Kansas City Travel Guide

Kansas City Travel Guide

Kansas City! As a long-time travel expert, I'm excited to share my local knowledge to help you make the most of your visit. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to plan your Kansas City getaway.

Table
  1. Getting to Kansas City
  2. Getting Around Kansas City
  3. Best Time to Visit Kansas City
  4. Where to Stay in Kansas City
    1. Downtown
    2. Crossroads Arts District
    3. Country Club Plaza
  5. Top Neighborhoods and Districts
    1. Power and Light District
    2. River Market
    3. 18th and Vine Jazz District
    4. Country Club Plaza
    5. Westport
    6. Crossroads Arts District
  6. Best Things to Do
  7. Kansas City's Food Scene
    1. Barbecue
    2. Mexican
    3. Classic Steakhouse
    4. Farm-to-Table
  8. Day Trip Ideas
  9. Conclusion

Getting to Kansas City

Kansas City is conveniently located in the heart of the United States. Here are some tips for getting here:

  • By air: Kansas City International Airport (MCI) serves the city with major domestic and international flights. It's located about 15 miles northwest of downtown.
    • Southwest, Delta, United, American Airlines all have regular flights into MCI.
  • By car: Kansas City is located at the intersection of two major interstates - I-70 and I-35. It's about a 8 hour drive from Chicago and St. Louis.
  • By bus: Greyhound has a bus station downtown with routes to major cities like Chicago and Denver.
  • By train: Amtrak has a station downtown with routes to and from major hubs like Chicago and St. Louis.

I recommend flying if coming from out of state as it's the fastest and most convenient option. Use rideshares, taxis or public transit to get around once you arrive.

Getting Around Kansas City

With its sprawling size and wide boulevards, a car is handy for getting around Kansas City. However, you can get by without one if you stay downtown.

Here are some transportation options:

  • Rideshares: Uber and Lyft both operate in the city. Prices are reasonable.
  • Public transit: The KC Streetcar is free and connects downtown hotspots. The RideKC bus system covers the metro area.
  • Taxis: While not as plentiful as rideshares, taxis are available 24/7 by phone dispatch.
  • Walking/biking: Downtown, the River Market and Crossroads Arts District are all compact and walkable areas. Bike rentals are available.

Driving allows you to see more outer neighborhoods and attractions efficiently. Try to avoid commuting during rush hour traffic.

Best Time to Visit Kansas City

Kansas City enjoys four distinct seasons. Here's an overview of the weather and events by season:

SeasonWeatherEvents
Spring (March-May)Mild, 60s-70s°F. Mix of rain and sun.KC Renaissance Festival, KC Art Fair
Summer (June-August)Hot and humid, 80s-90s°F.Boulevardia, KC Ethnic Festival, Sprint Center concerts
Fall (September-November)Cooling temps, 50s-60s°F. Sunny, crisp days.Plaza Art Fair, Music Festival at UMKC
Winter (December-February)Cold, 30s-40s°F. Light snowfalls.Plaza Lighting Ceremony, Christmas in the Park

Spring and fall are mild and crowd-free. Summer brings heat but lots of outdoor activities and events. Don't let winter deter you - winter days can be beautiful in the sun!

Best times for value: Spring and fall have mild weather and lower hotel rates before summer crowds.

Best times for family fun: Spring and summer for outdoor festivals, amusement parks, and schools vacation.

Best times for nightlife/events: Spring through fall for food/music festivals. Winter brings holiday events and Christmas lights!

Where to Stay in Kansas City

With its diversity of neighborhoods, Kansas City offers many lodging options. Here are my top recommendations:

Downtown

Staying downtown puts you steps from major attractions. Luxury hotels include:

  • The Fontaine ($$$$): Historic art deco hotel with decadent champagne brunch.
  • Ambassador Hotel ($$$): Home to acclaimed jazz club. Upscale, modern style.
  • 21c Museum Hotel ($$$): Trendy boutique hotel filled with contemporary art. Plush rooms and suites.

Crossroads Arts District

For local boutiques, galleries and restaurants, stay in this up-and-coming area. Options include:

  • Hotel Kansas City ($$): Stylish retro hotel with rooftop lounge.
  • Crossroads Hotel ($$): Sleek, modern hotel with great city views. Close to Kauffman Center.

Country Club Plaza

Spanish-style architecture and high-end shopping define the Plaza. Great central location.

  • The Raphael Hotel ($$$): Historic boutique hotel on the Plaza. Elegant and romantic.
  • InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza ($$$): Modern high-rise with pool, spa and restaurants. Large rooms.

I recommend staying downtown or in the Country Club Plaza if it's your first time to experience the heart of KC. Crossroads is great for a trendy, local vibe.

Top Neighborhoods and Districts

Beyond downtown, Kansas City has many unique neighborhoods to explore:

Power and Light District

This vibrant dining and entertainment district comes alive at night with bars, concert venues, and theaters. Don't miss the KC Live! block.

River Market

Historic public market alongside the Missouri River. Bustling on weekends with local shops and restaurants.

18th and Vine Jazz District

Home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum with a jazz/blues club scene.

Country Club Plaza

Iconic Spanish architecture housing high-end shops and restaurants. Beautiful Christmas lights in winter.

Westport

Lively area with casual bars, music venues, boutiques, and a Bohemian vibe. Popular with a younger crowd.

