Planning a city break in Missouri’s biggest metro area? Carve out plenty of time to explore Downtown Kansas City. Home to some of KC’s coolest neighborhoods, the city center will give you the opportunity to visit some of the finest bars, restaurants, and museums in the Midwest.
Start your day soaking up the atmosphere of Downtown KC and picking up some local goods at City Market. Then expand your knowledge at exciting attractions like Union Station and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. Once you’ve got some fresh air at Penn Valley Park, prepare for a night on the town. Outstanding performance venues like Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and a thriving jazz scene guarantee that you’ll have a fantastic time in Kansas City after the sun goes down.
Ready for a crazy experience in the Heart of America? Fine-tune your itinerary with this complete guide to Downtown Kansas City to find out what to see & do, where to stay, and where to eat & drink.
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What to see & do in Kansas City’s Downtown
Nothing captures the essence of a city quite like a local market. City Market has been a staple in Downtown Kansas City since 1857. It’s an opportunity for local businesses to thrive and connect with the community. As it’s the largest farmer’s market in the region, you’ll be able to pick up fantastic produce, food, and artisan goods.
Saturday and Sunday are the official days of trading at City Market, with 140 stalls selling everything from flowers to fresh bread. You’ll want to visit on the weekends to get the full experience, but a wonderful choice of cafes and specialty stores has popped up here, making it a vibrant attraction any day of the week.
The buzzing River Market neighborhood has grown around the iconic City Market. The charming streets packed with history are spread across the riverfront. It’s a great place to linger after you’re done shopping, with lots of quirky bars and restaurants to explore.
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Enjoy a night at the theatre with Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The 356,000-square-foot space includes two huge performance halls linked by an epic glass roof. With a distinctive shell-like exterior, this concrete structure is a landmark in itself.
You’ll find some of the most premium entertainment in the city at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It’s home to Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera, and Kansas City Symphony. The prestigious architect designed the building to deliver outstanding aesthetics and acoustics, so you’re guaranteed to experience the very best of every performance.
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is the anchor point for the trendy Crossroads neighborhood. This high-end cultural hub is full of old warehouses transformed into coffee bars, buzzing art galleries, and independent boutiques. You’ll have no trouble finding a one-of-a-kind place for your pre-show dinner and drinks.
The impressive T-Mobile Center is another option for your evening entertainment. With a capacity for over 19,000 people, the venue welcomes world-class sporting events and live performances to the city.
Whether you’re looking for Cirque du Soleil, UFC, or Janet Jackson, you’ll find a fantastic variety of tickets on offer to make your stay in Kansas City extra special. The area pulls in serious crowds, making the atmosphere electric. During a big event, the entire surrounding area comes alive with fans and celebrations.
The T-Mobile Center is part of the Power & Light District, a sparkling $10 billion entertainment hub that draws in some of the best nightlife in Kansas City. The eight blocks contain classy restaurants, upscale shopping, and huge entertainment venues.
Penn Valley Park
Spend some time in the fresh air at Penn Valley Park. The urban park was created in 1904 to make the most of the charming historical area. Explore 176 acres of green space where the Santa Fe Trail once passed. The three-acre lake on the edge of the park helps to create dreamy countryside scenery in the heart of the city.
You’ll find lots of Kansas City landmarks in Penn Valley Park. The Scout is a statue of a Sioux Indian overlooking the downtown skyline, while the immense Liberty Memorial towers into the sky, marking the destination of the National WWI Museum.
There are also lots of fun outdoor activities to do while you’re in Penn Valley Park. Get active with a two-mile fitness trail, ball fields, and tennis courts. Or watch the pooches get their exercise in at Kansas City’s first off-leash dog park.
Union Station Kansas City
Union Station Kansas City is both a historic landmark and a buzzing family attraction. The 104-year-old building was once a huge train station, transporting hundreds of thousands of passengers across the country. Today it’s full of education, entertainment, dining, and shopping opportunities and is one of the must-see places to visit in Kansas City.
Step into a world of towering archways, high ornate ceilings, and elaborate marble floors. Many striking period details of Union Station Kansas City have been painstakingly maintained and restored. As you enter the car park, you’re greeted by an impressive shooting fountain, further adding to its grandeur.
Despite its historic features, you’ll find an emporium of modern activities within its halls. Unleash your inner researcher at Science City. Explore the night skies at the planetarium. Or lose yourself in a miniature world of model trains.
When you’re finished, re-caffeinate with a cappuccino at Parisi Coffee or go for an elegant dinner at the stunning Pierpoints Restaurant.
National WWI Museum and Memorial
History buffs will have a great time at National WWI Museum and Memorial, the only museum in the United States focusing completely on preserving the objects and experiences from WWI. One of the coolest museums in Kansas City, it features the world’s most diverse collection of WWI objects, and it’s the second oldest museum documenting it. The huge memorial marking the site is a towering pillar against the green of Penn Valley Park.
Browse exciting exhibitions highlighting the history and personal experiences of important events. Learn how nine million prisoners of war coped in captivity and how soldiers kept themselves entertained in the trenches.
