Trying to suss out Kansas City? Carve out some time for the charming River Market. This beautiful waterside district north of Downtown KC has historic charm, an artisanal heritage, and a vibrant farm-to-table dining scene.
Your first stop in the River Market area will be City Market. This bustling slice of history shaped the neighborhood you see today. If you didn’t get your shopping fix yet, stop by River Market Antiques for wonderful second-hand souvenirs. Admire more trinkets recovered from a shipwreck at Arabia Steamboat Museum.
Getting hungry? In River Market, everything is about quality, not quantity. You’ll feast on dishes made from the freshest local ingredients, including the indulgent ice cream at Betty Rae’s.
Ready to see a dreamy side of Kansas City? Craft an elegant itinerary with this River Market KC neighborhood guide, including ideas on what to see and do, where to eat and drink, and where to stay.
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What to see & do in River Market
City Market is a vibrant community gathering, bringing together small businesses and local people. It’s the ultimate way to experience everything that River Market has to offer. A social hub for Kansas City since 1857, it has a rich heritage and is one of the biggest farmers’ markets in the Midwest.
On the weekend, City Market comes alive with over 140 stalls selling local produce, fresh food, and artisan goods. With events throughout the year, there’s always something going on, from food festivals to cultural extravaganzas. Buy cute souvenirs from the market or browse the surrounding specialty stores.
If you haven’t had your fill of tasty street food, you’ll find a lovely selection of restaurants and cafes surrounding City Market. Sample global restaurants like Habashi House and farm-to-table concepts like The Farmhouse. Or pick up fresh bread and cheeses and take them on a picnic at Berkeley Riverfront Park.
Arabia Steamboat Museum
Get a big slice of Kansas City history at Arabia Steamboat Museum. This popular Kansas City tourist attraction is a real-life treasure cave! It was thought that 200 tonnes of cargo were lost forever when Steamboat Arabia sank in 1856. The boat was recovered from the mud in 1988. At the museum, you can see the artifacts that survived and follow the fascinating story of their excavation and preservation.
At the Arabia Steamboat Museum, you get a unique insight into how people lived by seeing the objects that were important to them. Find everything from guns to children’s toys in this incredible collection. Not to mention the world’s oldest pickles!
Budding archeologists will have a fantastic time learning about how scientific techniques help to preserve and understand objects from our past. Head to the preservation lab, where you have permission to watch the huge effort to clean the remaining artifacts.
Berkeley Riverfront Park
Stretching along the Missouri River, Berkeley Riverfront Park is a chance to soak up the natural landscape in the heart of the city. Huge green spaces and a picturesque waterfront promenade offer the perfect setting for relaxation and reflection.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get active, the Riverfront Heritage Trail is a 15-mile path that cuts through Berkeley Riverfront Park. You can walk or bike the trail, taking you through wetlands, art installations, and the original town of Kansas River settlement.
But with so many places to stop and linger, it’ll be hard to tear yourself away from Berkeley Riverfront Park. Laze out on the grass with a blanket or find a picnic table. Take in the views of the river, local life, and the impressive Town of Kansas Bridge.
Breakout KC Escape Room
If you’re using your break in Kansas City to bond with each other, nothing will bring you closer than a bit of teamwork. Breakout KC Escape Room is an immersive way to challenge your problem-solving skills. It’ll get you to think outside of the box so you can get outside the room.
With a great variety of adrenaline-pumping challenges, you’ll forget you’re even in Kansas City. Navigate a Chinese street market or find your way out of a mysterious hotel. Race against the clock to flee a government lab and stop a power-crazy doctor.
Whichever room you choose, you’ll encounter clever puzzles and intriguing riddles that’ll put your mind and relationship to the test. If you’re overwhelmed by choice, you can take their handy online quiz to help you pick the perfect room for you and your teammates.
River Market Antiques
Shop for vintage treasures at River Market Antiques. This nostalgic joint has a mission to recycle the past one item at a time. Sprawled across a 30,000-square-foot warehouse, you’ll find exciting pieces from 160 different dealers.
You could lose hours to River Market Antiques. There’s no better destination to search for one-of-a-kind homewares, gifts, and fashion. From glamourous cardigans to elaborate furniture, every visit gives you the chance to find something new.
Take a journey through time with an endless choice of delights across three levels. You’ll find the weird and wonderful as well as things you didn’t know you needed.
Rummage through trinkets and see if you can spot a hidden gem. If you want a break from your search, there’s a fantastic view of Downtown Kansas City at the back of the building.
Betty Rae’s Ice Cream
It’s not a vacation if you don’t have ice cream! Get your ice-cold fix at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream. This funky store gives you 26 different flavors to choose from.
An epic mural and neon signs welcome you into this colorful space. With artwork and plants everywhere, you’ll get instant summer vibes.
When ordering at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, rest assured that everything has come from high-quality local sources. (Ice cream tastes even better when its ingredients come fresh from the farm!) And if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you don’t have to miss out; there’s a tasty option for everybody.
It’ll be an impossible decision to choose a flavor! Go for a classic cookie dough, or get experimental with a lavender honey flavor. Why not go crazy and try the Goat Cheese, Apricot, and Candied Walnut? Or spice things up with a boozy option.
Where to eat & drink
Embracing its artisan market routes means that the dining scene in River Market has a big focus on being high quality, fresh and sustainable. The neighborhood celebrates its cultural diversity and has an incredible range of global cuisine. The small business owner is king here, with predominantly independent restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Fuel yourself up for the day at Opera House Coffee & Food Emporium. This industrial-style spot is a local go-to for fresh coffee and juice. The cafe also sells mouthwatering sandwiches, burgers, and pastries.
The Farm House is an elegant farm-to-fork dining experience. Support local farmers while dining on their tasty brunch menu.
Brown & Loe also celebrate local farmers and artisan vendors from their historic merchant bank building. The restaurant incorporates traditional practices of curing, pickling, and smoking meats into their American comfort food dishes.
A favorite for locals and tourists alike, Harry’s Country Club is the ultimate traditional pub. Cozy up among wood paneling, old photographs, and a jukebox. Or get the party going on the huge sun trap patio.
Hockey fans will go crazy for The Blueline Hockey Bar. The bar is even on the list of the top 20 hockey bars in the world! Enjoy great value drinks and hockey-themed food while watching the game among epic memorabilia.
Take your bar experience to the next level at DoubleTap KC. This sports bar takes things up a notch with a virtual reality experience. They also have arcade games, board games, and live TV to keep everyone entertained for hours.
Where to stay
With a limited selection of accommodations, choosing to stay in the River Market neighborhood can be a challenge. For most travelers, it’s a better idea to expand your hotel search to other popular areas to stay in Kansas City, including the Power & Light District and Downtown Kansas City just to the south or to Crossroads further afield.
This boutique hotel has beautifully renovated its historic 1930s building. With charming decor nodding to its transport heritage, a stay here will feel exciting and intimate. Sink into plush leather with opulent gold finishings. The hotel’s art deco bar is a stylish spot for sharing plates and craft cocktails.
Part hotel, part contemporary art museum, this boutique hotel captures the stylish energy of the neighborhood. There’s an onsite gallery and original artwork in every room. Perched in a perfect location between the Power and Light District and River Market, you’ll have easy access to some of the best attractions in the city.
This stunning Gothic Revival building is a grand base for your stay in Kansas City. The modern take on the 1920s pairs original stained glass and walnut with minimal design and plush fabrics. Dine by the fireplace in the farm-to-table restaurant and sip craft cocktails in the elegant lobby bar.