Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Midtown, Kansas City

  • Published 2022/10/30

Situated between Downtown and Village West, Midtown in Jackson County provides access to big Kansas City attractions.

But where exactly is Midtown?

A lot of residents would give you answers like “around Union Station” or “the Crossroads Arts District.”

But according to Kansas City Planning Development, it is from 31st to 55th street for its north-to-south outline and from State Line Road to The Paseo for its east-to-west border.

Rich with historic buildings, museums, and galleries, this area will surely bring you back in time.

Here are the best things you can do within the borders of Midtown, Kansas City:

Reminisce at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Exterior of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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The world’s largest fine-scale miniature collection, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures was established in 1982.

It all started in a humble 7,500-square-foot space that displayed various miniature collections from Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Hall Marshall.

Interior of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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The museum reopened in 2015 and is home to over 72,000 historic toys.

The collection occupies 33,000 square feet of space at 52nd Oak Street.

Star Wars collection in The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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There are 59,591 items you can visit in the toy collection, documenting a child’s hopes and dreams from generation to generation.

Every detail counts as you look through the 20,736 objects in the fine-scale miniature collection that features made-to-scale room settings, decorative art, architectural work, tools, and other items you see daily.

Miniature Noah's ark in The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

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Appreciate Beauty at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Crying giant sculpture in front of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Thad Zajdowicz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

To exist to deepen the understanding of the modern human experience and to stimulate bold and creative dialogue through the artists and their art is the value that the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art holds.

Aside from hosting exhibitions, installations, lectures, workshops, and other creative programs that are free for all ages, they also are proud of the rapid growth of the number of the Permanent Collection of modern and contemporary works from all over the world since they opened in 1994.

The special exhibitions in the gallery feature a rotating group of artists and solo artists–including many established and up-and-coming talent from the United States and other countries.

If you ever want more, this museum at Warwick Boulevard also regularly offers lectures, performances, workshops, and film and video series in their meeting room and Museum Atrium.

They also have a shop where you can buy catalogs, jewelry, books, and other exhibitions.

And if you ever feel famished, Café Sebastienne offers you a dining experience in two unique spaces: an intimate dining room with an immersive installation of paintings by Frederick James Brown or a natural light-filled architectural courtyard.

Shop ‘Til You Drop at World Market

If you fancy buying unique and artisan items, you do not have to look anywhere else at World Market.

Located on Westport Road, this store has a wide range of products that suit your needs, whether furniture, decorative items, or imported food.

A businessman from San Francisco began selling shiploads of wicker that were hand-woven at a pier in the city when he became a traveler and importer.

Unloaded crates signaled his customers to line up, buying items that he had bought from all over the world.

From there, he created a storefront that later became a destination for people who were into imported handmade and original items.

As their focus remains on value and affordability, their products can easily be accessed by anyone who wishes to make their homes or events extra special.

Visit the Collections at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Exterior of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has collected 5,000-year-old creations and pieces.

This public art museum on Oak Street has become the city’s fruit from the inspiration from two individuals.

The bulk of Wiliam Rockhill Nelson’s estate was used to purchase artworks by establishing the William Rockhill Nelson Trust when he died in 1915.

Giant shuttlecock sculptures at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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He was the founder of The Kansas City Star, who believed that for a city to know what it means to be civilized, it must get to know the arts and culture.

On the other hand, a third of Mary McAfee’s estate was provided to purchase land for the public art museum that was being built when she died in 1911. She was a retired teacher who found inspiration as she traveled to Europe and found art.

More than 42,000 works of art are available for viewing in this nearly nine-decade place, welcoming people of all kinds.

Statues along The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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Catch a Show at Uptown Theater

Exterior of Uptown Theater

Baylor98, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ranked 81st of the 100 theaters in the world by the industry magazine Pollstar in 3rd quarter of 2021, Uptown Theater is the clear choice if you want to experience tours and concerts in one of the few remaining operational atmospheric theaters.

Kansas City architect Robert Gornall’s original theater design began its construction in 1926.

The office and retail part of the Uptown was completed in November of the same year, but the rest of the construction was put on hold until Universal Film Company acquired the unfinished building in 1927.

Uptown Theater, situated along Broadway Boulevard, was the city’s premier entertainment spot that showcased first-run movies when it was completed in 1928.

Music performance in Uptown Theater

Ian T. McFarland from Los Angeles, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was one of the city’s most profitable theaters up until the 1960s, which continued to feature stage shows and films even after World War II.