Design lovers will be fascinated by a look at the progression in the world of prosthetics, while architecture buffs can take a tour of the Egyptian-Revival style buildings in more detail. In the Memory Hall, you’ll find a haunting bronze wall with inscriptions of the names of Kansas City residents who died serving the country during the war.
SEA LIFE Kansas City
Submerge yourself in the underwater world of SEA LIFE Kansas City, the only aquarium in Missouri and home to over 5,000 sea creatures. With over 30 different displays to explore, you can fill a whole day with aquatic fun.
You’ll start your trip to SEA LIFE Kansas City by stepping straight into a 360-degree tank filled with shoals of fish. Once you step out of this circular landscape, you’ll be able to spot turtles and other freshwater fish before meeting bizarre creations in the interactive rock pool.
As you continue your journey through the seven seas, you’ll plunge into a deep underwater tunnel where curious sharks, rays, and turtles can come to say hello. Before you leave, you’ll have the chance to see jellyfish, turtles, and rays up close, explore a coral reef, and make elusive friends in the seahorse temple.
Ignite your curiosity at Science City. This kid-friendly science museum offers a chance for the whole family to experience the incredible world of science and technology. Two hundred immersive exhibits and activities encourage a lifelong love of learning and discovery.
Whether you want to explore the animal kingdom or delve into the world of genetics, there are endless activities on offer at Science City that’ll change how you see the world around you. Experiment with H2O in the water exhibit, tell your secrets to the whisper dishes or build a robot in the Engineerium.
You also have the chance to dig for prehistoric creatures in the Dino Lab and defy the laws of physics by cycling on a wire 30 feet above the ground. Don’t forget to take a selfie in a helicopter before you leave.
If you have time, check out the other great attractions on offer inside the Union Station Kansas City building, including the epic planetarium.
Where to eat & drink
You’ll find a rainbow of cultures in Downtown Kansas City, whether you’re craving classic Kansas barbeque or the latest international cuisine. This is an area packed with personality. Grace the glitzy clubs of the Power and Light District or bar hop the quirky venues in Crossroads.
Meat lovers will find plenty of options downtown. Feast on mouth-watering steak and ribs alongside 25-foot ceilings and cozy fireplaces at Jack Stack Barbecue – Freight House. The historic freight house will lure you in with its classic Kansas City BBQ food.
The classic burger joint gets a stylish makeover at BRGR Kitchen + Bar. The sophisticated spot has stylish décor, high-quality ingredients, and great service.
Transport yourself to the hills of Spain at La Bodega. This vibrant restaurant has traditional tapas perfect for grazing alongside your favorite wine. Share a jug of sangria on the terrace and dream of Spanish sunshine.
For something more upscale, head to the elegant Rockhill Grille, offering an industrial-chic style in a light-flooded setting. Feast on pretty plates of New American food and refreshing cocktails.
Enjoy a quintessential Kansas City experience with an evening of smooth jazz. Green Lady Lounge is an authentic live jazz bar where some of the best musicians in the world have played.
Transport yourself back to pre-prohibition at Swordfish Tom’s. This vintage-style bar is full of hidden delights and expert mixologists who will craft you their latest creations.
Beer lovers can work their way through the drafts at Taps on Main. Pour your own pint from 40 different taps and settle in to watch the game on the big TVs.
Or elevate your evening with a trip to The Mercury Room Bar. This luxury location has just as much sparkle from its flawless interior as it does from its floor-to-ceiling views of Downtown Kansas City. World-class cocktails and inspirational details will make this a night to remember.
Where to stay
As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the most popular places to stay in Kansas City. Many of the city’s top hotels lie in & around the Crossroads and Power & Light District.
Part boutique hotel, part contemporary art gallery, this stylish space delivers a unique Kansas City vacation. Curated exhibitions are on show throughout the year, promoting some of the hottest emerging artists, while dishes at the on-site restaurant are a piece of art in themselves.
A charming hotel in the heart of the Power and Light district. 1930s architecture and opulent Art Deco design are cut with charming touches and a vintage travel theme. The plush restaurant uses seasonal and local ingredients in its new American dishes and craft cocktails, while the modern gym gives you a place to work off your indulgence.
This neoclassical building was once the Gates City Bank. Its elegant update uses timeless design features mixed with high-end modern amenities. With its very own world-class jazz club, you can enjoy a grand evening out without setting foot outside the door.
This epic modern hotel uses the very latest in art and design. Overlooking the Kaufman Center for Performing Arts, the hotel emulates the same outstanding use of structure and style. Enjoy dinner and drinks in one of the trendy bars and restaurants. Or head out to the terrace for modern fire pits and downtown views.
Get a typical Crossroads experience with a stay in the renovated Pabst Brewing Depot. A luxury take on industrial décor includes spacious rooms, a sprawling atrium, and dining with lots of personality. From an elegant Italian steakhouse to a horse-themed rooftop bar, every second at Crossroads Hotel will be a one-of-a-kind historic experience.