National Museums in Kansas City
Widely celebrated as a hotbed of barbecue, jazz and fountains, Kansas City has also curated a reputation as a preeminent destination for museum-goers. Whether in search of western heritage, world war understanding or smaller-than-life miniatures, Kansas City touts an assortment of national museums that examine culture, conflict and compromise.
Serving as a museum, interpretive center and research library, the National Frontier Trails Museum is the only institution in the country dedicated to telling the rich history of America’s foremost Western trails.
Located in Independence, Mo., the site marks the historic jumping off point for the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails. More than 2,600 original, first-person diary and letter trail accounts, trail artifacts and authentic covered wagons help weave the tale of the trails and the settlers who traveled them.
Remembering The Great War
Built in the Egyptian Revival architectural style and home to more than 100,000 artifacts, the National WWI Museum and Memorial is one of Kansas City’s iconic landmarks.
Designated as the official WWI museum by Congress, this non-profit, state-of-the-art facility honors those who served in The Great War, which observed its centennial in 2014. Walk through a life-size howitzer crater, peer into trenches, survey countless artifacts and other detailed exhibits that examine the historic global conflict. The centerpiece structure is the Liberty Memorial Tower, rising 217 feet above the main courtyard with an open-air observation deck at the top, offering spectacular views of the city.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates Kansas City’s baseball history, particularly the Negro National League and the legendary Kansas City Monarchs. The institution, which was designated a national museum by Congress, also tackles the hard truths of the ballplayers who faced racism and segregation in the sport and in their daily lives.
Using historic timelines, interactive displays, themed galleries, artifacts and lifestyle exhibits, the museum proves a testament to the talent and perseverance of its stars. Players chronicled include Jackie Robinson, John "Buck" O'Neil, Judi Johnson, Satchel Paige and John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, among others, all of whom attracted throngs of interracial crowds to celebrate America’s favorite pastime despite the Jim Crow laws of the day.
All That Jazz
Grasp the flavor and flair of another original American art form at the American Jazz Museum. Located in the famed 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, the museum celebrates jazz and its role in KC history using interactive exhibits, artifacts and more that honor the historic careers and legacies of Charlie “Bird” Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and other jazz greats.
Meanwhile, The Blue Room, a working jazz club, offers a sophisticated musical experience with vintage photographs, memorabilia and artifacts that serve as a backdrop for a wide array of regional, national and international artist performances.
For the Kid in All of Us
The Midwest's largest collection of antique toys and the nation's largest collection of contemporary, fine-scale miniatures can be found at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.
The museum, which is located just south of the Country Club Plaza, speaks to the art of play and imagination—and touts a collection featuring more than 72,000 objects from antique dolls and doll houses to dump trucks, ceramics, silver, erector sets, furniture, figurines and more.
Home to historical records dating from the 1820s to the 1990s, The National Archives at Kansas City is one of 15 facilities nationwide where the public has free access to Federal archival records.
Visitors will find more than 50,000 cubic feet of documents—including the judgment from the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case—as well as selected military service indexes, architectural drawings, microfilmed materials, photographs and maps. The archives also feature a rotating exhibit gallery, workshops, lectures, programs and online genealogy subscription services.
Within the Signature Flight Support building at the Historic Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, the TWA Museum at 10 Richards Road preserves the history of Trans World Airlines and its deep roots in Kansas City. Exhibits and artifacts on display include cabin and cockpit trainers, as well as a 1937 Lockheed Electra 12A and rooms full of memorabilia used, displayed, and worn in flight by TWA workers.
Tap into the community's lasting enthusiasm for the airline with a guided tour, often led by former passengers and employees of TWA.
The National Airline History Museum is currently closed.
Located nearby in the airport's Hangar 9, the National Airline History Museum plays a vital role in preserving and presenting Kansas City’s aviation history. The museum, once the former TWA Airlines headquarters, highlights the "Golden Age of Aviation" with a diverse and extensive collection of aircraft, artifacts and exhibits dating back to the Wright Brothers’ first historic flights through today’s mega jet age.
The Star of America, the first restored "Super G" Constellation, a rare 8/24 configuration Douglas DC-3, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, and a Martin 404-N-145S are among the historic aircraft found here.
Further cementing the area's reputation as a hoops hub, Kansas City is home to the state-of-the-art College Basketball Experience (CBE). Sweating is almost inevitable as CBE's high-energy exhibits recreate the intensity of a college basketball game—from foul-line hecklers to a last-second buzzer beater.
Each visitor's journey ends with a stop in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, a quiet space devoted to the game's greats. Interactive kiosks offer a glimpse into each inductee's legacy.
Located inside the Federal Reserve Bank, The Money Museum offers a free, one-hour tour encompassing the region’s largest cash vault, interactive exhibits, a Truman Coin Collection and an area where guests can design their own digital currency.
Walk-in or guided tour, The Money Museum is perfect for visitors of all ages. The most unique part? Every guest walks away with a free bag of money—shredded U.S. bills, that is.
Presidential Pit Stop
Tour the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum for a look at the famous Kansas Citian's life and tenure as commander-in-chief, from the end of World War II through the beginning of the Cold War—all in Independence, Mo.
The immersive experience includes videos, interactive displays and photographs, as well as special events throughout the year.