Planning a trip to Kansas City, Missouri? Read on for a complete Kansas City itinerary including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, where to stay and other essential tips written by a local.
– Written by Kaitlyn from Adventures of Kaitlyn and Nick –
Kansas City is a great location in the Midwest with a lot of things to do, see, and eat! even National Geographic has identified Kansas City as a top destination (#10!) for 2019.
We have lived in Kansas City, Missouri for more than three years now and have explored the city as both tourists and locals. This weekend in Kansas City itinerary captures some of our favorite things and some of Kansas City’s most popular attractions.
Things to Know Before You Go
Kansas City is almost in the center of the United States. It is easily reached by driving from the rest of the Midwest or by flying into Kansas City International Airport (MCI). The airport is about a 30 minute drive from downtown, so make sure to take that into account if you have a specific timeline after arriving.
Kansas City is a large and spread out metropolis. In order to explore the city a car is the best option. Uber is available if needed, but to explore during the day your own vehicle would be nice.
Downtown Kansas City is broken up into multiple districts. They are all pretty close to each other, but not walking distance. The areas include the West Bottoms, the Plaza, and Power and Light.
Kansas City is located in the Midwest so it experiences some warm weather in the summer and cold weather in the winter. I am a warm weather girl, so I recommend visiting in the spring, summer, or fall. Kansas City can be struck by snow or ice, so travel in the winter can be a little iffy if you aren’t used to travelling in winter conditions.
One final thing, the Kansas City that most people picture is actually located in Missouri, not Kansas. There is a Kansas City, Kansas and it connects across the border to Kansas City, Missouri. We’ve only lived here for three years, but there is a clear rivalry of Kansas vs Missouri in those that have grown up here. This doesn’t just pertain to Kansas City, but includes the suburbs as well. This is just something good to keep in mind as you talk to different locals during your stay.
Where to Stay in Kansas City
If you are looking to stay close to nightlife there are hotels in the Plaza and near the Power and Light District.
Hilton President is a neat hotel in a very old building within walking distance of the Power and Light District. It is a great place to stay if you are planning to explore the bars in this area. I have stayed here for work trips before moving to Kansas City and can say it is very nice. It also stands out as a staple of the Kansas City skyline.
There are multiple hotels in the Plaza. I have stayed at the Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza before while travelling for work and know it is within walking distance to Jack Stack BBQ on the Plaza.
If you are looking for a cheaper option the liberty or worlds of fun area have a lot of hotels too. (We actually live close to Worlds of Fun) these areas are about a 20 minute drive to downtown or the airport and have some of their own attractions too.
Another option is Airbnb. I haven’t used Airbnb in Kansas City before, but have used it in multiple other cities and loved it! It is a great way to get a more local feel for a destination without the higher cost of a hotel in these areas. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, use my link to sign up and get something off your first stay (and we will get something off our next trip too!)
Kansas City Itinerary
Day 1: Q39, The Plaza, Char Bar
Arrive in Kansas City!
I would plan on some good Kansas City barbecue for dinner. My favorite place (for now) is Q39 which is located in a hip area of town called 39th Street with shops, bars, and restaurants. It is not your typical hole in the wall barbecue joint but is still delicious, trust me. My favorite is the burnt end burger with an appetizer of their onion rings. Get there early or be prepared for a wait. You can also make a reservation online if you do it early enough.
If you get to town a little earlier and have time before dinner I recommend walking around the Plaza. The Plaza boasts fancy stores, unique architecture, and beautiful lights during the holiday season.
If you can still walk after you are stuffed with bbq, check out one of the bars on 39th Street like Char Bar. They also have good barbecue, but my favorite part is the outdoor area. There is a covered patio, a huge outdoor bar, and a large grassy games area with room for cornhole and hanging out by fire pits.
Day 2: City Market, National WWI Museum and Memorial, Joe’s KC, Power & Light District
When you get up Saturday morning head on down to City Market. Here you can walk around and admire local crafts, vegetables, and other goodies. City Market is also lined with restaurants. Stop by City Market Coffee or get a lemonade from a vendor and a snack to tide you over til lunch. On Saturdays and Sundays local farmers and vendors set up multiple rows of their goods. We love to buy produce, honey, flowers, and even specialty products here.
