Kansas or Bust
November 3, 2009 12:57 PM   Subscribe

We're visiting the in-laws in the Lawrence/Kansas City area for Thanksgiving and are looking for some activities to keep us busy. What are the must-see museums, events, and other such places that we can squeeze into our trip?

Assume 2-4 adults, no kids, money not a factor, anywhere within a couple of hours drive from the Lawrence area is eligible. Sports, arts, theater, and train-related experiences are all welcome!
posted by JuiceBoxHero to Travel & Transportation around Kansas City, MO (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Plaza has an annual holiday tree-lighting that is something to behold. The in-laws probably know all about it.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 1:02 PM on November 3, 2009

The World War I Museum in downtown Kansas City is really great.
posted by something something at 1:42 PM on November 3, 2009

It's a lot bigger than a tree-lighting. They light up the Plaza district, a neighborhood in Kansas City. All the buildings are outlined in lights and it's pretty cool. It's definitely the place to be on Thanksgiving evening. Even if you miss the lighting ceremony, you should stop by the Plaza. It is the heart of Kansas City. Very pretty area, free parking, and lots to do. The Power & Light District (near downtown) and Westport are the two other major nightlife areas in town.

Another place to go at the holidays in KC is Crown Center, where there will be a big Christmas tree, ice skating, and shopping.

You should definitely eat some barbecue. Arthur Bryant's and Gates are the two most famous, but there are others. Standard Kansas City museums include the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Toy & Miniature Museum, the Steamboat Arabia Museum, Union Station, and the Liberty Memorial. The Thomas Hart Benton home is also interesting.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:48 PM on November 3, 2009

Dang I came here to mention the WW1 and Nelson-Atkins museums.
posted by LarryC at 1:51 PM on November 3, 2009

I always enjoy the Kemper Art Museum. If you're into trains and whatnot, check out Union Station. Tailgate a Chiefs game. Get some BBQ at Arthur Bryant's (the one on Brooklyn Avenue).
posted by nitsuj at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2009

For art in K.C., there's the big Nelson-Atkins Museum, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (both free!), and lots of galleries ... I haven't lived there in a long time, so I'm not sure what's best these days, but the alt-weekly the Pitch has some listings.

The Plaza lights are lovely, in an area that has architecture modeled after Seville, Spain -- they're initially lit on Thanksgiving night, and it's PACKED, but you can go on other nights after that.
posted by lisa g at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2009

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art gets my vote as well.

If you have a free evening, see if there is a concert in Lawrence you would like to see and just hang around Massachusetts St.

The plaza just seems like an outdoor mall to me but I've never seen it with Christmas lights.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:21 PM on November 3, 2009

Union Station is running an Andy Warhol exhibit through January, and the Spencer on KU's campus in Lawrence has something of a companion exhibit about celebrity photography. You should also check out lawrence.com's event listing for the days you'll be in town. It shows music, art, and other events in Lawrence and KC. You can get restaurant recommendations at the same site. Lawrence has a lot of great places to eat.

If you go to the Plaza to see the lights, don't go on Thanksgiving night, it's just as good any other night, and far less crowded.
posted by donnagirl at 5:19 PM on November 3, 2009

Lunch at Gates BBQ. Or dinner. Hell, breakfast is fine too if they are open that early. I wouldn't think of being in KC without eating at Gates.
posted by COD at 5:29 PM on November 3, 2009

If you like history, you might enjoy the Steamboat Arabia Museum in the City Market area of Kansas City. In the late 1980's, a group of farmers found and dug up a pre-Civil War steamboat that sank in the Missouri. The cargo was pretty much intact, and the museum shows a neat slice of life from 1856.
posted by weathergal at 5:48 PM on November 3, 2009

The Eisenhower and Truman libraries and the Greyhound Hall of Fame.
posted by brujita at 8:34 PM on November 3, 2009

Scalp some tickets to the KU - Mizzou game at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday. The teams are pretty meh this year, but the rivalry is pretty intense and college football is always fun.
posted by PhatLobley at 9:17 PM on November 3, 2009

Crown Center is loads of fun around the holiday times, but I'm sure it will be painfully crowded over Thanksgiving weekend. Decent "fun" dining options include the Crayola Cafe (with the adjacent everything-Crayola-makes store - which is awesome) and the train restaurant (Fritz's, maybe?) in the lower level, where your (greasy) cuisine travels to you via miniature trains that run the perimeter of the restaurant.

There are still tickets available for the Mizzou/kansas game available - you probably won't have to scalp them this year. Just check the website for either school.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:27 PM on November 3, 2009

The Pig
posted by headless at 11:22 PM on November 3, 2009

Lifelong Kansas Citian here. My advice, with all due respect to people suggesting them, would be to skip the Plaza/Crown Center/Union Station. These (aside from the science museum in union station, really for kids) are for shopping, and bad chain shopping at that. And please don't get me started about the Power and Light District. Spare yourself.

My suggestions:

Lawrence's Mass Ave is really great for walking around and exploring. Neat little stores with some good food interspersed. Lawrence has much better concerts than KC, too, so you should definitely look into that.

Further neighborhoods to explore: Westport in Kansas City. Amazing burgers at the Westport Flea Market. Brookside, KC: Foo's frozen custard, coffee shops, general cuteness.

Barbecue: KC traditionalists prefer Gates or Arthur Bryant's, but Oklahoma Joe's, located in a gas station (the KCK location, not the Olathe outpost), is really the best. (you don't have to take my word for it, check out Anthony Bourdain's 13 places in the world to eat before you die.) Try the Z-Man.

Definitely do the Nelson-Atkins, as others have said. The new Bloch building is really impressive architecturally and in terms of content--great modern/contemporary collection there.

Try to avoid the sprawling suburbs, and watch out for Kansas drivers in SUVs. Have fun!
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 8:43 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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