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Kansas City's Best Nightlife: From Live Music Venues to Bars



Out of all the clubs and bars in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places that have the most appeal to a wide variety of audiences, and the best reputations for delivering memorable evening entertainment. We offer a carefully vetted selection and present our Kansas City Best Nightlife list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. Visit a concert venue in an industrial district with multiple stages, or a bustling bar where dueling pianos and upbeat tunes entertain the audience. You'll find old-school ambiance and jazz behind a nondescript storefront, in the basement of a legendary restaurant, or inside a small museum, and blues served up with barbecue plates or Louisiana fare. There's even a family-owned musical hot spot that opened in the 1920s. Each of these one-of-a-kind performance venues promises a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you simply won't find anywhere else.


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Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club
Photo courtesy of MK Hamlin


A family-owned midtown Kansas City staple in this location, since 1950, Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club typically features live music – from bluegrass to punk and folk – six nights a week. This old dive dates from the 1920s, when it opened as a Prohibition-era cocktail lounge. Belly up to the Front or Back Bar, order a cheap drink and then head to the adjoining room in time for the night's concert. The small performance venue places customers up close to the music too. Certified night owls will appreciate this old-school honky tonk's late hours, personable and knowledgeable bartenders as well as the pool tables, and a great sound system. There's a parking lot nearby which is especially nice in this urban neighborhood.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Longevity speaks volumes and Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club is one of Kansas City's oldest continuously operating music venues.

Lisa's expert tip: Get a look at and listen to unknown and emerging local talent on Monday evenings, during the Rambler's Songwriter Roundup. The mic is open for musicians who want to show their stuff, beginning at 10 p.m.

Read more about Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club →


BB's Lawnside Barbecue
Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray


Since 1990, BB's Lawnside Blues & BBQ has been landmark destination for terrific live blues performances on many nights and weekend afternoons, meats that are slow-smoked in a 1950s 'pit,' and scratch-made Louisiana dishes such as jambalaya or gumbo. A featured destination on Travel Channel (Kansas City Top 5), Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, it's run by husband and wife team, Jo and Lindsay Shannon. Well-educated in all things, 'blues', Lindsay chooses the music too. This one-time blues radio DJ, was also a founding member of the Kansas City Blues Society, and a blues booking agent for Kansas City's Spirit Festival. Christmas lights illuminate memorabilia-cluttered walls in this vibrant yet casual atmosphere and there's outdoor seating for warm weather socializing.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Mix one part blues expert, one part barbecue and Louisiana flavors and one part honky tonk vibe, for a night of rowdy musical magic.

Lisa's expert tip: Don't let the location for this out-of-the-way, unassuming spot dissuade you from stopping in to enjoy some blues, barbecue and inventive dishes such as battered fries, Louisiana Swampman Boudin Balls or Burnt End Soup. Great tastes accompany great music.

Read more about BB's Lawnside Barbecue →


The Blue Room
Photo courtesy of David Shaughnessy


It doesn't get more authentic than jazz performances in the heart of Kansas City's legendary 18th & Vine 'jazz district.' Or live music played near memorabilia collected inside the small but impressive American Jazz Museum. International, national and local jazz bands play four nights a week – many times with no cover charge. Want another reason to check out this jazzy hot spot? DownBeat magazine has included The Blue Room in its list of the Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the world. Order cocktails, wine, or beer from staff members, who provide friendly service amid 1930s ambiance, and then settle in for an unforgettable evening of music. But do grab a bite to eat before you arrive, unless you're visiting during Indigo Hour Friday evenings, when there's also an appetizer buffet available.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Kansas City's rich jazz history is alive and well in the neighborhood where it all began.

Lisa's expert tip: Check the web site for a schedule of recorded Blue Room Live concerts, when a jazz band, and a band with a different musical genre focus, pair up for one-of-a-kind musical meet-ups.

Read more about The Blue Room →


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The Majestic Restaurant
Photo courtesy of The Majestic Restaurant


The Majestic Restaurant has long been known for great steaks served amid 1900s ambiance. But down in the cozy basement that once functioned as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, you'll also find live jazz performances on Tuesday through Saturday nights, by some of Kansas City's incredibly talented musicians. The rock-walled Jazz Club features soulful strains throughout the evening with appetizers or dinner, and cocktails, functioning as your 'ticket' to an evening of terrific music. Order a classic beverage such as The Last Word – a Prohibition-era drink featuring Beefeater's Gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and lime juice; or The Flapper – crafted with Wycliff Sparkling Brut, sugar and Angostura Bitters. Then sit back, relax and savor Kansas City jazz at its best.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The city's legendary musical heritage meets an expansive menu during Jazz Brunch, from baked banana toffee French toast to Salmon Benedict and grilled items too.

Lisa's expert tip: Although there's no dress code at The Majestic, business or business-casual dress is the norm in this classy spot. If there's no street parking available, check out the free lot on nearby Broadway. This is a busy place so it's best to make a reservation.

