Kansas City- the city of artists and the city of fountains. Whether you are looking for beautiful art and gardens or great food and shopping, Kansas City is the perfect place to visit. The city itself lies at about the center of the continental United States. The state line between Kansas and Missouri actually goes through the city itself so you can easily see both states if you wanted to. Kansas City has much to offer, so if our 3 day itinerary looks a little full, feel free to take an extra day or two and spend some more time exploring.
We visited in springtime (mid April) which meant vibrant colors of tulips were blooming everywhere and the city was full of beautiful, sweet smelling, flowering trees. Paul loves baseball (or anything sports, really) so we were also able to go to a Royals game. If you decide to visit in the fall and want to see a football game instead, you can easily swap out a Royals game for a Chiefs game since the stadiums are right next to each other. They even share a parking lot!
We live close enough that we decided to drive instead of fly here. If you wanted to fly instead, make sure you rent a car or find a different way of getting around. The city is very spread out and walking everywhere would be difficult.
We stayed at a hotel in the Crossroads-Arts district (North/ Central part of town). This was a great location because there were a lot of restaurants and museums we wanted to see that were within walking distance. The KC Streetcar also runs through this area and can take you from Union Station all the way up to the City Market. Oh, and did I mention it is FREE? We used the streetcar a few times when it was raining and we were tired of walking. It’s also great if you didn’t want to drive and try to find a parking spot and pay for parking.
One last thing to mention- on this trip, we mostly stayed on the Missouri side of the city, but there is a lot to see and do on the other half too. Our weekend getaway went by too fast for us to see everything we wanted to. Without further ado, here is our 3 day itinerary to Kansas City!
Day 1 (Friday)
If you decide to stay in the Crossroads district like we did, you can walk around town and see all kinds of murals on the way to Monarch Coffee for some morning caffeine and fresh pastries. The coffee shop is also right by Crown Center where you can do some shopping if you want or check out the fountains at the square.
Next, head over to the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Gardens. The gardens are free to visit and they also have a large lot with free parking available too. These gardens are beautiful! If you visit in the spring you can see the trees flowering and huge gardens of tulips. We really liked this spot and thought is was so refreshing to see all the bright spring colors after enduring another long midwestern winter.
When you are done taking a stroll through the garden, head over to the Nelson- Atkins Museum of Art. The museum is free to visit and there is parking available, but you do have to pay a small fee to park. The museum is gorgeous! It has over 40,000 pieces of art from all over the world throughout all of history. There are paintings, sculptures, pottery, stained glass and so much more. When we visited, there was a special exhibition featuring Water Lilies by Claude Monet. The painting was in its own room with a 10 minute light and sound show that made you feel like you were right by the river with Monet.
On the front lawn of the art museum, you can see the famous gigantic shuttlecock sculptures. They even have an artsy mini golf course right on the lawn. Tickets can be purchased in advance or just at the counter of the museum when you walk in. If you really enjoy art, you could easily spend a whole day here!
Next, head on over to the Country Club plaza and take a stroll by the river, or get some shopping done at the large outdoor mall. There are over 100 stores to visit and plenty of dining options to choose from. We figured it was time to try some real Kansas City BBQ, so we ate lunch at Jack Stack BBQ. We split a combo plate so we could try a little bit of everything. Don’t forget to try the jalapeño cheddar cornbread while you are there!
After lunch, make your way up to the scout statue. It is on top of a large hill and you can get a great view of the city skyline from here. An option for something to do is visit Boulevard Brewing Co. They offer a few different brewery tours where you can see how they brew their beer, learn about the brewing process and see the brewery. If you aren’t in the mood for a tour, you can always just visit the taproom and try a flight or pint of their beer or spiked seltzers.
When we were finished at the brewery, we drove back to the hotel and dropped off the car. One of the restaurants we wanted to try is called Affäre. This place is a German restaurant that offers delicious seasonal dishes. They have a special tasting menu that changes weekly which includes a four course meal. You even have the option of doing a wine or beer pairing along with each course. Everything we had from this place was delicious and my mouth is watering just from thinking about their food again… It was a nice night, so we sat out on the candle and lantern lit patio and sat by a fire pit to stay warm after the sun went down.
