Some people mark the passing of time in a year by holidays or the weather. I like to experience the year through all the awesome fairs and festivals happening in Kansas City. There is literally something for everyone. From culture and music to films and commemorating historical events, there’s so many opportunities to get out and celebrate. You’ll also find some monthly and year-round events to rub elbows with Kansas City’s residents and tourists alike.
UPDATE: This post was first published in 2021 and has been update with current dates in July 2023.
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Summer Festivals in Kansas City
Lee’s Summit Downtown Days
As this is the suburb of Kansas City I reside in, I have witnessed about 20 years of this festival. And while it’s name has changed over the years, the good old fashioned carnival meets mom and pop craft fair has remained. You’ll find everything from corn dogs to local dance studio performances here.
If your idea of summer is homemade strawberry shortcake in a garden, this is the festival for you! While it is small and quaint, it’s a great excuse to get south of Kansas City to tour a Victorian mansion and take in some live music. You’ll also find vendors selling everything from homemade jams to craft items, many playing off the strawberry theme.
Wyandotte County Fair
Where: Wyandotte County Fair at the Fairgrounds in Kansas City, KS (search hotels in KCK)
When: July 11-15, 2023
Kansas City may be a metropolis but you don’t have to go far to find farms, livestock, and a real county fair. The Wyandotte County Fair features a carnival, concerts, magic shows, and a two-night rodeo. Put your best boots on and get out to the Fairgrounds y’all!
KC Fringe Festival
When: July 14-30, 2023
This two-week festival celebrates local, national, and international art and culture through performances, events, and installations. Artists from across disciplines come together to present an inclusive and non-competitive showcase of theater, dance, film, music and visual arts. There’s literally someone for everyone to enjoy.
Festival of Butterflies
When: July 20-Aug. 6, 2023
Although it might be a bit of a drive for some Kansas Citians, Powell Gardens is a draw for people from around the city. The Festival of Butterflies is just one reason to come out to these beautiful gardens and walking trails. The butterflies are highlighted throughout the property during the festival as they make their migration south.
Ethnic Enrichment Festival
When: Aug. 18, 19 & 20, 2023
This is hands down one of my favorite festivals in Kansas City. It’s a super home-grown, collaborative effort of people from all over the world who reside in Kansas City. The Festival celebrates their cultures through dance, music, and FOOD! Most people I know refer to it as the “Ethnic Food Festival”.
It also highlights clubs and organizations that support and celebrate people from different countries.
Fall Festivals in Kansas City
Kansas City Irish Festival
When: Sept. 1-3, 2023
Featuring some of the most talented Irish bands and dancers, the KC Irish Festival is just what the fall needs, as we wait on St. Patrick’s Day in March. This festival draws in big crowds for food, entertainment, Irish goods, and of course, beer and Irish whiskies. If you really want to do it right, get a room at the Sheraton and you won’t have to worry about parking.
When: Sept. 1-4, 2023
If celebrating Irish culture isn’t your thing, you can head further south to SantaCaliGon Days. This festival commemorates the City of Independence as the starting point of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails–hence the smooshed together name.
Although the first festival took place in 1940, it has only happened 47 times since then. It has become a fairly large annual festival now, drawing up to 300,000 people each year.
KC Renaissance Festival
When: Sept. 2-Oct. 15, 2023; Saturdays and Sundays rain or shine, plus Sept. 4 and Oct. 9
Step back in time into a 16th Century European village featuring jousting, giant turkey legs, and wandering minstrels. You will never be bored as there are 25 stages that feature live performances of everything from puppets to comedians. If you’re into wearing costumes, they are definitely encouraged and there are even themed weekends throughout the festival.
When: Sept. 8-10, 2023
Formerly (or maybe I have just always called it) the “Westport Art Festival,” Art Westport is a showcase of local Kansas City artists. For more than forty years this festival has brought together a group of highly talented artists ranging in medium from ceramics and woodworking to fiber and glass.
I believe the festival was started as a way to make sure local artists had a chance to showcase their work. (The Plaza Art Fair’s requirements for entry and interest in National artists had prevented some locals from showing at the Plaza.)
Plaza Art Fair
When: Sept. 22-24, 2023
It’s hard to believe that the 2021 Plaza Art Fair will be its 90th year. This highly curated art festival showcases artists from across the country and several from outside the US. The art ranges from sculptures and photography to fine jewelry and other wearable art. One of my favorite things to do as I wander through the booths is to see where every artist is from, which is displayed prominently next to their name.
When: Oct. 6 & 7, 2023
The largest Oktoberfest in Kansas City is organized by KC Bier Co., who is also featured in our “Best Patios in KC” post. The festival is centered around their authentic German-style bier which is made in the traditional German way with 100% imported German malt and hops.
