Summer is almost here, just two weeks away! And with summer comes fun and relaxation that everyone looks forward to after a difficult semester of college.
If you go to KU and are living in Lawrence over the summer, finding things to do might be difficult if you’ve been here a while. But not to worry, as just a 45-minute drive away is Kansas City! I was born in Kansas City and have lived there my whole life. It’s the best place in Kansas (and Missouri), and there is actually so much fun stuff you can do this summer if you want to get out of Lawrence.
My roommate is from Colorado, and she hasn’t done anything in Kansas City. We are both planning to stay up here in Lawrence, and I can’t wait to drive into town and show her all my favorite spots! I’ve made a list of some of the best, most fun places everyone needs to visit if they are in Kansas City for both of us to do this summer, and I’ve decided to share it here. Most of these activities are basic and well-known stops, but it's good to have a reminder in case you are racking your brain for stuff to do! If you are up in Lawrence, I hope you can use this list to help make a fun summer!
Crown Center & Union Station
Crown Center and Union Station are iconic places to visit when you visit Kansas City. All of the photos when you look up KC are typically of Union Station colored in red or blue for the Chiefs or Royals. But they aren’t just pretty to look at, there are many fun things to do there!
For Crown Center, the inside is full of shops and restaurants that are great to visit to beat the heat, including Fritz, a Kansas staple. The restaurant features miniature trains that bring you the food, so it’s a must when visiting Kansas City! Inside also features the Crayola Cafe, Hallmark shop, and some other great restaurants! Outside Crown Center is an ice skating arena (which should be saved for a winter day), the Lego store, and an awesome indoor aquarium.
Connected via a beautiful hotel and covered bridge, Union Station is a must for your next stop. The outside is a gorgeous, large building that can’t be missed. Inside features a few delicious restaurants, some interesting history of the old train station, and a very spacious, open center that makes you feel like you're back in the old days where you traveled by train everywhere. If you are with kids I recommend visiting Science City or watching a movie on the 3D screen! Also, many unique exhibits cycle through which are so cool to see!
Almost everything costs money, but in my opinion, some of the restaurants and exhibits are definitely worth it! But if you don’t want to spend money, I still recommend taking some time to at least walk through Union Station and Crown Center while you're in town! Make sure you wear your mask inside and have fun!!
Crossroads & Power and Light
The Crossroads is the best place to be outside, walk around the art district, and enjoy some great food during these summer nights! One of my favorite restaurants is Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, and the best place for shakes is Town Topic for a throwback in an old diner! The Crossroads also houses many great Mexican restaurants. There are many shops and amazing studios for artists throughout the Crossroads, and beautiful street art decorates the buildings. And you can take the iconic photo on Main Street which leads from the Crossroads into Downtown!
Just right next to the Crossroads and more in Downtown is the Power and Light District and the T-Mobile Center. The T-Mobile Center is where most of the concerts are held in its large, silver building! And right across the street is the Power and Light District, which features a fun, party-like open area with many restaurants and a stage. It’s where many go to enjoy sports games, eat and drink, and have a fun time! I recommend everyone try to experience all that the Crossroads, Power and Light, and T-Mobile Center have to offer this summer for an amazing time, making sure to follow local guidelines still with Covid!
If you want fresh produce and goodies, checking out the River Market in Downtown KC is your go-to place! The River Market features a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies, other goods like honey and cheese, and more! You can find sculptures, jewelry, and clothes as well! The River Market is always busy with shoppers in its outside market on the weekends! It’s downtown as well, surrounded by amazing restaurants, stands with delicious treats, and fun activities like visiting the Missouri River. Right next to the River Market is the bridge that walks out over the river which is covered in locks on the fence!
If you love all these things and just want to be in a great atmosphere outside this summer, you should definitely check out the River Market in Downtown KC! I’ll be there getting fresh peaches, honey, and flowers, and revisiting the old Steamboat wheel display that’s inside! You can take the Trolly from the River Market throughout Downtown, to the Crossroads, and up to Union Station and Crown Center as well for free!
The Nelson-Atkins Museum is the perfect place to come by and enjoy some amazing art on a hot day. It gives you a place to cool down and have a relaxing summer afternoon. This large museum is full of different periods of time, exhibits, and wonderful statues and art that is just so fun to enjoy. After your stroll both inside and outside the huge museum, you can take a break at the beautiful cafe in the center courtyard inside, or take a coffee break in the cafe in the modern building! The Nelson-Atkins has new guidelines with Covid including wearing masks the whole time, but the museum is free! I would check out the website just in case before you go!
I’ve been to so many museums in my life, including the famous Hermitage in Russia. While nothing can beat that, I always find myself enjoying the Nelson-Atkins no matter how many times I go. Despite the exhibits not really changing, I always discover a new painting I love each time! And if it’s not a terribly hot day outside, the outside art and exhibits are always a good time to explore. Two years ago before the pandemic, they had an outdoor minigolf exhibit that featured each hole as current pieces of art in the museum! I definitely recommend going to the Nelson-Atkins for a nice, cool relaxing summer day activity while you are in Kansas City!