Day 2 (Saturday)
Ready for another exciting day? Good! Grab some breakfast from Messenger Coffee Company. This place has 3 stories of seating so there are plenty of tables to enjoy your breakfast. They also have a huge selection of pastries and breakfast sandwiches available that are made right behind the coffee counter. The second floor has some more seating and is also where they roast the coffee beans. The third floor has a large rooftop patio and a cozy conference room. After breakfast, take the KC Streetcar (if you don’t want to take the streetcar, make sure you get there early enough to find parking) to the City Market and shop local! There are all kinds of vendors here selling anything you can imagine- fresh flowers, baked goods, art, and so much more. If you are looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth be sure to stop at Betty Rae’s ice cream for a treat! I went with the honey cornbread because where else am I going to find that flavor?
Next up on our agenda is lunch! We had tickets to a Royals baseball game, so we went to Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque for lunch since it was on the way to the stadium. This place was amazing! The food is fairly inexpensive and the portions are GIGANTIC!!! It is sort of deli style, so you order at the counter, they make it in front of you and then you pay at the end. There isn’t much seating available inside, so we got our food wrapped up to go.
The Royals were playing the Blue Jays and unfortunately for the Royals, they lost. The stadium was nice and since they had a lot of seating closed off due to COVID, we had a lot of space to ourselves!
After the game, make your way over to J. Reiger Co for a cocktail, a flight of spirits or both- it’s vacation! You can take a tour of the distillery and learn about the distilling process or just head up to the monogram lounge to try some of their food or drink. Make sure you take the slide down when you leave!
Lastly, we made our way back to our hotel, dropped off the car again, and walked over to a little bookstore called Afterword Tavern and Shelves. Not only is it a cozy bookstore and reading space but it’s also a bar with book themed cocktails! Another great day in KC!
Day 3 (Sunday)
When you are ready to start your day, head on over to The Roasterie for some caffeine. If Coffee isn’t your thing, they have hot chocolate too, which Paul tells me, is also very good. If you wanted to learn more about coffee and the roasting process, they offer 45 minute tours of their factory. There is a lot of free street parking around here and a large lot across the street available too.
Next up is the National WW1 Museum and Memorial. The museum includes artifacts and information about all of the war- from the first shots fired in 1914 through the end in 1919. I learned so much more from this museum than I did during history class in school. If you like history or are just curious about the war and want to know more, be sure to check this place out.
Across the street from the museum, you will see Union Station. There is so much to do here- arcade games, escape rooms, dining , history, and even a model train museum! Paul loves trains (which is part of the reason he wanted to go to Kansas City in the first place) so of course we had to stop and see the model trains. It is free to visit with a suggested donation of $5 a person.
Since we drove to Kansas City and had a long home drive staring us in the face, we decided to start making our way out of town, but not without stopping at one more place for BBQ! We went to Gates Bar-B-Q which is another cafeteria style place with amazing food. After lunch we had to go back to the Kauffman Memorial Gardens one last time to get some more garden pictures and walk around a little so we don’t fall asleep on the drive home with bellies full of BBQ.
So long Kansas City! It’s been fun. We can’t wait to come visit again soon!
What we wish I knew before we went
Driving is the best way to get around the city because it is very spread out, however, the roads feel a bit like a race track in some places. Speed limits are FAST and roads are winding. Make sure you know where you need to go so you don’t miss your turn and end up on the dreaded trafficway!
Sales tax is 11.6%!!! Make sure you keep that in mind when you are doing your vacation budgeting!
There are a lot of free things to do and just because it says free, doesn’t mean it isn’t unique or worth a stop. A few of the places we visited were not even planned. We just thought they looked interesting as we walked or drove by and those ended up as some of our favorite parts of the whole trip.