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Live Near Kansas City? This Summer, Explore Your Own Backyard!

Live Near Kansas City? This Summer, Explore Your Own Backyard!

Think you have to spend loads of time and money this summer traveling to a new vacation spot? If you are like a vast majority of people, chances are you have yet to explore the many things there are to do in your own backyard. So, why not cut down on the cost of travel and invest in your hometown this summer? Because Kansas City has it going on – both for fun and learning! With a revitalized downtown, new attractions like the Kansas Speedway, and plenty of family-friendly fun, KC is competing with much larger cities by offering diverse, world-class entertainment offerings to its visitors.

Kansas City Performance Venues

Boasting a number of both historic and modern performance venues, Kansas City offers ample opportunity to catch a touring Broadway musical, symphony, ballet, current pop artist, or local talent.

  • The Coterie Theatre – Located at Crown Center, the Coterie Theatre is geared specifically for children, allowing them to experience live theater in a kid-friendly setting. TIME magazine named The Coterie one of the top five theatres serving families and young audiences in the U.S.
  • Folly Theatre - Kansas City's oldest theater, the Folly is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and continues to present a wide range of events, from live theater, to world class jazz series and nationally touring shows for children.
  • Kansas City Repertory Theatre – “The Rep” and its smaller sister venue, the Copaken Stage, are professional theatres in residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where theatre students work side-by-side with professional actors, designers and directors on well-known and more obscure works.
  • Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts - One of downtown Kansas City’s architectural icons, the Kauffman Center is home to the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Symphony. It also regularly features national and international performers. 
  • The Midland Theatre - Located in downtown Kansas City, the grand Midland Theatre opened in 1927 and featured diverse entertainment, such as music, movies, plays, comedy, dance, Broadway, and children's shows. Today, it continues to offer live concerts and events, as well as fully customizable corporate events, wedding receptions and private parties.
  • Music Hall - Opened in 1936, Music Hall is an Art Deco theater used for conventions, general sessions and featured entertainment. It features a spectacular 3,600-square-foot foyer and grand staircase, and its lighting fixtures were the inspiration for the Sky Stations atop Bartle Hall’s four pylons.
  • Starlight Theatre – Kansas City’s premiere outdoor theatre, Starlight hosts nationally touring Broadway mega-hits as well as concerts of all types on its 10-story, 12,000-square-foot fully enclosed stage.
  • T-Mobile Center – Located in the downtown Power & Light District, the T-Mobile Center is an iconic modern venue for live entertainment and sporting events, from concerts to the Cirque du Soleil to college basketball. The award-winning venue has welcomed more than 12 million guests since opening.

Live Jazz in Kansas City

The evolving, improvisational sound of jazz is Kansas City’s proud contribution to the music world, and it continues to evolve today. There isn’t a night of the week that you can’t find a live performance somewhere in the city. Whether intimate settings, late-night shows, jam sessions, or dinner shows, there are many venues to choose from.

  • The Blue Room - Part of the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, The Blue Room is still making history with its classic and fresh jazz sounds from local and guest artists.
  • The Green Lady and The Black Dolphin – These venues are located next to one another in the Crossroads district. They offer evening and late-night jazz sessions from both established and up-and-coming artists in an intimate space.
  • Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grill – Located in the historic building at 14th and Main that is now B&B’s Movie Theater, Johnnie’s Jazz Bar and Grill offers casual food, wine, beer and cocktails with its live jazz and trivia nights.
  • The Majestic – The Majestic serves up Kansas City steaks as well as live Kansas City jazz seven days a week in a beautifully restored saloon in the heart of downtown.
  • The Phoenix - A jazz and blues club, The Phoenix has been located on the first floor of the historic Phoenix Hotel since 1990. It offers live performances six days a week in its restaurant and lounge.
  • Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room/Chaz Restaurant and Lounge – Upscale dining accompanied by local jazz greats is a treat at either of these venues.

If Blues is more your style, check out BB’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ for some finger-licking good barbecue served with a side of layback, up-close-and-personal moody Blues.

Kansas City Museums & Exhibits

Kansas City may not immediately come to mind with regards to museums, but don’t be fooled. There is much art, history and uniqueness to be explored in our burgeoning Great Plains city.

