Hey y’all! Scott Asner here. Kansas City is well-regarded for its picturesque fountains, jazz, and barbecue, but did you know that it’s a must-see destination for museum-goers? We have an interesting variety of artifacts, and we’re also home to the only museum in the United States dedicated to the of America’s Western trails. Here are some of my favorite local museums:
National Frontier Trails Museum
Just 20-minutes from Kansas City, in Independence, Mo., you’ll find covered wagons and nearly 3,000 original, first-person accounts of settlers who traveled the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails at the National Frontier Trails Museum. The site itself was a main starting point for hundreds of thousands of pioneers who risked their lives to start anew in the American West.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial
History buffs will wander in awe at The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. Built in Egyptian Revival architectural style, the building is an iconic landmark that boasts more than 100,000 artifacts. It’s been designated as America’s official WWI museum by Congress. Visitors can walk through a life-size howitzer crater, peek into trenches, and more. The museum’s centerpiece is the Liberty Memorial Tower structure, which rises 217-feet above the main courtyard and features an open-air observation deck with incredible city views.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
If you ever want the experience of feeling like a giant, head to the The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures and one of the largest collections of historic toys currently on public display. Toys here document our society’s cultural beliefs and technological advancements, making this a fun discussion with friends, families, and peers. Some toys date back to the 18th Century.
Arabia Steamboat Museum
The Arabia Steamboat was one of many casualties on the Missouri River – the longest river in the U.S. The Arabia Steamboat Museum houses 200 tons of cargo from life on the American frontier in 1856. This is one of Kansas City’s most popular attractions, and for good reason. The museum offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience everyday items that made life possible for pioneers during that time period. It also features the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
If you really want to stroll down memory lane, head to the Shoal Creek Living History Museum.
Tucked away on 80 acres (out of the 1,000 acres that makes up Hodge Park), the museum has 21-structures and 17 authentic buildings from the 19th century dating as far back as 1807! Interestingly, the historic log cabins and homes were relocated from nearby counties to make a village setting.
Truman Library and Museum
One of only 14 U.S. Presidential Libraries, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum chronicle’s the life and career of the 33rd President of the United States. The museum recently finished a huge renovation, the first in more than 20 years and the largest since the museum opened its doors in 1957. Exhibits depict Truman’s most difficult decisions, like the atomic bomb, Cold War, and more. Visitors will see two of Truman’s offices ¬¬– the actual office he used from 1957-1966 and a replica of his Oval Office. The museum also has a vast collection of historical possessions, political memorabilia, and diplomatic gifts.
The next time you’re in town, make sure to leave plenty of time to visit these must-see museums in Kansas City. If you’re a local, any of these museums are such an incredible opportunity to feel transported to a different place. I highly recommend taking your time exploring the many important and historical findings at Kansas City museums. I don’t have much free time, but when I do, you’ll find me wandering the exhibits.
~ Scott Asner, wannabe musician and Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri.