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Cheap things to do in Kansas City, Missouri

Embark on a journey through Kansas City, Missouri's most affordable attractions without breaking the bank.

November 6, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 15
A view of the Kansas City, Missouri skyline, with Union Station in the foreground.

Kansas City, straddling the border between Missouri and Kansas, is a gem of culture, history, and natural beauty. Often overlooked by the glitz and glamor of other cities, KC has a humble charm that offers an array of activities that are not just easy on the pocket but are genuinely rich in experience. So, let's dive into the heart of America and explore the top cheap attractions that make Kansas City the place to be.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Believe it or not, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with its vast, sweeping lawns and colossal shuttlecocks, is a wonderland that won’t cost you a single cent to explore. Housing everything from European masterpieces to modern photography, this cultural hub welcomes visitors without charge, offering a window into the world's artistic legacy. It's a sanctuary where ancient meets contemporary, where the whispers of different epochs converge. The museum's expansive collection means you could spend an entire day wandering its halls, losing yourself in the creativity that spans continents and centuries, all while keeping your wallet blissfully untouched.

Kansas City Public Library

The Kansas City Public Library isn't just a treasure trove of books, but an architectural marvel and community center rolled into one. It's famed for its 'Community Bookshelf' exterior, a striking facade that features 22 titles reflecting a wide range of reading interests as suggested by Kansas City readers. Inside, it's a warm, inviting space that goes beyond a traditional library. It hosts free events, film screenings, and public talks, encouraging community engagement and lifelong learning. The library’s historical sections also provide a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past, making it a rich, educational experience that doesn’t demand a hefty entrance fee.

First Fridays in the Crossroads

Imagine an event where city streets are alive with the spirit of art, creativity, and community camaraderie — that's First Fridays in the Crossroads for you. This vibrant, monthly festival celebrates local artists and their work, transforming the Crossroads Art District into a lively, open-air showcase of innovation and talent. Galleries and studios open their doors to the public, offering a unique opportunity to meet the artists and understand the stories behind their work. Street performers, food trucks, and pop-up vendors add to the festive atmosphere, creating a cultural experience that’s as rich as it is budget-friendly.

The City Market

Stepping into The City Market is like embracing Kansas City’s heartbeat. This bustling market, alive since 1857, isn't just a venue to pick up fresh produce, although the array of colorful fruits, vegetables, and flowers are a feast for the senses. It's where you can sample culinary delights from around the globe, courtesy of the market's diverse range of cafes and eateries. Every weekend, it transforms into a lively farmers' market, the largest in the region, offering everything from locally sourced honey to artisanal cheeses. But the joy of City Market lies in the experience itself — the vibrant atmosphere, the people-watching opportunities, and the satisfaction of supporting local businesses and farmers. And if you’re up for a deeper dive into history, the Steamboat Arabia Museum, located right within the market, offers a fascinating (though not free) glimpse into the past.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

For those with a penchant for the provocative and reflective nature of contemporary art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is your sanctuary. Admission is completely free, allowing visitors to explore an extensive permanent collection and exciting temporary exhibitions. What sets Kemper apart is its focus on modern works, housing pieces from artists all around the world, from the established to the up-and-coming. The museum itself is an architectural gem, with spaces designed to challenge and engage visitors. Additionally, Kemper hosts various workshops, talks, and educational programs, encouraging an active dialogue around art. Whether you’re a curious onlooker, an art student, or a seasoned critic, the museum offers a space to contemplate and connect with the pulse of contemporary culture.

Kansas City Sculpture Park

The Kansas City Sculpture Park is a refreshing urban oasis that combines art, nature, and community. This inspiring space, part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is open to the public and free of charge. It boasts a diverse array of sculptures from various artists, each piece harmonizing with the landscaped gardens to create a unique outdoor gallery. The park encourages exploration and discovery at every turn, whether you're admiring the larger-than-life installations or finding solace near the tranquil water features. It’s not just a park; it's a narrative crafted in bronze and stone, set against the backdrop of sprawling greenery and city skylines. Perfect for families, art enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a moment of serenity in the city, the Kansas City Sculpture Park is a picturesque retreat that promises new perspectives with every visit.

Loose Park

In the midst of urban hustle and bustle, Loose Park offers 75 acres of respite and recreation. Known for its historical significance as a site of the Civil War's Battle of Westport, today, it's a peaceful haven with something for everyone. The park's expansive grounds are perfect for jogging, bird watching, or enjoying a leisurely picnic. One of its highlights is the beautiful rose garden, home to thousands of rose bushes that create a sensory symphony of colors and scents. The charming pond, complete with a bridge and waterfowl, adds to the park's serene ambiance. For families, the playgrounds and open spaces provide ample room for kids to frolic freely. While Loose Park is a hit in all seasons, it’s particularly enchanting in spring with blooming flowers and in fall with foliage showcasing a fiery array of colors.

Boulevard Brewing Company

For an experience that's uniquely Kansas City, Boulevard Brewing Company is the place to be. Known for its flavorful, craft beers, the brewery offers affordable tours that take you behind the scenes of the beer-making process. For a small fee, visitors can explore the brewhouse, packaging hall, and cellars, all while learning about the intricacies of brewing. The tour isn't just educational; it's interactive and ends with a tasting session where you can sample some of Boulevard's finest brews. The experience is both enlightening and enjoyable, appealing not just to beer enthusiasts but to anyone interested in the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into producing some of KC's favorite beverages. It's a toast to the city's entrepreneurial spirit and a testament to its flourishing craft beer scene.

Union Station's Link Gallery

Union Station, a historical landmark and cultural staple in Kansas City, beckons visitors with its grandeur and architectural beauty. But there's more to this iconic location than meets the eye. The Link Gallery at Union Station, free to the public, is a corridor of history and culture. It frequently houses exhibitions that delve into significant historical events, scientific discoveries, and celebrations of local and national accomplishments. The exhibits are thought-provoking and often interactive, designed to engage visitors of all ages. While the gallery is a quieter experience compared to the hustle and bustle of the station, it's a meaningful one, providing valuable context to Kansas City's past and present, and possibly, a new perspective on the world around us.

Crown Center

If you're looking to immerse yourself in Kansas City's vibrancy, Crown Center is a dynamic hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment. While shopping at the center's array of stores might hit your pocket, the atmosphere and window shopping don't cost a thing. Crown Center is particularly magical during the summer and winter months. Summer weekends often feature free outdoor movies and concerts, allowing visitors to lounge under the stars while enjoying cinematic classics or live music. In the winter, the affordable ice terrace turns the center into a winter wonderland, ideal for skating enthusiasts or beginners eager to slide across the ice. Throughout the year, the center is a backdrop for various festivals and events, solidifying its status as a community gathering place that's low on cost but high on value.In the heart of America, Kansas City stands as a testament to the fact that rich experiences don't require lavish spending. Each of these places offers a unique slice of the city, an experience that thrives on community, culture, and the sheer joy of discovery. So, go ahead, dive deep into these affordable attractions, and in doing so, you'll surely fall in love with a city that embraces you right back, without straining your budget. Cheers to adventures that enrich the soul, yet spare the pocket!

*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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