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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.