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Best Things to Do in Kansas City, KS

Here are the best things to do in Kansas City, Kansas, I've found after my many visits to this thriving Midwestern destination.

Kansas City, Kansas (or KCK as the locals call it), is a culturally diverse city with a melting pot of different life walks. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I’m drawn to it and the state of Kansas itself. See how you can discover authentic travel in Kansas City, Kansas, and the best things to do while you are there.

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Noteworthy KCK Museums

The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Game is a unique museum honoring American farmers to the tune of 30,000 relics and artifacts. While the inventory was mainly foreign to this Southern gal, I loved stepping back in time at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, seeing the farming equipment (some I recognized the names of) and participating in family-friendly activities. The one-room schoolhouse is so darling, and there are costumed interpreters on-site to share the history. 

Don’t miss the blacksmith shop, gardens, and train depot where you can ride a mini-Union Pacific train. Yes, I squeezed myself into a seat for the fun of it. 

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Touring the Grinter Place Museum with Bill, a fabulous storyteller and historical interpreter, was a real treat. Grinter Place is a home built by Moses and Annie Grinter, a white man and Lenape Native American woman who was instrumental in bridging the gap between them.

The Grinter home was sold in the 1950s and later donated to the Kansas Historical Society for restoration as a museum. While the house is lovely and gives a significant step back into those days, Bill’s recounted version is not-to-miss.

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The Wyandotte County Museum is a cool place to stop. From a vintage 1903 steam fire engine to a dugout canoe and whimsical firefighter statues to a Civil War cannon, this museum shares 75,000 artifacts and stories from the area. One of the most noteworthy is a piece of the Arizona ship hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Kansas City, Kansas, is on I-70? Here’s a post that will give you ideas of what to do all across the state of Kansas, right off the highway, including the neighboring towns of Bonner Springs and Shawnee.

Seeing The Wizard of Oz Live

Led by Pete Webber (of the Azura Amphitheater and 11 others), KCK welcomed the first live performance of The Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure about this, but I figure every person who grows up in the United States learned about Kansas since they were old enough to watch TV and see the classic and timeless movie.

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How is it that the story that put Kansas on the map in the pop culture world had to wait until 2018 to welcome it to an outdoor theater performance? I was lucky enough to have a nearly front-row seat. It was an honor to see The Wizard of Oz, my daughter Peyton’s favorite movie since age 1, with such a talented cast. 

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Aside from the weekend show was a host of other Wizard of Oz-related activities throughout the city. We stopped into the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame to see the world’s most valued, prized, and elaborate collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia that was on display for a limited time.

The owner of the collection and President of the Wizard of Oz fan club, Jane Albright, gave us a first-hand account of her priceless goodies and the impact the movie has had on her own life. The Flying Monkey costume was pretty cool, but my favorite was Dorothy’s dress and the unique hand puppet. Authentic travel in Kansas City doesn’t get much better than this!

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Discover the Food Scene in Kansas City, Kansas

It is fitting to have a famous Kansas City BBQ when you visit the area, so we several. At Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, my friends and I tried brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausages, turkey, onion rings, potato salad, and baked beans. I liked the smoked turkey best, but my friends raved about the ribs having a great balanced flavor. 

Another fantastic choice is Slaps BBQ for the best brisket, burnt ends, hushpuppies, and warm baked potato casserole you’ve ever tasted! Do not miss the Cheesy Corn, a game-changer for side items! 

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is a game-changer—highly popular and with some original dishes. My favorite is the famous Z-Man sandwich with slow-roasted brisket and provolone on a Kaiser roll. The potato salad and bbq beans are both yummy. Here’s a tip: arrive early as the wait is long daily. 

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Delicious Italian food in KCK? Who knew. Italian Delight was a delight with the vast array of yummy pasta dishes and pizza. Renee, the owner and manager, came by to say hello (and knew everyone in the restaurant) with a plate of cannoli. Does life get any better than this? 

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I can vouch for the delicious calzones packed with tasty ingredients. The tomato and cucumber salad is a must! Don’t worry about the long lines; the food comes out quickly and is worth the wait. I didn’t order it, but the Chicken Parmesan looked terrific!

 If you don’t like bbq or Italian food, how about some upscale pizza creations from 1889 Pizza Napoletana, consistently listed as the best pizza in KCK? I attended a dough and pizza-making class, which was great fun, and, even better, eating the finished product. I’m not going to lie…I liked the Chopped Salad with a white balsamic vinaigrette and gorgonzola more than the pizza. 

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Hallelujah for the Taco Trail

Did you know that KCK has a Taco Trail? I’ve been visiting this extraordinary city long before they offered it. I always enjoyed having authentic street tacos with homemade corn tortillas from El Camino Real during that time. After reading about the taco trail, where you eat tacos, check-in, and get rewards, Taqueria Mexico #4 has become my favorite. The Pollo A La Mexico (marinated chicken breast with queso and poblano pepper) is one of the best Mexican dishes I’ve ever had. 

