When I planned a late March visit to Kansas City, Missouri, I had imagined that the trip would be a reprieve from the brutal winter weather of Chicago. Oops! More than six inches of snow dropped on KC that weekend, as winter returned for one last blast.
But I embraced the challenge. It’s fun getting to know a new place in less than perfect conditions. If you’re going to let the weather get in your way, you’re not much of an adventurer!
The KC visit was a lot of fun despite the flurries. The snow provided some cool winter scenery and the indoor attractions had me hooked, from the unique museums to the famous barbecue.
Kansas City in winter isn’t so bad. Here’s a guide to how I braved the elements, and additional suggestions for what you can do to pass the time if you’re visiting during a snowstorm.
The NCAA Tournament
It was the opening round of March Madness when I visited, which meant that basketball teams from across the country were in town. The North Carolina team stayed in my hotel, which led to a lobby pep rally featuring the team’s cheerleaders, mascot and band. I hadn’t seen this much school spirit since my Beaver Falls Fighting Tigers won the high school state championship during my senior year. I had no particular rooting interest in this tourney, but I definitely had a soft spot for NC after this display.
Hundreds gathered in the Power & Light District for a fan experience with live bands, basketball hoops for kids, and a big screen to watch all the games.
Kansas City barbecue!
For lunch, it was off to Gates BarBQ, one of the many barbecue hot spots in KC. The best way to experience a new restaurant is to gorge on everything, so the table was loaded with BBQ chicken, ham, shredded beef and ribs, with fries and beans on the side. The sauce had a nice kick without being too spicy. Great stuff.
Given that my last southern barbecue experience was not so good (sorry, Raleigh, North Carolina), Gates was a total winner in my book.
World War I Museum
There’s only one museum in America dedicated entirely to World War I. The structure began in 1926 as the Liberty Memorial and expanded in 2006 to include an underground museum. The Great War claimed the lives of more than nine million people worldwide, and the memorial tastefully documents the conflict with pictures, interactive touch-screen displays and artifacts.
The items on display included grenades from Austria-Hungary.
And submarine torpedoes from the war.
The 217-foot high tower at the memorial can be seen throughout much of the city.
You can ride an old-fashioned elevator to the top of the tower, where you’ll find the best view of Kansas City and its skyline.
The Science of Rock & Roll
It always takes some time to return to reality after leaving a serious, emotionally-charged museum like the WWI facility. I walked around for a bit before ending up at Union Station to check out the Science of Rock & Roll exhibit.
The display featured separate cases highlighting each decade in music history. Bust out those 8-track players and let’s play some Meat Loaf!
This doll was signed by Alice Cooper, who gave it his signature eye paint. This is not creepy at all.
The Science of Rock & Roll allows visitors to record themselves playing an instrument and watch the video online after going back home. I was hoping to get a shot on the drums, but the drum kit proved to be especially popular on this day, so I settled for the keyboard. I sat down and worked out some sort of futuristic synth riff that was probably unconsciously inspired by Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” I now present the video of this winning one-finger composition:
If someone wants to take this music and lay a beat or a rap verse over it and turn it into a hit song, I’ll gladly accept songwriting royalties. Thanks!
Kansas City in Winter: The arctic blast
After emerging from Union Station the snow started to fall. The tower of the WWI Museum as seen through the flakes from a distance:
The next morning, Kansas City was a winter wonderland. Fortunately, the city was able to clear the roads rather quickly. Well done, KC road crew!
With the roads perfectly drivable, I headed off to see some of Kansas City’s coolest neighborhoods, like Westport and Volker, stopping at the Kemper Museum of Modern Art along the way to see the giant spider statue out front.
And the giant badminton shuttlecocks outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Westport has a lot of history to its credit. It used to be its own city before KC took it over in 1897. Back then Westport was popular as a starting point for settlers heading off on the Oregon and Sante Fe Trails. Now it serves as a popular entertainment district with busy bars and restaurants.
You know you’re in a fun hipster ‘hood when you start seeing the bike shops.
Unfortunately, not every business appreciates that clientele.
Nobody was foolish enough to try to sit outside at the Mud Pie on this day, although the popular coffeehouse had plenty of customers inside.
When I finally replace my travel van, I want a VW just like this one, perhaps with a more elaborate color scheme.
Someone even constructed an actual igloo. I’ve seen halfhearted igloo attempts from time to time, but it’s been years since I witnessed a genuine, brick-by-brick winter igloo. Now that is how you enjoy a winter storm.
Other Activities and Attractions in Kansas City in Winter
Other good ideas for how to survive Kansas City in winter include visiting the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the National Airline History Museum, the Toy & Miniature Museum, and exploring the Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the historic 18th and Vine District.
Beyond that, consider the Harry Truman Presidential Library in nearby Independence. Any chance to dig deep into the history of an American president is a worthwhile educational experience.
Then there’s the Hallmark Visitors Center. That’s right, the famous greeting card company has a facility with a gift shop and interactive exhibits about the history of the company. It’s open Monday to Saturday, it’s right in the heart of downtown KC, and it’s free!
During the coldest winter months (November to March), you can ice skate outdoors at Crown Center Ice Terrace. You can’t beat the cold, so you might as well embrace it!
There’s also the Kansas City Zoo. Some animals, like the polar bears, prefer these conditions.
In terms of special events during a KC winter, the WinterFest celebration lasts more than five weeks throughout late November and all of December. During that same time frame, head south for the impressive Christmas in the Park drive-thru holiday presentation.
Finally, consider some day trips from Kansas City if the weather isn’t too bad. St. Louis, Omaha, and Des Moines are all within a few hours’ drive. Or, for an off-the-beaten-path suggestion, consider a road trip into Topeka and Wichita, Kansas.
Typical Kansas City Winter Weather
How cold is it in Kansas City during winter? That totally depends. It can be freezing and snowing, or it can be just moderately chilly.
On average, high temperatures from December through February hang around the 42° F range, with lows averaging about 23° F. Those months also see about 4 inches of snow, per month. Kansas City weather in December is probably the coldest and most difficult.
Note: I was a guest of Visit KC in Kansas City.