighborhood’s most notable feature is the vast array of street murals and art. Strolling around Crossroads, you’ll pass by wall murals, several stories high, that paint stories of Kansas City’s history, cultural diversity, and artistic evolution.

The neighborhood spans nearly one square mile in total, so there’s plenty to explore. For more information on Crossroads, read our guides to the city’s most artistic neighborhood

kansas city crossroads murals
Crossroads Kansas City

3. Kansas City Museum

Neighborhood: Historic Northeast
Open to the Public: Thursday 10am – 8pm, Friday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm

The Kansas City Museum is housed in the majestic Corinthian Hall, built in 1910 as the estate of a local lumber baron. The Beaux-Arts style building itself is a sight to behold with its grandeur and historical significance.

Walking through the halls takes you on a stroll through time. The museum showcases the rich history of Kansas City, from its early days to the vibrant city it is today. You’ll find exhibits that transport you to different eras – like jazz, aviation, immigration, and Native American history, among others, each of which captures the essence of Kansas City’s evolution.

front of the kansas history museum building in a former mansion
Kansas History Museum

Corinthian Hall has four floors with history exhibits and art installations. Approximately 400 historical artifacts plus numerous images from the museum’s archives, exhibits, media, and site-specific art installations by Kansas City-based artists are on display.

The first floor details the life of the family for whom the estate was built and showcases what it was like to live in the 1800’s. The second and third floor are exhibits of Kansas City history.

Spend time afterwards strolling the block around the museum, which houses beautiful historic mansions.

exhibit of an 1800's sitting room at the kansas city history museum
Kansas City History Museum

4. J. Rieger Distillery History Exhibit

Neighborhood: East Bottoms

While J. Rieger Distillery has several activities that are not free – including an exceptional distillery tour and their cocktail lounge – those intrigued by history and distilled spirits can stroll through the distillery’s historical exhibit, which features artifacts, photographs, and panels that explore the history of the distillery as well as Kansas City crafted spirits. 

historical exhibit with suede couches at j rieger
J. Rieger

The journey of J. Rieger & Co. began with Jacob Rieger, who immigrated from Austria to America. In 1887, he founded J. Rieger & Co. in Kansas City’s West Bottoms neighborhood, a bustling center of commerce at the time​​.

J. Rieger & Co. thrived, becoming the largest mail-order whiskey house in the United States. However, the 18th Amendment in 1919, which ushered in the era of Prohibition, forced J. Rieger & Co. to shut down in December 1919.

The revival of J. Rieger & Co. came about nearly a century later, in 2010, when a Kansas City bartender and Jacob Rieger’s great-great-great-grandson collaborated to resurrect the brand. They were inspired by the rich history of the original distillery and the Rieger family legacy.

You can learn all about it by visiting the distillery!

leather chairs at j rieger distillery historical exhibit
J. Rieger

5. Country Club Plaza’s Public Art

Neighborhood: Midtown

The Country Club Plaza neighborhood, referred to by locals as the Plaza, is anchored by a lovely outdoor shopping district. 

It was established in 1922 and spans 15 blocks, being home to iconic and luxurious brands, as well as smaller local shops – perfect for leisurely strolls and window shopping!

But there’s more to the Plaza than just shopping. The area also boasts stunning architecture, including Spanish-inspired buildings, artwork in the form of sculptures and murals, and beautiful fountains, earning Kansas City the title of The City of Fountains.

In fact, there are more than 75 remarkable statues, fountains, and exquisite artwork, all located outdoors throughout the Plaza. 

For more information about the Country Club Plaza, read our guides to this historic district.

country club plaza historical artwork of a tile scene
Country Club Plaza

6. Kansas City Public Library Central Branch

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: Sunday 1p – 5p, Monday – Wednesday 9a – 7p, Thursday – Saturday 9a – 5p

As Kansas City locals, we are somewhat ashamed to admit that it was several years before we realized how neat the downtown Central Branch of the public library is. The Central Branch is housed in a strikingly beautiful historic building, which was once a bank.

Its grandeur is immediately apparent upon entering, with its tall ceilings, elegant decor, and an ambiance that harkens back to a bygone era of stately public spaces. The building’s blend of classic and modern design elements makes it a visually stunning locale.

entrance of the kansas city public library central branch with green carpet and accents and gold and marble
Kansas City Central Library

You can do a self-guided exploration of the historical parts building, but they do offer guided tours on a monthly basis.

Additionally, they have public galleries with rotating exhibitions – typically art and photography – located throughout the library.

kansas city public library central branch
Kansas City Public Library

7. Movies at Durwood Film Vault

Neighborhood: Downtown, Kansas City Public Library
Open to the Public: Daily at 2p

The Kansas City Central Library was once a prestigious bank, and the original vault located in the basement of the building has been converted into a 28-seat movie theatre. 

