Located on the northwestern side of Missouri, Kansas City is the state’s second-largest city. While it’s well-known for being home to the Kansas City Chiefs and other sports teams, it also boasts hidden surprises such as phenomenal barbecue and jazz music. This sprawling city offers plenty of incredible Kansas City vacation rentals, as well as off-the-beaten-path adventures. Here are some of the best attractions to add to your must-see list.

1. Blue Koi

Blue Koi Noodles and Dumplings is a Chinese restaurant that rides below the radar, though you’d be surprised at its ability to stay hidden with all the freshly made food and traditional ethnic dishes. The dumplings, for instance, range from pan fried dumplings filled with chicken, shrimp, or pork to eggplant pockets filled with vegan ingredients with a garlic sauce. Blue Koi is located just a block from the Kansas and Missouri border in southern Kansas City and just down the street from Roanoke Park if you want to walk off your dumplings afterwards.

2. Mutual Musicians Foundation

Once upon a time, since the 1930s at least, jazz musicians would gather together at the Mutual Musicians Foundation building and jam together. Many jazz greats have graced the building over the last 100 years. Now, despite being a national historic landmark, Mutual Musicians is still a place for jazz improvisation and music. You can jam (or listen to the jam session) on Friday and Saturday nights starting at midnight. There are also tours and jazz classes available. It’s located in the downtown area a stone’s throw from the Kansas City Juke House and Jazz Museum where you can discover more about this musical style.

3. Historic City Market

Known also as the River Market for its location on the banks of the Missouri River, the Historic City Market has been a gathering place for locals for 150 years. While you can certainly admire the old brick buildings that have hosted the wares of generations of farmers and artisans, you can also join the fun. Pick up locally sourced produce for your vacation house, select a few handmade items, and enjoy the local culture. The market’s open every weekend year-round and festivals and events are regularly held there, giving you a way to rub elbows with the locals whenever you visit.

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4. The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures will take you back to the gold old days of your childhood and delight your own children, a win-win for all age groups. The museum contains over 72,000 items from from vintage army men to dollhouse furniture, from miniature ships to equally miniature houses, all made to perfectly resemble the originals. The museum even focuses on games that children played before modern technology. One of its events is a Playing for Keeps marble game based on the national marble tournament that ran yearly for 14 years following World War II designed help veterans and children alike. The museum is located in the south end of Kansas City, close to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Loose Park Rose Garden; you can visit all three attractions at the same time.

5. Puppetry Arts Institute

One reason the Puppetry Arts Institute is one of the lesser known attraction in Kansas City is its low-key location in the eastern metropolitan area. However, if you look beyond the ordinary building, you’ll find a treasure trove of puppet history from a museum to workshops to performances that both kids and adults are sure to enjoy. View puppets from around the world, or read up on the history of Hazelle puppets and marionettes. Visit during one of the scheduled performances which are both fun and educational such as the Lewis and Clark puppet show. Even sign up for a puppet-making workshop, a great way to make memories of your trip.

6. Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens is located in the rural outskirts of Kansas City beyond the city limits where fewer tourists are willing to travel. Not only does visiting Powell Gardens give you a chance to admire the countryside, but it gets you away from the crowds and into the heart of nature. There are several gardens including the Fountain Garden featuring water features that kids can actually play in, the Heartland Harvest Garden where only edibles are grown, and the Island Garden with waterlilies and a living wall. Hop on the Byron Shutz Nature Trail for kid-friendly hike. While visiting, keep your eyes peeled for some of the buildings and features created by renown architects such as the Garden Gatehouse, Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel, and Wildflower and Meadow Pavilion. Make a day of it and grab some food at Cafe Thyme and Missouri Barn, the latter of which uses produce fresh from the Heartland Harvest Garden for its dishes.

7. Filling Station Bar-B-Que

If you’re visiting Kansas City, chances are you’re going to come across some barbecue joint (or 20). The Filling Station is one of the hidden barbecue gems in town. Located in an old Texaco station in the southeastern side of Kansas City, this joint allows you to taste the local flavor without having to stand in line. Not only does the Filling Station offer pulled pork, beef, sausage, and burnt end sandwiches, but you can also get smoked catfish. The appetizers are all Southern from fried okra and fried pickles to Jalapeno poppers and baked beans. Afterwards, take a drive through Fleming Park.

8. Black Archives of Mid-America

The Black Archives of Mid-America is of value to all people, races, and genders for its preservation of African American history in this part of the country. The Black Archives has a permanent exhibit telling the story of African Americas in Kansas City dating all the way back to Lewis and Clark. It touches on the social life and civil rights through the years. The Black Archives, on the corner of Parade Park, lies a block from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum where you can supplement your knowledge of African Americans in the heartland with African Americans in sports.

9. Shoal Creek Living History Museum

After learning about the lives of African Americans at the Black Archives, head to the Shoal Creek Living History Museum to discover how people of all races lived back in the 1800s. The living history museum located in northeastern Kansas City, is 80 acres of fields, woods, historic buildings, and walking trails. Re-enactors show how the mill worked back in the day, what it was like in school, and military skirmishes during the time. Special events are ongoing where your kids can learn in the one-room school building, enjoy a Victorian tea, or labor in the community garden. Or you can just go on a nature walk with the family and appreciate nature.

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