Dorothy was right, there is no place better than Kansas (City). Located just under a three-hour plane ride away, visitors can experience all of the charm that America’s heartland has to offer. Driving from the airport to downtown KC, you can cross through two states — Kansas and Missouri — which is a real two-for-one special if you want to see more states within the U.S. Just follow this yellow brick road round-up to see all of the amazing shopping, sightseeing, and eating you can do while vacationing in Kansas City.
Kansas City is split between two states, and its history is just as divided. It was first settled by fur traders in the early part of the 19th century as they traveled down the Missouri River. Before the Civil War, there was a lot of unrest, as Missouri allowed slavery during that time while Kansas was a free state.
After the Civil War, the first bridge and railroads were built, which created a boom in population. Current-day hot spots like the City Market at 4th and Walnut were created as a trading post for locals back in the day. During the roaring twenties and into the 1930s, the jazz and blues scenes were exploding, even through the Great Depression. There were many clubs, vaudeville houses, and dance halls that lined the streets of Kansas City offering jazz music at every turn.
What’s great about Kansas City is that you can still experience the exciting jazz music of a bygone era and get a taste of history at the various museums within the city. But you can also experience all of the exciting modern experiences like sports games and bar crawls. Today, the city is known as the city of fountains, named appropriately for all of the various fountains found around the city.
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Where to Stay
There are many different neighborhoods to stay in when visiting Kansas City. Keep reading for a few great options in different areas.
Hotel Kansas City | 1228 Baltimore Avenue
(Photo credit: @hotel_kansascity)
Appropriately named after the city, this hotel nods to its roots as a social club. While there are plenty of amazing restaurants to try, guests don’t even need to leave the hotel because it offers four dining options with a twist on the hotel’s history. Check this Hyatt-owned hotel’s website for any offers they may have going on.
Loews Kansas City Hotel | 1515 Wyandotte Street
This hotel is right next to the Power & Lights District but is a destination all in itself. Walking into the lobby, guests immediately see Bar Stilwell with spirits lining the bar. This hotel also has top amenities including a pool and gym, as well as additional dining options including a seasonal bar, a restaurant, and a breakfast cafe.
The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center | 1 East Pershing Road
This Westin is nestled in between Union Station and the Crown Center shopping area, with enclosed sky bridges connecting the hotel on either side. What’s even better is that there are classic KC BBQ options within the shopping center, so no need to go outside — especially when visiting during the winter months.
21C Museum Hotel Kansas City | 219 West Ninth Street
(Photo credit: @21ckc)
Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2021 called it the best hotel in the Midwest, and it’s clear why. This hotel’s restaurant, The Savoy at 21C, was once the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi. The 21C also boasts “North America’s only multi-venue museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art of the 21st century.”
Airbnb Home Rentals | Various Locations
If a hotel isn’t the vibe for a weekend getaway, Airbnb has many 4- and 5-star options. What’s even better is that the site has options on the Kansas and Missouri sides of the city. There are rentals for every size party from just one to a big group for when you’re in town for a sports game.
Where to Eat
Some of the best barbeque in the U.S. is located right in Kansas City, but other types of cuisines are worth a try.
Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque | 1727 Brooklyn Avenue
Owner Arthur Bryant was known as a master of barbeque and began his career after visiting his brother, Charlie Bryant, who was working for then barbeque master Henry Perry. After perfecting his sauce when he took over the restaurant, it soon became a staple for Kansas City visitors. While there really isn’t a bad choice on the menu, patrons really enjoy the brisket, burnt ends, ribs, and fries.
Denver Biscuit Company | 4144 Pennsylvania Avenue
Don’t be fooled by the name, this spot is a favorite for locals. There are no reservations, but you can get on the waiting list. Weekend brunch is a must here, where you can order your biscuit savory or sweet. Biscuit french toast and the Lola are two different options to try if inspiration is needed. The margaritas are a must-try.
Guy Fieri’s Dive + Taco Joint | 1333 Walnut Street
A surprising departure from the classic KC barbeque, but a delicious stop nonetheless. Located right in the Power & Lights District, this taco haven has some new twists on classics. It may seem unconventional, but just try the cheeseburger taco.