They offer free movies typically every day at 2p, and sometimes more often, with no reservations required. They offer a range of movie types, including both adult and child options.

You can view their upcoming showings on the calendar page of their website.

small movie theater with felt chairs
Durwood Film Vault

8. Rooftop Terrace Cityscape Tour

Neighborhood: Downtown, Kansas City Public Library
Open to the Public: Sunday 1p – 5p, Monday – Wednesday 9a – 7p, Thursday – Saturday 9a – 5p

The Rooftop Terrace at the Kansas City Central Library branch offers a self-guided tour of the cityscape to the west, east, and south of the Central Library. 

You can read from six information panels that explain the past and present of the immediate surroundings, including how early planners carved the city from 80-foot bluffs, and the proper terms for the architectural flourishes on nearby buildings, such as modillion, festoon, and flora. 

The terrace features a native plant garden to explore and learn from. 

Additionally, you can play a game of chess with the library’s famous giant chess pieces.

sign showing the city scape history at the kansas city central library rooftop terrace
Rooftop Terrace Central Library

9. First Fridays in Crossroads

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Open to the Public: First Friday of the Month

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

For more information about First Fridays, read our guide to the monthly art event

kansas city art galleries
Jones Gallery

10. Kauffman Memorial Garden

Neighborhood: Midtown

Kauffman Memorial Garden inside the legacy park is a hidden gem. As you step onto the grounds, you’ll find a stunning array of seasonal flowers, lush greenery, and beautifully designed walkways.

The garden is divided into several sections. The tranquil water features, including ornate fountains and reflective pools, add to the garden’s serene setting.

One of the highlights of Kauffman Memorial Garden is its diversity of plant life.

It features a mix of native plants and exotic species, meticulously cared for, providing a vibrant display of colors and textures throughout the year.

The garden’s design also incorporates various sculptures and architectural elements.

We love the greenhouse, which includes a resident cat.

Kauffman Memorial Garden
Kauffman Memorial Garden
Kauffman Memorial Garden
Kauffman Memorial Garden

11. Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park

Neighborhood: Midtown

When it’s one of those lovely Kansas City days when the weather is ideal – warm, breezy, you know the type, you’re likely avoiding anything that requires time spent indoors. 

You can still get your art fix by visiting the sculpture park on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, which was named one of America’s “Top Ten Lawns with a View”! 

The sculpture park began in 1986 and since then, has continued to expand throughout the beautiful grounds of the museum – it currently boasts over thirty pieces. Each sculpture has signage with information about the artist and the piece. 

Seasonally, you can take part in the Art Course, which is an artist-designed, mini golf experience located in the sculpture park. Each hole on this nine-hole course presents a creative interpretation of a work of art in the museum’s collection.

Nelson Atkins Sculpture Park
Nelson Atkins Sculpture Park

12. Loose Park

Neighborhood: Midtown

Locals adore Loose Park, and for good reason!

There are several parts of the park to visit – stroll around the perimeter path, visit the rose garden (4,000+ roses!), rest on a blanket on the expansive green space, read the historical markers, watch the ducks skim across the pond – truly, you could easily spend an entire afternoon in Loose Park.

It’s a quick drive – or a longer walk if you’re so inclined – from the Country Club Plaza. 

loose park in kansas city missouri
Loose Park

13. City Market

Neighborhood: River Market

City Market is not just a market; it’s a vibrant hub of culture, food, and local charm. 

City Market has a rich history dating back to 1857 as a site for commerce, horse trading, political rallies, revivals, medicine shows, and circuses. Strolling around the historic area is an activity in itself.

It’s best to visit on Saturday and Sunday mornings when the farmer’s market is underway. Meander through the stalls where locals are selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and artisanal goods. It’s a great way to support local farmers and makers! 

Oftentimes, there is live music. 

The City Market is known for its diverse food options – along the perimeter of the historic market are several small counter service eateries. Many of these are family-owned, and options include Middle Eastern, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Indian, among several others. 

city market in river market
City Market

14. Crown Center

Neighborhood: Downtown

Crown Center – referred to as a “City Within A City” – is home to the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. 

The three-level Crown Center Shops feature more than thirty shops and restaurants. The center hosts free activities, such as children’s exhibits as well as occasional live music, seasonal markets, and ethnic festivals in the outdoor Crown Center Square. 

Crown Center is great for families!

15. Hallmark Visitors Center

Neighborhood: Downtown, Crown Center
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30a – 4p

Did you know that Kansas City is the international headquarters of Hallmark Cards?

