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How Kansas City Delivers Unexpected Fun

Outstanding jazz and famous barbecue are just the beginning of what makes this Missouri city so exciting.

How Kansas City Delivers Unexpected Fun

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri

This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Focused revitalization efforts have transformed Kansas City over the past several years, bringing a renewed energy to this Midwest hub. The core of the city’s heritage remains, of course, as jazz clubs and barbecue restaurants help keep authenticity alive. But today, a new layer of excitement has created a wealth of options that make KC an endlessly fun place to visit.

The Raphael Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri

The Raphael Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri

Day 1

The Raphael Hotel, a member of the Autograph Collection, isn’t just a luxury boutique property but also a historic landmark. Built in 1928, this Italian Renaissance Revival-style building—originally created as upscale apartments—has been meticulously renovated to reflect its early 20th-century heritage. Every corner of this intimate inn, from its public areas to its restaurant and 126 spacious rooms and suites, comes imbued with a sense of place and history.

Discover more of the city’s heritage at the iconic Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Peruse the celebrated collection of more than 40,000 pieces, including masterpieces by Gauguin, Delacroix, and Monet, as well as the outdoor sculpture garden.

Then go from global makers to local makers. Discover all sorts of treasures at the Made in Kansas City Marketplace, which brings together the city’s artists and designers; it’s a fun stroll, and you’ll find coffee and snacks along the way.

After that, you’ll be ready to sample some KC brews. One of the city’s first breweries, opened in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Company remains one of the finest. And their craft beers make the perfect segue into a casual dinner—some of the city’s famous barbecue. Everyone has an opinion about the best spots, of course, but Arthur Bryant’s is always highly ranked. Don’t miss the burnt ends, appropriately served with Wonder Bread.

Then hit the dance floor. The Power & Light District is the perfect symbol of this revitalized city—a former industrial area transformed into shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs—and fittingly full of energy.

Power & Light District, Kansas City, Missouri

Power & Light District, Kansas City, Missouri

Day 2

Start today at the American Jazz Museum, which celebrates the musical form that came of age in Kansas City. Walk away with more knowledge about greats like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald, and a better appreciation for this very American art form.

Continue the creative theme by heading to the Crossroads Arts District. Once home to Film Row—where Hollywood shot many movies—the area is now a mecca of galleries, studios, boutiques, and restaurants.

Then check to see what’s happening at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, or just take a stroll by the shell-shaped exterior of this Moshe Safdie-designed space.

Finish up your thrilling two-day getaway at the Majestic, where you’ll find a magical combination of two things this city does extremely well: steak and live jazz. Up for an encore? Drop by the Green Lady Lounge—an iconic jazz club where music comes alive inside a retro space painted velvet red and hung with vintage oil paintings.

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