Jack Stack Barbecue, Freight House | 101 West 22nd Street #300
The ambiance here is just as terrific as the food. With the fire-lit torches at the front entrance, this restaurant makes the rustic barn feel chic. You might need to wait a bit for a table, but it will be well worth it. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but make sure to try the fire-kissed wings. Pair it with the burnt ends, ribs, and mac and cheese, and it’s a true feast.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que | Multiple Locations
There are a few locations to experience this legendary barbeque, but the original location was at a gas station, which is still operating at 3002 W. 47th Avenue. Customers know that they will be waiting in line , but it doesn’t even matter because the barbeque is so delicious. Anthony Bourdain named it one of the 13 places you have to eat before you die. Order a Z-Man sandwich with any meat, and also try the mac and cheese.
Things to Do
Overland Park Arboretum + Botanical Gardens | 8909 West 179th Street, Overland Park
Whether in full bloom or during the colder, winter lull, this botanical garden has so many great walking paths to visit. Patrons pay just $3 per person ($1 per child) and can experience an hour or two of fun. The various plants are gorgeous, but there is also an entire sculpture walk with various pieces of art to see and experience.
Power + Lights District | Downtown KC Area
If you’re coming for a concert or big game, or maybe just for dinner, there are so many things to experience. First, Kansas City Live! is a must-visit for any game day, concert, or sponsored event, and it boasts a huge stage and screen with ample seating and bars around its edges.
There are plenty of other dining options for any dress code including The Dubliner and 801 Chophouse. One stop that you can’t miss is Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grille, where you can listen to jazz music while watching couples dominate the dance floor.
Professional Sports Games | 1 Royal Way
The Kansas City Chiefs (football) and the Kansas City Royals (baseball) both call the Truman Sports Complex home. The city has such pride in these teams, and games are a fun time if you have a few hours and want to head out to the stadium. The game can always be found at bars and restaurants, so you can enjoy the game and a meal at the same time.
Union Station | 30 West Pershing Road
This is more than just a functioning train station. This is also a fun place to eat and experience the ambiance of this classic architecture. Kids can also visit Science City to experience the traveling exhibits.
WW1 Museum | 2 Memorial Drive
This museum sits under a beautiful monument with a Tower that overlooks the Kansa City skyline. Going through the museum takes visitors through videos and a linear depiction of World War I. What is so interesting is that the first half of the exhibit focuses on European countries entering the war, and then the second half focuses on the U.S. entering the war. There are various other exhibits as well.
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Where to Shop
There are so many fun things to do both within and just outside of the city limits.
Crown Center | 2450 Grand Boulevard
Head over to Crown Center for “one-of-a-kind shopping, dining, Can’t-miss events, and attractions.” Appropriately named by the owner, Hallmark Cards (and yes, there is a Hallmark store in the shopping center), it even has its own department store, Halls, akin to Macy’s. This shopping center also has various dining options including Burnt End BBQ and Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, which delivers food to customers via train cars on a railroad above the tables.
City Market | 20 East 5th Street
This market is everything from fresh produce stands to specialty cuisines and shopping. There is even a flea market on Saturdays, as well as a farmers market on the weekends. The Arabia Steamboat Museum is also here, which shares the unique history of pioneers in the area. Check the website for a list of restaurants and other vendors present at the market.
Rally House | 181 East 14th Street
(Photo credit: @rally_kc)
There are multiple locations throughout the city, but stop in for any sports or tourist knickknack needs. Kansas City is a big sports town, between college teams, professional teams, and just the city in general. Locals are always sporting their favorite teams. Stop by for some Kansas City-inspired gifts to bring home to family and friends — or maybe just yourself.
Made in KC | 4155 N Mulberry Drive
(Photo credit: @madeinkc_)
After opening in 2015, Made in KC aims to give local artists and makers a platform to reach the community of Overland Park. They have since opened a few locations across the city, and shoppers can visit for their favorite KC-inspired apparel. Guests can also shop for the latest BBQ sauces, and even gift boxes filled with local fare.
Country Club Shopping Plaza | 4706 Broadway Boulevard
Name a store you want to shop at, and odds are that you can find it here. But that’s not all. You can also eat at a number of restaurants (yes, they have great BBQ options). This shopping mecca is 15 blocks of shopping and eating goodness nestled right within the Kansas City streets. During the holidays, they even light up the plaza with festive lights.