Though today it’s the heart of The New Midwest, Kansas City was once the doorstep to the American frontier, a bootlegging speakeasy type of town, a jazz capital for the greats. Its 240 neighborhoods — spread across 319 square miles and centuries of history — would be nearly impossible to cover, on foot or on the page.
But let these nine be a start. Expect artist hotspots and ‘hoods full of beloved greasy spoons, bustling entertainment districts and monthly street parties, upscale foodie hubs and diverse enclaves where “local” describes everything you taste or touch.
And like players in KC’s famous late-night jazz sessions, these nine neighborhoods can be experienced distinctly or together in harmony, crafting the cultural and culinary chops that earn Kansas City praise from locals, visitors, and everyone in between.
The grassroots monthly art festival known as First Fridays — now a giant on the calendar — turned this forgotten corner of the city into a vibrant arts district jam-packed with creative galleries, inventive restaurants and bars, and an infusion of KC personality. Don’t miss these experiences when you’re here.
On First Fridays, the Crossroads Arts District stays up late...
On the first Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District stays up late. The food trucks roll in, art and craft booths pop up in every alley, and shops, galleries, and restaurants open their doors and spill onto the streets.
After you’ve zig-zagged through the alleyways and let your nose choose a food truck or two, chuckle at the snarky tees at RAYGUN or browse the racks at Daisy Lee Vintage for retro rags restyled for a modern fit. End the night with a local brew or two at one of the six breweries operating along the 18th Street “Brewer’s Alley,” and odds are this First Friday won’t be your last.
Photo: Kevin VanEmburgh/Visit KC
Whatever your idea of a good time is, you’ll find it in the Crossroads...
Get all gussied up and head to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to see performers of all sorts take the stage. Its cascading silver shell exterior is reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, while inside two performance halls (which typically split between Broadway-style stage productions and music performances) are decked out in a modern take on opulence.
Or keep it low-key. Head to the Up-Down KC “barcade” (get it, bar arcade) for pinball, Pac-Man, and pizza. And Thursdays through Saturdays, Parlor KC hosts live music in their living-room style food hall—home to two bars and seven restaurants. Which is to say, whatever your idea of a good time is, you can be sure to find it in the Crossroads.
Photo: Kelly Davidson/Up-Down Kansas City
There’s good food, there’s great food, and then...
There’s good food, there’s great food, and then there’s food with such obsessive attention to detail that it can only be called art.
With the 10-course prix-fixe tasting room experience at Corvino Supper Club, diners get to brush shoulders with James Beard-nominated chef Michael Corvino and team. Then there are the bright and shiny bonbons at Christopher Elbow Chocolates that look more like colorful glass or gemstones than craft chocolates. And no one puts the art in artisan coffee quite like Messenger Coffee Co., which works directly with global coffee farmers to ensure only the best beans end up in their brews.
Photo: Anna Petrow/Visit KC
Redlining in the 1930s made this neighborhood one of the few places Black Kansas Citians could live. Thanks in part to its jazz clubs and baseball stadium, 18th & Vine became a thriving center of community and culture for many Black families and business owners, and those roots still show today — in museum halls, club stages, and the smoke from the city’s best barbecue.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum explores the contributions of Black players to the sport...
Most folks recognize Jackie Robinson as the first Black player in Major League Baseball. But did you know he got his start right here in Kansas City as shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs? The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum explores the contributions of Black players to baseball in the US and the impact they had on American culture at large. Swing by the museum store for a vintage-inspired Monarchs hat on your way out.
Around the corner, the Urban Youth Academy, well-situated between four baseball diamonds at the Parade Park, aims to empower underserved youth through America’s pastime.
Photo: Derek Slagle/Visit KC
“Jazz was born in New Orleans but grew up in Kansas City...”
As the saying goes, “Jazz was born in New Orleans, lived in Chicago, but grew up in Kansas City.” And you can bet much of that maturation occurred in the jazz clubs of 18th & Vine. The American Jazz Museum brings this golden era to life with interactive exhibits and an onsite jazz club, The Blue Room.
Round out the night with an upscale take on Southern seafood and steak at nearby Soiree, or keep it casual with the decidedly humble yet world-renowned barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s.
