Top 12 Museums in Kansas City

Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As a cosmopolitan cultural hub of the Midwest, Kansas City offers an array of exceptional museums to engage minds of all ages. Spanning science, history and art, the city’s premier museums not only preserve the past but provide compelling environments for experiencing innovative exhibitions.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of ArtArt collections spanning globally
National World War I Museum And MemorialWWI history
Science City At Union StationInteractive science exhibits
The Money MuseumEconomics, currency
Negro Leagues Baseball MuseumAfrican American baseball history
American Jazz MuseumJazz music history
National Museum Of Toys & MiniaturesToys and miniatures
Kemper Museum Of Contemporary ArtContemporary art
Todd Bolender Center For Dance & CreativityDance and creativity
Arabia Steamboat Museum19th-century steamboat artifacts
Toy & Miniature Museum Of Kansas CityDolls and dollhouses
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & MuseumTruman’s presidency

Dynamic institutions like the National World War I Museum and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art have garnered international acclaim for their expansive collections andinspired architecture. Those seeking interactive encounters can dig dinosaur bones, produce personalized films, or explore hands-on artmaking studios too. This article showcases 12 of the most prominent, enlightening and wondrous museums defining Kansas City as an emergent capital of culture.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Name and Location: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is located just east of the Country Club Plaza district in Kansas City, Missouri.

Collections and Exhibits: The museum houses nearly 40,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of creativity across Asian art, European masterpieces, modernist classics, outdoor sculptures, and special exhibitions.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore galleries showcasing standout pieces like Caravaggio’s St. John the Baptist, Monet’s Waterlilies, African and Pacific Island works, touring displays, and the outdoor Shuttlecocks installation.

Visitor Information: Free general admission. Open Wednesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Thursday-Friday until 9pm. Public tours, programs, cafe and store onsite.

Renowned as one of the nation’s most comprehensive art museums, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art houses stellar European masterpieces, dazzling Impressionist paintings, transfixing Asian decor and striking contemporary installations across multiple architecturally-stunning buildings.Sculptures by Giacometti and Henry Moore dot the grounds while inside visitors find Egyptian mummies, Baroque angels by Zurbarán and avant garde multimedia works alongside Old Masters and American greats. Whether an art insider or novice, the Nelson-Atkins’ free general admission and approachable galleries offer an excellent art experience for all.

National World War I Museum And Memorial

Name and Location: The National WWI Museum and Memorial is located downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Collections and Exhibits: It houses the most comprehensive global collection of WWI objects, documents, and imagery accessible through exhibitions like Trench Experience and Memorial Hall plus the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower.

What to Expect: Guests can view period tanks, aircraft, trench sections, interactives, films, artwork, posters, uniforms, medals, and more while learning about The War to End All Wars.

Visitor Information: Open daily except major holidays. Admission fees apply. Guided tours, onsite cafe, and museum store available.

As the only American museum solely dedicated to preserving memories surrounding World War I, the National World War I Museum and Memorial stands as one of Kansas City’s most sobering, enlightening cultural landmarks. Award-winning architecture houses a chronological collection of artifacts, archives and impactful exhibits conveying personal stories of loss and bravery amidst global conflict. Visitors gain perspective on issues still relevant today sparked by the Great War and how it shaped the 20th century. For those seeking to understand past events and people defining the world as we know it, this intelligently curated museum delivers.

Science City At Union Station

Name and Location: Science City is inside the grandly restored Union Station complex in downtown Kansas City.

Collections and Exhibits: Seven themed galleries feature hundreds of interactive exhibits that allow kids to launch planes, produce TV shows, view films in the Extreme Screen Theatre, and explore STEM principles.

What to Expect: Guests can dig archaeology pits, manipulate energy particles, design robots, learn about genetics, and engage their minds through hands-on science experimentation.

Visitor Information: Open year-round. Ticket prices vary by attractions. Reservations recommended. Accessible with ample parking.

At Science City inside the beautifully renovated Union Station, kids and kidults encounter highly-entertaining STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, art and math) exhibits that edutain. Get a glimpse of your internal organs at play, dig dinosaur bones, produce personalized films, explore physics principles with golf balls and magnets or enter an augmented reality environment. Science City’s ever-changing activities utilise innovation to unpack complex concepts through enjoyment appropriate for all ages and knowledge levels. Don’t miss experiencing extreme weather in the Science on a Sphere room too!

The Money Museum

Name and Location: The Money Museum is connected to the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Kansas City.

Collections and Exhibits: Interactive exhibits housed within the Fed’s original 1950s bank lobby and vault creatively trace money’s story from early bartering to modern digital payments using displays like giant piggy banks along with currency and gold displays.

What to Expect: Guests can explore unique exhibits spotlighting cash histories worldwide, see bank vault doors, walk through largecoin structures, and learn about the economy’s inner workings through engaging presentations.

Visitor Information: Free weekday admission excluding holidays. Tours available by reservation. Closed weekends. ID required upon entry. Street parking nearby.

