Untouristy tourists.
December 1, 2017 10:42 AM   Subscribe

We are going to Kansas City in December with our almost three year old. We've never been there and are looking to fill a couple of days. In travel, we look for things that are interesting, different, and off the beaten path. What do you recommend we check out in KC keeping in mind that we will have our little one with us? We will have our car and aren't limited in any way with the exception of nap time from about 1-3 (which we can flex).
posted by rglass to Travel & Transportation around Kansas City, MO (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should absolutely check out the Community Bookshelf, aka the south wall of the city's Central Library parking garage, which has been made to look like the spines of 42 books, each more or less 25 by 9 feet in size. It's amazing looking.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:49 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kansas City has the National WWI Museum and Memorial, which is not to be missed, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which is also highly regarded. Not sure how much the kid would get out of it (and the WWI museum can be pretty intense in places — though IIRC you can bypass those experiences), but I think it's worth it for the experience yourselves even with a kid in tow.
posted by brentajones at 11:08 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here is the Roadside America page for Kansas City, Missouri and the one for Kansas City, Kansas. Lots of quirky and off the beaten path things to do and see; it's the midwest, after all.
posted by DrGail at 11:41 AM on December 1, 2017

I loved the Arabia Steamboat Museum, though it's probably not the most exciting thing for a toddler.
posted by asperity at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

You'll be about an hour from Lawrence, Kansas, which might be a fun trip. My knowledge of Lawrence is outdated, but there are a few museums there and my kids always liked walking around the University of Kansas campus.
posted by FencingGal at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2017

In Crown Center, Hallmark runs an awesome, free craft playground for kids called Kaleidoscope. You have to make reservations for a 50-minute session.

Also free and great are the main art museum – the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – and the contemporary art museum, the Kemper. They're within walking distance of each other; you might find street parking between them or need to pay for a parking lot. Many colorful things to see, and the Nelson has some giant Claes Oldenburg badminton birdies on its back lawn. Both have decent cafes. The nice thing about free attractions with a toddler is that you don't feel too bad if you have to leave early!

Also seconding the Arabia Steamboat museum. How often do you get to see the contents of a large sunken merchant ship that was discovered under a Kansas cornfield? Plus the jazz museum and Negro Leagues baseball museum are both pretty great.
posted by lisa g at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

There are two art museums in Kansas City. The first is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the second is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The Nelson and the Kemper are pretty close together and you can easily visit both in a single afternoon. There's also a toy and miniature museum in the same part of town, which I like a lot. You can have a pretty decent lunch at the cafe at the Kemper, Cafe Sebastienne.

Do we need to talk about BBQ? Joe's KC is the one people will tell you is the best in town. Other notable BBQ in town includes Arthur Bryant's and Gates. If you go to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the original (and best) location of Arthur Bryant's is close by.

If you want pho, my favorite in town is at Vietnam Cafe in the Columbus Park neighborhood. French food not too far from Columbus Park is good at Le Fou Frog. The ramen is good at Boru Ramen. For brunch, I like Succotash a lot.

For shopping, I'm fond of the West 39th Street area along the state line between Kansas and Missouri. They have a cute used book store, a vegan cafe, some fun boutiques, and some restaurants.

Another entertaining shopping district in town is Brookside. It's more up-market than my beloved West 39th Street corridor. My favorite Brookside stores are Stuff and the Toy and Science Store.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 11:55 AM on December 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Hi, I have a four year old and live in Kansas City. Here are some things we do with him that weren't mentioned:

Union Station is pretty touristy, but they have a model train room that is free and a blast for that age group. It's pretty close to the Kansas City National Archives which gives free tours.

It's also right off the free streetcar line which you can ride all the way around and get a feel for the area or take to the City Market (where the above-mentioned Arabia Steamboat Museum is located) and check out all the weird stuff for sale on the weekends.

Speaking of trains, Crown Center is also home to Fritz's Railroad Restaurant, where you can order your meal on a telephone and have it delivered to your table via train.

There are tons of fabulous places to get doughnuts, tacos, bbq, and beer in the area- almost everywhere is kid friendly.

If you make it out to Lawrence, Mass Street is the main downtown thoroughfare. Lots of neat shops, places to eat, bookstores, and a 3 story toy store. Plus it has a fabulous public library.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

We're pretty new to KC but we've already figured out that the Zoo is pretty dang awesome. Even in the winter they have some lovely exhibits and they do a daily penguin march which is awesome. Santa also dives with the penguins and if you're gonna be there the weekend of the 16th, they are having a Winter Wonderland which looks amazing.
posted by teleri025 at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2017

Can't beat Arthur Bryant's for BBQ!
posted by TheCoug at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

The National Museum of Toys and Minitures is very near downtown near the UMKC campus. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Toys_and_Miniatures
posted by banishedimmortal at 12:52 AM on December 2, 2017

If you like money, the KC Federal Reserve building has a small museum in it that you can go through. It's just up the street from the World War I museum and further up from Union Station.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:41 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

KC is famous for barbecue, and Arthur Bryant's is considered legendary.
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2017

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