Photo: Brandon Cummins/Visit KC
In its heyday, the streets of 18th & Vine lit up at night with neon signs and colorful marquees...
In its heyday, the streets of 18th & Vine lit up at night with neon signs and colorful marquees. Today, this heritage lives on in the “18th & Vine District” sign that welcomes visitors, and colorful murals and public art installations scattered around the neighborhood reflect the area’s roots.
Alexander Austin’s larger-than-life KC Monarchs lineup covers the south side of the Paseo YMCA (where the Negro National League was born in 1920); a 10-foot-tall bronze head memorializes famed jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker; and in 2020 the words “Black Lives Matter,” designed by Adrianne Clayton and executed by volunteer citizens, were scrawled straight down 18th Street and five other city blocks around town.
Photo: Brandon Cummins/Visit KC
The heart of the city was once the front door to the frontier. The 19th-century architecture, old-style lampposts, and tree-lined boulevards of Plaza / Westport hang on, but now this historic ‘hood is more about high-street shops, late-night entertainment, and stunning Spanish-inspired architecture.
Westport has always been the place to see and be seen...
Westport has been the place to see and be seen for centuries—ever since local businesses became flush with cash from outfitting wagon trains headed west.
For the best people watching, head to the beer garden at Char Bar and try your hand at bocce between bites of black Angus brisket washed down with whatever local brew is on tap. Save some of your appetite—and as much decorum as you can muster—for the posh patio and classy fare at the Country Club Plaza’s Gram & Dun. Then hop back over to Harry’s Bar & Tables for a late-night happy hour featuring a bright red train caboose converted into a patio bar—and an impressive selection of scotch.
Photo: Visit KC
High-street shops and local boutiques, side by side in a 15-block shopping center...
High-street shops and local boutiques, side by side in a 15-block shopping center that pays homage to the best of Spanish-style architecture—including a half-scale replica of the Seville Square bell tower? Instagrammers, start your engines! You’re about to visit America’s first outdoor mall, built in 1923.
Plot your route among top designer stores like Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co., and can’t-miss local boutiques. Pick up that ubiquitous KC heart shirt at Charlie Hustle. Browse for local and handmade souvenirs at Made in KC, or venture a few blocks west to see the latest collections of women’s apparel from local designer Finefolk.
Photo: Visit KC
Some of the best Great Plains farmland is just beyond the horizon...
While you wouldn’t know it from the cosmo digs of the Plaza, some of the best Great Plains farmland is just beyond the horizon. You can taste its bounty right here at Rye, a farm-to-table restaurant with a major crush on the Midwest.
Down the street, decked out in pink and seafoam neon lights, Winstead’s offers a different take on “local.” While you won’t find organic anything here, you will find the thin and juicy steakburgers and “special” frosty malts beloved by Kansas Citians since 1943.
Photo: Anna Petrow/Visit KC
Widely regarded as one of the best museums in the country...
Why is Kansas City the heart of The New Midwest? The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art alone is reason enough. Widely regarded as one of the best museums in the country, it offers free daily access to artwork from every corner of the world and across 5,000 years of human history.
There’s always something new to discover, from a giant golden Buddha, Egyptian coffins, and Monet’s water lilies to the massive fiberglass shuttlecocks that dot the museum’s wide lawn.
Photo: Visit KC
Since 1857, when steamboat traffic and westward expansion drove demand for goods, River Market has been synonymous with fresh food, hearty wares, and KC’s confluence of cultures. Visit today to see how these themes play out within a modern context.
Fill your belly and your wanderlust at City Market...
Fill your belly and your wanderlust at City Market, the largest farmers market in the Midwest. Here you’ll find fresh produce and provisions from local producers, along with stall after stall of exotic eats.
Sample shawarma with hummus at Habashi House, experience hands-on Ethiopian at Blue Nile Cafe, or get a taste of Brazil at, well, Taste of Brazil. For frills like cutlery and tablecloths, head two blocks east for the fine French cuisine at Le Fou Frog.
Photo: Visit KC
Walk off any market indulgences with a trip down the Riverfront Heritage Trail...