As one might expect from a facility run by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, The Money Museum uniquely focuses on economics, currency and the nation’s central banking system. Yet rather than being boring, interactive exhibits like the giant floor map tracing cotton’s impact make learning fascinating. Feel the weight of a solid gold bar. Trace bank technology evolution from vintage abaci to space-age ATMs and digital coins exchanged online. Clearly conveyed displays decode complex fiscal concepts and policies governing global finances in ways everyone can understand.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Name and Location: The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located in the 18th & Vine District of downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Collections and Exhibits: It houses an unmatched collection of artifacts, photographs, equipment, memorabilia, multimedia exhibits, and life-size bronze statues that convey stories of the all-Black professional leagues from 1920 through their 1960 dissolution.

What to Expect: Visitors can see Josh Gibson’s locker, walk through turnstile recreations, view archived films, appreciate cultural photos, read about outstanding players and entrepreneurs, and grasp inspiration realised despite immense societal challenges.

Visitor Information: Timed entry tickets required. Open year-round, closed Mondays. Adults $15, children $12. Groups accommodated.

No visit to Kansas City is complete without visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to honour monumental athletes influential in America’s favourite pastime. Artifacts, multimedia exhibits and life-size statues capture often overlooked histories of players, managers and teams who were not allowed into Major League Baseballpre-1947. Hear moving tales of struggle, courage and resilience as the museum showcases Kansas City’s time as an early incubator for talented African American baseballplayers and executives working outside a restrictive system. For sports fans and appreciators of underrepresented civil rights histories alike, this museum knocks it out of the park.

American Jazz Museum

Name and Location: The American Jazz Museum is located inside the Museums at 18th & Vine complex in Kansas City’s famous jazz district.

Collections and Exhibits: State-of-the-art exhibits with memorabilia, films, and audio blend to recreate historic KC jazz clubs introducing key musicians and styles using interactive displays demonstrating improvisational techniques.

What to Expect: Guests can see Charlie Parker’s first saxophone, transition through recreated club settings, listen to rare recordings, examine music scores, and gain appreciation for KC’s distinct jazz contributions that resonate worldwide.

Visitor Information: Part of 18th & Vine museums joint ticket. Timed entry required. Closed Mondays and holidays. Adults from $16, students from $14. Tours available.

Sharing a building with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Blue Room jazz club and Gem Theater concert venue, the American Jazz Museum immerses visitors into Kansas City’s celebrated legacy as the epicenter of a wholly original American artform. Interactive exhibits with vintage musical instruments, recordings and artifacts provide compelling insights into jazz music’s origins, stylistic evolution and greatest virtuosos, many who began careers performing on 12thStreet and Vine where the museum now stands. Daily live music performances on the museum’s stage inspire toe-tapping while paying homage to Kansas City maintaining status as the Paris of the Plains.

National Museum Of Toys & Miniatures

Name and Location: The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is housed within a central Kansas City Victorian mansion near the Country Club Plaza.

Collections and Exhibits: It displays antique toys, European tin figurines, intricately furnished dollhouses, model railroads, a Barbie collection, vintage teddy bears, soldiers, character toys, games, banks, and the world’s largest fine-scale miniature collection.

What to Expect: Explore extravagant historic miniatures, imaginative early 20th century toys, model train layouts, nostalgic childhood favorites, dolls, stuffed animals, and more in this unique step back in time.

Visitor Information: Timed tickets required. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Adults $10, seniors $9, ages 4-15 $6. Guided tours and gift shop onsite.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures collects playthings and petite treasures spanning centuries of human creativity. Antique dollhouses, oozing with exquisite detail, nestle beside vintage Barbies and tin robot toys conveying shifts in pop culture and gender roles decade-to-decade. Model airplane collections from WWI-era biplanes to Star Wars X-Wings trace flight’s history. Thousands of nostalgia-filled toys, tiny tea sets and more provide opportunities to share fond memories across generations about cherished objects commemorating childhood.

Kemper Museum Of Contemporary Art

Name and Location: The Kemper Museum is located downtown in the former Kemper art collectors’ headquarters building.

Collections and Exhibits: The permanent collection centers on 20th century American works acquired by patrons R. Crosby and Bebe Kemper, supplemented by temporary exhibits exploring modern artists, styles and ideas.

What to Expect: Guests can explore diverse postwar painting, sculpture and new media works representing varied movements, themes and artists – from preeminent pieces to emerging regionally connected talent.

Visitor Information: Always free admission. Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday. Seasonal evening hours. Café, store, lectures onsite. Tours available.

Bold and provocative works by trailblazing contemporary artists fill the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art’s galleries with color, questions and conversation starters. See massive photorealistic portraits probing stereotypes and sweeping abstract acrylic color fields layered with hidden cultural symbols. Many artworks incorporate unusual materials — from flag pins to dried plants — crafting multimedia social commentary. Don’t miss outdoor sculptures like Shuttlecocks, giant badminton birdies balanced playfully atop soaring steel arches! The Kemper also hosts regular artist talks, film screenings, lunchtime lectures and other public programs for engaging with art and issues.

Todd Bolender Center For Dance & Creativity

Name and Location: The Bolender Center is downtown within Kansas City’s Union Station Link Corridor.

