15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Kansas City, MO

Downtown Kansas City, MO
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Downtown Kansas City in Jackson County has been the heart of Kansas City since 1889.

It houses important government buildings, businesses, and upscale retail shops, making it one of the best downtowns in the country.

Aside from its skyscrapers and art deco buildings, the district is also known as an arts and culture hub with museums such as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Black Archives of Mid-America providing insight into what life was like for African Americans in the Midwest during the early 1900s.

Also within the area is the historic Union Station that’s witnessed the history and development of Kansas City in the past 100 years.

Here are the best things to do in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri:

Commemorate Fallen Heroes at the National WWI Museum and Memorial

View of the National WWI Museum and Memorial at night
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Located on Memorial Drive, the National WWI Museum and Memorial opened in 1926 as Liberty Memorial to commemorate the history of World War I.

It was designated by the United States Congress as the country’s official WWI memorial and museum in 2004.

The 32,000-square-foot facility is surrounded by 9,000 red poppies, each representing the 1,000 soldiers who lost their lives during the war.

Building sign of the National WWI Museum and Memorial
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The North Wall of the main museum building features The Great Frieze by sculptor Edmund Amateis, representing the progression of mankind.

The museum has two main galleries showcasing exhibitions with period artifacts: the first focuses on the beginnings of the Great War, while the second is about US involvement in the war and peace efforts.

Visit the National WWI Museum and Memorial and commemorate the men and women who sacrificed their lives for peace.

Interior of the National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Learn about the History of the Negro Leagues at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

In the late 19th century, African Americans were excluded from baseball leagues, leading to the establishment of the short-lived National Colored Baseball League in 1887.

In 1920, the Negro National League was founded and would find success in the next 30 years until the integration.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was founded in 1990 by former players to commemorate the league’s heydays and its superstars.

See pictures of players, team owners, and officials lining its walls, as well as reconstructed lockers where original uniforms, gloves, and other mementos from legends like Josh Gibson and George Herman Jr., also known as “Black Baby Ruth,” are on display.

One of the museum’s highlights is the Field of Legends, which has 12 life-sized bronze statues of 12 important figures in the Negro league history.

Find out more about the history of Negro leagues at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

See Salvaged Artifacts at the Arabia Steamboat Museum

Exterior of the Arabia Steamboat Museum
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The Arabia steamboat is a side-wheeler steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1856.

Located on Grand Boulevard, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is a 30,000-square-foot facility that features pre-Civil War artifacts excavated from the steamboat in 1988.

Upon entering the museum, a series of five-minute videos recounting the history of Arabia will greet visitors.

At the same time, a 14-minute film called “The Fall and Rise of the Steamboat Arabia” can be viewed in the theater.

Paddle of the Arabia boat in Arabia Steamboat Museum
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See artifacts on display and watch staff members work on cleaning artifacts in the museum’s open preservation lab.

There’s also a 171-foot-long full-scale reproduction of the steamboat where there’s archival footage documenting the excavation process.

The original boilers, engine, anchor, six-ton stern, and a reconstructed paddle wheel are also displayed.

See historical artifacts at the Arabia Steamboat Museum.

Exhibit in Arabia Steamboat Museum
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Peek into Jazz History at the American Jazz Museum

Located on East 18th Street, the American Jazz Museum was founded in 1997 with a mission to promote American jazz through performances, exhibitions, education, and research.

Originally called the Kansas City Jazz Museum, it features exhibitions featuring notable artists in the industry, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and many more.

One of the museum’s prized possessions is the Graphon alto saxophone used by Charlie Parker at his Massey Hall concert in 1953.

Learn about jazz’s different styles and rhythms through multiple listening station exhibits.

Catch live performances at The Blue Room, which was named after the Street Hotel’s Blue Room and designed to look like a 1930s nightclub.

Visit the American Jazz Museum and learn a thing or two about this classic American art.

See Hands-on Science Exhibitions at Science City at Union Station

Interior of the Science City at Union Station
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The Science City at Union Station is a science museum on West Pershing Road.

The 92,000-square-foot complex features more than 120 hands-on displays and traveling exhibitions.

There’s also the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium, where you can experience guided telescope viewing and live star tours.

Enjoy an evening laser concert featuring music from artists like The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, and more.

Courses inside the Science City at Union Station
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Watch educational films at the 400-seater, 80 feet by 53 feet Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre that’s the biggest in the region.

Visit the Science City at Union Station for a family-friendly interactive science experience.

People inside the Science City at Union Station
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Learn about Winemaking at Amigoni Urban Winery

Located on Genessee Street, Amigoni Urban Winery is a family-run winery housed in a historic 1909 building.

Founded in 2006, Amigoni started as a hobby for Michael Amigoni when he planted Cabernet Franc vines in his backyard.

Today, the winery produces small batches of dry handcrafted wines, focusing on traditional European grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viognier.

Their tasting room is in the historic Daily Drover Telegram Building.

It hosts wine tastings and tours of the facility, where you can learn about the winemaking process from grape to bottle.

Book your tours at Amigoni Urban Winery and learn the art of winemaking.

Shop till You Drop at Crown Center

Exterior of the Crown Center
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Located on Grand Boulevard, Crown Center is a three-level shopping center with more than 30 shops and restaurants.

The shopping district has a plaza with an ice rink and houses the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Let the kids enjoy LEGO rides and the LEGO build-and-play zones.

LEGOLAND discovery center in the Crown Center
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There’s also a 4D cinema where you can watch LEGO movies with special effects that bring them to life.

At SEA LIFE, enter a 180-degree underground tunnel where you’ll come face-to-face with sharks and rescued sea turtles.