Walk off any market indulgences with a trip down the Riverfront Heritage Trail to the revitalized Berkley Riverfront. Start from the Town of Kansas Observation Deck, where you’ll get sweeping views of the wide and lazy Missouri River. While the whole trail is 15 miles, this leisurely one-mile section features shady picnic sites, sand volleyball, and fitness courts.
If your furry friend is in tow, be sure to stop off at Bar K—a combination dog park and bar that’s as much fun for pet parents as it is their doggos.
Photo: Stephanie A Sellers/Shutterstock
While you’re more likely to see a Tesla parked out front than a covered wagon...
You’re more likely to see a Tesla parked out front than a covered wagon, but you wouldn’t know it from the circa-1880 brick facade of Planters Seed & Spice Co. Inside, modern-day homesteaders peruse wooden shelves stocked with simply packaged bulk dry goods and endless rows of seed packages. Equally storied are the vintage wares from 160 vendors at River Market Antiques.
Round out the theme with a trip to Local Pig—one of the few remaining full-line butchers specializing in local, humanely raised meats. If you prefer your hog already hot, snag a sammy from the butcher’s counterpart restaurant, Pigwich.
Located some 15 minutes south of downtown, Brookside is a slower-paced neighborhood full of welcoming tree-lined boulevards, charming historic homes, and quaint, awning-topped shops that will make you feel right at home. There’s still plenty going on, though — here’s a taste.
Kansas City is a food town, and Brookside is the kitchen table...
Kansas City is a food town, and Brookside is the kitchen table—it’s where regular folks head for a taste of home.
If home tastes like buttermilk biscuits or homemade pop tarts, head to Heirloom Bakery & Hearth, where everything is made from scratch. Or check out Brookside Poultry Company, with a menu that reads like an encyclopedia of comfort foods: fried chicken (available GF!), fried green tomatoes, shrimp & grits, spit-roasted bird, and more. Down the street, Bella Napoli’s owner aims to make his Italian mamma proud by dishing up carbonara, homemade gnocchi, and eggplant parmesan.
Photo: Jill Wendholt Silva, Silva + Stern Communications/Brookside Poultry Co
Brookside was once part of the Wornall family’s 500-acre farmstead...
Before the cute shops and mid-century homes popped up, Brookside was part of the Wornall family’s 500-acre farmstead. Their 1858 house, which served as a field hospital during the Civil War, is now a living time capsule of life at the edge of the frontier.
A few blocks east of the John Wornall House Museum, you can snag some wheels from the Ride KC bike share stand and continue your journey through time on the Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail. You’ll be pedaling in the tracks of a streetcar line that once connected Brookside to Country Club Plaza. If you work up an appetite, just head to Foo’s, where they’ve been churning out old-fashioned frozen custard for over 30 years.
Photo: Visit KC
Beneath the burgundy and cobalt awnings, you’ll find...
Beneath the burgundy and cobalt awnings on W 63rd, you’ll find the usual assortment of mom and pop shops—if your mom was a globe-trotting multimedia artist and your pop was Bill Nye, that is.
At Brookside Toy & Science, the shelves overflow with STEM-approved playthings (plus an indulgent selection of novelty pranks). Next door, World’s Window unpacks fair-trade folk art, textiles, and apparel from nearly every corner of the globe. And there’s nothing usual about the stuff you’ll encounter at STUFF, whose sister-owners curate a collection where the only apparent theme is “things they think are cool.” And they are.
Underrated, offbeat, and anything but pretentious, this colorful neighborhood located right on the Kansas-Missouri state line is full of quirky shops and world flavors. It’s a prime destination when you’re in the mood for something a little different.
West 39th Street is home to an impressive collection of cuisines...
Eclectic and inviting, West 39th Street is home to an impressive collection of cuisines from around the globe.
Find fresh falafel, tender kebab, and silky hummus at Aladdin Cafe; try your hand at concocting the perfect Mongolian BBQ creation at Genghis Khan; see how crazy good a NY-style bagel with house-made schmear can be in KC at Meshuggah Bagels; or settle in for live jazz, jambalaya, and a hurricane at Jazz Kitchen.
Photo: Tiffany Marie Photography/Meshuggah Bagels
Dietary restrictions are no reason to miss out on a sugar high...