Collections and Exhibits: The center primarily hosts ongoing dance training, rehearsals and performances like intimate Black Box shows to full Kansas City Ballet productions within the 300-seat Rose Theater.

What to Expect: Patrons can view avant-garde works to classics like The Nutcracker along with guest troupe collaborations, festivals and camps for aspiring area dancers. Custom studios accommodate local companies.

Visitor Information: Access varies by scheduled programs. Ticket prices depend upon performance type. Nearby garage parking and streetcar access convenient.

Illuminating the stories, styles and icons who enable human expression through movements, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity houses interactive exhibits for understanding dance as an artform. View artifacts from beloved Kansas City Ballet productions while learning how sets are constructed. Try techniques like tendu beside video screens demonstrating proper form. Film yourself replicating signature steps performed by greats like Alvin Ailey using interactive archival footage, then email videos to impress friends with your smooth (or silly) dance skills! Todd Bolender provides great behind-the-scenes access into the discipline, creativity and athleticism dance demands.

Arabia Steamboat Museum

Name and Location: The Arabia Steamboat Museum is located minutes off I-435 & State Avenue in Kansas City.

Collections and Exhibits: It authentically displays over 4 tons of everyday pre-Civil War provisions excavated from the 1856 wreck of the Steamboat Arabia drowned 45 feet underground by Missouri River shifting.

What to Expect: View thousands of preserved artifacts like bottled foods, pioneer tools, textiles, dishware, machinery and more within the 40,000 sq foot exhibition space replicating the sensation of sailing up to the intact steamboat ruin site.

Visitor Information: Open year-round. Extended summer hours. Adults $15.95, youth $7.95. Café and gift shop onsite. Tours accommodated.

Unlike any other Midwest museum, the Arabia Steamboat Museum preserves everyday pioneer treasures buried underground for over a century. After sinking in 1856, mud sealed this steamboat’s precious cargo until resurrected in the late 1980s near Kansas City. Visitors are amazed walking through a reconstructed dry goods store, pharmacy and warehouse filled with intact china sets, clothing, carpentry tools, preserved foods and more owned by hopeful settlers.Getting glimpses into American homesteading pasts while handling antique frontier goods makes the Steamboat Arabia collection’s scale and preservation seem surreal!

Toy & Miniature Museum Of Kansas City

Name and Location: The Toy & Miniature Museum resides within a central city Victorian mansion near the Country Club Plaza district.

Collections and Exhibits: Showcases feature antique toys like elaborate European tin figures, train sets, teddy bears and dolls plus distinct miniature displays of exquisitely crafted room and shop vignettes along with model railroads amid nostalgic childhood toys.

What to Expect: Explore extravagantly crafted miniatures, imaginative early 1900s toys, train layouts, nostalgic merchandise displays, dolls and stuffed animals allowing imaginative inner child wonder.

Visitor Information: Timed ticket entry. Open Tuesday-Sundays year-round. Admission fees: Adults $10, seniors $9, ages 4-15 $6. Gift shop access.

More than 800 delightful dolls and 300 dollhouses await at the Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City highlighting western history through well-preserved playthings. Intricately handcrafted antique dollhouses reveal fascinating domestic details as fine as needlepoint rugs and floral wallpaper samples. Themes like transportation, general stores and post offices appear repeatedly with handmade furnishings sized perfectly for petite spaces. Meet Licca-chan, Japan’s fashionable answer to Barbie, alongside her international doll counterparts. With free admission and rotating exhibits beside long term displays, this hidden local gem in midtown KC delights nostalgic visitors of all ages.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Name and Location: The Truman Library & Museum is located in Independence, Missouri near downtown Kansas City.

Collections and Exhibits: It houses the most extensive Truman collection globally – over 47 million pages chronicling his personal and political leadership – enhanced through 60+ museum exhibits using newsreels, artifacts like his Oval Office desk and 1948 Lincoln Cosmopolitan car.

What to Expect: Guests can explore Truman’s journey from rural Missouri beginnings through the presidency while gaining insights on key WWII and Cold War policies via personal effects, archival White House items, documents and films.

Visitor Information: Convenient interstate access off I-70 and I-435. Timed entry tickets required. Open daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Honouring Missouri local and 33rd US President Harry S. Truman, this museum built around his gravesite chronicles the former leader’s humble upbringing, political ascent and monumental presidency navigating post-WWII recovery and turbulence. Broadcasts, photographs, diaries and more encapsulate Truman enacting innovative policies strengthening global alliances, economy and civil rights still impacting America today. Walking through recreated settings like the White House Oval Office and Truman family parlor offer intimate encounters with a president committed to serving everyday citizens.


From premier art institutions like The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to smaller niche collections including the Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City, museums across this vibrant heartland cultural hub educate and inspire through meaningful exhibitions. Here visitors unpack pivotal moments in baseball, music’s evolution and global warfare while also encountering exquisite craftmanship spanning dollhouses to steamships resurrected from the past. The variety and quality of museums elevating arts, sciences, history and more confirm Kansas City as an emergent capital of culture with something to engage any interest.

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