15 Super Fun (and FREE) Things To Do In Kansas City

Free Things to Do In Kansas City.jpg

Kansas City, Missouri is known for being one of the most affordable metros in the country. With its rich culture of jazz music, barbecue, and a sports-loving hometown spirit, KC is swimming in Midwestern charm.

Whether you live in the Kansas City area, or are visiting, rest assured that there are a number of things to do in Kansas City that won’t break the bank. In fact, there’s lots of great things to do that are completely free!

Here is a list of 15 fun and FREE things things to do in Kansas City:

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The most renowned art museum in Kansas City, MO also happens to have free admission for all ages each and every day!

At the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art you will find artistic works from all over the world including European, Japanese, Egyptian, African, Native American, and Chinese cultures, among others. ¬†The gallery’s collection includes paintings by artists like Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe. Step outside and you’ll discover that even the lawn is a sight is to behold!

At the Donald H. Hall Sculpture Park, you’ll find the famous Shuttlecocks that have become an icon of Kansas City. The museum’s Bloch Building, which houses their modern art, was named by Time Magazine as one of the best architectural marvels in the world.

The Rose Garden at Loose Park

It’s a bit of a magical experience to come to The Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden in the beautiful Loose Park. Stepping into this area is a bit like stepping onto the grounds of the Queen of Heart’s castle from Alice in Wonderland. But don’t worry- I assure you, no one is going to chop off your head!

During the spring, you’ll find dozens of archways with rosebushes of all varieties surrounding a beautiful fountain that makes for a nice place to sit and collect your thoughts. Just be careful when you walk through the garden in June as you might find yourself accidentally crashing an outdoor wedding!

If roses aren’t your thing, then trek across the park to find a historic marker for The Battle of Westport from the Civil War. A must for history buffs!

First Fridays

Every first Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District comes alive with a vast array of art exhibits, live musicians, food trucks, and other forms of live entertainment. The festivities start around 5PM and the monthly event draws thousands of people from all across the Kansas City metro.

During the warmer months most of event occurs outdoors, so dress accordingly and expect to do some walking. It’s a great way to socialize, enjoy looking at some artwork, and maybe have a beer or two- although that last part (usually) isn’t free ūüôā

Tour the Boulevard Brewery

Kansas Citians are quite proud of a number of things in their home town- they love their sports teams, they love their streetcar (more on that later), and they love their home-brewed beer!

The Boulevard Wheat might as well be the official drink of Kansas City, as it is the standard local beer in most KC-area bars. To see the magic behind the brewery, they offer free 60-minute tours every day from 10AM-4PM. You even get to sample free beer!

Tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis from their Welcome Desk and can be reserved at 10AM each day. Just make sure to snatch them up fast, because the tours fill up quickly.

Tour The Roasterie 

If beer isn’t quite your thing, you can always tour the KC-based coffee company The Roasterie to witness the process of the caffeinated magic being made. All ages are welcome to attend.

Tour participants are encouraged to register for a tour on their website before attending but walk-ins are welcome based on availability. One of the best parts is that you get to sample their coffees while touring!

In addition to The Roasterie tours, they offer coffee tastings twice a month at Corrigan Station Cafe.

Hallmark Visitors Center

Certain companies can become central to the cultural and economic climate of a city. Much in the way that Coca-Cola is a touchstone of Atlanta, GA, Hallmark Cards plays a pivotal role in the identity of Kansas City.

To learn about the history of Hallmark Cards, the Hallmark Visitors Center (located at their headquarters) offers free admission to guests. You’ll get a chance to see exhibits about their artists, make a souvenir bow with a bow-making machine, and even hear presentations from artists and writers of the beloved greeting cards.

Crown Center

Not only is Hallmark Cards headquartered in Kansas City, they even operate their own shopping center adjacent to their HQ. Crown Center has a number of stores inside that are fun to check out, including a Crayola store and cafe and the upscale Halls department store.

At Christmas time, Crown Center comes alive with holiday cheer with the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, a lighting display, and of course, visits from Santa Claus.

Union Hill Cemetery

It may seem a bit macabre for some, but this historic cemetery has beautifully crafted tombstones and architecture dating back hundreds of years that are fascinating to see. During the day, you’ll find many different people walking through the cemetery, taking in the sights of our city’s history.

For those interested in the history of Kansas City, you can find the gravestones of many of the leading men and women who shaped the city into what it is today.

Cave Spring Park

This quirky and underrated park is a real gem of Kansas City. Also known as the William M. Klein Park, this was the childhood stomping ground for President Harry S. Truman, whose grandfather once owned the Cave Spring area.

