A Simply Fabulous Kansas City Weekend Trip

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Kansas City is known for sports, shopping, fabulous BBQ, and incredible jazz. Read on for what to do on a Kansas City weekend trip.

We were off and running as my sister, my son, and I climbed into the car for the quick 2½-hour drive to Kansas City for a fantastic weekend trip. The pop was in the cooler, the snacks were in the bag, and the sun was shining. We were road trip ready. My sister and I were hitting the road to see our other boys in K.C. We were ready for a fabulous Kansas City weekend trip.

Is Kansas City in Kansas or Missouri?

Actually, both. There are two Kansas Cities—Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS (KCK). From a sports perspective, Kansas City, Missouri, is home to the Superbowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City, KS, is just over the Missouri River and home to the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas City, Missouri, is home to about 508,000 people, while the Missouri side is home to about 155,000 residents. 

When we do a Kansas City weekend trip, we usually crisscross back and forth between Missouri and Kansas because there are plenty of things to do on both sides of the river. When you’re planning your trip to Kansas City, make sure you’re choosing the right Kansas City. Double-check when making reservations to know whether you’re staying in Missouri or Kansas. 

Adulting with the Guys in Kansas City

We had no set itinerary for our Kansas City weekend trip other than to hang out with our “adulting” boys. I had a few ideas for KC must-dos while in town: eat BBQ, shop, and listen to good jazz. Whatever else came up would be extra.

Kansas City is well-known for its delicious barbeque, shopping, and live jazz music. With quaint neighborhoods tucked near commercial areas and lots of green space throughout the city,  Kansas City is much larger than you might expect—it’s in the top 40 most populous cities in the United States, with more than 2.2 million people across the entire metropolitan area.

K. C. Power & Light District Knows How To Have A Good Time

We started the weekend Friday night with drinks and appetizers downtown. The Power & Light District, one of Kansas City’s hotspots, offers a multitude of bars, restaurants, and shops, all within about a nine-block area. With proximity to the T-Moblie Center, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and the Crossroads Arts District, there is always something going on in this hip neighborhood.

Power and Light KC. Photo by SJ Morgensen

We grabbed a seat inside my son’s favorite place in the area, Johnny’s Tavern. The air conditioning was cold, and so were the beers. We sank our teeth into beefy nachos and burgers along with our beers. My beef nachos were a hit, layered with just the right amount of gooey cheese and spiked with jalapeños. And nothing goes better with a cold brew than a burger. The burgers and fries hit the spot. 

Johnny’s Tavern. Photo by SJ Morgensen

I can see why the Power and Light District is such a draw. With so many choices for dining and drinking, you’re sure to find a favorite spot. You’ll find it here whether you’re in the mood for sushi, tacos, or seafood. We noticed a lot of action in the P&L was centered on the live band jamming on the gigantic outdoor stage. The huge dance floor in front of the stage was crowded with dancers and air guitar players.

Along with the stage, the enormous television mounted on the wall was playing a pre-season football game. The large television was quite possibly the biggest TV I’ve ever seen! Speaking of televisions, they are everywhere here. KC is home to some of the most loyal sports fans anywhere. The P&L is the place to watch football in the fall. I can’t wait to go back and experience football weekends here.

Popular Kansas City Power and Light District. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Retail Therapy in Kansas City

Kansas City has always been our go-to when in need of serious retail therapy. This trip was no different. Even if my guys don’t need back-to-school gear, we still managed to find plenty of fantastic purchases. There is no shortage of places to shop around town. From luxury shopping malls to outdoor shopping centers and high-end discount stores, you’ll find your shopping paradise in Kansas City. 

Legends Shopping Mall,  a huge outdoor mall with several sporting goods stores, is a top spot for deals. Legends is a good bet if you’d like to shop and grab lunch afterward. When the kids were younger, we stayed at the nearby Great Wolf Lodge, a super kid-friendly resort the kids loved.  

Legends Shopping Mall. Photo courtesy Visit KCK

The popular Kansas City Speedway is also nearby, and amusement parks Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun aren’t far. While we didn’t get to the parks this trip, we have been to both numerous times, and they’re always a great time during the summer months. 

The Kansas Speedway is nearby. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

We spent an afternoon at the Plaza on this trip. The Country Club Plaza is fifteen beautiful blocks of upscale shopping and dining in a gorgeous setting. The area is known for its Spanish architecture and plethora of outdoor fountains. It’s beautiful to wander through the area at night. During the holidays, it’s magical, with everything aglow in holiday lights. Many people come annually to take in the lights and sounds of the Plaza during the holidays.

