Fondly known as the ‘Heart of America,’ Kansas City is a treasure trove for culture enthusiasts and home to many exceptional museums. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply love wandering around hallowed halls, you’ll be in heaven at these must-visit museums in Kansas City, Missouri!
Delve into a world of art, history, and innovation at some of KC’s exceptional cultural offerings. Head to the renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see the iconic Shuttlecocks installation on its lawn and extensive art collection. The National World War I Museum and Memorial is an absolute must-see if you’re intrigued by history and innovation.
No cultural journey through Kansas City would be complete without a visit to the American Jazz Museum. Celebrating the city’s rich jazz heritage, the museum pays homage to legendary musicians like Charlie Parker and Count Basie. Embrace modern artistic expressions at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Eager to dive into the world of arts and culture in the “City of Fountains”? Plan your museum-hopping adventure with this guide to the top Kansas City museums!
National WWI Museum and Memorial
Embark on an emotional journey through history at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. As the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to World War I, it offers a comprehensive and poignant exploration of the Great War’s impact.
Located on Memorial Drive, the National World War I Museum and Memorial houses a world-class collection of exhibits and historical artifacts that transport you back in time to better understand the global conflict that shaped the world.
Explore thoughtfully curated exhibits showcasing a vast array of uniforms, weapons, and equipment, along with letters and diaries offering poignant insights into war’s human cost.
Head up the 217-foot Liberty Memorial Tower to an observation deck to enjoy breathtaking cityscape views while reflecting on the site’s historical significance. Beneath the tower lies the Memory Hall, a striking display of 9,000 red poppies, each representing 1,000 military deaths.
Walk across the Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge over a field of poppies, symbolizing the loss of lives during the war. Visit the memorial in the evening when it’s beautifully illuminated. The sight of the tower and the skyline aglow is a sight to behold.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Most well-known for the giant Shuttlecocks installation on the front lawn, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is regarded as one of the best museums in the country, with over 40,000 works of art from around the globe.
Named for William Rockhill Nelson, founder of The Kansas City Star, and his benefactor Mary Atkins, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art boasts a diverse and extensive art collection spanning thousands of years.
Admire works by renowned artists like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Monet in the European Art Collection and exquisite art from China, Japan, and Korea in the museum’s East Asian collection. Explore the modern architectural wonder of the Bloch Building with its sleek design and contemporary art display.
Enjoy a stroll through the museum’s sculpture park and picturesque gardens, home to an impressive array of outdoor art installations.
Arabia Steamboat Museum
Step back in time and connect with the lives of those who sailed the Missouri River more than 150 years ago at the Arabia Steamboat Museum. Set on Grand Boulevard in the vibrant River Market neighborhood, this unique museum unveils the fascinating history of a lost treasure – the ill-fated steamboat Arabia.
Discover the story of Arabia, which sank in the Missouri River in 1856. The vessel and its cargo remained buried deep beneath the river’s silt for over a century until being excavated in 1988. The recovered cargo provides a vivid snapshot of life in the mid-1800s.
Marvel at a meticulously reconstructed portion of the original steamboat and immerse yourself in the vessel’s grandeur, gaining insight into the luxury and innovation of 19th-century river travel. Explore the impressive array of perfectly preserved objects, including fine China, textiles, shoes, and foodstuffs like pickles and preserved fruit.
Consider taking a guided tour of the Arabia Steamboat Museum, where knowledgeable guides will walk you through the artifacts’ history, sharing captivating stories and details that bring the past to life. Stop by the museum’s gift shop to pick up a piece of this remarkable history to take home with you.
Put your explorer’s hat on and take a fascinating journey through the realms of science at Science City. The interactive science center is housed within the historic Union Station Kansas City complex and offers an interactive and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.
Beautiful architecture and cutting-edge science come together at Science City, creating a unique and engaging atmosphere for exploration and discovery. Experiment with the principles of physics and engineering at the Haverty Family Yards and engage in dynamic experiments at the Helzberg Family Lab.
Catch live demonstrations, workshops, and exciting shows at Science City – check the schedule on arrival to see what’s on offer. When you’re all science-ed out, stroll around the magnificent Union Station to admire its historical architecture and other attractions.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Step into the ever-evolving world of modern art at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Set in a striking pyramid-shaped building on Warwick Boulevard in the Midtown-Westport neighborhood, the museum boasts a diverse and dynamic collection of contemporary artworks spanning various mediums and artistic expressions.
Founded by Bebe and R. Crosby Kemper, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art provides a space for showcasing contemporary art from around the world. From painting and sculpture to photography and new media installations, thought-provoking exhibits aim to challenge conventions and spark curiosity.
Enhance your understanding and appreciation of the artwork by joining a guided tour led by knowledgeable docents and gaining deeper insights into the artists’ techniques, inspirations, and the context of their works.
Take a moment to stroll through the museum’s Sculpture Garden and appreciate art amidst nature. After your art exploration, treat yourself to some nosh at the world-class Café Sebastienne.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
Relive your childhood on a nostalgic journey through the world of toys and the marvels of miniature art at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Celebrating the joy of childhood play and the intricacies of tiny art, this whimsical museum in the Plaza Area is a treasure trove for toy enthusiasts and art lovers alike.
Explore the rich history of toys through the museum’s captivating collection of toys from various eras and cultures. From classic dolls and action figures to vintage toy cars and trains, you’ll find beloved playthings that span generations. Discover the evolution of toys, reflecting the influences that have shaped childhood play over time.
