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Full disclaimer: Kansas City is probably not the first destination that springs to mind for solo travel in the United States. I’m not making fun of KC, though. I promise.
However, I was asked on more than one occasion why I would bother visiting KC alone, especially in comparison to popular cities such as Las Vegas, Miami, New York, and so much more. Why visit KC at all?
Believe it or not, I think Kansas City is a wonderful choice for solo travelers seeking a weekend getaway in the US. I mean, it’s practically half-way between the East and West Coast.
As a side note, despite its name suggesting otherwise, this city sits on the border between both Kansas and Missouri, and as you venture around the metro area, you constantly cross the state’s borders. And it’s always fun to brag about visiting two states at once.
What’s not to love about KC?
Solo Travel in Kansas City: My Experience
Confession time. I actually didn’t come out to Kansas City on a whim. Rather I was in Kansas City for WITS, a conference all about women in travel, and did meet a couple of great new friends. However, while at WITS, I was excited to venture out on my own to enjoy a taste of the city.
And I have great news for you! Kansas City was a lot of fun for a solo traveler!
On my short trip, I learned all about the horrors of World War I, ate ribs so delicious that I practically melted into the floor when I bit into them, appreciated Kansas City’s never wavering loyalty to their small businesses, listened to top notch jazz, and so much more!
Seriously, though, why isn’t this mid-western city packed with hostels luring in solo travelers? I understand cities, such as New York and San Francisco, draw in more solo travelers from at home and abroad, but isn’t part of the joy of traveling exploring a destination that isn’t always on the front cover of Conde Nast Traveler?
4 Reasons to Travel Alone to Kansas City
Still not 100% sold on a trip? Don’t worry! I’ve a couple fantastic reasons for why you should travel alone to Kansas City.
Of course this isn’t a comprehensive post, and there are probably enough reasons to visit Kansas City that could fill an entire novel, but I figured I’d help get you started!
BBQ Makes Solo Dining Tons of Fun
Kansas City is known for barbecue. And the good news is? Many of the barbecue joints are quite casual and easy for a solo traveler to enjoy without feeling awkward at a table for one.
All locals have their own favorite barbecue joints, and it is impossible to try all of them on a short visit. Although, I guess wanting more barbecue is a good excuse to return to KC, huh?
On my own trip, I went to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue and would seriously fly back to Kansas City again just to eat a big barbecue lunch. Yes, folks, Joe’s is that good. And the menu is inclusive too! Joe’s even has vegetarian options if you prefer a meat-free dish.
Joe’s is definitely a casual place to eat (it’s inside a gas station, which makes for cool pictures), so you won’t stand out as a sore thumb as a solo traveler. You may even make new friends chatting in line. And there’s always a line. Try not to stress. It’s part of the experience.
Feel Sophisticated in a Jazz Lounge
In addition to barbecue, Kansas City has a thriving jazz scene. Jazz culture, especially in the African-American community, started in the 1920s and flourished in the 1930s.
Kansas City’s jazz lounges are laid back affairs where a solo traveler easily fits into the crowd.
On my trip, I spent a few hours listening to music at The Green Lady Lounge and had a wonderful time taking in the velvet red walls and low buzz from the customers and bartenders. The Green Lady Lounge has live jazz seven nights a week, which fits into any solo traveler’s schedule.
Like I said, an independent traveler is able to sit at the bar and listen to music and not made to feel weird for being alone. Don’t let your solo status prevent you from hearing authentic KC jazz!
Friendliness is the Norm in Kansas City
People in Kansas City are friendly. Is it still possible to encounter a few jerks? Sure, they are everywhere in the world and I don’t mean to generalize, but on my trip, I encountered a lot of kindness from Kansas City’s residents.
I always had people talking to me whether it was at the farmer’s market or the World War I museum. One of the visitors even gave me a hair tie since I came completely unprepared for the wind at the top of The Liberty Memorial Tower! What I especially loved was that the friendlessness didn’t come with any caveats, such as not-so subtly asking for money or a date, and was purely genuine.
Over all, residents of Kansas City adore their home, and feel excited to share ideas with visitors. You won’t feel lonely as a solo traveler for very long (if you ever do).
See Plenty of Fascinating Museums
Kansas City’s museums are great for solo travel. In general, I like exploring museums alone, because I can take as much or as little time as I need to learn about a new topic. No one will get annoyed with me for staring too long at a painting, or leaving early because my stomach is growling.
And Kansas City? Is a surprising home to some great museums. I’ve listed a couple of suggestions below (aka the three museums I visited here), but, as always, this list is not comprehensive. For example, I heard great things about both National Museum of Toys and Miniatures and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum even though I didn’t have time to visit them.
Last but not least, check opening hours for the museums. I was in Kansas City on a Monday, and a lot of museums were closed. Do research to avoid disappointment.
Museum Ideas for KC
I had the pleasure of visiting all three of these museums and loved each one! Prioritize museums based on your own interests.
- Arabia Steamboat Museum: This fascinating historic museum contains many artifacts that were lifted from the wreck of Arabia. This steamboat sank in the Missouri River in 1856 and visiting the museum offers valuable insights about pioneer life in America. You can find Arabia Steamboat Museum on 400 Grand Boulevard.
- The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: I’m a huge fan of art museums, and this cultural gem in Kansas City is home to a diverse collection that spans 5,000 years. Personally, I love the iconic Shuttlecocks sculpture on the front lawn. You can find The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on 2545 Oak Street.