Dietary restrictions are no reason to miss out on a sugar high. The glass display case at Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee Spot is chock full of 100% vegan cookies, scones, donuts, muffins, and a growing selection of gluten-free fare.
Shaved ice from West 39th Street institution Miami Ice is a crowd pleaser for just about everyone—dairy devotees can even dress it up with a custard base or ice cream from Betty Rae’s.
Photo: Kaseniia Perminova/Shutterstock
Pay homage to KC’s Prohibition-skirting political bosses...
Goat & Rabbit pays homage to Joe Shannon and Tom Pendergast, KC’s infamous Prohibition-skirting political bosses. The rivals-turned-allies would have appreciated G&R’s deep lineup of classic cocktails as much as its bleeding-heart devotion to the spirit and craftsmanship of Kansas City, as evidenced by their long list of local libations and house-made syrups.
Down the street, Q39 is a modern legend in the making. Their smoky-sweet barbecue has racked up awards at the most exclusive competitions, including Kansas City’s own American Royal and the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational BBQ.
Photo: Visit KC
Not to be upstaged by First Fridays, West 39th Street hosts its own celebration...
Not to be upstaged by First Fridays in the Crossroads, West 39th Street hosts its own celebration of art, food, and festivities with Third Fridays. Shops and restaurants stay open late as the streets fill with art and the air fills with music.
Peruse the endless shelves of used books at Prospero’s, look for a new (or new-to-you) retro frock at Donna’s Dress Shop, or dive into the pub fare at Hi-Dive Lounge and score a mystery beer from their vending machine.
Photo: Donna’s Dress Shop
Sports lovers will find themselves right at home in P&L...
Whether you’re cheering on your alma mater during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship at the T-Mobile Center or watching Mahomes drive into the end zone on the big screen at the bar-flanked courtyard of the KC Live! entertainment district, sports lovers will find themselves right at home in P&L.
Be sure to swing by Rally House t-shirt shop on your way to deck yourself out in home-team garb. If you get hungry, duck around the corner to County Road Ice House for gold-medal barbecue and signature frozen cocktails.
Photo: Visit KC
If you tire of watching other people run, jump, and shoot, get in the game yourself...
If you tire of watching other people run, jump, and shoot, just head over to No Other Pub to get in the game yourself. Craft beer and low-key “sports” like ping-pong, shuffleboard, and bowling combine in this playland for grown-ups.
For more serious athletes, The College Basketball Experience does not disappoint. This interactive hall of fame blends college basketball memorabilia with massive hands-on exhibits, like a replica ESPN stage.
Photo: Visit KC
For a classy night on the town, it’s tough to beat dinner and a show in the lively P&L district...
For a classy night on the town, it’s tough to beat dinner and a show in the lively P&L district. Start at Bristol Seafood + Steak + Social with a wood-fired steak or the catch-of-the-day, flown in fresh every morning.
Then head to the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, where the 1920s roar on under an emerald-lit marquee. Built to put on both live shows and the silent movies of the time, the Midland now hosts musicians, plays, stand-up, and performances of all sorts from the sumptuous, gold-and-velvet-clad stage.
Photo: Visit KC
What happens when you cram this much history and this many shops, restaurants, and entertainment into just a few city blocks? You get an entertainment destination that promises fun for the whole family. Here’s some of what to look forward to.
Need to justify a shopping spree?...
Need to justify a shopping spree? How about supporting local businesses that prioritize sustainability, Black lives, and fair wages? At The Black Pantry—billed as “Kansas City’s dopest general store”—you can stock up on groceries, gifts, and decor sourced exclusively from Black-owned businesses.
A few blocks down, GOEX Apparel’s line of soft, sustainable tees support fair wages for both local workers and their team of tailors in Haiti. And shopping small doesn’t get more convenient than at Made in KC, where dozens of local businesses are united under one roof.
Photo: Scott Bosworth/GOEX Apparel
To call Crown Center a shopping mall would be an understatement at best...
To call Crown Center a shopping mall would be an understatement at best, if not downright unfair. While the three-level center is home to 40 shops and restaurants, it’s also an entertainment destination for all ages.