If you’re not into bier, they also have wine and cider, music, food, entertainment, and competitions. The latter ranges from “Best Dressed Bavarian” to feats of strength like Masskrugstemmen which is a stein-hoisting competition that entails outlasting the other competitors in hoisting a full liter of bier the longest.
When: October (2023 date TBA)
Building off a similar festival that started in Providence, RI, Brush Creek serves as a stage each year for a floating art festival. Food trucks, music and dance enhance the art floating down the creek and on the bridges once dusk falls.
Weston Irish Festival
When: Usually the first or second weekend in October (2023 date TBA)
Another opportunity to celebrate Irish heritage and culture, and one of my favorite festivals in Kansas City, is up in the small town of Weston, Missouri. Having been to Ireland, this festival definitely gets “authentically” Irish with the music, food, and drinks. There’s hardly anything plastic or “Kiss Me I’m Irish” here, from the vendors to sitting in a musty cellar, sipping on a pint.
Winter Festivals in Kansas City
Festival of Lights
When: Nov. 16-Dec. 30, 2023
While many in the southern parts of Kansas City have flocked to the Magic Tree for their holiday photos, you can have a similarly iconic photoshoot at the Festival of Lights. With more than 20 miles of holiday lights to walk through, hot chocolate and snacks, you’ll be in a holiday mood in no time.
Santa even stops in from time to time to hear your wishlist.
Related post: 15+ Fun Things To Do In KC During Christmas
Christmas in the Park
When: November 22-December 31, 2023
Not only will you see more than 500,000 lights and 175 animated figures, you can do it from your car! This is a very good thing as you can wait hours to get through. Everyone I know picks up takeout and eats in the car with their family before driving through. The installation is sponsored by Jackson County but they accept donations that they split among 39 area charities.
Spring Festivals in Kansas City
Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade
When: March 2024
What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the rest of the city at a parade? The parade has been around since 1973 and has become one of the largest celebrations in the United States. So get in the spirit by donning your green and finding a spot along the parade route. Everyone is honorarily Irish for the day.
KC FilmFest International
When: March 2024
Celebrating film and filmmakers in multiple categories, KC FilmFest has been treating audiences since 1997. The festival has grown and collaborated with other film festivals in the city to highlight a broad range of films from Kansas City and around the world. They also hold smaller film screenings and events throughout the year.
Brookside Art Annual
When: May 2024
This is an art “show” and not a festival or fair – which means you can look but you can’t buy the work. As you browse the art from locals, you’ll also find food from restaurants in Brookside, shops open, and many activities for children.
Bank of America Celebration at the Station
When: May 2024
Welcoming in the unofficial start to summer, the annual Celebration at the Station has been a long-time city favorite. In the valley between the National WWI Museum and Memorial and the historic Union Station, thousands of people gather on picnic blankets to listen to the Kansas City Symphony, special musical guests, and watch fireworks over the Liberty Memorial. Food trucks and activities for children take place throughout the day.
Year-round fairs in Kansas City
Where: First Fridays in the Crossroads, Kansas City, MO
When: Every first Friday of the month
If you’ve ever been to Kansas City, you have likely been to, or heard other people suggest going to First Fridays. Every month, studios, galleries, and artists open their doors or set up mobile displays of their work. You’ll find food trucks, street performers, and live bands out and ready to host a great time. All are welcome, even your four-legged friends.
Where: Strawberry Swing locations vary
When: Various times throughout the year
If you love browsing quality handmade goods from independent makers, the Strawberry Swing will tick that box. With a variety of vendors ranging from artisan BBQ sauces to customized housewares to beautiful jewelry, the Strawberry Swings are great to shop for others, or yourself. They also have food and drink vendors on site as well.
Where: American Royal in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, MO
Probably best known for the annual World Series of BBQ competition, the American Royal is actually five months worth of events. The events include rodeos, livestock shows, and horse competitions. It’s also still a place where farmers and ranchers from all over the country come to buy and sell their livestock.
I don’t have to tell you how much this city loves barbecue (let’s just say they even have their fair share of delicious vegetarian barbecue).
If you’re traveling to Kansas City and you’re looking for some non-festival food, here are some great suggestions.
About the guest blogger
Jenn Beard is the founder of Cocktails Away—a collection of adventures in pursuit of a great drink, a quality spirit, a unique ingredient, and the places they come from. When not traveling, she lives in Kansas City. Check out her blog for mouthwatering recipes and insider tips on DIY bartending and cocktail culture or travel to bars around the world at @cocktailsaway.