nelson atkins museum of art in kansas city at nighttime on a cloudy night
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City has an impressive offering of museums – and if you’re looking to spend an afternoon immersed in history, art, or culture, you’re sure to find one that suits you.

As Kansas City locals, we take it for granted that our hometown has museums that are recognized at the national level as well as ones that are more locally focused, highlighting what makes our city great. 

If visiting museums is of interest to you, Kansas City will keep you occupied! In this guide, we share all the museums in the downtown and midtown neighborhoods, as well as information to help you decide which one you’d like to visit. 

Our recommendation? Visit them all! After reading about all the incredible museums that Kansas City offers, you’ll be tempted to do just that. 

So, let’s get into it – these are Kansas City’s art, history, and culture museums. 

Art Museums in Kansas City

Kansas City has a thriving art scene, and our art museums are an integral part of it.

If immersing yourself in the arts is what you’re after, we recommend that you visit on Crossroads Arts District’s First Friday weekend. Pairing that with our art museums will make for an exceptional visit. 

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

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City was founded in 1933. 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. With an annual visitor count of 500,000, the Nelson-Atkins Museum continues to be a cultural hub for art enthusiasts.

shuttlecock statue on the front lawn of nelson atkins museum of art in kansas city
Kansas City Shuttlecocks

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 – typically, these are not free admission areas.

The museum is large, and it is possible to spend many hours, or even several visits, exploring all there is to see.

While the museum interiors are impressive, the grounds are worth exploring as well. Named one of America’s ‘Top Ten Lawns with a View,’ the 22-acre Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park is home to the nation’s largest collection of monumental bronzes by Henry Moore. The Sculpture Park also features Kansas City’s iconic installation Shuttlecocks.

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

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

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

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.

Consider visiting the on-site Café Sebastienne, which serves lunch and weekend brunch in two unique spaces: one an intimate dining room with a floor-to-ceiling installation of more than 100 paintings by Frederick James Brown, and the other a natural light-filled enclosed courtyard.

H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Wednesday – Saturday, 12pm – 5pm
Pricing: Free

H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute is a dynamic teaching museum dedicated to artists, art, and ideas. Since 1999, it has been engaging, educating, and inspiring the next generations of artists, designers, and culture workers. 

Through innovative exhibitions, public programs, and collaborations, the Artspace contributes to the artistic advancement of the city and fosters cultural understanding. Its mission is to enhance and sustain a strong regional arts ecology by showcasing established and emerging artists, both locally and internationally.

History and Culture Museums in Kansas City

Kansas City celebrates our rich cultural landscape and the stories that have made us into the city we are today. 

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

Kansas City Museum

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

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.

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

The main feature, Corinthian Hall, is a former mansion that has been restored and renovated. General admission grants you access to the self-guided exhibits in this space, including the Billiard Room, which features board games, cards, and, of course, billiards. It is adjacent to a cafe.

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.

The self-guided tour is free. Tickets can be purchased for guided tours. Additionally, they host several events throughout the year. The grounds and gardens are lovely – ideal for a stroll on a warm day. 

first floor of the kansas city history museum showing a wall tapestry
Kansas City History Museum

Arabia Steamboat Museum

Neighborhood: River Market
Open to the Public: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sunday, 12pm – 5pm
Pricing: Children (ages 4 – 14) $6.50, Adults $16.50, Seniors (60 and older) $15.50

The Arabia Steamboat Museum tells the story of the Arabia, once a bustling vessel that navigated the challenging waters of the Missouri River. It met its fate in 1856 after hitting a snag just north of Kansas City.

Buried beneath a Kansas cornfield for over a century, the boat’s cargo hold, loaded with 200 tons of supplies for frontier life, was rediscovered in 1988. Dubbed the “King Tut’s Tomb of the Missouri River,” the artifacts found inside are a time capsule of frontier existence.

In 1988, an excavation group unearthed the Arabia’s buried treasure, recovering the largest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world. The museum showcases these remarkable finds, from glass bottles containing preserved fruits to weaponry and clothing, providing an unparalleled glimpse into frontier life.

Your visit to the Arabia Steamboat Museum is a self-guided tour through the artifacts, complemented by short videos narrating the excavation’s legendary tale. 