Kansas City Country Club Plaza is spectacular during Christmas. Photo by Tommy Brison via DepositPhotos

A Delish BBQ Dinner

Dinner Saturday night had to be barbecue. But how to pick just one restaurant? There are so many fabulous BBQ joints in Kansas City. I dream of staying for a week and digging into a different BBQ place daily for lunch and dinner (and not gain an ounce!).

Beef short ribs at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. Photo by Teresa Bitler

For now, we did have to pick just one place for dinner and chose Q39. Other great choices are Joe’s, Arthur Byrant’s, Char Bar, Gates Bar-B-Q, and Jack Stack Barbecue. I’ve been to all, and they all have their take on KC BBQ. Quite a few have been featured on one of my favorite television shows, Food Network’s Diners,  Drive-Ins and Dives.  Don’t worry if you can’t get a reservation at your first choice. You can’t go wrong with any BBQ spot in Kansas City. 

Q39 is one of the authentic barbeque places in Kansas City. It’s known for its creative recipes that founder Rob Magee created as he participated in competitive barbeque events. Magee, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, found his food passion was Kansas City barbeque. Out of this love, Q39 was born.

BBQ Nachos and Burnt Ends for the Win

We started with BBQ nachos and burnt ends. Layered with pulled pork and smothered in cheese, the BBQ pork nachos set the tone for our fabulous dinner. The large plate of piping-hot nachos was plenty for our table of five. As much as I love nachos, I was even more excited to taste the burnt ends. While the burnt ends are a house specialty all the time, the Saturday night we visited, Q39 had the ends as a special appetizer dish.

BBQ Nachos at Q39 Kansas City. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Of course, we had to try it. While the dish’s name may not conjure visions of succulent, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, this is exactly what we discovered once we dug into the pile of ends our waiter brought over. The large portion of burnt ends was a good amount for our table of five to share and was loved by all. 

Combo Plates at Q39 Deliver on Taste

After sampling our two appetizers, my sister and I leaned toward being full and decided to share an entree. Our two-meat combo plate was served with brisket, smoked chicken, and sides of cucumber onion salad and apple slaw. 

Barbeque chicken is my favorite—whenever I order barbecue, I get the chicken. The Q39 chicken was moist and juicy. I slathered on the spicy barbecue sauce at the table, making the meat even more delectable. The brisket was also delicious and tender. 

Q39 Inspired Sides

I’m a fan of unique side dishes. Barbeque restaurants typically have some of the most inventive and unusual sides. As was the case at Q39. The summer-inspired cucumber and onion dish isn’t something I’ve seen on many menus, and Q39’s version hit the spot. The apple slaw was popular throughout our table.

My nephew said the coleslaw was “the best coleslaw I’ve ever had!” Sweet, with a hint of spice, I agree. It’s good stuff. Other sides we tried were just as unique as the cukes and coleslaw. Q39’s french fries and baked beans are also winners. 

Q39 BBQ Dinner. Photo by SJ Morgensen

The guys each had a quite hearty three-meat plate and polished off most of it. We loved it all, from ribs and sausage to brisket and chicken. Q39 uses only Certified Angus Beef for all their beef dishes. Maybe that’s one reason they taste so good.  

Legendary Kansas City Jazz Clubs

According to our hotel bartender, some of the best Jazz in the city is at clubs in Power and Light District and Country Club Plaza.

Jim told us, “The Green Lady Lounge has the best Jazz in the city, and a close second is Chaz on the Plaza.”

We noticed many people walking into Johnnie’s in the Power and Light. With their policy of no cover charge ever, The Green Lady continues to be one of the hot spots in the city. We had good intentions of catching some jazz, but after our BBQ feast, we returned to the Marriott early. Our next Kansas City weekend trip will include jazz at one of the spectacular clubs around town.

Johnnie’s Jazz Bar in Kansas City. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Weekend Fun at the Kansas City Farmer’s Market

Sunday morning, we headed over to the Kansas City Historic City Market. Held on weekends year-round, the market offers many fresh food, flower vendors, and brick-and-mortar shops. We browsed around and found yummy homemade salsa, wonderful ground spices, and all sorts of fresh produce for the coming week.

City Market Kansas City. Photo by SJ Morgensen

This is a huge, all-local market with a broad selection of wares. You’ll want to spend a couple of hours to take it all in. We enjoyed a hot latte and fresh cinnamon roll for breakfast at the market as we did some serious people-watching.

Golden Spices at City Market Kansas City. Photo by SJ Morgensen

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Our Kansas City Weekend Comes to a Close

As much as we wanted to continue to explore Kansas City, with the work week looming, we knew it was time to head back home. After a quick stop to check out my nephew’s new house, we hit the road north to Omaha, already planning our next Kansas City weekend trip. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more to do when visiting Kansas and Missouri or other Midwest locales.


A Simply Fabulous Kansas City Weekend Trip