Crossroads Arts District

Adjacent to downtown, the Crossroads has an industrial chic vibe with art galleries, coffee shops, and local eateries. First Fridays showcase new exhibit openings.

Each neighborhood has its own local flavor - give yourself time to wander and explore!

Best Things to Do

With its diversity, Kansas City offers something for everyone. Must-see attractions include:

  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Free world-class art museum housing works from ancient to contemporary. Don't miss the giant shuttlecocks on the lawn!
  • Country Club Plaza: Historic shopping district with Spanish architecture, boutiques, restaurants and public art.
  • National WWI Museum and Memorial: America's leading WWI museum with fascinating exhibits and memorial tower.
  • Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Highly-rated museum celebrating the history of African American baseball leagues.
  • Worlds of Fun: Large theme park with rollercoasters, water park, and planet Snoopy for kids.

Outdoor Activities

  • Wander the Clay Chalkville hiking trail along Kansas City's iconic limestone bluffs.
  • Rent a bike and cruise through funky Westport checking out murals and shops.
  • Stroll along the Riverfront Heritage Trail with views of the Missouri River.
  • See Kansas City from above at the KC Scenic Overlook and Park along I-35.

Family Fun

  • Meet sharks and rays at the Sea Life Aquarium at Crown Center.
  • See exotic animals at the Kansas City Zoo in historic Swope Park.
  • Play mini golf and ride go karts at Fun Park in Shawnee.
  • Splash around Schlitterbahn Waterpark connected to Worlds of Fun.

Performing Arts

  • Catch celebrated Broadway musicals and plays at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Listen to great jazz and blues at Knuckleheads Saloon or Green Lady Lounge.
  • Watch dance, theater and music shows at the Folly Theater downtown.

Sports

  • Root for the Royals during baseball season at Kauffman Stadium.
  • Tailgate and catch Kansas City Chiefs football at Arrowhead Stadium.
  • See fast-paced hockey games with the Missouri Mavericks at Cable Dahmer Arena.

With incredible barbecue, music, art, and more, Kansas City delivers memorable experiences for all. Talk to a local for personalized recommendations on your interests!

Kansas City's Food Scene

From barbecue to farm-to-table, Kansas City's dining scene impresses. Some quintessential KC culinary experiences include:

Barbecue

Kansas City is renowned for barbecue. Classic spots include:

  • Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que: Consistently top rated barbecue in gas station setting. Get the Z-man sandwich!
  • Jack Stack Barbecue: Upscale sit-down barbecue restaurant with jazz club. Luxe Prime Rib and cheesy corn bake.
  • Arthur Bryant's: Historic counter-service joint serving piles of delicious meat since 1908. Popular with locals.

Mexican

Authentic Mexican shines at these local favorites:

  • Niegas Restaurant: Homemade moles, tamales, and chili rellenos since 1951. Cash only.
  • El Pollo Rey: Simple spot for spit roasted chicken, house salsas and fresh tortillas.
  • Jarocho Southwest Cafe: Upscale modern Mexican eatery with fresh seafood and ceviches.

Classic Steakhouse

For old school steaks and sophistication, try:

  • The Golden Ox: Kansas City's oldest steakhouse with rustic ambiance and generous cuts.
  • Hereford House: Multiple locations of this Kansas City chain serving premium aged beef and live jazz.
  • The Majestic: Iconic downtown steakhouse and restaurant operating since 1918. Clubby, old-world atmosphere.

*Insider tip: Make reservations for steak houses, which fill up on weekends.*

Farm-to-Table

For locally-sourced creative cuisine in a casual vibe, try:

  • Novel Restaurant: Uses seasonal produce and meats from the Midwest. Outdoor garden seating available.
  • The Farmhouse: Housed in a former home with a chef's tasting menu. Vegetarian options available.
  • Story: Asian-inspired dishes made with Farmers' Market ingredients. Great weekend brunch.

From street tacos to high-end steak, KC's diverse food scene has something for all tastes! Ask a local foodie for the latest dining recommendations.

Day Trip Ideas

Looking to extend your Kansas City getaway? Here are top day trips under two hours away:

  • Topeka, KS: Kansas' state capital with the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site. About 1 hour west.
  • Lawrence, KS: Hip college town with historic downtown, shops, and the University of Kansas. 45 minutes west.
  • Hermann, MO: Charming German heritage town noted for wineries along the Missouri River. 1.5 hours east.
  • St. Joseph, MO: History and museums in the Pony Express hometown. See covered bridges north of town. 1 hour north.
  • Columbia, MO: Home to the University of Missouri with restaurants, cafes, and history. 1.5 hours southeast.

Some trip ideas for outdoor lovers include Table Rock Lake, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park, and Missouri State parks along the Missouri River. With stunning valleys and bluffs, Missouri Wine Country offers beautiful views in the region too.

Rent a car or use a hop-on bus service to explore these fun small towns and natural areas nearby Kansas City!

Conclusion

Whether it's your first time or your 50th, Kansas City's energy and diversity make it a vibrant travel destination. I hope this comprehensive insider's guide gives you ideas and tips for planning an amazing trip. The city has truly excellent barbecue, jazz, art, sports and more - but it's the friendly Midwestern spirit of Kansas Citians that makes it unforgettable. Let me know if you have any other questions to make your Kansas City visit the best it can be!

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