Visit the Hallmark Visitors Center and learn how a teenager from Nebraska tucked two shoeboxes of postcards under his arms and set out to create an iconic company in Kansas City. 

You’ll walk through a timeline of Hallmark’s humble beginnings and a showcase of products customers loved throughout the years. Interactive displays and exhibits give you a glimpse into the rich history and creative spirit of Hallmark.

In their theatre, you can watch a film that covers the expanse of Hallmark’s 100+ year history.

16. Union Station

Neighborhood: Downtown

Union Station isn’t just a train station; it’s a grand piece of history, brimming with charm and exhibits – several of which are free. 

The beaux-arts architecture constructed in 1914 is worthy of a visit in itself – the ceiling in the Grand Hall is 95 feet high and features three chandeliers. There are several historical exhibits around the building to peruse. 

old mail carrier at union station
Union Station
train exhibit at union station
Union Station

17. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Wednesday, Friday – Sunday 10am – 4pm; Thursday 10am – 9pm

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is a leading presenter of contemporary art. Since 1994, it has connected Midwest communities with modern artists. 

With nearly 1,500 artworks in its permanent collection, the museum showcases a rotating selection in its Gunnar Birkerts designed building, alongside special exhibitions. It focuses on emerging and mid-career artists, as well as historically excluded groups. Admission, parking, and public programs are always free.

18. Ride The KC Streetcar

Neighborhood: Downtown

Explore Kansas City’s downtown neighborhoods with the modern streetcar!

Running from the River Market on the north end to Union Station and Crown Center on the south, KC Streetcar connects all the downtown neighborhoods with 16 platform stops and 2 miles of track. 

19. The Blue Room Jazz Performances

Neighborhood: 18th & Vine

outdoor sign for the blue room
The Blue Room

Kansas City’s jazz music scene has deep roots, and The Blue Room pays homage to that. The Blue Room, an interactive, working jazz club that’s part of the American Jazz Museum, offers regular free performances. 

Typically, these occur on Monday evenings, first and second Thursdays at 12p, and Fridays at 5p. It’s best to check their website calendar to confirm.

musical set at jazz club the blue room
The Blue Room

20. Visitor Center at 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District

Neighborhood: 18th & Vine
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Saturday 9a – 6p, Sunday 12p – 6p

You can’t visit Kansas City without experiencing jazz music. While the American Jazz Museum requires a ticket for entry, the Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center and the Changing Gallery are both free of charge. 

Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center
Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center

Through the moving documentary film “A People’s Journey,” you’ll be introduced to the everyday heroes in Kansas City’s 18th & Vine neighborhood whose social, cultural and economic contributions profoundly impacted a city and a nation. 

Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center
Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center

21. Linda Hall Library

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Monday – Friday 10a – 5p

The Linda Hall Library is a privately endowed American library of science, engineering and technology that is housed on a 14-acre urban arboretum. 

study area at Linda Hall Library
Linda Hall Library

Since 1946, the Linda Hall Library has been amassing collections that have powered investigation, innovation, exploration, and inspiration.

The library occasionally houses exhibitions that explore various science topics and they host evening events. 

bird exhibit at science library
Linda Hall Library

22. Federal Reserve’s Money Museum

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Monday – Friday, 9:30a to 4p

The Federal Reserve System in the United States consists of twelve regional banks, each serving a specific district, one of which resides in Kansas City! 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has a Money Museum where you can learn about currency processing and the history of money.

It’s a self-guided tour through several different rooms and includes features like lifting a real gold bar valued at nearly $400,000 and the historic Harry S. Truman Coin Collection, a dazzling display of 450 coins minted throughout history.

The exhibits are interactive and teach valuable insights into the U.S. economy. You can catch a glimpse of the Federal Reserve’s cash processing area and the vault. It’s an interesting look into this important piece of the American economy!

Federal Reserve Money Museum KC
Federal Reserve Money Museum

23. Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park

Neighborhood: Swope Park, Eastern KCMO
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Sunday 9a – 4p

The Lakeside Nature Center is one of Missouri’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities and provides educational and recreational opportunities that focus on the environment. 

The center typically houses about 75 rehabilitated animals native to this region, including two bald eagles, two turkey vultures, three barred owls, three varieties of hawks and two Kestrel falcons. 

With each animal exhibit, there are signs and informational panels to learn from. Additionally, there are several other areas in the center that provide opportunities for hands-on learning about local nature.

The center also features nature trails and weekend events – we love the two-mile Fox Hollow Trail.

naturalist corner exhibit at the lakeside nature center in kansas city
Lakeside Nature Center
entrance of the lakeside nature center in kansas city
Lakeside Nature Center

24. Liberty Memorial

Neighborhood: Midtown

The Liberty Memorial is located at the National WWI Museum. While the museum requires a ticket, it is free to visit the Liberty Memorial and surrounding grounds. 