Shop at Crown Center and take the kids to LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Discover Hallmark’s Humble Beginnings at the Hallmark Visitors Center

Located in the Crown Center complex on Grand Boulevard, the Hallmark Visitors Center offers free tours and exhibits about the company’s history.

The company was founded in 1910 by Kansas native Joyce Hall and has become the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of greeting cards.

Interactive displays will give you a peek at the company’s colorful history and creative spirit.

See the collection of life-size Christmas trees that were decorated by employees as part of company tradition.

A bow machine will give you a star-shaped bow with one push of a button.

There’s also a theater where you can watch a film about Hallmark’s history spanning over a hundred years,

Drop by the Hallmark Visitors Center and discover how your favorite greeting cards come to life.

Go around the World in a Day at Worlds of Fun

Boomerang rollercoaster at Worlds of Fun
Robert Herschede from Kansas City, MO, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on Worlds of Fun Avenue, Worlds of Fun is a 235-acre amusement park that’s the largest in the Midwest.

It was founded in 1973 by businessmen Lamar Hunt and Jack Steadman.

Oceans of Fun, the largest water park in the region, was added in 1982 adjacent to the amusement park.

Mamba rollercoaster at Worlds of Fun
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The takes inspiration from the Jules Vern book, Around the World in Eighty Days, and is divided into eight major sections representing eight different regions of the world.

Rides, attractions, and shops are named according to the area theme, like the Australian-themed Boomerang roller coaster and the Viking Voyager log fume in the Scandinavian section.

Spinning dragon rollercoaster at Worlds of Fun
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Celebrate Black Identity at the Black Archives of Mid-America

Located on East 17th Terrace, the Black Archives of Mid-America is a multimedia museum that shines the spotlight on Black life.

It’s a non-profit organization founded by Horace M. Peterson III in 1974 that provides access to its collection for research, exhibition, and publication to raise public awareness.

Its mission is to collect, preserve, and present materials documenting African Americans’ social, economic, political, and cultural history in Mid-America, particularly Kansas.

The Black Archives of Mid-America serves as an educational resource and a repository of African American culture in music, art, sports, theater, education, and many more.

Discover the History of Union Station Kansas City

Aerial view of Union Station Kansas City
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Located on West Pershing Road, Union Station Kansas City opened in 1914 serving Kansas and the surrounding metropolitan area.

The station peaked in 1945 at the end of World War II but quickly declined in the 1950s, eventually closing in 1985.

A $250 million restoration took place in 1996, and by 1999, it served as a museum and other public attractions until it was reactivated in 2002 by Amtrak.

The restored station has theaters, the Irish Museum and Cultural Center, and the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity.

Exterior of Union Station Kansas City
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The Beaux-Arts-style building consists of the Grand Hall with ornate ceiling work and the Grand Plaza or North Waiting Room.

The two sections of the building are divided by a central arch decorated with a large hanging clock.

Admire the architecture of Union Station Kansas City.

Interior of Union Station Kansas City
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Lift a Gold Bar at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Money Museum

Exterior of Kansas City’s Money Museum
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Located on Memorial Drive, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Money Museum will give you a million-dollar experience for free.

Watch how the bank processes millions of dollars in currency daily and get a chance to lift a gold bar worth nearly $400,000.

There’s an interactive display where you can learn about the economy.

See the 450-piece collection of rare coins on loan from the Harry S. Truman Library.

Guests will receive a souvenir bag filled with shredded US currency.

Visit the Money Museum and see the nation’s financial system in action.

Have Dinner at Bristol

The perfect cap-off for a day of touring the city is a sumptuous dinner at Bristol.

Located on East 14th Street, it’s known for its wood-fired steaks, market-fresh seafood, and a wide selection of wines.

Be sure to try the Lobster Bisque and Maple Plank Salmon.

For meat lovers, the 14oz Prime Bone-In Kansas City Strip served with two seasonal sides is a must-try.

The wines come from all over the world, but Bristol puts the spotlight on Orin Swift Cellars.

Handcrafted cocktails and after-dinner drinks are also available if you’re not into wines.

Hop on the KC Streetcar and Explore Downtown Kansas City

Daytime view of a KC Streetcar
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The KC Streetcar is a streetcar system in Downtown Kansas City that runs along a 2.2-mile-long route.

The free ride will take you from the River Market to Union Station through the central business district.

The line is directly connected to Amtrak and the RideKC bus services.

KC Streetcar along Downtown Kansas City
Jason Doss from Kansas City, MO, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has 10 designated stops along the route and makes stops about every two blocks.

You can even take your bicycle onboard, and wheelchairs and strollers can also be accommodated through the middle car.

Hop on the KC Streetcar and explore Downtown Kansas from a different angle.

Shop Locally Grown Produce at the Historic City Market

Entryway of the Historic City Market
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The Historic City Market on East 5th has over 160 years of history as the region’s largest farmer’s market.

Here you can find a wide variety of fresh produce from local farmers and eclectic finds from all over the world.

Buy imported ingredients and source bulk spices from specialty grocers and produce stands.

Shoppers at the Historic City Market
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You can also find vintage knickknacks and handcrafted items to remind you of your visit to Kansas City.

The best part is, the City Market is conveniently located along the KC Streetcar route!

Drop by the Historic City Market and shop for unique souvenirs.

Fresh produce at the Historic City Market
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Final Thoughts

Downtown Kansas City is the dream destination for people looking to explore American culture.

The district has a distinct mix of history and arts, from African American culture to classic jazz music.

If you’re up for a cultural treat, come and try the best things to do in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

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