Keep the kiddos busy for hours at LEGOLAND Discovery Center, SEA LIFE Aquarium, the kid-friendly Coterie Theatre, or field-trip favorite Kaleidoscope. Older audiences will enjoy MTH Theater, the Hallmark Visitors Center, and the synchronized dancing water shows of the iconic 49-jet fountain.
Photo: Jenny Wheat/Visit KC
If you feel a sense of calm come over you in this part of town..
If you feel a sense of calm come over you while driving through this part of town, it might be the aromatherapy wafting out of the workshop windows at Indigo Wild. These self-declared “scent-obsessed hippies” turn natural ingredients like goat milk, shea butter, and essential oils into luscious body care products.
The kindred spirits at Hand & Land also have their own line of natural products for body and home, many of which can be refilled to eliminate packaging waste. While you’re there, treat yourself to some TLC at their full-service spa.
Photo: Cookie Studio/Shutterstock
Some of the city's best breakfast and brunch destinations sit within mere blocks of one another...
Some of the city’s best breakfast and brunch destinations sit within mere blocks of one another. Bright and inviting Succotash slings homestyle favorites, including a venerable set of vegan options. At You Say Tomato, crowd-pleasing comfort-food favorites like biscuits and gravy and pecan-topped cinnamon rolls are served up in a no-frills atmosphere that feels a bit like your grandma’s cozy kitchen.
For a more modern take, head to Billie’s Grocery for inventive, organic dishes like matcha waffles or sweet-pea shakshuka and ‘gram-worthy presentation. Those who sleep till noon can find hair of the dog and heartier fare at Brewer’s Kitchen.
Photo: Billie’s Grocery
Ride the KC Streetcar to the fully restored 1914 Union Station...
Ride the KC Streetcar to the fully restored 1914 Union Station, where passenger trains still run. Take in the majestic marble lobby, or look for the bullet holes supposedly left by a shootout that killed mobster Frank Nash and fueled J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to advance the FBI. Across the street, the National WWI Museum and Memorial preserves the history of the Great War and pays tribute to those who served.
When hunger hits, stick with the theme and head to The Russell for updated takes on classic dishes and painstakingly curated rustic decor. When you’re done, take a quick jaunt around the corner to peruse the mid-century furniture and decor at Populuxe.
Photo: Visit KC
Wedged between two mighty rivers whose periodic floods have come close to destroying it now and again, the West Bottoms is perhaps best known these days for its shindig on the first weekend of every month, when it sees a stampede of visitors seeking strong brews and funky vintage finds.
Once a month, shop owners in this corner of the city fling open their doors...
Once a month, shop owners in this corner of the city fling open their doors for First Fridays—then keep the party hopping all weekend. And good thing, because it may take more than a day to explore the three floors of pin-worthy vintage finds at Bella Patina or select the perfect piece of distressed wood for your next DIY project from The Dusted Attic. Don’t miss the more curated selection of gifts and apparel at Fetch, either.
If all the shopping makes you drop, hit up Blip Roasters, where the house-roasted coffee and biker gear might just rev your engines.
Photo: The Dusted Attic
Enter Lemonade Park, a COVID-friendly bar, restaurant, and music venue...
Like most everything else, the entertainment industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Enter Lemonade Park, a COVID-friendly bar, restaurant, and music venue. Socially distanced picnic tables face an open-air stage set on the back of a flatbed pickup. A canopy of fairy lights completes the whole “cozy backyard” vibe, emanating reassurance in these crazy times.
After the show, finish off your night at The Campground, where garage bay doors and a large parking-lot-turned-patio offer plenty of space to enjoy an inventive list of rotating and staple cocktails without stressing about airflow.
The stockyards officially closed in 1991, but the memory lives on...
Once upon a time, the West Bottoms were home to more cows than people, thanks to a series of stockyards that housed livestock ready for market. The stockyards officially closed in 1991, but the memory lives on at Stockyards Brewing Co., where craft beer is brewed to honor the hardworking people and industrious history of the West Bottoms.
Next door, Golden Ox carries on the steakhouse plating tradition of bare-bones presentation, leaving it up to undressed, high-quality meats to make an impression in their historic dining room. You’re welcome, world, says Kansas City.
Photo: Visit KC