At Cave Spring you’ll find a series of twisting trails throughout the woods complete with signs with labels like “Tim’s Trail” and “Corky’s Nature Walk.” There’s picnic shelters, a lake, a cave and an interesting relic of abandoned chimneys scattered throughout the forest.

After a resort was closed on the Cave Spring grounds in the 1940’s, looters came and burned down the buildings, leaving nothing but the chimneys. Today the chimneys make an interesting, if not somewhat eerie photo-op.

Ride the Streetcar

To people from outside of Kansas City, the idea of listing public transit as a “fun thing to do” might seem somewhat insane, but hear us out!

Kansas City’s Streetcar runs along a short, but notable, route that connects many of the city’s biggest attractions including The City Market, Union Station, The Power and Light District, and Crown Center with hopes for an expansion soon underway.

Anyone can ride the streetcar for free, and millions have since it first launched in 2016, surpassing the city’s expectations for ridership. The Streetcar offers a reliable, modern, and free way of getting around downtown Kansas City.

Money Museum

Short on cash? Well the Money Museum in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Building has you covered because their admission is free! You can see exhibits of rare coins, learn about detecting counterfeit money, and see what a wall of $40 million of bills looks like!

There’s fun activities for kids such as stations to design your own money.

Throughout the year, you’ll find special events like free guided tours and “Fed First Fridays” where they offer tours of their collections of artwork from local Kansas City artists.

Union Station

This historic train station houses many different traveling exhibits and has multiple free events for the public throughout the year.

Every Memorial Day weekend, Union Station houses the Celebration at the Station, a free outdoor event featuring music from the Kansas City Symphony as well as a fireworks display.

Recently, Union Station was the home for the Kansas City leg of American Ninja Warrior, an event that allowed free admission for those wanting to watch the filming.

The City Market

Every Saturday and Sunday, the City Market provides a farmer’s market that is much more than your run-of-the-mill parking lot veggie sale. They have one of the largest outdoors farmer’s markets in the country that’s been in operation since 1857.

At the City Market you’ll find live music, local vendors, and a vibrant restaurant scene in the bustling River Market district.

During the weekdays and evenings, you can still check out the various indoor shops and restaurants in the River Market area, or head north to take a walk at the Berkley Riverfront Park to get a beautiful view of the Missouri River.

Check out the Fountains on the Plaza

Kansas City, MO is known by the locals as the “City of Fountains” for its collection of various outdoor fountains scattered throughout the city. The largest collection of fountains can be found at the historic Country Club Plaza.

Built by J.C. Nichols, the Country Club Plaza was the country’s first outdoor shopping mall and remains an active upscale shopping center in Midtown Kansas City. The aptly named J.C. Nichols Fountain is a symbol of Kansas City and was recently renovated.

Catch Some Free Live Jazz Music

Several venues in the Kansas City area offer free jazz performances. Jazz is one of Kansas City’s signature cultural influences and hearing jazz music performed live is a must for anyone looking to get the full Kansas City experience.

The legendary 18th and Vine District is home to The Blue Room, which offers jazz performances on Monday and Thursday nights without any cover charge.

Elsewhere in Kansas City, The Green Lady Lounge offers free jazz performances in their basement seven days a week, and Jazz: a Louisiana Kitchen has free performances on the weekends. Even if the performances are free, please make sure to support local businesses by ordering food and drinks.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow this blog for more updates on frugal living, as well as stay updated on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!

Free Things to Do in Kansas City.jpg

10 Free Things to do in While Traveling in Chicago

chicago free.jpg

Chicago is an awesome city with a distinct culture, tasty hometown food, and friendly people who manage to bring a Midwestern hospitality to a busy metropolis. From their famous comedy clubs like Second City, to the legendary sports teams like the Chicago Cubs, all the way to the big city glam of the shops on Michigan Avenue you’ll find something that anyone can enjoy in the Windy City.