If you can hold out for lunch in City Market you won’t be disappointed. There are a lot of choices here, but I recommend Habashi House. It has delicious Middle Eastern fare and the best hummus I’ve ever had. They have great gyros and platters as well as baklava for desert.
Also in City Market is the Arabia Steamboat Museum. We haven’t visited this museum, but I’ve heard from co-workers it is pretty cool, but a little on the pricey side.
National WWI Museum and Memorial
Once you’ve had your fun at City Market, head on over to the National WWI Museum and Memorial. This is the only museum dedicated to WWI in the country. The museum is beautiful and you can also take a ride to the top of the memorial for a unique city skyline view.
For an early dinner head to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Joe’s KC). Yes another BBQ place, but you won’t be sorry! This restaurant is located in Kansas City, Kansas and in a functioning gas station. They have won more awards than I can count and are very popular for locals and tourists alike. On Wednesdays and Saturdays they have a Burnt Ends plate I highly recommend. Other days i would choose their Z-Man which is a brisket sandwich. I love their onion rings and Nick loves their fries. Both come with a great seasoning on them that can’t be beat!
Again be prepared for a long wait if you come during normal eating times. For lunch I would recommend getting there at 11:00 a.m. (when they open), and for dinner no later than 5:00 p.m. if you don’t want to wait in line for an hour.
Power & Light District
Tonight head to the Power & Light District for nightlife. This is a great area that is basically an enclosed city block. There are bars and restaurants around the perimeter and an open space inside where you can walk with your drinks! If you are there in the summer there are free country concerts in on Thursday nights.
The outdoor area is covered so no need to worry about weather. There is a piano bar and a bar with a mechanical bull!
Day 3: First Watch, Kansas City Zoo
For your last day in the city I recommend heading to First Watch for breakfast/brunch. There is a location just north of downtown and a few more have opened in the last year too. It is a place specifically for breakfast and brunch and has some great options. I love their breakfast tacos!
Kansas City Zoo
If the weather is nice I recommend visiting the Kansas City Zoo. It is a large zoo, so bring your walking shoes! My favorite part is the kangaroos that are not enclosed at all! They lay on the grass looking so much like people, I could watch them for way too long. It is easy to spend a half of a day walking and looking at all the animals! Bring your own water bottle and snacks to save some money for when you get inevitably hungry and thirsty.
I know you will leave Kansas City today feeling like you just have to come back! When you do, check out my post on fun things to do in Kansas City for inspiration!
Other Things to do in Kansas City
There are so many fun things to do in Kansas City it is hard to pick just a few for a weekend. If you find yourself completing this itinerary quickly or just want some different options here are some more good choices.
Royals, Chiefs, Sporting KC, and Basketball
Kansas City also has multiple major sports teams. Depending on the time of year you visit you could watch soccer, baseball, or football. The Chiefs and Royals are located right beside each other (they actually share a parking lot!) on the east side of town. Sporting KC is the male professional soccer team that has a very loyal following and the games are a blast to attend even if you aren’t a big soccer fan. Kansas City also often hosts big 12 basketball tournament games if the season is right.
Another favorite of ours is to visit Union Station. This is the train station in town that is still operational. It is a beautiful old building that hosts many festivals and unique exhibits throughout the year.
We have seen bodies, legos, dinosaurs, giant insects, and mummies at the rotating exhibits here. There is also a science museum in Union Station that is great for kids, or adults who are still young at heart.
Their exhibits are typically on the expensive side, but they are also exhibits that travel around the country and might be a once in a lifetime chance to see.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a haven for art lovers. We have been three times and haven’t seen everything yet. The best part is the museum is free. You will have to pay for parking but can’t beat the experience for the price if you love art and culture.
There are also sculptures on a large lawn in front of the museum. It is a perfect place for a picnic or just enjoying the weather and people watching.
The West Bottoms
One final adventure we love during the warmer months is First Fridays. This occurs in Westport where there are lots of art galleries, antique, and boutique shops to walk through. Streets are closed down and food trucks line the streets during the first weekend of the month. The shops are open most weekends but without as much of the hoopla.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons Kansas City isn’t just another fly over city in the Midwest. With this itinerary you can have a great weekend in Kansas City whether you’re from near or far.
Kaitlyn is a chemical engineer by day and adventurer by weekend. With Adventures of Kaitlyn and Nick she seeks to share their adventures and inspire everyone to explore and see this great world. Follow her on facebook, instagram, pinterest, and twitter.
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