This double city in the Midwest, straddling the border between Kansas and Missouri, lies at the junction of the Kansas River with the Missouri River, extending along the high banks, known as the Bluffs, of both rivers. World-famous for its steaks and barbecue, it is sometimes called the "Barbecue Capital." The city's legacy in jazz history can be explored in the Historic Jazz District, which was once filled with the sounds of jazz icons like Charlie "Bird" Parker and Big Joe Turner. Another historic area is the Westport Neighborhood, which is full of things to do, including antique shopping and river cruises. Kansas City is also home to several good museums, including the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, and the Toy and Miniature Museum.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Kansas City
1. National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial
Kansas City's National World War I Museum sits at the feet of the Liberty Memorial, an impressive Egyptian Revival-style monument erected in 1928 in honor of the men and women who served and died in the war. The museum's collections include a wide variety of artifacts, letters, films, and other pieces of historical significance that were gathered between 1920 and today.
The collections and exhibits present a rounded view of the war's global impact, including exhibits like a re-creation of the crater left behind after a French farmhouse is struck by a howitzer shell. Visitors can walk through the crater and can also experience what it looked and sounded like inside the trenches with six reproduced scenes.
2. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art has impressive collections, which represent North American, European, Asian, and African cultures. The antiquities collection includes Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern pieces from as far back as the 2nd millennium BC, including its newest Egyptian addition, the ornate inner coffin of Meret-it-es.
The collection of African art represents 2,500 years of craftsmanship, containing more than 400 works in a wide variety of media from wood to ivory. Native American artifacts include basket work, pottery, and ornate quill and beadwork. The museum's European art collection spans from medieval times through the 1800s, with emphasis on 19th-century Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and 17th-century Italian Baroque art.
Located within Kansas City's Crown Center, LEGOLAND is one of the city's top family attractions for the young and young-at-heart. Here, you will find a complete replica of the city, built with more than 1.5 million LEGO bricks.
The models include all the city's major landmarks like Arrowhead Stadium, Union Station, Country Club Plaza, the World War I Memorial, and even the Crown Center. Aspiring builders of all ages are also able to talk to master builders and attend workshops for all skill and age levels, and kids can catch photo-ops with their favorite LEGO characters.
4. Arabia Steamboat Museum
On September 5, 1856, a steamboat carrying 400,000 pounds of supplies destined for general stores in the Midwest sank in the Missouri River, just six miles before reaching Kansas City. The Arabia was lost for more than 130 years before an amateur archaeologist discovered it buried 45 feet beneath a cornfield.
As erosion caused the course of the great river to change, the boat's remains and cargo were encased in soil and preserved as if in a giant time capsule. The result is a massive collection of pre-Civil War artifacts, all examples of the objects and food that were part of daily life for the pioneers. The number of artifacts found was so great, in fact, that museum staff continue to clean the objects today.
5. Union Station
Union Station was built in 1914 and accommodated thousands of passengers. It included a waiting room designed to hold up to 10,000 people. The station closed in the 1980s, underwent major renovations, and reopened in 1999 with shops, restaurants, and other services. It has a much smaller railway service as it now functions as an Amtrak stop.
The building itself is quite impressive and one of the city's main tourist attractions. It also houses several interesting things to do, including Science City, the Regnier Extreme Screen Theater, the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium, and City Stage Theater.
6. Science City
Science City, located in Union Station, is a top attraction for families visiting Kansas City. Exhibits focus on various aspects of science and are all interactive, so that visitors can learn through hands-on experience. The newest permanent exhibit is Force and Motion, a space where you can test and explore the properties of physics. Similarly, the Every Last Drop exhibit explores the unique properties of water, from its movement and power to the many ways we depend on it, as well as the need for conservation.
Younger kids will really dig the Dino Lab, where they can learn about paleontology by unearthing their own discoveries, and the whole family will be fascinated by the genetics lab. Other interactive exhibits include daily activities in the Demo Area, a test kitchen where kids can explore the properties of food, and a puzzling maze park. The museum also has a planetarium, nature center, and hosts special events.
7. Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City
Located on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Toy and Miniature Museum contains more than 72,000 examples of antique toys and scaled miniatures. The museum originated in 1982 from the personal collections of Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall, and since then has grown to occupy 33,000 square feet. Tourists will find an impressive collection of antique toys that includes dolls, figures, games, model trains, and more. Some of the most nostalgic examples are Ovaltine's 1938 Telematic Radio Orphan Annie Pin, agate marbles, and a set of lead soldiers complete with mold.
The museum's collection of fine-scale miniatures is the largest in the world, featuring perfectly scaled reproductions of actual art and artifacts. Among the most remarkable pieces are a 1955 Singer sewing machine miniature and a tiny ornate chest in 1:12 scale crafted from ebony and gold. The museum also hosts special events that allow adults to revisit childhood, like marble tournaments or Saturday morning cartoons, complete with a big bowl of cereal.
8. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
The permanent collection at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art began with the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, which includes works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert Mapplethorpe, and William Wegman. It now includes a broad range of works, including painting; sculpture; installations; prints; and works on paper, photography, and time-based media.
Groups of 10 or more can arrange to have a free docent-led tour, and there are free drop-in tours each Saturday that are open to the public without reservation. The museum also hosts programs and workshops tailored to engage various groups, including youth, teens, adults, and the whole family.
9. Hallmark Visitors Center
Located in the Crown Center complex, the Hallmark Visitors Center displays the history of the greeting card industry. It tells the rags-to-riches story of how Joyce Hall created an international institution based on caring. The center's exhibits explore the company's history and includes interactive stations, as well as a film. It is also home to Kaleidoscope, a children's creativity center that allows kids to use various materials to create their own art. The sessions last 50 minutes and are free of charge, led by Hallmark's own creative staff.
10. American Jazz Museum
The American Jazz Museum is located in Kansas City's Historic Jazz District, once home to some of the genre's most influential musicians, including Big Joe Turner, Count Basie, and Charlie Parker. Museum visitors will be immersed in every aspect of jazz, from history to an exploration of the music itself. Collections include memorabilia like posters and photos, as well as personal items like Ella Fitzgerald's gown and Charlie Parker's saxophone.
Other exhibits include listening stations, mixing boards, and films. The museum is also home to the Blue Room, a jazz club that offers live music several nights a week, as well as the fully restored 1912 Gem Theater, which hosts a wide variety of events and productions. The Jazz Museum is also very involved in community outreach, offering youth programs and hosting local events.