This museum has gained acclaim from National Geographic Traveler, PBS, Smithsonian Magazine, and more. The story of the Steamboat Arabia, its sinking, and subsequent discovery captivates visitors of all ages, connecting them to American history in a tangible way. 

Additionally, the museum’s location within City Market means there’s plenty to see before and after visiting the museum. 

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Wednesday – Monday, 10am – 4pm
Pricing: Adults $10, Seniors (65+) $8

You can feel childhood nostalgia through a visit to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, where you’ll browse collections that will appeal to visitors of all ages. This museum boasts the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures and stands proudly as one of the nation’s leading showcases of historic toys.

The museum’s mission is to educate, inspire, and delight by collecting, displaying, and interpreting toys and miniatures that weave diverse narratives and cultural heritage. Established in 1982 as the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City, the museum evolved over three decades with expansions in 1989 and 2004 and now boasts over 93,000 objects.

The museum invites you to explore two wings, featuring five galleries that showcase miniature artistry and the nostalgic charm of historic toys. From dollhouses that take you to tiny worlds to toys that evoke cherished memories, every exhibit is a testament to the art of play and the craftsmanship of miniaturists.

As you wander through the galleries, you’ll discover the seamless blend of art and history, leaving you with a renewed sense of wonder and perhaps a touch of youthful nostalgia. 

American Jazz Museum

Neighborhood: 18th & Vine
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Pricing: Adults $10, Seniors (60+) $9, Children (6 – 18) $6

Located in the historic 18th and Vine district, the American Jazz Museum is a celebration of the rich history, culture, and impact of jazz on the American experience.

The American Jazz Museum celebrates the artistic, historical, and cultural contributions of jazz, featuring rare photos, album covers, memorabilia, and personal items that tell the captivating stories of legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker. The museum has over 100 recordings of the greatest jazz ever played. 

exhibit at the blue room kansas city
The Blue Room

The museum houses interactive exhibits and educational programs that take visitors into the heart of jazz, offering an immersive journey into its roots and evolution. Films and special collections honor the profound impact of jazz on the American experience, while special exhibits highlight Kansas City’s unique contributions to this musical genre.

The Blue Room, a working jazz club, and the Gem Theater, a modern 500-seat performing arts center, provide live experiences, keeping the spirit of jazz alive. 

musical set at jazz club the blue room
The Blue Room
outdoor sign for the blue room
The Blue Room

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Neighborhood: 18th & Vine
Open to the Public:
Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Adults $10, Seniors (65+) $9, Children (5 – 12) $6

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), an integral part of the cultural museums in Kansas City. The NLBM stands as a testament to the resilience, talent, and impact of African-American baseball players who, against the backdrop of segregation, created a legacy that echoes through American history.

Negro League Baseball Museum
Negro League Baseball Museum

The museum, established in 1990, meticulously recreates the feel of the game’s storied past. The expansive multimedia exhibit takes visitors on a chronological journey from the origin of the Negro Leagues after the Civil War to their end in the 1960s. The NLBM is laid out as a timeline intertwining the history of the Negro Leagues with the broader context of American history.

Negro League Baseball Museum
Negro League Baseball Museum

Exhibits feature hundreds of photographs, historical artifacts, and interactive stations that bring to life the stories of Negro Leagues legends, and a documentary film narrated by James Earl Jones delves into the leagues’ history with vintage footage. 

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a must-visit in Kansas City. 

Negro League Baseball Museum
Negro League Baseball Museum

National WWI Museum

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public:
Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Pricing: Adults $18, Seniors (65+) $14, Children (6 – 15) $10

Initially opened in 1926 as the Liberty Memorial, Kansas City’s WWI Museum was designated by the United States Congress in 2004 as the official war memorial and museum dedicated to World War I.

The Liberty Memorial groundbreaking ceremony on November 1, 1921, drew a crowd of 200,000, including notable figures such as Vice President Calvin Coolidge and military leaders from various nations. Notably, a local haberdasher, Harry S. Truman, presented flags to commanders, foreshadowing his future role as the 33rd President of the United States.

Today, the museum, designated as a National Historic Landmark, features a captivating narrative that unfolds within the expansive facility. Inside, visitors traverse a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each blossom representing 1,000 combatant deaths. This powerful visual serves as a reminder of the human toll of the war.

