Kansas City delivers world-class arts, culture, and barbecue without the high cost or pretense.
Kansas City is friendly and laid-back, but don't be fooled by its low-key attitude. The city pulses with an upbeat and creative energy powered by its people who embody a hard-working Midwest work ethic combined with entrepreneurial grit and a pioneering spirit.
When to Go
Year-round, but high season is summer and fall when most of the city's outdoor events take place. Winter brings the Plaza lighting ceremony and magical holiday events at Crown Center, but then the city braces for snowstorms from the Rockies moving east across the plains. Spring can be a breeze since Kansas City is on the edge of Tornado Alley, so bring an umbrella and get ready for epic thunderstorms.
Kansas City summers ignite with fireworks and live music at Celebration at the Station, the largest free Memorial Day weekend event in the Midwest, and the fires keep burning until the last of the burnt ends are consumed at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue in September. Meanwhile, First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District smolder all year long with live music, food trucks and an eclectic mix of artists and art lovers.
What to Eat
World famous for its barbecue, Kansas City has more than a hundred restaurants dedicated to serving up low-country, hickory-smoked meats. But it's the sweet and smoky sauce blended with tomato and molasses that really defines Kansas City style. It is best slathered on slow-cooked brisket, burnt ends or fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Souvenir to Take Home
Most souvenir shops are packed with Wizard of Oz-related merchandise exclaiming "we're not in Kansas anymore," but that's because you're most likely in Missouri, where most of KC's attractions are located. Unless you're a super fan, forget Dorothy and Toto and pick up a bottle of barbecue sauce. Better yet, buy a one-of-a-kind work of art from the galleries of the Crossroads Arts District.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sustainable Travel Tip
The new KC Streetcar follows a two-mile route from the River Market at the north end to Union Station at the south end. On the way, the free service passes through downtown hotspots like the Power and Light District and the Crossroads.
For a sweeping panorama skyline, face north from the base of Liberty Memorial tower at the National World War I Museum in the late afternoon. From that vantage point, you'll capture Union Station in the foreground, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts at the far end of the Cross Roads Arts District and downtown's skyscrapers.