The theater also has a diverse selection of event spaces you can use for private celebrations such as weddings, parties, and conferences–the smallest can house 100 people.

The largest can accommodate 2,400, and a dedicated food, beverage, and planning staff can make your event planning with them easier.

A concert in Uptown Theater

Szarka, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get the Best of Both Worlds at Whiskers Cat Café & Coffeehouse

Get your coffee and kitty fix at Whiskers Cat Café & Coffeehouse.

Aside from giving its customers a fun and comfortable environment, this café at Southwest Trafficway has the ultimate goal of finding their resident whiskers a forever home.

Yes, you can take home the first kitty you fall in love with!

Owner Audrey brought the concept to life in Kansas City and partnered with KC Pet Project to ensure that all kitties find the perfect place to call their home.

And don’t worry, the place is designed to have humans enjoy their coffee separate from the cat’s home, ensuring their guests’ safety and health.

They have a lot of space and seating options you can choose from, including an area you can lie down with the cats.

If you have allergies but still love cats, you can still enjoy the activity from their viewing window.

Did you know that according to studies, petting a purring cat or even just watching them play is a great way to lower stress? Improve your mood and make sure to visit Whiskers Café.

Discover the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site

Exterior of Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a trip down Thomas Hart Benton’s memory lane, a renowned sculptor, writer, painter, and lecturer, and discover the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site.

Here you will find his preserved paintings, coffee cans full of paintbrushes, numerous paints, and a stretched-out canvas that he has yet to transform but left untouched as he died in his studio in 1975.

At a young age, Thomas Hart Benton has always had an artistic ambition.

He started working as a cartoonist for the Joplin American newspaper at 17 after dropping out from high school but later studied at the Académie Julian in 1907.

Until the 1920s, most of his works were generally modernist and often abstract, having been influenced by the Californian artist he met at the academy, Stanton Macdonald-Wright.

He came back to Missouri in 1924 after traveling to different places such as Paris, Virginia, and New York, which made him focus on American rural subjects for his paintings after being inspired to reclaim his midwestern roots.

But after meeting the Spanish mast El Greco, he began to paint in a naturalistic style and was then known as the most innovative practitioner of mural painting.

Indulge in a Relaxed Mediterranean-Style Setting at Country Club Plaza

Scenic view of Country Club Plaza

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Known for its elaborate fountains, upscale fashion boutiques, and family-friendly restaurants, Country Club Plaza was the first shopping district outside of the downtown central business. It was the first structure to accommodate patrons that arrived via automobile.

Jesse Clyde Nichols, or J.C. Nichols, planned the development of the Country Club Plaza District in the early 1900s.

He then began to develop neighborhood retail business districts to provide shops and services for nearby residents by the early 1920s.

A tower and bistro at Country Club Plaza

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The Plaza, situated at Broadway Boulevard, retains most of its historic integrity, even after celebrating its centennial year in 2022.

The Spanish Revival style architecture of this building, as well as its role in the development of Kansas City, makes it a significant landmark.

With more than 100 stores you can check out nestled in its suave architectural design, you will find yourself immersed in its beauty.

Shops along Country Club Plaza

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Watch Theatrical Performances at KC MeltingPot Theatre

Thought-provoking productions that reveal the rich contributions of the African-American community to the theatrical tradition in the United States—that is what the KC MeltingPot Theatre is all about.

Exploring theatrical works that feature complex stories of African-American life, whether old or new, is the goal of the premier African American theater company.

They work to establish various partnerships that can help them understand and appreciate both the similarities and differences between people.

Some of the plays they have showcased were “The Piano Lesson,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “King Hedley II.”

This theater at Penn Valley Drive makes diverse, equitable, and inclusive theater experiences that teach, critique, and model a better American experience using great theatrical shows that will tickle your perspective.

Other Things to Do Nearby

There are still a few places you can go to less than 20 minutes away from the center of Midtown. Adults, kids, and even pets can visit these places.

Continue to enjoy and learn at the following places nearby:

A Billion-Dollar Experience at the Money Museum

Exterior of the Money Museum

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The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City housing the Money Museum is located at 1 Memorial Drive in the heart of the city.

It is one of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that make up the nation’s central bank.

At the Bank, you’ll have the opportunity to see how we process millions of dollars in currency every day.

You will also get to lift a genuine gold bar, enjoy interactive exhibits, and view the historic coin collection of former president Harry S. Truman.

All the while, you’ll be learning about the U.S. economy!

They also have exhibits like the $40 Million Wall, where you can see stacked money on a wall while learning what it takes to store billions of dollars.