Like any travel destination, though, it can be easy to get sucked in to expensive and sometimes unnecessary purchases and attractions. To help you travel in a thrifty way, I’ve assembled this list of things to do for FREE while traveling in Chicago.

millenniumparkmp_1400x800_jamessteinkamp_03jpg.jpg

Millennium Park

Yup, this would be the park the infamous “bean” (technically called Cloud Gate) that has become an icon of Chicago in just a little over a decade. That’s not the only free thing to do here, though. Throughout the year, particularly in the warmer months, there are events and music festivals housed under the¬†Jay Pritzker Pavilon from the country’s only free outdoor classical music series of its size¬†¬†to the Chicago Blues Festival,¬†Chicago Gospel Music Festival,¬†Jazz Festival,¬†World Music Festival, and the Chicago Air and Water Show¬†that are all completely FREE! If it’s the winter time, don’t fret! They also offer a free ice skating rink.

ccc1.jpg

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center, which just so happens to be in walking distance of Millennium Park, can be something of a best kept secret for travelers to Chicago. It’s a large, historic municipal building that is not only beautiful to look at but filled with a number of arts and cultural events that are completely FREE. If you like art exhibits, there are a number of exhibits from many renowned artists at the Center, in addition to free film screenings, kid’s events, and music performances. You can ¬†also catch a free daily tour of the building (great if you are an architecture buff) and check out the world’s largest Tiffany-stained glass dome that is quite the sight to see!

1454098394-gateway_arch.jpg

Lincoln Park Zoo

A trip to the zoo can be a great outing for families (or a group of scrappy 20-somethings!), but what can make it even better is if its free. The Lincoln Park Zoo happens to be free 365 days a year for each and every visitor. There are exhibits that are open in both the warmer months and colder seasons. During the holiday season, make sure to check out ZooLights- a fun Christmas light display.

navy pier (4)-S.jpg

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a famous shopping and entertainment district with beautiful views of Lake Michigan. Now this one comes with a bit of a disclaimer- technically it is free to walk around it but this heavily visited attraction has all of the typical markings of a tourist trap. The parking is expensive, the food and souvenirs are pricey, and if you aren’t careful you can end up spending quite a bit of money on things like boats tours and riding the ferris wheel (which costs $12 a person). I’d recommend taking public transit to Navy Pier rather than parking directly near it and maybe even packing a sack lunch to save money on food. If you walk far enough down the pier you can also normally find some cheaper priced boat tours. Plus twice a week during the summers they do a free fireworks show.

WEB-People-Walking-Tour.jpg

Get a Free Guided Tour

There are a number of tours in Chicago that charge money but there are still PLENTY of options if you want a free tour run by volunteers. Tours by Foot offers walking tours of Chicago for a range of themes from a movie and television filming location tour (if you want to see places where famous movies were shot) to a ghost tour of allegedly haunted places in Chicago if you want to get your ghostbusting on. In addition you can get an individual tour from Chicago Guide, but make sure to reserve a spot at least 10 business day in advance.

114576197.jpg

Free Museums

There a number of free museums in Chicago ranging from the Smart Museum of Art¬†at the University of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography¬†at Columbia College Chicago, and the Hyde Park Art Center. There’s also the Money Museum, which happens to also be free (go figure!). Plus you can take a free tour of a brewery.

o-CHICAGO-BEACH-facebook.jpg

Check out the Beach!

A great thing about a lakeside city is that there are a number of beaches to visit¬†for free. If it’s the summer, go ahead and pack a swim suit so you can soak up the sun! And if it’s the winter, seeing a snowy beach with a frozen lake makes for a very surreal Instagram-worthy photo-op.

pic improv.jpg

Watch a Free Improv Show

There are a number of improv theaters to see in Chicago, but most cost money (side note- at Second City you can tickets that have a view “partially obstructed” by a pole at a discount FYI). There is one improv troupe that offers shows completely free of charge, though. The aptly named “Free for All” show is every Sunday at 7:30PM at The Playground Theater.

dsc_1065.jpg

 

Watch Some Free Theater Shows

The Free Street Theater was one of the first racially integrated theater companies in Chicago when it was founded in the 1960’s and aims to create theatrical productions that highlight a diverse range of experiences. True to their name, they offer free shows!

Chicago-Botanical-Garden-Malott-Japanese-Garden.jpg

Take a Stroll Through the Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden offers free admission and is open year-round (yes, including winter). Whether you are looking for a pleasant stroll or a tram tour, this can be a great place to check out if you’re looking to unwind and enjoy the scenery in this 385-acre destination. There’s also the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park or ¬†for something indoors, there’s the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please feel free to follow my blog for more updates on frugal living. Plus be sure to connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!

Traveling Across the U.S. on a Budget: Tips for the Young and Adventurous

traveling-across-the-us

For my YouTube video on this subject, click here!

You might see traveling as an expensive luxury reserved for those with the pocket change to handle first-class plane rides and five star hotels. The reality is, though, that if ¬†you set your mind to it, you can travel on almost any budget. When you’re young, it’s great to get out and explore new areas that you’ve never been before. Whether you are in college and taking a summer trip with friends, or a single, millennial 20-something like me, traveling can be a highly rewarding experience.

huge-9-48609

Here are my tips for traveling across the continental United States on a budget!

