Whether you’re traveling to Kansas City on a budget or are simply looking for activities that won’t break the bank, you will love my Guide to Summer in KC! Some of the event listings are sponsored which means I received compensation for sharing them with you.
I love that I live in a city where I don’t have to spend a fortune on fun things to do. No matter the time of year, Kansas City has wallet friendly activities and events. But there’s just something magical about the summer! Warmer days, gorgeous nights, and for my family it is birthday season. Yep, we were all born in July or August. Except for my oddball sister who has a January birthday…
Summer is when most people start reaching deep into their piggy banks to splurge on vacations. Not me! Actually that’s a lie. God willing, I’ll be going on a few road trips this summer. More on that later. Even so, I take on this season with an extra challenge. How many free things to do can I find over the next three months? This year I’m sharing that list with you! You’ll be surprised at some of my finds.
The Ultimate Guide to Free Summer Events & Activities in Kansas City
Plaza Live! Courtyard Concerts – May through September
Live music from the best local and regional acts kicks off at the Country Club Plaza on May 4th. Plaza Live! features concerts in beautiful Plaza courtyards every Thursday 5 to 8 pm, Friday 4 to 7 pm, Saturday 2 to 5 pm, and Sunday noon to 3 pm. Concerts are held in Mermaid Courtyard near Michael Kors, Penguin Courtyard near J. Crew, and Valencia Courtyard near Banana Republic from May through the end of September.
Off the Wall Film Series – May 12, June 9, July 14, August 11, September 8
This year the Kansas City Public Library’s annual rooftop summer film series highlights quirky characters fighting the status quo. Bring blankets and folding chairs to the Rooftop Terrace of the Central Library for an evening of downtown KC skyline cinema. Enjoy popcorn courtesy of Friends of the Library and locally brewed ales and lagers from Kansas City Bier Company. Doors open at 8 pm, screenings start at 8:45 pm.
Hot Country Nights – June through mid August
Hot Country Nights presented by Q104 is a country concert series happening at the Kansas City Live Block every Thursday evening, all summer long! The party starts every week at 7 pm. Shows are open to all ages but anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Must be over 21 to enter after 9 pm.
Dragon Boat Festival – June 10
The 13th annual Kansas City International Dragon Boat Festival brings the traditions of ancient China to Brush Creek on the Country Club Plaza on June 10th. Enjoy this event featuring 14 college and community boat racing teams, authentic musical and martial arts performances, children’s activities and the Bochi and Kona Ice food trucks. The eyes of the dragon are opened at 9:45 am when the races begin.
Juneteenth KC – June 10, June 17
Juneteenth is the annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The celebration kicks off in Kansas City with a parade down the historic 18th and Vine District on June 10th from 11 am to 1:30 pm. For the first year ever the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art joins JuneteenthKC in commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States. Activities at the museum include visual and literary arts, music, entertainment, and education on June 10th from 10 am to 4 pm. The Juneteenth Festival takes place at 18th and Vine on June 17th from noon to 8 pm. The festival features cultural activities, a kids zones, crafts, local music, and dance.
Sprint Family Fun Days – May 13, June 10, July 8, August 12, September 9, October 14
Bring your kids downtown for the Sprint Family Fun Series the second Saturday of each month, May – October. Enjoy a new theme filled with family fun and entertainment every time. Be a part of all the fun on social media by using #FamilyFunKC. Event is held on 14th Street and Walnut Street in the Kansas City Power & Light District from 10 am to 3 pm.
City Market Busker Festival – June 11
The City Market is known for its buskers (street performers who entertain for tips). They are an important part of the unique atmosphere at the City Market. On June 11th, 9 am to 1 pm, the City Market presents Busker Festival, a celebration of the street-style entertainment that’s fun for all ages. The Busker Festival will showcase uni-cycling, juggling, fire twirling, aerial arts, stilt walkers, dancers, comedy, hula hooping, circus acts, magicians and more. The City Market’s motto is “where the locals go,” and in keeping with that tradition, all performers are local to the area.
Urbana KC – June 11, June 25
This downtown street scene happens on select Sundays in June. A familiar city block is re-imagined without the traffic flow from cars. You can eat and drink under the stars, hear live music, see public art displays and share a uniquely Kansas City summer experience. It all takes place in the heart of the Power & Light District neighborhood from 4 to 8 pm.
Heart of America Shakespeare Festival – June 13 through July 2 (excluding Mondays)
Moral corruption, revenge, madness, murder – Hamlet runs the gamut of dysfunction. This year’s festival focuses on the villainy and abundant human frailty in perhaps the greatest of the Bard’s 38 plays. Activities for each night include an educational prologue to the play and performances from the KC Shakes teen apprentice troupe. The play begins at 7:30 pm. Enjoy your dinner, picnic style, with blankets and lawn chairs or buy food from nearby vendors.
Future Stages Festival – June 25
As an extension of the Kauffman Center’s Spotlight on Youth initiative, Future Stages Festival is a free, community event designed to celebrate the arts in Kansas City. This one-day festival showcases Kansas City’s diversity. It brings together visitors from all over the metro area to enjoy interactive arts activities and performances featuring more than 700 young artists.
Crown Center Weekenders – July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4
Cap off your work week with top local bands and favorite food trucks. Finish the evening with a famous flick under the stars at Crown Center Square. Festivities begin at 6 pm with the movie starting at approximately 9 pm.
Kansas City’s Big Picnic – July 23
Celebrate National Park and Recreation Month and KC Parks 125th anniversary with Kansas City’s Big Picnic. Kansas City Parks and Recreation join with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to host the biggest picnic the region has ever seen! The Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park and Theis Park will be linked to become a giant space for Kansas City to come together for an evening of fun activities from 4 to 8 pm. Pack your own picnic or grab dinner from an on-site food truck.
First Fridays – Monthly recurring event
On the first Friday of every month, the Crossroads and 18th & Vine districts come alive with hundreds of people there to enjoy works from local artists, buskers, street concerts, and more. Arts organizations, galleries, studios, and a variety of local businesses feature regional and national artists as well as live entertainment starting in the early evening.
Third Thursdays – Monthly recurring event
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosts third Thursday programs every month from 6 to 9 pm It’s your not-so-quiet night at the museum where art and local talents meet for a lively night of free entertainment. The night spotlights the wonderful musicians, community organizations and local businesses from the Kansas City area while drawing attention to the artwork, galleries and exhibitions at the museum.
Third Fridays – late Spring through mid Fall
The West 39th Street District takes summer up a notch on 3rd Fridays. Live acoustic musicians stretch all the way down West 39th, boutiques have extended hours, restaurants have special happy hours. It’s a great time to get out and explore the local atmosphere at a leisurely pace. Activities take place from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
Phew, that’s a long list! I hope my guide gives you some fun ideas for summer. Also I mentioned earlier that I plan on hitting the road soon. And I’m taking my free loving spirit along when I do! Subscribe to the blog so you won’t miss any of my city adventures. Thank you for reading!