The Liberty Memorial Tower rises 217 feet above the main courtyard and 268 feet above the North Lawn. The monument received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and recognition from Congress as a national memorial in 2014.

The memorial grounds design showcases classical Egyptian Revival architecture. The tower is crowned with four sculptures, the Guardian Spirits, representing virtues like Honor and Sacrifice. Visitors can spend time walking around the grounds and developing an appreciation for the historical architecture and features. 

liberty memorial which is a tall tower made of concrete
Liberty Memorial

25. City Hall Observation Deck

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: Monday – Friday 9a – 3p

At thirty stories high, this observation deck within the neo-classic City Hall buildings is one of the best vantage points for views of the Kansas City skyline. The only downside is that parking can be difficult.

26. Kansas City Fountains

Neighborhood: Midtown, Downtown

Kansas City is named the “City of Fountains,” and of the 200+ fountains, 48 are publicly owned and available to visit for fountain enthusiasts. 

Kansas City’s first fountains date back to the late 1800s, when they served a purely utilitarian purpose to provide water to domestic animals, namely horses, passing through the city. 

The city began erecting drinking fountains throughout the midtown and downtown areas to provide citizens with safe drinking water. These fountains all had their own architectural designs and styles. 

In keeping with the fountain theme, architects began integrating sculpture fountains into designs to beautify properties and add distinction to them. Thus, the City of Fountains was born.

The majority of the publicly available fountains can be found on the Country Club Plaza as well as other locations in midtown and downtown, such as Union Station, Crown Center, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

27. Town of Kansas Bridge and Berkley Riverfront Park

Neighborhood: River Market

If you’re feeling outdoorsy, visit the Town of Kansas Bridge and adjacent Berkley Riverfront Park for a stroll alongside the Missouri River. This location was actually the beginning of Kansas City. 

The 650-foot long bridge was constructed in 2004 and provides an overlook of the river and nearby bridges. It is particularly lovely at sunset. 

sunset at the Town of Kansas Bridge
Town of Kansas Bridge

The bridge as well as the riverfront trail have several historical markers and signage that share the history of the beginnings of this town on the river, which would later become Kansas City. 

IMG 3055
Town of Kansas Bridge
historical marker at the town of kansas bridge
Town of Kansas Bridge

28. Cliff Drive at Kessler Park

Neighborhood: Historic Northeast

Kessler Park was established when the historic northeast was being built up with high society mansions over a century ago. 

The park is built on the river bluffs, which creates some serious elevation alongside beautiful scenery. 

We recommend staying on the paved Cliff Drive – it is a National Scenic Byway but is closed to vehicles, so it creates an accessible pathway for pedestrians. The pathway is four miles each way. 

The paved walkway is about four miles each way. If you walk the full length and then back, your total will be eight miles.

This hike would make for a great visit before or after exploring the nearby Kansas History Museum. 

29. Missouri State Parks

All Missouri State Parks are free to visit! If you’re looking to get into nature, we recommend nearby Watkins Mill and Weston Bend parks for their hiking trails and historical sites. 

overlook at weston bend state park on a fall day
Weston Bend State Park

30. Missouri Valley Special Collections

Neighborhood: Downtown, Kansas City Public Library
Open to the Public: Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p

If you’re a history enthusiast, you’ll love visiting the Missouri Valley Special Collections room at the Kansas City Public Library.

Located on the 5th floor of the Central Library, the Missouri Valley Room provides access to the library’s local history and special collections. 

Their Browsing Collection makes a wide assortment of Kansas City and regional history books available – this includes sections dedicated to new books, the American West, the Civil War, African American History and Culture, Kansas City and regional growth, arts and culture, periodicals, and genealogy.

You do need a library card to access the room. If you live outside of the greater Kansas City metropolitan area, you can be issued a limited access card with limited borrowing, which includes the Missouri Valley Special Collections room. 

31. Kansas City Symphony’s Free Happy Hour Concert

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District

Occasionally, musicians from the Kansas City Symphony will perform free concerts at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Begin in the Kauffman Center Brandmeyer Great Hall lobby for a drink at 5:00p and then attend the short, casual concert starting at 6:00p.

Tickets for these concerts are available two months prior to the event date and go quickly. You can find the events on the Kauffman Center’s website.

Map of Free Things to do in Kansas City

If you have a budget for your time in Kansas City, make sure you check out our list of 11 Fun Things to do in Kansas City for Adults – there’s a range of pricing for the various recommended activities.