clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Going to Kansas City: “Did you say ‘Free’?”

Free and Fits your Fancy in Kansas City

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO.
Robert Rusert

Yes, traveling takes money.

from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:

Neal: [waitress hands them the bill, Neal nabs it] I’ll get that. I’ve paid for everything else, why break precedent?

Del: You’re making me feel like a freeloader!

Neal:: Get me on the train, we’re square.

Del: You got it. That’s the easy part.

And yes, you can take the train to Kansas City (and it’s cheap).

This week on Going to Kansas City – “Did you say Free?”

Welcome (or welcome back) to our Going to Kansas City series. Before we focus on the many free yet entertaining events and places in one of America’s top cities, a review of the series preview and the first two installments in our series:

Coming Soon – Going to Kansas City: The Series – the series preview

Going to Kansas City: A Soccer & More Weekend – important info. & exciting options for attending a Sporting Kansas City match and other unique and soccer-related things to do.

Going to Kansas City: An Adventurer’s Weekend – the more exotic and active things to do in Kansas City.

Remember, the center-piece of the weekend is attending a Sporting Kansas City match at Children’s Mercy Park, so keep that in mind and refer to the links above for more information. And make your experiences and reviews immortal via #Go2KC and #KCTopShelf.

A free, yet rousing performance of “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey” in Kansas City’s Arrowhead stadium by Sir Paul. I was there!

We always start with places to stay. And, yeah, you can go free … or very cheap: Find a giving friend or family member or go camping – Watkins Mill State Park near Excelsior Springs or Landahl Park in Blue Springs are two good places to camp. But there are many more to choose from…

Format-wise, we will eschew our regular layout and simply list some free activities in the Kansas City area and highlight a few with details. The List of free and recommended places and activities in and around Kansas City:

Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center - Named in honor of Bruce R. Watkins, a political and social activist, the center recognizes the varied contributions African-Americans made to the development of Kansas City. It is part of the Cultural Mall complex, which includes the Spirit of Freedom Foundation, the Satchel Paige Stadium, an amphitheater and a hillside garden, which greets visitors with thousands of multi-colored irises.

Crown Center – Check out the Weekender: Free music and movie night beginning in July.

First Fridays plus West Bottoms (TS) – Every First Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District and its galleries spill their vital, beating hearts out into the streets, where food trucks and street performers, vendors, and musicians join in the colorful, sometimes astounding, always exciting party. In the galleries or outside, wonder awaits every turn. Just go. Simultaneously (and beyond), the nearby West Bottoms opens all of its unique and “Ooohhh”-filled vintage shops for a First Weekend (Fri.-Sun. 9am-4pm; some stores open every weekend). Treasures and just fun-looking – as well as great food, breweries, and unique attractions – for all abound in the 19th and early-20th Century Warehouses.

Green spaces - There are plenty in and around Kansas City (one of its top allures), but two of the best within the city are the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Loose Park. The lawn (TS) is an expansive, happening space any weekend with frisbee-throwing and pick-up soccer games and more going on. Nearby is the paved and beautified Brush Creek Waterway that begins at the Nelson-Atkins Sculpture Park and continues to the renowned Country Club Plaza. Loose Park (TS) is not only a spacious park within the city, but it was the site of a Civil War battleground in the Battle of Westport. A popular wedding and picture site because of the amazing Rose Garden – 4,000 roses of 168 varieties – and other spaces, Loose Park also boasts a pond, a great playground, tennis courts, a 1.3 mile walking/jogging path, and open and intimate spaces within thickets and trees on the rolling landscape.

Kaleidoscope – a free art studio especially for kids within the Hallmark Visitors Center (a free draw itself).

Kansas City River Market (TS) – the city’s largest farmer’s market on weekend mornings filled with plenty to compel the senses.

KC Rail Experience – Within Union Station lies an 8,000 square feet toy train diorama and a hands-on journey through the fascinating history of the American railroad.

KC Streetcar – Take a free 2.2-mile KC Streetcar ride to discover some of Downtown KC’s most vibrant districts. Sixteen stops are made as you travel through the Power & Light District (by The Sprint Center) and the Crossroads Arts District. The journey is bookmarked by the River Market and Union Station, which has numerous attractions (Union Station, Liberty Memorial, The Scout, Hallmark Visitors Center, Crown Center, Jack Stack BBQ, etc.) nearby. Each section is as interesting and diverse as the last, and all include plenty of good people-watching.

Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs, KS – this marvel is just West of Children’s Mercy Park off I-70, so keep that in mind as you plan the weekend. Where to start … It don’t look like much on the outside, but wonder and nostalgia and fun and clever and unique are on the inside. Vintage toys and trinkets from yesteryear will recall innocent, yet passionate memories. Clever and creative toys like all sorts of dice and novelty items will spur your child or student’s imagination. The display of and free demonstrations of how to make marbles and their history will draw “Oh, cools” and “Wows” of surprise. Put it on the list.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (TS) & Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art – They are in close proximity and hold much that will transport one to places and ideas that stimulate the remote lands of the brain.

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art – is the largest contemporary art museum in the four-state area. Located on the Johnson County Community College campus, the pieces are cutting-edge and are housed in a beautiful building filled with natural light. One of those gems often overlooked.

Photo ops – The fountains, The Country Club Plaza, the city murals and graffiti art, Liberty Memorial, and The Scout, not to mention the world-class Children’s Mercy Park, the Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums, and The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, offer plenty of great photo ops to immortalize your visit in Kansas City.

Shopping – Who doesn’t love to shop? And, yeah, it’s free to just look. The astounding Country Club Plaza(TS) is the go-to place for unique high-end shops in mid-town that offer plenty of interesting outdoor window shopping, as well as fountains and boars and the Spanish architecture that mimics Seville, Spain. Crown Center is the most popular downtown shopping locale, boasting a variety of high-end shops, as well as the Hallmark Visitors Center, an indoor waterfall in the hotel, beautiful outdoor spaces, and a sleek covered walkway that leads to Union Station. Finally, there is The Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas, within which Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park lies. The Legends is named for 80 legendary Kansans that are featured throughout the outlet shopping landscape (75 stores) and also features the Kansas City T-Bones’ baseball stadium and the Kansas City Speedway.

The City of Fountains – Yes, Kansas City abounds in flowing water coursing through beautiful sculptures that are dedicated to legends, ideas, and the human spirit. The fountains number more than 200, making them the 4th largest number of fountains in a city in the world. Take a tour…

The Money Museum at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – an interactive journey about the Federal Reserve featuring some cool highlights.

We hope you enjoyed our take on the best free places, happenings, experiences, and locales of Kansas City. Since summer is coming, our next segment will feature the many top and unique Kansas City kid destinations and attractions. See you soon… and #Go2KC and #KCTopShelf.