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Kansas City, Missouri, may be known for its barbecue, but this lively Midwestern city offers much more than smoked meat and saucy sandwiches. There are so many free things to do in Kansas City MO!
In fact, Kansas City is filled to the brim with tons of museums, parks, musical venues, and cultural sites that you can explore while traveling on a budget—making it an affordable vacation destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.
Keep reading to learn all about the best free things to do in Kansas City MO!
Best Things to Do in Kansas City MO, for Free
If you’re planning a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, and trying to stay within a tight budget, look no further than these free things to do in Kansas City MO:
Browse the Local Goods at City Market
River Market is a neighborhood north of Downtown Kansas City along the Missouri River that’s filled with creative eateries, like the Made in KC Trolley Café, and local shops, like River Market Antiques.
However, the real showstopper at River Market is City Market—an indoor-outdoor market selling produce, spices, plants, baked goods, jewelry, and other local finds from 6 AM – 5 PM daily. On Saturday and Sunday from 8 AM – 3 PM, even more vendors set up tents for the weekly Farmers’ Market, so if you’re in town on the weekend, don’t miss the chance to take a stroll around City Market!
Peruse the Made in KC Marketplace
Made in KC Marketplace is a local boutique chain that sells clothing, food, décor, and other items made by local companies right in Kansas City. They have several locations across the city, but the biggest (and best!) location is in Country Club Plaza.
Visiting the Made in KC Marketplace is an experience in itself, even if you don’t spend a dime. You’ll be able to see tons of creative items on display, and the store even has a coffee shop, cocktail bar, and restaurant inside where you can enjoy a drink and bite to eat between shopping.
Marvel at the Views from the World War I Museum & Memorial
Visiting the World War I Museum & Memorial is one of the best things to do in Kansas City, Missouri, but if you’re looking to save some cash, you may opt to enjoy the building from the outside instead of the inside.
Fortunately, the WWI Museum & Memorial offers some of the best views of Kansas City—for free! Once you arrive at the museum’s entrance, climb up the stairs on either side, and you’ll find yourself on a large balcony overlooking the city. You can see Union Station, Downtown Kansas City, and more from this vantage point. It’s beautiful!
Tip: If you don’t purchase general admission to the WWI Museum & Memorial, you can buy a ticket to the top of the Liberty Memorial Tower for just $5 for an even more panoramic view of the city.
Admire the Historic Architecture at Union Station
Union Station was established in 1914 and was one of the busiest train stations in Kansas City (& the Midwest!). In 1999, Union Station was converted into a center for dining, shopping, and entertainment, but the high ceilings, ornate architecture, and beautiful chandeliers stayed in place to offer a charming ambiance.
Though some activities charge an entry fee, like the Planetarium and Science City, you can visit many attractions, like the Model Train Gallery, for a small optional donation. However, Union Station is still one of the best free things to do in Kansas City MO, even if you just walk around the building’s interior—it’s simply exquisite!
Stroll in the Kauffman Memorial Garden
Kansas City has dozens of stunning parks and gardens. However, the Kauffman Memorial Garden rivals them all in beauty. This garden honors a philanthropist couple from Kansas City, and admission into the garden is completely free.
The Kauffman Memorial Garden includes a tulip garden, fountains, benches, walking paths, a small indoor greenhouse, and more. This gorgeous garden is worth a visit and provides a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you’re looking for other beautiful outdoor spaces to explore, popular parks in Kansas City include Jacob L. Loose Park, Penn Valley Park, and Mill Creek Park.
Window Shop in Country Club Plaza
Country Club Plaza is a huge outdoor shopping center in Kansas City with hundreds of retailers and restaurants—making window shopping at this enormous mall one of the best things to do in Kansas City for free. It’s also over 100 years old, making it one of the country’s first outdoor shopping plazas.
While you’re in Country Club Plaza, snap a photo by the fountain in Mill Creek Park—the most photographed of Kansas City’s 200 fountains!
Explore The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Did you know Kansas City has a world-class museum of art that you can visit completely for free? That’s right—it’s called The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and it’s widely considered one of the best things to do in Kansas City!
When you arrive at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, you’ll notice super-sized shuttlecock sculptures on the front lawn. When you step inside, you will see over 35,000 pieces of art from across the world, including America, Europe, and Asia. Many pieces of artwork date back thousands of years, but you’ll find tons of modern artwork too, which makes this museum a must-visit for art aficionados from all generations.
Visit the Beer Hall at Boulevard Brewing Company
You can’t miss the chance to visit Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Boulevard Brewing Company is a Kansas City staple but has also become one of the most popular breweries in the Midwest since its formation in 1989.
You can learn about the Boulevard Brewing Company’s history and explore the gift shop in the Recreation Center without spending a penny, but if you get hungry, head upstairs to the Beer Hall. Boulevard Brewing Company is one of the most fun places to eat and drink in Kansas City, and they have plenty of cost-effective snacks and beers to choose from if you’re traveling on a budget.
Ride the Brand-New KC Streetcar
If you’re accustomed to traveling on a budget, you already know one of the most expensive (and frustrating) things about traveling can be finding cheap or affordable transportation. Fortunately, that’s not the case in Kansas City!
In 2016, Kansas City’s opened the KC Streetcar, a free, clean, and sustainable option for traveling to popular sites in Kansas City, like Union Station and the Crossroads Arts District. It’s still expanding, but when it’s done, it will also connect to Country Club Plaza.
Visit the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
If you didn’t see enough awe-inspiring artwork at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, there’s another free art museum in Kansas City you can visit—the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum features permanent works of art from notable artists, like Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as rotating exhibits, so you’ll see something new every time you visit. This is definitely one of the free things to do in Kansas City MO that you don’t want to miss out on!
Take Photos of the City’s Murals
If you can’t already tell, Kansas City is an artsy city! So, it just makes sense there would be tons of amazing murals across the city from local artists. Mural hunting is a completely free (and fun!) way to spend an afternoon in Kansas City.
To get you started, the popular Kansas City Love Mural and #KCLoves Mural can be found in the Crossroad Arts District, and you can find a Chiefs Kingdom Mural in Downtown Kansas City to honor the championship-winning football team.
Listen to Live Jazz Music
Did you know jazz music has deep roots in Kansas City? While there are tons of places you can learn about the city’s jazz history across the city (like the Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center and the Changing Gallery at the American Jazz Museum) one of the best ways to get in touch with the city’s jazz culture is with a free concert!
The Blue Room offers live jazz on Monday and Thursday nights and The Kill Devil Club on Fridays and Saturdays. Chaz on the Plaza provides live jazz music almost daily, and The Corbin Theatre presents free live jazz on the first Monday of every month. These are just a few of the jazz venues in Kansas City, so be sure to search which venues will be playing for free during your trip!
Plan a Cost-Effective Trip to the Midwest with These Free Things to Do in Kansas City MO
As you can see, planning a budget-friendly trip to Kansas City, Missouri, is a breeze!
With so many free museums, like The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and attractions, like Union Station and Country Club Plaza, you can immerse yourself in the city’s history and culture. If outdoor exploration is more your style, Kansas City offers no shortage of beautiful parks, gardens, and markets where you can recharge in nature.
One thing is for sure—regardless of which of these popular free things to do in Kansas City MO you squeeze into your itinerary—you’re bound to have a memorable time!
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