downtown skyline kansas city missouri
Downtown Kansas City Skyline

Planning a visit to Kansas City, Missouri and wondering, what is there to do downtown?

It can be overwhelming to sift through all the options, so us Kansas City locals are making it easier by compiling all the best things to do into one list. 

Downtown Kansas City spans about three miles from River Market to the Liberty Memorial. There is quite a diverse range of attractions to see.

Whatever vibe you’re searching for, you’ll be able to find it.

So, let’s get into it – we’re sharing our locally curated suggestions!

We all know how a hotel experience can make or break a trip. Make sure you have the best visit possible – check out our downtown hotel suggestions!

The Best Downtown Kansas City, Missouri Attractions

1. City Market

Neighborhood: River Market
Cost: Free

City Market is a personal favorite of ours. It’s 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. Oftentimes, there is live music.

City Market
City Market

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, handmade crafts, and artisanal goods. It’s a great way to support local farmers and makers! 

The farmer’s market hours are dependent on the season: 

  • April – October: Saturdays + Sundays 8am – 3pm (main market season)
  • January – March: Saturdays 9am – 3pm
  • November – December: Saturdays + Sundays 9am – 3pm (holiday markets)
city market in river market
City Market

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. 

kansas city public art wall mural at river market
River Market Street Mural

2. “Urban Hike” Walking Tour

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District and Westside
Cost: $98/person

Kansas City doesn’t have much in terms of guided walking tours, but fortunately, the one they do have is exceptional. And you don’t have to take it from us – the reviews speak for themselves.

This urban hike is an early morning five mile walk that starts at the Liberty Memorial and brings you through the artsy Crossroads, historic West Bottoms, and culturally diverse Westside – where you’ll stop at a local Mexican shop for fresh fruit juice.

On this hike, you’ll learn about the history, art, and culture of downtown Kansas City. 

kansas city crossroads murals
Crossroads Kansas City

3. World War I Museum

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

The WII Museum was designated by the United States Congress in 2004 as the official war memorial and museum dedicated to World War I.

The museum is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Inside, visitors traverse a glass bridge above a field of red poppies.

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.

4. Kansas City Barbecue Tour

Cost: $155/person

It’s an abomination to visit Kansas City and not experience the KC barbecue culture. You could spend hours researching the wide range of options, or you can let the local experts show you around.

This 3-stop tour takes you to the local secret BBQ joints off the beaten path.

You’ll get to taste delicious smoked meats, savory sauces, and delectable sides – all while learning about the history and culture of Kansas City BBQ from expert guides. 

Included in the price is a variety of cuts of meat throughout the stops and a minimum of one side at each stop.

The tour includes travel by minibus, ensuring a comfortable journey through the city. This tour is operated by a locally owned, reputable company with over 1,000 five star reviews.

5. Local Craft Breweries

Consider yourself a beer aficionado? You’re in the right place – Kansas City is a fast growing craft beer destination. 

There are craft breweries in multiple downtown neighborhoods, but the Crossroads Arts District, with its eclectic vibe and street murals, has become known for fostering some of the best craft breweries in town. 

In fact, a portion of the neighborhood has been dubbed “Brewers Alley” due to the high concentration of breweries all within walking distance of one another.

This makes it ideal for a craft brewery crawl! The breweries offer a wide variety of styles, ingredients, and offerings. You can easily spend an entire afternoon sipping your way through Crossroads and chatting with the brewmasters themselves. 

kansas city craft brewery casual animal
Casual Animal Brewery

6. Liberty Memorial

Open to the Public: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Cost: $6/person

The Liberty Memorial groundbreaking ceremony in 1921 drew a crowd of 200,000, including notable figures such as Vice President Calvin Coolidge and military leaders from various nations. All these years later, it is still a beloved Kansas City attraction.

The Liberty Tower, standing at 217 feet and designated a National Historic Landmark, 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. 

Additionally, tickets can be purchased to take an elevator followed by 45 stairs to the open-air observation deck for a stunning view of the Kansas City skyline. 

At night, a Flame of Inspiration, created by steam and lighting effects, is emitted from the top of the tower and can be seen from miles away. 

liberty memorial kansas city mo
Liberty Memorial

7. Union Station

Open to the Public: 6am – 12am
Cost: Free (some exhibits require tickets)

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 as well as a Model Train Gallery. 

Model Train Exhibit Union Station
Model Train Exhibit Union Station

Additionally, Union Station features several kid-friendly exhibits, including the Regnier Movie Theatre, Planetarium, and Science City, which has over 300 interactive exhibits. The facility also hosts traveling exhibits, like the LEGO Bricktionary exhibit. These all vary in cost.

old mail carrier at union station
Union Station

8. Jazz Music Clubs

Cost: Cover Charges Vary

Considering that Kansas City is known for its historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, you really can’t claim to have experienced the city without visiting an iconic jazz club. 