  • American Jazz Museum - In the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, the American Jazz Museum offers collections of historic photographs, sheet music and posters, as well as interactive exhibits to help you explore the history of KC jazz.
  • Arabia Steamboat Museum – On display are thousands of artifacts from a steamboat and its cargo that sunk nearby in 1856 and was recovered in 1987-88.
  • City of Fountains –Kansas City is nicknamed the City of Fountains, and visitors will find more than 200 of them scattered throughout the metro. 48 are publicly owned, with some of the most prominent showcased at the Country Club Plaza, Union Station, Crown Center, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and many of Kansas City's urban parks. 
  • Harry S. Truman Library and Museum - The resting place of the 33rd President houses one of the most expansive executive libraries in the country, with brand new exhibits added in 2021.
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art – Near the Nelson-Atkins Museum, this pyramid-shaped building with a four-story spider statue houses a collection of modern and contemporary works. It also hosts exhibitions, installations, film and video series, lectures, concerts, workshops, and other creative programs.
  • Leila’s Hair Museum – Have you heard of hair art? Though it may sound a bit out-there, Missourian Leila Cohoon discovered hair art as a young girl in 1956. Her more than 700 pieces are on display here.
  • Money Museum – The Kansas City Federal building offers both self and guided tours of coinage from around the globe in its Money Museum.
  • National Museum of Toys and Miniatures - Housed in a mansion, the museum is the world’s largest fine-scale miniature collection. It also houses one of the nation’s largest antique toy collections.
  • National WWI Museum and Memorial – Originally named the Liberty Memorial, Kansas City boasts the country’s only official national WWI museum and memorial. An architectural wonder, its collections, films, storyboards, and maps help recount the oft-forgotten war. The Liberty Tower also offers a fantastic panoramic view of the city.
  • Negro Baseball Hall of Fame – Adjacent to the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame allows you to take a self-guided tour of African-American baseball’s rich history at the NLBM.
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – Look for the giant shuttle-cock and you’ll find the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which houses nearly 40,000 ancient and contemporary works of art and boasts an extensive Asian art collection.
  • Puppetry Arts Institute – When the world’s largest puppet factory closed in 1975, the Puppetry Arts Institute received its remaining inventory. Now, children and adults can use these parts to build their own marionettes in a 3,000-square-foot space that includes a research library, a performance area, and puppet workshop space.
  • Union Station – Down the hill from the WWI Memorial is Union Station. Built in 1914, this historical architectural masterpiece includes the Grand Hall's 95-foot ceiling, three 3,500-pound chandeliers, and a six-feet wide clock. While one area is still used as a train station, the remaining space is home to traveling national exhibits, 3D movies on the Extreme Screen, Science City (see below), a planetarium, and a permanent KC Rail Experience exhibit. There are also shops, restaurants, and a few businesses located in the Station, which is connected to Crown Center via an elevated pedestrian walkway.

Family Attractions in Kansas City

Kansas City offers numerous opportunities for learning and adventure for the whole family. Why spend hours in the car to reach other destinations when there is loads of fun to be had right here?

  • C.W. Parker Carousel Museum & Gift Shop – In nearby Leavenworth you’ll find a restored, fully operational 1913 C.W. Parker carousel, originally made in Leavenworth by the C.W. Parker Carousel Amusement Company. Also on display is the oldest primitive carousel in the United States and a 1950s aluminum Paul Parker Carousel. Carousel rides are available.
  • Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead – Children can experience more than 250 animals and birds, go fishing, feed goats, explore a mining camp, learn about growing flowers and vegetables, experience a Kanza Indian encampment or a one-room schoolhouse, and more.
  • KC Zoo – Featuring natural habitats, the updated KC Zoo features such areas as the Discovery Barn, a Zoo Learning Center, an Endangered Species Carousel, Polar Bear Passage, the African Sky Safari, Tiger Terrace, Orangutan Canopy, Tuxedo Grill and Helzberg Penguin Plaza, and the Tropics.
  • Legoland Playground at Crown Center - This indoor LEGO® Playground provides hours of family fun for children ages 3-10 in 12 LEGO®-themed play areas. The playground features a 4D cinema; master classes from the LEGO® Master Model Builder; a LEGO® laser ride; party rooms for celebrations; as well as a Miniland exhibit featuring iconic Kansas City buildings.
  • Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm - As the only working stagecoach stop left on the Santa Fe Trail, Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm engages visitors of all ages in discovering 1860s farming, life on the Kansas frontier, and stagecoach travel. 
  • Oceans of Fun/Worlds of Fun – These adjacent theme parks give families 236 acres of thrilling rides and towering slides, refreshing pools and cool spaces.
  • Science City – Located in Union Station, Science City provides students with a hands-on science experience, both indoors and outdoors, through fun and engaging exhibits and educator-led programs and activities. 
  • Wonderscope – This non-profit children’s museum is dedicated to providing STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math – educational experiences for young children and their families. It features 30,000 square feet of indoor exploration and 1/2 acre of year-round outdoor play.
  • Other local family-friendly spots - Bass Pro Shop, Great Wolf Lodge, and Scheels Sporting Goods