Consider Your Ground Transportation Options

Planes aren’t the only way to get around, it turns out. You can take an Amtrak train, a Greyhound bus, or, in certain areas, a discount double-decker bus line called Megabus. Megabus is a service that is popular in Europe and has now come to the United States. They are known for EXTREME discounts (they claim as little as $1) if you book ahead of time. Most transportation options offer a rate that varies depending on how early you book, but Megabus takes this to the max.

I was able to take a trip with a couple friends from Kansas City, MO to Chicago for about $10 round-trip because we booked several months in advance. While if you book the day of, the price skyrockets to what is often more than $100 one-way, if you plan ahead this could be a good way to save money. Do be forewarned, though- double-decker buses have a tendency to tip over when sliding and there have been a number of highly publicized accidents on Megabus rides. You get what you pay for, so pursue it with a cautiously adventurous spirit.

22megabus-photo2-master768

Whichever option you take -plane, bus, or train, you can always save money by booking as early as possible. Or drive it yourself and make a road trip out of it!

Visit the Megabus website

Visit the Greyhound website

Visit the Amtrak website

Try Different Lodging Facilities Besides Hotels

When most Americans hear the word “hostel,” we probably have images conjured in our minds of the horror movie. Rest assured, though, that true hostels have NOTHING to do with this movie. I have had only amazing experiences in hostels and you could, too! Hostels, like the Megabus, are another European import that is picking up steam in the U.S. With a hostel, you have dormitory style lodging- think summer camp as a kid with a room full of bunk beds.

Hostels differ from hotels in that they function as more of a community space. There are often free events for travelers such as walking tours and community meals. It attracts a young, diverse crowd of travel-enthusiasts from all over the world. It can be really fascinating to meet the different array of people and, because you are sharing a room with others and pulling together resources, the fees for hostels are very affordable (think $30-$70 per night, depending on the city and size of room).

Isaacs-55751.jpg

In addition to hostels, consider Airbnb. This functions as a service where people can rent out their homes or apartments to travelers and is often much cheaper than a hotel. This requires a level of caution, though, so make sure you have received a good word about the host you are staying with. Plus, don’t ever feel afraid to ask family and friends if you can crash on their couches for a few days while you’re traveling- nothing beats FREE lodging.

Visit hostels.com for hostel listings

Visit the website for Hosteling International USA

(side note- Hosteling International offers a yearly membership that gives you discounted lodging and other benefits such as discounted car rentals, even tickets, etc. with any of their partnering hostels worldwide)

Visit the website for Airbnb

Eat In, Rather Than Eating Out for Most Meals

Now of course one of the best things about traveling to a new city is trying the food and I’m not saying you should deprive yourself of this experience. Rather, when it’s time for the “filler” meals, or those where you’re just eating because it’s lunch time and you need to grab some quick food, go back to where you’re staying and eat there.

Try to pack as much non-perishable food to take with you such as granola bars and soups, then when you arrive to the place you’re traveling to go grocery shopping and take the food back to your room with you.

maxresdefault.jpg

Even if the room you are staying in doesn’t have a kitchen, most hostels and hotels have a communal kitchen area SOMEWHERE, so look around or ask the management!

Food can be the one thing that if you really add up can get super out of hand against your budget, especially if you choose to eat out for every meal. Even if you tell yourself that you’ll just get cheap fast food, the prices at restaurants may be higher than you’re used to in the place you’re traveling to, so be wary.

Find Free Things to Do

Sure, there may be different landmarks and tourist traps in your travel destination that likely charge an arm and a leg to get in (not to mention outlandish prices for parking, food, and souvenirs). The real way to truly soak up the culture of a city, though, is to see where the locals are- walk around, window shop, see the different neighborhoods and soak up the ambience. This is totally free (if you resist the urge to buy things, that is!).

2016-01-22-1453422849-2843535-Traveling-thumb (1).jpg

You can also look up free things to do on Google. EVERY city has free things to do somewhere. You may be surprised at the depth of experiences you can have by just doing free activities.

163 Free Things to do in the U.S.

50 Free Things to do in North America

Your Adventure Awaits

Remember, you only live once! Get out and explore while you can and have fun. Don’t think that you have to be held down by a budget. With the proper planning, you can travel on ANY budget without draining your life savings.

If you liked this blog entry, make sure to check out my YouTube channel for more thrifty living tips, plus follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter for updates!

travel-across-united-states