Explore Kansas City’s burgeoning arts scene. Start at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (free admission except for exhibitions), a 1933 Beaux-Arts structure enhanced by architect Steven Holl’s eastern expansion of five dramatic, translucent glass blocks. Inside, experience rotating exhibits like the upcoming “Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity” (February 28–August 2, 2015). Enjoy a peaceful moment inside the Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Court and stroll the grounds, scattered with works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Claes Oldenburg. Walk a few blocks west to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art’s (free) private collection featuring artists like Damien Hirst, David Hockney, and Louise Bourgeois, whose supersize iron spider is perched on the front lawn. In the evening, head to Moshe Safdie’s Kauffman Center for a Kansas City Symphony performance; be sure to take in a spectacular view of the city from the glass-canopied lobby.
Splurge at Halls, the Bergdorf Goodman of the Midwest. The glitzy luxury department store recently reopened at Crown Center, close to the heart of downtown. Browse designer brands like Gucci and Prada, and edgier, mid-priced lines like Yoana Baraschi and Derek Lam—then check out the Plaza’s trendy boutique Standard Style for labels like Elizabeth and James and rag & bone. Pop down the block to Baldwin Denim, which stocks plenty of plaid and tees from Surf Saturdays and Steven Alan, plus house-label jeans ($220). While you’re in the area, make the five-minute drive to upscale shop Churchill, filled with labels like Lorraine Schwartz and Jenny Packham. Ask to see the back room, essentially a warehouse of one-of-a-kind items ranging from an African tribal mask ($1,195) to a pair of palace doors from a sultan’s Zanzibar residence ($45,000).
Explore post-industrial West Bottoms, right in the heart of the city's historic Stockyard District. Cattle from across the Plains and Texas once arrived here to supply beef to the eastern United States; now it’s become a hip hub for contemporary galleries like former New York fixture Bill Brady, and Haw, presenting regional and local artists. On first weekends of the month, explore the West Bottom Antique Stores, housed in a walkable series of old brick buildings and full of mid-century furniture, vintage textiles, and sports memorabilia. Grab lunch at Genessee Royale, located in an old Sinclair service station, serving comfort-food staples like the “ML Body,” a meatloaf sandwich with sharp cheddar, roasted tomato, bacon mayo, and a sunny-side-up egg ($10).