KCMO will always be one of my favorite midwest cities. It offers amazing art galleries, beautiful fountains and parks, a lively jazz scene, and delicious food. I was also pleasantly surprised by the art scene, thrift stores, and coffee shops.
KC is for city lovers, but it also has that homey and local feel. Throughout my 2.5 years living in Kansas, I found any excuse I could to explore the city. I spent many afternoons at Loose Park, saw my favorite bands at Uptown Theater, got my first tattoo, and enjoyed some ginger beers in the Crossroad District in KCMO. Although I’m not a local, I started to know my way around the city like my own hometown.
Here’s a list of things I enjoyed doing over my years exploring KC. Let me know what you’ve done in the city too!
1. Concerts at Uptown Theater / Starlight Theatre
This might sound like a typical thing to do in any city, but KC has some super cool concert venues. My two favorite venues are Uptown Theater and Starlight Theatre.
I saw Bastille at Uptown Theater for $40, and it’s my favorite concert to date. I also sawThe Head and the Heart at Starlight Theatre for $35. I recommend planning for KC trip around a concert date. Uptown Theater is a charming and intimate theater setting, while Starlight is perfect for the summer months because it’s an outdoor venue.
Finding Concerts: The “events” tab on Facebook is great for finding concerts in specific cities. Spotify also notifies you of when your favorite artists are on tour. Of course, you can always just use a site like Ticketmaster to find tickets as well.
2. River Market
River Market is a farmers market with fresh produce, flowers, and local goods. It’s filled with restaurants that share cuisine from around the world. There’s even an Italian market, which made me feel like I was back in Rome for a moment. River Market used to be Kansas City’s public square back in the 1800’s, and it attracts both tourists and locals in the summer months.
The streetcar (which you can ride for free) runs to and from River Market, so it’s easy to park and ride. I also love the River Market area because the area is filled with other restaurants, cafes, antique shops, ice-cream shops, and so much more. There’s also a giant Asian market next to the market, which is a lot of fun to explore.
I recommend visiting on a weekend morning in the warmer months, grabbing a coffee, and strolling around the market. It’s fun to be in the bustle of people doing their grocery shopping, meeting for coffee, and walking their dogs. The energy is refreshing, and the skyline view makes this market hard to beat.
Oh, and there’s a little park behind River Market! I always enjoyed sitting back there with my coffee and doing some dog watching.
Don’t forget your reusable bag!
As an art fanatic, I can’t believe this museum is FREE! The Nelson-Atkins It’s well known for its Asian art, but I was blown away by all the Impressionist pieces. They have Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, and many other incredible artists and temporary displays. I spent hours walking through the museum, but you can go at your own pace.
Make sure you check out the huge sculptures in the front of the museum too. There are 18-foot-tall badminton shuttlecocks spread out across the museum field. It looks like giants were playing a game of badminton.
You can pay to park in the museum garage, but I suggest parking for free in the surrounding neighborhood.
My favorite thing about KC is definitely the art scene. I was surprised to see the amount of galleries in the Crossroads Arts District. I discovered the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center after asking my AirBnb host for recommendations, and I visited multiple times.
The Crossroads Arts District has several other local galleries to explore, but Leedy-Voulkos Art Center is my favorite. I would recommend starting at this gallery and then walking around to see how many other galleries you can find in the area.
Now let’s talk about the Crossroads Arts District during First Friday! It’s my favorite thing to do, besides City Market. On the first Friday of each month (spring to summer), the Crossroads Arts District comes alive with jazz bands, break dancing, street performers, food trucks, local vendors, and art displays. The art galleries stay open late, and many of them hand out free wine. It’s such an awesome way to spend your Friday night!
Last time I went to First Friday, I met a lady who was featured on Queer Eye. Pretty cool stuff.
Crossroads Arts District Location:
The Liberty Memorial steps have the best view of the city. You can see the entire skyline, so be sure to climb the steps and bring your camera. I loved hanging out around here because you’re bound to see someone taking wedding or quinceanera pictures.