The miniature art collection at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is equally enchanting. Step into a world of exquisite tiny furniture, intricately detailed dollhouses, and delicate works of art crafted on a minute scale. Marvel at the incredible skill and precision of artists who create entire worlds in miniature form.
Embrace your inner child and indulge in hands-on fun in the museum’s interactive play spaces. Don’t forget to visit the museum store before you leave. It has delightful toys, games, and miniature replicas for perfect souvenirs or gifts.
Kansas City Museum
Interested in KC’s rich history and heritage? Head to Gladstone Boulevard to visit the Kansas City Museum to explore the past and understand the city’s evolution. Housed in a magnificent Neoclassical mansion, the museum features captivating exhibits that showcase the city’s deep-rooted heritage.
The Kansas City Museum, also known as Corinthian Hall, was initially constructed in 1910 as the residence of lumber baron Robert A. Long. As you step inside one of the most popular places to visit in Kansas City, you’ll be transported back to the early 20th century. Opulent interiors with elegant furnishings, exquisite woodwork, and ornate details provide a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the Long family and the city’s affluent past.
Explore fascinating exhibits showcasing the city’s history and local industries and transportation to the vibrant communities that shaped Kansas City. Take a guided tour of the Kansas City Museum for valuable insights and stories that bring the mansion’s history to life.
After your visit, stroll around the beautifully landscaped gardens and appreciate the picturesque and tranquil setting.
If you’re intrigued by the world of finance and currency, this one’s a must! Located at 1 Memorial Drive, the Money Museum is a fascinating destination that unveils the secrets of money, its history, and its role in shaping economies.
Part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the Money Museum offers an interactive and informative experience that demystifies the complexities of economics and central banking. You’ll find a range of exhibits exploring money’s evolution from ancient times to the modern era. Discover the alluring stories behind the currency, coins, and financial instruments used throughout history.
Don’t miss the ‘Cash Processing’ exhibit, where millions of dollars in cash are on display. Witness the intricate processes of handling and processing currency in a secure and technologically advanced environment. Be sure to take some shredded money home as a souvenir!
And the best part about the Money Museum? It’s free to visit!
American Jazz Museum
Kansas City and jazz go hand-in-hand, so visiting the American Jazz Museum is a must! Head to the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District to find this iconic destination and dive into the captivating world of jazz.
Kansas City holds a significant place in jazz history, known for its vibrant jazz scene and the contributions of legendary musicians like Charlie Parker and Count Basie. The American Jazz Museum was created to celebrate this legacy and showcase the history of jazz, its origins, and its evolution through the years.
Explore the lives and legacies of iconic jazz musicians who have left an indelible mark on the genre and the world of music. Visit the Blue Room, a legendary jazz club known for its intimate ambiance and exceptional live performances. Experience the soul-stirring sounds of jazz in this historic venue, where both established musicians and emerging talents take the stage.
If you have time, join the 18th & Vine Jazz District Walking Tour, which explores the neighborhood’s rich jazz history. It’ll give you valuable insights and context for your visit to the museum. Catch a live jazz performance at the Gem Theater, another historic venue adjacent to the American Jazz Museum that hosts concerts and cultural events.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Walk in the footsteps of some of baseball’s greatest legends at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. This fantastic museum honors the talented African American baseball players who overcame adversity to shape the sport’s history.
You’ll find the museum next door to the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. It was created to honor the accomplishments and contributions of African American players who played in segregated leagues during a time of racial discrimination in the United States. Exceptional exhibits and displays provide a comprehensive and emotional journey through the struggles and triumphs of these remarkable athletes.
Explore a treasure trove of historical artifacts, photographs, and interactive exhibits that celebrate the legacy of the Negro Leagues. Learn about legendary players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Don’t miss the museum’s Field of Legends, which showcases life-size bronze sculptures of Negro Leagues players, immortalizing their talent and dedication to the sport. Walk among these statues for a powerful, moving experience that brings history to life.
Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site
Explore the life and work of one of America’s most celebrated artists at the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site. Step into the world of Thomas Hart Benton and explore the place where he created some of his most iconic works.
Prominent regionalist painter and muralist Thomas Hart Benton purchased the house and studio in 1939. He lived and worked here until his death in 1975. Take a guided tour of his home to glimpse the artist’s world and pay tribute to his artistic legacy.
Explore the rooms where Benton lived and worked, virtually unchanged since his time. Admire the paintings, drawings, and sculptures on display, and gain insights into Benton’s artistic process and the inspirations behind his masterpieces.
Be sure to visit the impressive mural that Benton painted in the studio. The vivid and monumental artwork provides a fascinating glimpse into his creative vision and artistic genius.
If you happen to be flying in or out of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, carve out some time to visit the TWA Museum. Once the hub of TWA’s operations in Kansas City, the airport now houses the museum, celebrating the golden age of aviation and the legacy of Trans World Airlines.
Founded in 1930, Trans World Airlines, commonly known as TWA, became a trailblazer in the aviation industry. Enjoy guided tours of the TWA Museum led by former TWA employees who provide fascinating insights and stories that bring the airline’s history to life.
Explore a collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and exhibits that showcase the airline’s history, from its humble beginnings to its heyday as a global airline.
Experience the thrill of piloting a classic TWA aircraft in a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar cockpit simulator. Soak up the adventure and excitement that once characterized air travel during the airline’s glory days.