The museum’s aboveground design showcases classical Egyptian Revival architecture. The Liberty Tower, standing at 217 feet, 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. 

Inside, the museum unfolds as a comprehensive journey through World War I, holding the most diverse collection of objects and documents related to the war. Two main galleries cover the Great War’s global events and the United States’ role, offering a deeply personal exploration of courage, honor, patriotism, and sacrifice.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial continues to honor its mission by interpreting the war’s history, providing engaging exhibitions and educational programs, and preserving historical materials with the highest standards.

Federal Reserve’s Money Museum

Neighborhood: Midtown
Open to the Public: Monday – Friday, 9:30am to 4pm
Pricing: Free General Admission

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 sections 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.

Federal Reserve Money Museum KC
Federal Reserve Money Museum
Federal Reserve Money Museum kc
Federal Reserve Money Museum

The College Basketball Experience

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: Thursday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 11am – 6pm
Pricing: Adults $15, Youth $12, Seniors $11

More than just a museum, the College Basketball Experience is an immersive and interactive tribute to the world of college basketball where visitors can experience the excitement, history, and skill that define college basketball.

Step into the world of a college athlete with hands-on displays that simulate the intensity of a game. From shooting hoops to testing your dribbling skills, visitors are encouraged to actively participate, fostering a deeper connection to the game.

The College Basketball Experience pays homage to the legends of college basketball, showcasing the stories and achievements of iconic players and coaches. From the hardwood greats to the strategists who shaped the game, the exhibits offer a comprehensive look at college basketball history with rare memorabilia and multimedia presentations. 

Visitors can immerse themselves in the triumphs and traditions of college basketball in the Hall of Champions. The spirit of competition is palpable, with displays featuring championship banners, iconic jerseys, and the roar of the crowd captured in audio and visual exhibits. It’s a journey through the victories, defeats, and memorable moments that define the sport.

TWA Museum

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Pricing: Adults $12.00, Seniors (age 60+) $8.00, Children (ages 6-16) $7.00

You’ve likely heard of pioneering Trans World Airlines (TWA), but did you know that the Kansas City downtown airport once housed the TWA headquarters? You can learn all about the rise and fall of TWA at this museum where the exhibits weave a compelling narrative, spanning from the early days of airmail to TWA’s global route expansion post-WWII. 

The TWA Museum‘s mission is to preserve and celebrate TWA’s pioneering spirit and contributions to aviation history, all while educating and inspiring future generations. What makes this museum truly special is its roots – it’s housed in the very building that was TWA’s original corporate headquarters. 

During your visit, you can marvel at meticulously curated artifacts that tell the story of TWA, a reminder of TWA’s once-dominant presence in the city. Beyond aviation, discover the profound impact TWA had on Kansas City’s economic landscape and witness the technical prowess of TWA’s mechanics. 

Historic Garment District Museum

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: Appointments available Monday – Thursday between 9:30am and 4pm, must be scheduled two weeks in advance
Pricing: Free

Unknown to many, the Historic Garment District Museum pays homage to Kansas City’s Garment District, an area that flourished over several city blocks, becoming one of the nation’s largest garment districts and the second-largest industry and employer of women in Kansas City during its peak.

The heart of the museum lies in the Garment District Collection, featuring items that showcase the rich history of local companies from the 1920s through the 1980s. The exhibits go beyond fashion, incorporating sewing equipment and advertising pieces, providing a comprehensive view of the industry’s evolution.

The Garment District Collection, under the stewardship of the Kansas City Museum, enriches an already impressive collection of historical clothing, textiles, and costumes. This collection stands as one of the region’s finest, offering visitors a captivating glimpse into the evolution of fashion and industry in Kansas City.

The museum, situated in a historic area with buildings dating back to the 1870s, is surrounded by structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The manufacturing of coats, suits, dresses, hats, and children’s wear began on the upper floors of wholesale dry goods buildings in the early 1920s.

At its zenith, the Garment District employed over 4,000 people, proudly claiming that one out of every seven women in the United States purchased a Kansas City-made garment.

There You Have It!

And that’s it – we’ve shared all of Kansas City’s best museums that you need to visit!