Whether you are an international student, overseas or a local, welcome to Paris on the prairie. When it comes to the lively action, Kansas City beats outside its weight class.
Rodgers and Hammerstein were right when they said everything was up to date in Kansas City. KC has high-profile offerings from opera to modern art, and from world-class dancers to James Beard Award-winning chefs.
Lots of money-buckled college students are more interested in pubs and greasy spoons than five-star restaurants, and Kansas City has pretty much everything you’re looking for, as long as you know where to look. The following is a good start to fulfilling the wanderlust of a Kansas City college student on a budget.
Have a picnic on Nelson Atkins lawn
Hardly anything is more classic in Kansas City than the manicured lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with its sculpture garden and giant shuttlecocks. The lawn is open to the public and free of charge. Pick a nice day to roll out a blanket, unpack a basket and enjoy an urban oasis.
Entry to the museum itself is also free, apart from the occasional traveling exhibits. The Nelson was named one of USA Today’s top 5 free museums in the country this year. The free and convenient Nelson-Atkins is north of the UMKC’s Volker Campus.
Kansas City built a light rail tram that debuted to great civic pride and fanfare in 2016. The route runs a north and south loop on Main Street from Union Station to the River Market. The tram is to be extended to the UMKC’s Volker Campus in the coming years.
The tram is free, chic, and has WiFi, but its real appeal lies on the route: Crown Center, the Power & Light District, the Crossroads Arts District, and downtown local shops, restaurants, and pubs.
My ideal day tram trip starts with a coffee at Union Station while admiring the beautiful 107 year old building. Follow this by jumping on the tram to the KC Central Library and exploring the literal vaults of KC history. From there we go to the City Market and have lunch in Pigwich.
Afterward, take the tram south to Tom’s Town Distillery for a cocktail and tour with some of KC’s most notorious characters. Take the tram one last time to return to Union Station, where we will walk across the street to the Liberty Memorial – the only World War I museum in the US – and spend a few hours exploring it before closing time.
Check out the website or watch this video for more ideas for Tram Day.
See and be seen on the first Friday at the intersection
Every first Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District transforms into a festival-like experience celebrating the arts. Food trucks, art galleries, pop-up bars, and music fill the streets. While the art isn’t free (and often from student budgets), immersion in the atmosphere, culture, and music is free.
Go to the ball game
If sport is more your thing, KC delivers with professional teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Royals and Sporting KC. Tickets can get pricey, but the royals have a student night on Wednesdays with $ 10 tickets if you bring your student ID. Kansas City NWSL is our professional women’s soccer team and the Kansas City Monarchs are our professional minor league baseball team, both with special offers and affordable tickets.
All UMKC basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball home games are free for students. Show your student ID at the box office to get free entry.
Stand on the corner of 18NS and vine
The 18thNS and Vine Jazz District is full of history. The legendary Count Basie and Charlie Parker performed in the district’s nightclubs, making it the center of the jazz world at times.
Burned Ends – Kansas City’s most famous culinary contribution – were invented and first served at Arthur Bryant’s, where you can still try them today. Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neil and the rest of the famous Kansas City monarchs played just around the corner from what is now the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It is directly adjacent to the American Jazz Museum.
In the GEM Theater, the Blue Room and the Mutual Musician’s Foundation you can literally experience jazz until sunrise.