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The best events in Kansas City

From family-friendly food fests to cultural celebrations, these are the best events in Kansas City going down in 2020

By Lori A. May and Ellen Prinzi
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If you visit Kansas City and think people are still celebrating the Super Bowl, you are ... absolutely right. The big win continues to be celebrated around town, but that’s not the only thing KC is championing this year. Every Kansas City events calendar is full of massive parades (KC continues to hold the largest free Memorial Day event in the Midwest) as well as cultural celebrations and so many food fests. (Did you think you were escaping town without a taste of the legendary BBQ?) If you're not convinved you need to plan a trip to KC, yet, how about a famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade or lively Oktoberfest festivities to make you start looking up the best restaurants and hotels in Kansas City. Whatever your reason for visiting Missouri, the best events in Kansas City will make sure you have a good time while you're in town. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Kansas City

Best events in Kansas City

St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/CC/Paul Sableman

1. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Join thousands of regulars who return for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country. The parade lasts nearly three hours, and there’s plenty of food and drink to be found along the route to keep you fueled up for fun. The events kick off with elaborate floats, leprechauns and marching bands at Linwood and Broadway and proceeds south along Broadway to 43rd Street, at which point everyone is dismissed to drown themselves in green beer at O’Wherever.

Dates: March 17, 2020

Kansas City BBQ
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. American Royal World Series of Barbecue

No list about Kansas City in general is complete without a BBQ mention. This two-day festival and BBQ competition features live local music, all the barbecue you can eat, beer and cocktails, a BBQ marketplace with local vendors, a car show and plenty of interactive activities for the kids. Yum. 

Dates: September 18-19, 2020

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3. Celebration at the Station

On Memorial Day weekend, pack up a picnic and head to the North Lawn of the National WWI Memorial for a spectacular patriotic concert by the Kansas City Symphony followed by the city’s biggest fireworks display. Now in its 18th year, Celebration at the Station is the largest free Memorial Day weekend event in the Midwest.

Date: May 24, 2020

4. Dancefestopia Camping Music Festival

An EDM festival in the middle of Kansas? Yes, please. Head just south of KC for three nights of non-stop music set on four unique stages. Once you’re done partying, there’s no need to find a ride home: just camp in the forest, old-school style, or in your car or RV. Worry not, there are showers! And it’s not over there: Attendees will be treated to pool parties, art installations, zip lines and hot air balloon rides.

Dates: September 10-13, 2020

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5. Boulevardia

Celebrate Father's Day weekend with all of dad’s favorite things: beer, food, music ... and more beer. Dubbed “the world’s finest pop-up party nation,” Boulevardia is a carnival, a silent disco, a charity bike ride, a dinner destination and a live music experience all in one. With or without dad, it’s one heck of a good time.

Dates: June 19-20, 2020

6. Middle of the Map Fest

Backed by Ink Magazine cultural curators, this multi-arts festival celebrates the creative culture of the Midwest with a major celebration in downtown Kansas City. Regional and national artists culminate here for a packed itinerary of music, film, and discussion held across a handful of inviting venues. Catch a rockumentary or series of indie short before dancing the night away to live artists.  

Dates: October 3-4, 2020

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Kansas City Plaza Lights
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/CC/David DeHetre

7. Kansas City Plaza Lights

A visit to Plaza Lights is on every Kansas Citian’s list of holiday traditions and for good reason. The Christmastime tradition started nearly a century ago, in 1930, in the 15-block shopping and dining district Country Club Plaza, known as the plaza. Starting on Thanksgiving Day, head to the plaza for window shopping, carolers and horse-drawn carriage rides while you take in thousands of lights and all the Christmas cheer you can imagine. A child is picked at random to flip the big switch on stage and turn all the lights on—how fun does that sound?

Dates: TBA

8. KC Oktoberfest

Kansas City’s largest celebration of Bavarian-style bier, food and music takes place in the heart of downtown at Crown Center. Modeled after Munich Oktoberfest, the KC version features authentic German-style bier from KC Bier Co., local food vendors, games and competitions, arts, carnival rides and live entertainment on two stages. You won’t want to miss the traditional Masskrugstemmen (stein-hoisting competition). Celebrate this much adored “Munich of the Midwest” with a frosty stein of your own and a lively round of polka.

Dates: October 2-3, 2020

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Kansas City Taco Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Taco Fests

9. Kansas City Taco Festival

Taco lovers take note. This celebratory weekend will have more than 75 varieties of tacos up for grabs in one high energy entertainment district. Get dizzy on a bull ride, dance off your margaritas with live music, and sample as many $3 tacos as your heart can handle. There are great deals for families (kids 10 and under eat free!), plus a hot chili pepper eating contest if you’re bold enough to tempt your taste buds.  

Dates: May 2-3, 2020

Kansas City Irish Fest
Photograph: Flickr/Ellen K.

10. Kansas City Irish Fest

Irish roots run deep in Kansas City. Every Labor Day weekend, the Kansas City Irish Fest celebrates Cow City’s Celtic heritage with live music, comedy, tastings, displays, genealogy events and children’s activities. The likes of Gaelic Storm, Red Hot Chili Peppers and We Banjo 3 have previously performed at the event, during which you’ll want to grab a Guinness, fill up on corned beef and embrace the festive Irishness around you at Crown Center.

Dates: September 4-6, 2020

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11. Kansas City PrideFest

KC celebrates diversity and its thriving LGBTQIA community with live entertainment, games, a marketplace, local food fair, and more. The KC Pridefest has a new location this year centralizing all festivities downtown on the streets around Ilus W. Davis Park and City Hall.

Dates: June 5-7, 2020

Plaza Art Fair
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/CC/Tim Samoff

12. Plaza Art Fair

Kansas City’s unofficial kickoff to the fall season is a weekend full of food, live music and art. Featuring hundreds of artists, three live music stages and dozens of restaurant booths, the Plaza Art Fair is a top-ranked, national art event that takes over nine city blocks and draws crowds of 300,000 people each year.

Dates: September 25-27, 2020

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