If you're stopping by Kansas City for a show or conference downtown, we figured you might need some pointers while you’re here — where to go, what to eat and what to see.
There are plenty of options at the Kansas City Power & Light District, of course, but in case you want to venture farther, use this list.
Here are 11 things not to miss (or you should know) while you’re in Kansas City.
1. Burnt ends — barbecue gold — are a quintessential Kansas City experience, cut from the pointed end of a brisket and then barbecued to their charry best. (Or cut after cooking. Chef’s choice.) Some places serving burnt ends within 7 miles of Sprint Center: County Road Ice House in the Power & Light District; Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque on Brooklyn Avenue; Char Bar; Q39; Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue; Gates Bar-B-Q on Main Street; Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Plowboys Barbeque.
2. College Basketball Experience: Wear your tennis shoes and some comfortable clothes, because at the College Basketball Experience (next door to Sprint Center) you’ll work up a sweat. This interactive basketball “experience” is technically a museum, but you wouldn’t think that while running, jumping and taking shots at the experience’s many drills and courts. Whether you’re a big kid or a little kid, this place will have you up and moving.
3. Boulevard Brewing Co.: Founded by John McDonald in 1989, Boulevard (now owned by Duvel Moortgat USA) is the largest craft brewer in the Midwest and a beloved KC brew. Biggest seller: Unfiltered Wheat. You can take a free public tour of the brewery, located less than 2 miles from Sprint Center; the facility also recently opened a visitor center and beer hall. There are also several small craft breweries around downtown: try Double Shift Brewery, Border Brewing Co., Brewery Emperial and Torn Label Brewing Co.
4. Craft cocktails: If you’re more into old-fashioneds or mules, KC has plenty of those options nearby, too: Lifted Spirits, SoT, P.S. Speakeasy at Hotel Phillips, Manifesto at The Rieger, Tom’s Town Distilling Co. If you want to read more about our craft cocktail scene, check out this link.
5. KC Streetcar: If you’ve got a minute, take a free ride on Kansas City’s streetcar, which has been a hit since it opened in May 2016. The streetcar runs for 2.2 miles on Main Street between Union Station and the River Market, which features a farmers market and several ethnic restaurants (Ethiopian, anyone?). Here’s a list of where to eat and drink and what to do along the line.
6. The National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial Tower: Visitors can turn this destination into a long or short trip. If you have time, the WWI museum offers interactive exhibits, re-created trenches visitors can explore, original clothes, tools and weaponry and so much more. If you don’t have a couple of hours, though, you can still visit the memorial for an amazing view of downtown Kansas City. And for a more elevated photo-op, you can pay to go up to the top of the Liberty Memorial tower, too.
7. Museums: The star of KC’s museum scene is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which, in addition to being free (parking in the underground garage does cost), just opened a new gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist art donated by Henry Bloch, founder of H&R Block. Outdoors, the Nelson also houses the famous “Shuttlecocks” and a glass labyrinth. Nearby, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (free, as well) recently opened an exhibit by contemporary artist Rashid Johnson.
Our other cultural touchstones can be found at the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, both in the same building in the 18th and Vine district. The interactive exhibits at the jazz museum will give you a taste of being a producer, while the baseball museum will make you want to take home a KC Monarchs shirt.
8. Country Club Plaza: We won’t care whether you say “Plaaaza” or “Plahza,” but there’s no denying the Plaza’s charm. The brainchild of developer J.C. Nichols is a Kansas City original (though it’s modeled after Seville, Spain) and is considered the country’s first suburban shopping center. If you need a nice stroll or something last-minute from H&M, hit the Plaza.
9. Loose Park: If you need a place to log some miles, running or walking, look no further. Loose Park has two paved trails, a duck pond, a rose garden, a playground and more. Just south of the Country Club Plaza, about 5.5 miles from downtown, this 74-acre park is serene and picturesque.
10. Swope Park: At 1,805 acres, this park is more than twice the size of New York City’s 843-acre Central Park and is one of the nation’s largest urban parks. Inside Swope you’ll find the Kansas City Zoo (penguins, sea lions, orangutans!), Lakeside Nature Center and amenities like golf and disc golf courses and various trails. It’s about 6.5 miles from Sprint Center, and if you decide on the zoo, set aside at least 2 to 3 hours.
11. What does MCI mean? Did you make your flight reservation wondering why it says MCI and not KCI (everyone does)? MCI = Mid-Continent International, the airport’s name in the planning stages. When it opened in 1972, it was Kansas City International Airport. But “KCI” doesn’t fly as a three-letter airport code because K’s (along with W’s) are reserved as prefixes for broadcast station call letters.
Tim Engle contributed to this story.