Fortunately, there are several jazz clubs downtown that are more than worth a visit!

Green Lady Lounge is typically full in the evenings, and for good reason. The swanky club with velvet accents and dimmed lights features local musicians every night of the week. There’s usually a small cover.

The Majestic is a vintage steakhouse, set in the historic Fitzpatrick Saloon Building dating back to 1909, and offers a blend of old-world charm and modern luxury. As evening descends, the restaurant transforms into a vibrant jazz club. This modern speakeasy stands as a homage to the Prohibition era, when the original saloon was converted into a hidden bar.

Additional noteworthy jazz clubs are The Phoenix and The Blue Room.

musical set at jazz club the blue room
The Blue Room

9. KC Streetcar

Neighborhood: Downtown
Open to the Public: 7:00a – 11:00p
Cost: Free

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. 

It’s free to ride and makes it easy to travel through downtown – strollers and bikes are welcome!

10. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Neighborhood: Westside
Cost: Ticket Pricing Varies

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts has become an iconic symbol of the city’s artistic and cultural renaissance. With its sweeping, rounded lines and glass façade, the building is a main feature of the city’s skyline. 

Opened to the public in 2011, the Center houses two unique performance venues – the Muriel Kauffman Theatre and the Helzberg Hall – both designed with acoustical excellence in mind.

The Center is home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet:

  • The Kansas City Symphony offers a diverse range of performances for all audiences. Their repertoire includes classical, pop, family, and special events. The Kansas City Symphony has rapidly ascended to rank among the top 25 orchestras in the United States.
  • The Lyric Opera of Kansas City is renowned for its innovative and compelling productions. Its repertoire spans a wide spectrum, from time-honored classics to contemporary works.
  • The Kansas City Ballet is a professional ballet company with 30 members. They perform in fall, winter, and spring at the Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts, showcasing over 400 works. Established in 1957, the company has a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary ballets, including original works by renowned choreographers.
kauffman center for the performing arts kansas city
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

11. American Jazz Museum

Neighborhood: 18th & Vine
Open to the Public: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Cost: 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 features 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. 

american jazz historic displays
The Blue Room

12. First Fridays in Crossroads Arts District

Cost: Free

In general, a visit to Crossroads Arts District is a must. The neighborhood features an artsy, eclectic vibe with street murals and art galleries alongside performance art venues and the best dining in the city. 

First Fridays in particular, when art galleries open to the public and street performers fill the artsy neighborhood, are worth a visit. 

kansas city art galleries
Jones Gallery

13. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

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

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (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, uses multimedia exhibits to take 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. 

Negro League Baseball Museum
Negro League Baseball Museum

14. The College Basketball Experience

Neighborhood: Power & Light
Open to the Public: Thursday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 11am – 6pm
Cost: 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. 

15. Arabia Steamboat Museum

Neighborhood: River Market
Open to the Public: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sunday, 12pm – 5pm
Cost: 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.

16. Historic Garment District Museum

Neighborhood: Garment District
Open to the Public: Appointments available Monday – Thursday between 9:30am and 4pm, must be scheduled two weeks in advance
Cost: 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.

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.

17. Power & Light District

The Power & Light District – referred to as P&L by locals – is best known for nightlife. The district features numerous bars and clubs all located within one facility, allowing you to move from one vibe to another.

Around the bar district are several restaurants, many being more of the upscale type. It’s worth noting that not many of them are local to Kansas City. For exceptional local dining, we recommend the nearby Crossroads Arts District.

KC Live! is the district’s covered outdoor courtyard and hosts many events throughout the year, including concerts and televised Chiefs, Royals, and Sporting KC games.

P&L is across from the T-Mobile Center, so it is a popular pre or post-concert stop.

kanasas city power and light neon sign
KC Power & Light

18. Up Down Arcade Bar

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District

We love Up Down! Step into a world of nostalgia at Up Down Arcade Bar, where you can enjoy a variety of classic arcade games underneath televisions playing 90’s movies and music videos. 

They have a full bar and an upstairs patio with great views of the city and yard games.

19. Local Craft Distilleries

While Kansas City is undoubtedly gaining recognition as a thriving craft beer hub, it’s important not to underestimate our equally impressive distilled spirits scene! The story of distilling in Kansas City is as aged and rich as the spirits it produces.

There are several local distilleries with exceptional spirits – Tom’s Town, J. Rieger, Lifted Spirits, Mean Mule, West Bottoms Whiskey Co., just to name a few – and while they all offer tasting rooms worthy of a visit, the best way to experience our local brewery scene is with a guided tour and tasting.

historical exhibit with suede couches at j rieger
J. Rieger

Personally, we love J. Rieger’s tour. J. Rieger & Co. is a historic distillery that was established in 1887. The industrial building that houses the distillery, historical exhibit, and tasting rooms is super neat as well.