You can also experience for yourself telling the difference between an actual $20 bill from a fake one while learning about security features designed in U.S. currencies to keep it safe from being imitated.

Budgeting and saving are also a part of their educational tour for when you visit the bank and its museum.

Live like a billionaire for a day when you visit the Money Museum.

Have A Woof-Derful Day at Penn Valley Off Leash Dog Park

Enjoy a relaxing day with your fur buddy at Penn Valley Off Leash Dog Park.

If you are traveling with them, it is not easy to find places where your dog can freely run around and tire itself out.

In April 2004, the first off-leash area was opened at Penn Valley Park, which welcomes all kinds of dogs.

No matter the size, they have areas you can feel safe letting your pet roam around and meet friends of its kind.

The 2.7-acre, double-gated fence is for active dogs who do not seem to get tired, and the 1.8-acre of land is for elderly, small, or handicapped dogs who need a little bit more TLC.

Let you and your pet enjoy the breeze of this open area when you find yourself in Kansas City.

And don’t worry, water fountains for pets and owners are available when you get tired!

Explore the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City

Exhibit in LEGOLAND Discovery Center

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Have the best day, no matter how old you are, at Legoland Discovery Center Kansas City!

Situated at Crown Center City, this ultimate two-story indoor playground allows you to be surrounded by millions of LEGO Bricks.

You can also build epic LEGO creations alongside master builders.

But that’s not all; they also have more than 10 attractions and experiences, such as Kingdom Quest ride adventure and the LEGO 4D Theater.

Special events are also held at this attraction on certain holidays, so don’t miss out if you find yourself visiting the city near a holiday.

And if you ever get tired from all the exhibits, you can visit their gift shop to get some souvenirs from your fantastic day or dine before continuing your exploration inside the land of bricks.

Let the child within you or with you enjoy this fun place, especially for LEGO enthusiasts.

Wonder Away With Aquatic Creatures at SEA Life Kansas City

Featuring more than 5,000 sea creatures, a play area, and group packages, the family-friendly SEA Life Kansas City will have you falling in love.

The world’s largest family of aquariums is in the center of Downtown, Kansas City, just beside LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

From its origins in Oban, Scotland during the 1970s, it has provided immersive marine experiences at nearly 50 locations in 17 countries worldwide.

Encounter the city’s only 18-degree underwater tunnel and come face-to-fin with thousands of sea creatures, including sharks, rescued sea turtles, seahorses, and even jellies.

Get to explore over 12 stunning exhibits and touch sticky sea anemones and starfishes at their touch pool.

Appreciate and understand underwater life at the city’s only aquarium.

Geek Out at Science City

Interior of Science City

Jacob Boomsma /

To the youngest explorers, Science City can give you the greatest first-hand experience in a world full of science.

May it be indoors or outdoors, you will get to see the fun and engaging exhibits as well as learn through educator-led programs and activities.

This place of wonder is near the city’s Union Station and has been open since 1999.

Children playing in Science City

Jacob Boomsma /

In 2015, the Association of Science-Technology Center awarded it for “Visitors Experience” internationally. Visit KC Visitors Choice Awards regularly votes it “Favorite Family-Friendly Attraction.” Also, several sources name it one of the country’s Top 25 science centers.

Get to discover something new at every turn within the 100,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor home of over 300 interactive science exhibits.

Start your lifelong love of science and discovery at this award-winning attraction.

Aircraft hanging from Science City's ceiling

Jacob Boomsma /

Get Tricked at the Museum of Illusions

Entertain your mind and trick your eyes into the fantastic world of illusions at the Museum of Illusions!

Located near Science City, this suitable space for social and entertaining tours brings you into a world of illusions that delights all generations.

Enjoy the collection of holograms, jump in an illusion created by the Vortex Tunnel, get confused inside the Infinity Room, and visit more attractions and illusions you can view and experience.

You can choose from over 80 Dilemma games that you can take home from their souvenir shop and other items such as optical illusions, educational toys for a child in your family, t-shirts, pencils, or notebooks.

Get ready to participate in one fascinating adventure where you can encounter an intriguing visual, sensory, and educational experience with a handful of new, unexplored illusions.

Final Thoughts

Midtown, Kansas City has a lot to offer and is rich in history and culture–hidden gems everywhere!

With this list of the best things to do in Midtown, Kansas City, you will never find yourself bored in this part of the city.

There is a wealth of things to do, like shopping, being entertained, visiting museums, or exploring parks.

Enjoy the heart of the city where all the fun and learning happen at the same time.

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