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Drop by Splitlog Coffee Co. in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood for a great cup of coffee or tea and some killer pastries. If you regularly buy fresh bagged coffee, I recommend trying the Brazil Marchador Natural, with creamy chocolate and peanut butter nods.

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Lewis and Clark Sites

Not only do you get an authentic travel experience at Historic Park, found at Kaw Point, but also exceptional views and photo ops, as well. As shared by our guide, Mike Calwell, explorers Lewis and Clark arrived on the shores in 1804 on their way to the Rocky Mountains. They spent several days there repairing boats and gathering supplies. Mike is part of a team of local men who re-enact the arrival from time to time.

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The Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point features 10 acres of trails and a boat ramp, where the Kansas and Missouri Rivers join. The park was called Kaw Point Park until being designated a National Historic Trail. Historic plaques detail the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You can view the 19 flags representing regional native tribes at the educational pavilion.

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Native American Sites

We spoke with Anna Brown and her mom, Louisa Libby, from Big Turtle, who shared a moving story about her family’s arrival in Kansas City, Kansas. Long story short, in 1843, the Wyandot nation was forced to migrate from their homes in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Families caught a steamboat to KCK. Six hundred sixty-four people arrived on the banks of the river with no land and little supplies. One hundred of them perished the first winter. They resided in longhouses, with 30-40 families in each house.

One of the first purchases the Wyandottes made after securing an income was to buy the Wyandot National Burying Ground to honor their dead. There are 1,000 people buried there, with 200-400 being Civil War soldiers in mass graves. It is a National Landmark, and we visited it to pay our respects to those buried here. 

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It was a moving experience to think about the struggles they faced and the strength they mustered as they continued pressing on against all odds. Anna informed us that the correct spelling of her clan is Wyandot, not Wyandotte.

Thanks to the Kansas City, Kansas CVB for hosting many of my visit. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased. 

KCK Underground Railroad Sites

Did you know Kansas, a free state, was instrumental in the Underground Railroad? Running along the Mississippi, Quindaro was the first free port for freedom seekers. A fascinating story we learned is this.

The Monroes, an African-American family, met with the Wyandot clan back when the river froze over, and they’ve been like extended family ever since. Anthony Hope, a relative of the Monroe family, met with us to share his story. We met at the Quindaro overlook. From this point, you can see four counties. It is beautiful and peaceful. He shared the meaning of Quindaro: “a bundle of sticks is stronger together.”

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While the river was frozen over, freedom seekers (enslaved people) made their way across the ice. The Monroes helped hide them in Wyandot hotels, tunnels, and cisterns. There was an 18″ area in which food and supplies would be dropped to keep them alive.

Today, the area of Quindaro Township Ruins awaits Senate approval to become a historical landmark. Be sure to visit the educational Old Quindaro Museum with artifacts once belonging to the freedom seekers and the Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum in the Vernon Multipurpose Center.

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Shopping and Gambling Fun

The Legends Outlets Kansas City showcases 100+ stores along the Yellow Brick Road, making outstanding social media shares and photos. There are entertainment venues and restaurants, while some mall highlights are Books A Million, Sephora, Chico’s Outlet, and Dave & Buster’s. Check out the fabulous public art and sculptures located throughout the complex.

Pro Tip: Check out seasonal Friday night live music concerts on the lawns.

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Next is the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, one of my favorite casinos. This pristine gambling complex offers 3,000+ slot machines, 52 table games, and a poker room. There are five restaurants in the casino, with some offering outdoor seating that gives a great view of the Kansas Speedway racetrack. The speedway hosts two NASCAR race weekends each year.

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Where to Stay in KCK

The Homewood Suites by Hilton Kansas City Speedway is a superb hotel. Every room is a suite, so there is plenty of room to move about and in a great, convenient location. The complimentary breakfast is spectacular! The hotel also has an indoor pool and apartment-style rooms with full kitchens.

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KCK: More Than Meets the Eye

Kansas City, Kansas, is a delightful city to visit that offers a diverse selection of outings and attractions, with some great shopping and dining thrown in the mix. I hope this post will make you want to learn more about authentic travel and things to do in Kansas City, Kansas, no matter where you go.

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Read more about KCK in these posts by us and our friends who were on the trip with us:

Celebrating American Agriculture at the National Agriculture Hall of Fame by Sara Broers

9 Unique Family Experiences in KCK by Nicky Omohundro

I Found the Best Pizza in KCK! by Nicky Omohundro

History and Agriculture in KCK by Katy Flint

KCK History & Wizard of Oz Legacy by Cindy Ladage

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Check out more of our Kansas posts:

Where to Eat on Kansas Highway 36

5 Things to Learn About Salina

What is the Big Kansas Road Trip?

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