Another option that’s in a prime location in downtown is Tom’s Town. This distillery is the first legal downtown distillery in Kansas City, Missouri since Prohibition. It has received acclaim for its products and was named the Best Craft Vodka Distillery in the country in 2017.

Whichever you decide, you’re going to have an interesting insight into Kansas City distilling – and the included tastings are pretty great too!

martini on a wooden table
J. Rieger

20. Boulevard Brewery’s Rec Deck

Neighborhood: Westside

Boulevard Brewery, established in Kansas City in 1989, has become well known for their exceptional brews. In addition to facility tours, a visit to the brewery includes their Rec Deck.

Rec Deck offers a variety of interactive activities like deck shuffleboard, tabletop shuffleboard, and foosball. The venue is known for its wide selection of Boulevard beers and beverages, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

With an option for walk-in court rentals and advance reservations available on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s a great spot for casual competition and relaxation.

The Rec Deck also features a menu of snacks and pizzas to enjoy alongside the games and drinks.

21. Crown Center

Open to the Public: Monday – Saturday 10:00a – 6:00p, Sunday 12:00p – 5:00p
Pricing: Free, Optional Ticketed Exhibits

The kid-friendly 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. 

And while you’re there, dine at Fritz’s – your food will be brought to you on a train!

There are several family-friendly ticketed exhibits to visit at Crown Center: Sealife Aquarium, Legoland, Coterie Theater, and the Crown Center Ice Terrace in the winter. 

Fritz's restaurant in crown center
Fritz’s Restaurant in Crown Center

22. Boulevard Drive-In Theater

Neighborhood: Kansas City, KS
Open to the Public: April – October, Showtimes Vary 
Pricing: $30/Car

This classic drive-in theater opened in 1950 and offers a unique blend of retro charm and modern 4K cinematic experience.

The theater boasts a large screen with clear visuals, and the sound is transmitted directly through your car’s radio. The Boulevard Drive-In is a beloved Kansas City institution, offering a unique way to enjoy the latest films. 

They offer several kid-friendly movies each week and have a snack bar on-site.

23. Berkley Riverfront

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. 

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. 

The riverfront trail takes you to the new Kansas City Current stadium!

sunset at the Town of Kansas Bridge
Town of Kansas Bridge

24. The Roasterie Factory Tour

Neighborhood: Westside
Cost: $5/person

You can’t miss The Roasterie’s factory location – literally. There is a Douglas DC-3 airplane mounted as if taking off from the roof. 

Started in 1993, The Roasterie is a beloved local coffee roaster with several cafes across the metro. If you’re a coffee aficionado, consider visiting their downtown factory location for a tour of their facility and roasting process.

The Roasterie airplane dc-3 factory store
The Roasterie Factory Store

25. Money Museum

Open to the Public: Monday – Friday, 9:30am to 4pm
Cost: Free

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. It’s an interesting look into this important piece of the American economy!

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

26. Kansas City Museum

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

The Kansas City Museum is housed in the majestic Corinthian Hall, built in 1910 as the Beaux-Arts style estate of a local lumber baron.

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.

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.

The grounds and gardens are lovely – ideal for a stroll on a warm day. 

exhibit of a historical bike at a museum
Kansas City History Museum

27. TWA Museum

Open to the Public: Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Cost: 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. 

What makes this museum truly special is its roots – it’s housed in the very building that was TWA’s original corporate headquarters. 

28. Kansas City Public Library, Central Branch

Neighborhood: Library District
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 with tall ceilings and elegant decor. 

You can do a self-guided exploration of the historical parts building, but they do offer guided tours on a monthly basis. There are several historical markers throughout the building for the self-guided tour.

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

We love the rooftop terrace that offers cityscape architecture information panels.

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

29. Folly Theater, KC Rep Theater, Quality Hill Playhouse, Music Theater Heritage

Cost: Ticket Pricing Varies

There are several great options for live theater in downtown Kansas City! 

30. Grinders KC, The Truman, The Midland, Knuckleheads, T-Mobile Center

Cost: Ticket Pricing Varies

From local bands to touring musicians, Kansas City has several live music venues with performances every week. 

Personally, we prefer The Midland, a historic venue, and Grinders KC, an eclectic outdoor space with a stage.

Uptown Theater

Thanks For Visiting!

We hope you found this guide helpful! As Kansas City locals of over a decade, we love everything our hometown has to offer.

We hope you feel the same way after your visit!

All these activities can really work up an appetite – check out our recommendations for the best restaurants downtown.

We all know how a hotel experience can make or break a trip. Make sure you have the best visit possible – check out our downtown hotel suggestions!