If you want a phenomenal panoramic view of the city, you can also pay $5 to take an elevator to the top of the Memorial, which offers a phenomenal panoramic view of the city. You’ll buy the tickets for that in the WW1 Museum, which is located under the memorial.
There’s plenty of parking at the top by the entrance of the WW1 Museum.
This antique store was a recommendation from my AirBnb host, and I fell in love. I bought some Italian bookends and a giant art book for my coffee table. They have everything from rugs, trinkets, maps, pillows, blankets, maps, furniture, and so much more. It’s the perfect place to find some vintage treasures for your home. I’ve visited several antique stores in Kansas City, and this one is my absolute favorite!
8. Bar K
Bar K is a dog park, bar, and restaurant in the River Market District. They even have a dog menu, which I think is hilarious. It’s basically a giant dog park, separated into a small and big dog section. The big dog section has a jungle gym, and I got yelled at for standing on because it’s only for dogs.
I’m probably biased because I’m obsessed with dogs. Like… very obsessed. But this place makes the list because it’s a fun place to hangout, without having to leave for pup at home. It’s definitely a popular spot for locals, and a nice option for socializing your doggo.
Also, the bar/restaurant is made of repurposed shipping containers!
9. Local Kansas City Shops
Kansas City locals show a lot of pride and support for local businesses, which reminds me of where I grew up in Louisville. I’ve discovered some adorable local shops, with original, locally-crafted, vintage, and native Kansas City items. Whether you’re looking for a birthday gift or souvenir, here are some spots you can’t miss.
Westport is my favorite area in KC for shopping locally, and it has a hipster vibe with good thrifting.
MidCoast Modern in located in Westport, and it features handmade goods created by local artists. It’s perfect for a local Kansas City gift or souvenir.
You also need to check out Oddly Correct, which is a coffee shop within walking distance. It’s my favorite coffee shop in KC. If you’re into thrifting, you should also go to Arizona Trading Company. It’s across the street from Mid Coast Modern, and I bought sooooo many clothes there. It’s a thrift store that’s ACTUALLY affordable.
Another thrift option in Westport is Buffalo Exchange. Yes, it’s a chain. But I’ve found a lot of good stuff here, including a Madewell jean skirt for $6.
Westside Storey is a trendy boutique that sells Kansas City themed clothing, decor, and gifts. I purchased several KC t-shirts here, and my sister loved this place too.
It’s right across from bluebird bistro, so it’s fun to check out after grabbing brunch there.
This shop has vintage clothing and dresses, both new and used. It’s quite pricey, but it’s a true vintage shop. I’ve purchased several sets of earrings from this place because I love classic, gold jewelry.
The owner is also super spunky and friendly. This shop is a dream for anyone who truly loves vintage items.
This shop is perfect for all your KC souvenir needs. While it has some handmade local items, it’s mostly t-shirts, stickers, coasters, funny postcards, and other novelty items you’d expect in a gift shop.
I bought several stickers and an astrology book here, so they definitely have a randomly satisfying selection. You may have seen this shop in other midwest states, because they have locations in Chicago, Des Moines, and many other cities.
ATC is my favorite thrift chain because they have trendy clothes, shoes, and accessories, with Goodwill prices. They also have a $1 rack, seasonal sales and cute jewlery!
I bought my favorite vintage coat here for $35!
10. Kansas City Plaza & Loose Park
Last but not least! The Plaza is an outdoor shopping center with everything from fast fashion to luxury brands.This place makes the list because architecture is inspired by Spain, Mexico, and South America. It’s decorated with Spanish tile, beautiful fountains, and intricate details that remind me of Europe. It’s also very dog friendly and a great place to walk around, even if you’re not wanting to shop.
Kansas City Plaza Location: 4745 Central St, Kansas City, MO 64112 (Street parking and parking garages available)
I added Loose Park because it’s extremely close to the Kansas City Plaza. It quickly became my favorite park in the city for several reasons. It has a beautiful pond, trails, and rose gardens. Locals come here to hammock, take photos, work out, and walk their dogs. The homes surrounding the park are also beautiful and luxurious.