Kansas City Sports

Kansas City has upped its game when it comes to sports offerings, so be sure to support your favorite team or athlete during your visit.

  • KC Chiefs – If visiting during football season, root for the Super Bowl Champs during a home game at Arrowhead Stadium.
  • KC Royals – Check out America’s pastime at Kauffman Stadium while cheering on our hometown major league baseball team, the KC Royals.
  • Kansas Speedway – Since 2001, NASCAR has been a staple of the KC sports scene. The Speedway is also a banquet facility, hosting over 200 events per year, including the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, The University of Kansas Health System’s Treads and Threads, and Rockfest.
  • Sporting KC – Children’s Mercy Park is home to KC’s Major League Soccer team, Sporting KC.  With seven consecutive postseason appearances and four trophies in six years, Sporting KC is a sports experience to catch.
  • Monarchs Minor League Baseball – Playing on Legends Field are the KC Monarchs, the minor league baseball team that was founded in 1920 and has seen many greats rise through the ranks. Cheer on the next baseball stars at a game this summer.

Hot Spots in Kansas City

These are some of the most recognized and visited areas of Kansas City, with plenty of cultural, dining, shopping, and entertainment options. All except The Legends and Westport will eventually be accessible via the city’s light rail system. 

  • Country Club Plaza – The Country Club Plaza is a Spanish architecture-inspired open-air shopping and dining destination in the heart of Kansas City. Spanning 15-blocks, it boasts 120 shops and eateries, along with 75 unique statues, fountains and one-of-a-kind artwork.
  • Crossroads Arts District – The Crossroads is KC’s district of eclectic boutique shops, restaurants, businesses, studios, and art galleries. Throughout the year, the district holds special events, comedy, open mic nights, gallery showings, and more. On First Fridays of each month, local galleries feature art exhibits, while restaurants, breweries/wineries, food trucks, and shops showcase their unique wares. 
  • Crown Center – Located next to Union Station and the WWI Memorial, Crown Center combines shopping and dining with free exhibits, outdoor events and concerts, live theater at The Coterie, LEGO Playground, Hallmark, outdoor ice skating in the winter, and unique holiday traditions.
  • Power & Light District - The Kansas City Power & Light District is a vibrant eight-block dining, shopping, office, entertainment, and lifestyle neighborhood that has welcomed more than 95 million visitors over the past decade to help revitalize downtown Kansas City. KC Live is the district’s covered courtyard that hosts more than 150 free events each year, including watch parties for KC professional and college sporting events. The district also houses the T-Mobile Event Center, unique movie experiences, the hands-on College Basketball Experience, and First Wednesdays, when part of 14th Street becomes a citywide block party with live music, art displays, food, and drink. 
  • River Market - The River Market is a riverfront neighborhood in Kansas City, MO, that comprises the first and oldest incorporated district in Kansas City. Major attractions to the River Market include the expansive City Market (local produce) and the Arabia Steamboat Museum.
  • The Legends - Adjacent to the Kansas Speedway and Children’s Mercy Park, Legends outlets is an outdoor shopping and entertainment destination with more than 75 designer and brand-name stores, an array of restaurants and multiple entertainment venues.
  • Westport - Westport is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Kansas City and is known for its blend of tasty eateries, trendy boutiques and night life.

Ready to Stay in Kansas City?

With this many opportunities to explore Kansas City and experience its unique culture, it just may be time to stay put this summer and make every weekend a mini-vacation right here at home. Stay-cations also allow you to “get away” without interrupting your degree pursuits at Ottawa University, whether at our Overland Park campus or online. Not enrolled yet? Call us today and make this summer count in the classroom, too!

Posted: 06/12/2023
Updated: 06/12/2023 by OU Online
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