- World War I Museum: Last but not least, the World War I Museum offers deep lessons on the tragedies of WWI, as well as a memorial to all those who were killed. Don’t forget to go to the top of The Liberty Memorial Tower for sweeping views from the observation deck. 2 Memorial Drive.
Practical Advice for Solo Travel in Kansas City
Last but not least, I wanted to write some practical advice for your solo trip to Kansas City. We all know solo travel has a lot of special considerations that family and couples travel does not. For example, is it easy to get around without someone else to guide you? Is it safe for a solo person to walk at night?
So, here are a few practical bits of advice that will make your trip to Kansas City memorable and happy.
Safety Tips for Kansas City
Safety and solo travel are linked. No doubt about it.
Honestly, if you search for Kansas City safety tips, some pretty scary statistics about violent crime pop up. According to FBI data, Kansas City ranks eighth for violent crimes per capita. Property crime rates are high, too. Kansas City has invested a great deal of money to improve safety downtown, but at the same time, I completely understand why these rankings would give a solo traveler pause.
In many ways, Kansas City’s more dangerous neighborhoods were created by design. Historically speaking, KC’s segregation, redlining, and white flight contributed to racial inequity and poverty in the metro area, which, in turn, led to more crime.
As a traveler, it’s important to acknowledge this history, while at the same time, keeping yourself safe from harm. However, like most cities, the vast majority of crimes take place between people who know each other, and a tourist, even a single woman, is unlikely to face any problems.
I can only speak for myself here. As a woman traveling alone, I had absolutely no problems in Kansas City other than being asked once for money (which happens in every city).
My advice for solo travelers in Kansas City is to explore downtown during the day and take a few extra precautions at night. You won’t have many problems seeing the museums and hitting up the coffee shops in downtown in the middle of the afternoon. At night, on the other hand, you will want to keep in mind Kansas City is very much a “car city,” and you don’t see tons of people walking the streets at certain hours, because the locals drive everywhere. Take an Uber if you’re going out for cocktails or jazz, even if the walking distance seems reasonable.
Another safety tip to remember is that Missouri and Kansas are both prone to tornadoes, which typically occur from March through June. As a visitor, you probably won’t experience a tornado, but on the off chance you do, please take tornado sirens and warnings seriously. Tornadoes are no joke. Listen to authorities and take shelter.
How to Get Around Kansas City
Most people drive in Kansas City. The attractions are sprawled out over many neighborhoods, and highways make driving from one place to the next pretty easy.
However, I completely understand the hassle of renting a car. I mean, I personally prefer not to drive on my trips (driving in my home state of NJ is stressful enough).
Fortunately, Kansas City has options for travelers who don’t want to deal with their own car rental.
Ride Share App
Ride share apps, such as Uber and Lyft, are popular in Kansas City. I don’t think I waited longer than 10 minutes for a car. These rides are awesome if you’re staying downtown and want to explore Country Club Plaza or other areas not within walking distance. Ride shares are also reliable for driving for the airport, unless your flight is super early or late.
Believe it or not, the Kansas City Streetcar is a very reliable form of public transportation in this car-heavy city. The KC streetcar travels 2 miles throughout downtown, and links some popular areas, such as Union Station and City Market.
And the best part? The KC streetcar is free! Yes, 100% free! Hop on and off as many times as you like without taking out your wallet! Highly recommend it.
What to Pack as a Solo Traveler in Kansas City
Your packing list for Kansas City depends on the time of year that you visit. Honestly, from what I’ve heard, I’d advise against visiting in winter and summer if you can avoid it.
- Bug Spray: Want to stroll along the Missouri River? Take bug spray. Please, please, please take bug spray. The mosquitos aren’t a joke, especially if they want to eat the skin around your ankles.
- Comfortable Shoes: I always talk about the importance of comfortable shoes on this blog. Invest in a pair of high quality walking shoes for your solo trip to Kansas City.
- Reusable/Compact Water Bottle: You’ll need to stay hydrated walking around Kansas City on a warm day. I always recommend taking compact reusable water bottles to quench your thirst and protect the environment at the same time. Win/win.
- Sun Lotion w/ SPF 30+: Kansas City is scorching hot in summer, but the sun is strong even in spring. You will want to protect your skin. I suggest bringing sun lotion with at least SPF 30 to prevent nasty burns after a long day of sightseeing.
- Travel Umbrella: On the flip side, Kansas City is prone to storms. I know I already talked about tornadoes (try not to worry much). No one wants to get stuck in a torrential downpour. Always have a compact travel umbrella to keep you dry!
Where to Stay in Kansas City
Kansas City isn’t a destination packed with hostels. However, solo travelers still easily meet other people when staying in a hotel. Remember how I said the locals are super friendly? I promise you will strike up a conversation with someone.
As for hotels, I stayed at the Marriott and went to events to the other two hotels on this list. I honestly don’t think you could go wrong with any choice!
- 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City: Are you like me and absolutely love art museums? Then you will want to stay in 21c Museum Hotel, because the lobby has a wonderful contemporary art exhibit! This is, without a doubt, one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever seen. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Hotel Phillips Kansas City: Do you love Art Deco? Then you will definitely want to stay at the beautiful and historic Hotel Phillips located right in downtown Kansas City. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Kansas City Downtown Marriott: I always enjoy staying at Marriott hotels even if they’re expensive at times. This expansive hotel boosts comfortable (and big!) rooms, as well as a central location. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
I hope this post helps you plan a fun trip to Kansas City! Solo travel in Kansas City was great for me, and I think it’s the perfect option for going away for a weekend, especially if you like good food and good museums. Have a delightful time!