Another good place to cool down is the National World War I Museum and Memorial located near Crown Center. It includes an indoor area where you can learn about the history of WWI, see items used during the war, and watch intriguing videos as well. It’s a great place to get out of the heat, learn about history, and just have a relaxing day. They now have interactive VR experiences to experience the war in a new way!
Once you learn about WWI, experiencing the top of the Liberty Memorial is a must. You can go to the top of the tall Liberty Memorial town and look out over all of KC. It is great for photos and just having a fun memory! I definitely recommend checking the Liberty Memorial and WWI Museum if you love history and need to escape the heat!
Country Club Plaza
Moving away from the downtown area, the Country Club Plaza is the best outdoor shopping center around! It has amazing restaurants of all kinds and great shops for all food cravings. I grew up going to the Plaza since I live 5 minutes away, and it's my favorite place to just get outside, walk around, window shop, and find some cute stuff. Some featured stores are Forever 21, H&M, and Urban Outfitters. They used to have a great movie theater in the Plaza, but right now it’s in the process of being turned into a new Nordstrom.
My favorite restaurant to celebrate is the Melting Pot, which is a nice place in an underground restaurant to do fondue. They have tasty food and it’s a fun place to go with friends! Some of their other restaurants are Brio Italian Grille, Bo Lings, and Kona Grill. But if you are feeling a little less of a fancy place, they have Panera and Potbelly Sandwich Shop. Many ice cream stores are scattered around as well for a nice treat!
If you want a place to be outside and shop, I definitely recommend checking out the Country Club Plaza! I would just say be safe at night, wear masks and follow guidelines! Just a tip, almost all the restaurants need reservations right now!
Right next to the Plaza is Loose Park, a vast open area great for picnics and walks! Loose Park includes an amazing playground, which is great if you are with kids, beautiful gardens, and many ponds with ducks. It’s a bigger area than you are probably thinking, and so you could honestly find a completely isolated area to have a picnic with friends if you wanted to on a non-busy day. Loose Park is my favorite place to picnic and walk around during a nice summer morning! You often see many people out hammocking as well. If you want a nice place to be outside this summer, I recommend checking out Loose Park!
Joe's Kansas City BBQ
Joe's Kansas City BBQ (in the past Oklahoma Joe's BBQ) is the best BBQ around. Kansas City is known for our BBQ, and every citizen is proud of how amazing every BBQ restaurant is. But the best hands down is Joe’s Kansas City! The original is on 47th Ave in Kansas City, housed in an old gas station. This famous restaurant is the best place to get BBQ in my opinion. I grew up living very close, and every Saturday we would get it for lunch. But now, the wait on Saturdays for lunch is about 2 hours and the line wraps around the building. All because of the many famous reviews from some of the best chefs in the country!
But if you are willing to wait, you need to experience Joe’s Kansas City at least once. Especially at the original location! It’s the best burnt-ins on Wednesday and Saturday, with great pulled pork sandwiches, mouth-watering ribs, and delicious fries!
I’m sure everyone knows what Top Golf is since it’s in quite a few cities. But if you don’t know, it’s a large area to hit golf balls, play golf games, eat and drink, and have fun! It’s a great place for a fun date or outing with friends. The Kansas location is in Overland Park. You don’t need to be great at golf, it’s more for the fun experience. The prices range based on the time of the day, more expensive at night. Checking right now on a Wednesday, the cheapest is $27 mid-morning. But if you are willing to spend the money, it’s a great way to spend part of the day!
Kansas City Zoo
The Kansas City Zoo is one of the best zoos around! Each section of the park represents different countries in the world, with all the animals interacting and so fun to see! The zoo is large as well, so it makes for a great walk and outing for the day! The zoo does cost money like most zoos, but I definitely think it's worth it to visit at least once. My favorite section of the zoo is Africa, which features all the lions, big cats, giraffes, and hippos. You can even take a ride on the ski lift to ride over the top of the main African exhibit. There are also polar bears, stingrays you can touch, and so many more beautiful animals! I would check out the zoo website for their guidelines and new rules, and prices for tickets if you are interested!
Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun
Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun are Kansas City’s amusement and water park! Both are a great way to spend a summer day, riding looping roller coasters, going down water slides, and just hanging out at the park. Worlds of Fun has so many amazing rides, some of my favorites are the Patriot, the Mamba, and Cyclon Sam’s. Oceans of Fun is the best place to ride big water slides and swim in the wave pool during the hot summer.
Both are currently closed because of Covid, but they will open this summer with odd hours and restrictions. The first day for Worlds of Fun is May 22 from 11 am-7 pm, and it won’t be open consistently until later in June. The hours aren’t as late or as wide as they used to be, but with guidelines and masks, it’s luckily open at all! But if you love rollercoasters and waterparks and feel safe going out, I recommend checking out Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun this summer!
Here’s my list of some of the best things to do for a special day in Kansas City this summer! Even after living here all my life, I sometimes forget all the amazing things this city has to offer, so it was great making this list to even remind myself. I’m definitely using it as a guide with my roommate! I hope everyone enjoyed this list and will possibly try out a few of these places if you haven’t before or are new to living in Kansas or Missouri! Stay safe and follow guidelines, but also have an amazing summer!