KC Staycations: What to do if you’re broke, ballin’ or somewhere in between

The City Market offers good free fun. File
Overlooking the lobby is a gilded 11-foot likeness of the goddess of Dawn (left) that helps set the ambiance to the art deco design in the main lobby of the newly restored historic Hotel Phillips. Joe Ledford | jledford@kcstar.com
Ah, the shuttlecocks at the Nelson! ROYINMAN |
Gates BBQ on Brooklyn is a stop for the KC Barbecue Tour. ROYINMAN |

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and you’re going to bang your head on your desk if you don’t take some time for yourself away from work. Mental health days are important (no matter what your boss says), but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out the cash and PTO for an exotic vacation. We might be a little biased, but we think Kansas City is a pretty great place to take a break and have some fun.

Whether you’re on a ramen noodle diet or prepared to shell out the big bucks to experience the finer side of Kansas City, we’ve got your staycation agenda covered.

Broke Budget: $0-$70

There’s no shame in wanting to have a little bit of fun without scraping the bottom of your piggy bank. If you’re staying in Kansas City with the intent of saving some dough, you’re looking for activities with one very important keyword: FREE. In most cases, “free” is synonymous with “touristy.” But really, when’s the last time you got out and saw Kansas City through an outsider’s eyes? It may feel cheesy, yes, but it’s also a way to get out and renew your appreciation for the place you call home.

Hit the museums. As a Kansas City veteran, it can be easy to overlook the Nelson-Atkins. It makes sense—we’ve all seen the shuttlecock approximately a billion times. But the art exhibits do rotate, and there’s a pretty cool Picasso setup that will only be around through April of 2018.

Notice, however, that we used the plural of “museum.”

The Nelson-Atkins isn’t the only game in town. Be sure to hit up places like the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College or the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

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Stroll through the City Market. When is the last time you spent a Saturday morning strolling through the River Market, admiring all the fresh produce and maybe doing a little bit of people watching? Of course, you don’t have to spend a dime, but picking out a $5 bouquet or stopping by the Opera House for a coffee is both inexpensive and an instant mood-booster.

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Do the ‘cue. We know we said to focus on the free stuff, but you have to eat at some point, right? What kind of staycation in Kansas City doesn’t include barbecue? As a local, you probably already have your favorites, but the thing about Kansas City barbecue is that new joints are always popping up—and to be an expert, of course, you have to try them all. You may be savvy enough to plan your own customized tour, but if not, KC Barbecue Tours range from $65-70 a person.

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Somewhere In Between: $59-$159

If you’re prepared to spend a bit of money out on the town but don’t necessarily feel like dropping an entire paycheck, the “somewhere in between” range may be best for you. Don’t tell the ballers, but you don’t have to drop stacks to do something out of the ordinary in Kansas City.

Book a slightly cheaper room. We still stand by the idea that staying somewhere new can open up your eyes to a whole new side of Kansas City, but you don’t have to spend your entire budget on a hotel. A quick scan of Airbnb will give you access to all different parts of the city, like this speakeasy-inspired space in Martini Corner that goes for $59 a night.

Feast like a normal human on a night out. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant in the Crossroads or ventured away from the usual spots in Westport? Restaurants like the Rockhill Grille or Gram and Dun will allow you to have a nice dinner without blowing your entire budget.

Make it a spa day. If you choose to do a staycation in the hopes of spending some quality alone time, why not do it at a spa instead of on your couch? The Kansas City area has tons of options, like Roca Salon and Spa or the Spa on Penn.

Ballin’ Budget: $125+

Ah, so money isn’t an object for you, huh? That’s fine. We’re—ahem—not jealous at all. Settled in the heart of the Midwest, most people don’t necessarily think of Kansas City as a glamorous city. Lucky for you, we’ve got some suggestions for your staycation that will prove even the pickiest of visitors otherwise. Make sure you snag some good Instagram posts to brag to all your highfalutin’ East Coast friends.

Book a room. If you’re from the area, it may not cross your mind to visit a hotel during your staycation. However, if you have the cash to spend, Kansas City has some ritzy places to stay that everyone should experience at some point. Take, for example, the Hotel Phillips, which is built in an Art Deco style that will take you back to the 1930s for $199 and up each night. Oh, and there’s a speakeasy in the basement. But don’t tell anyone we told you.

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Feast like a king. If you’re truly a baller, you’ll of course need to check out some of Kansas City’s fine dining options. Pierpont’s in Union Station is worth it simply because, well, it’s in Union Station, but the Country Club Plaza has plenty of ritzier dining experiences, like the Capital Grille.

Go airborne. You’re probably a Kansas City pro at this point, but have you ever seen the city by air? And no, flying into MCI doesn’t count. There are multiple companies that offer helicopter tours around the area. One of these such businesses, River’s Edge KC, offers flights ranging from $125 to $495.

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KC Staycations: What to do if you’re broke, ballin’ or somewhere in between