Read more about The Majestic Restaurant →


Green Lady Lounge
Photo courtesy of Green Lady Lounge


Don't let the nondescript exterior of this impressive jazz lounge discourage you. The ambiance and music inside are almost magical while showcasing local artists who exemplify Kansas City's jazz tradition. You'll find friendly and fast bartenders crafting reasonably priced classic cocktails such as a whiskey Old Fashioned, a bourbon Manhattan, or Campari and sweet vermouth. The Green Lady Lounge also has a big beer menu and a much smaller wine menu but the focus is clearly on handcrafted drinks and great music. Available appetizers include cheese or hummus platters. With a vintage tin ceiling, this dark and narrow retro lounge feels cozy. There's never a cover charge and there isn't a single television in sight. It doesn't get much better than that.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Outside appearances don't come close to the cozy feel of this laid-back, jazz-filled lounge where cocktails and music are the primary focus.

Lisa's expert tip: You can take home a musical memory of your evening at Green Lady Lounge by purchasing a CD that features some of the Kansas City area's best jazz musicians.

Read more about Green Lady Lounge →


O'Dowds Little Dublin Irish Pub


For a taste of the Emerald Isle, and Kansas City's Irish heritage, check out this popular pub in the equally popular Country Club Plaza shopping district. Dark wood and an antique bar? Check. In fact, all of the furniture and décor came from an Irish pub company in Dublin. Guinness on tap? Check. Sip a brew with traditional Irish fare too, from fish and chips to corned beef and cabbage or shepherd's pie. And whether you stop by after work or on a weekend evening, there's always some music, including live performers such as the music of local Irish music legend, Eddie Delahunt, or local DJs playing tunes. A lunchtime favorite for local businesspeople, O'Dowd's also offers a comfortable, expansive open-air deck that's perfect for warm weather socializing.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: O'Dowd's brings all things Irish to one of Kansas City's most renowned and beautiful commercial neighborhoods.

Lisa's expert tip: O'Dowd's does 'Happy Hour' right, with its Ecstatic Hour from 3-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, when half-price appetizers and terrific drink specials make this a tasty bargain. Drink specials extend to Saturday and Sunday too.

Read more about O'Dowds Little Dublin Irish Pub →


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The Kill Devil Club
Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray


If you like piano bars, you've come to the right place. You'll hear talented piano performances and much more at The Kill Devil Club, in Kansas City's bustling urban core. One visit will convince you why Food & Wine Magazine has named this among the "Best New Bars in the U.S.," several times. You'll support exceptionally talented local musicians each time the house band shares their highly polished vocals and instrumental expertise too. Enjoy hand-crafted signature cocktails such as a Howlin' Mule – with Tito's handmade vodka, Gosling's Ginger Beer and fresh lime – or vodka- and fruit-infused Howlin' Punch while you enjoy this rowdy, fun environment. Great music and drinks make every evening at The Kill Devil Club a non-stop party.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: There's no cover charge at The Kill Devil Club, where musical performances begin by early evening and end in the wee hours.

Lisa's expert tip: This bar gets crowded quickly, so arrive early if you want to be assured of getting a table. Better yet, call ahead for reserved seating and VIP treatment that also assures great views.

Read more about The Kill Devil Club →


Howl at the Moon
Photo courtesy of Howl at the Moon


Part bar and part concert venue, Kansas City's Howl at the Moon has quickly become exceptionally popular among the over-21 crowd. A Kansas City Visitors' Choice Winner for Favorite Nightlife Spot, Howl at the Moon operates on both coasts as well as in Denver, Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago and Houston. There are dueling pianos, plenty of guitars, percussion and horns, performing original takes from multiple music genres, with a focus on dance hits and 'party anthems' that get the crowd up on their feet. Enjoy specialty drinks such as Howlin' Punch (Tito's Handmade Vodka, Finest Call Watermelon Puree, Pineapple Juice, Lemon Lime Soda, Sweet and Sour) and flashing colored lights amid this big and bold entertainment venue. Arrive before the show starts to find a seat, or purchase a 'jump the line' package to join the VIP list. You never know what to expect at Howl at the Moon.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: No cover and a finely-tuned performance venue make this a fun place to enjoy everyone's favorite music, Kansas City-style.

Lisa's expert tip: Although there's never a cover charge for Howl at the Moon Kansas City, the surrounding Power & Light District charges $10 to enter this area after 11, on Friday and Saturday nights. Check the Howl at the Moon Kansas City web site to learn how you can bypass this charge.

Read more about Howl at the Moon →


CrossroadsKC at Grinders
Photo courtesy of CrossroadsKC at Grinders


From rock to reggae and bluegrass to hip hop, CrossroadsKC has enthusiastically presented outdoor shows since 2007, with Kansas City's illuminated skyline as backdrop. In cooperation with Pipeline Productions, the popular venue offers free parking, cold beers and other adult beverages, plus multi-tiered ticket prices. Purchase hot pizza to sizzling barbecue from the adjacent Grinders and Grinders West too. Some of their dishes have even appeared on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and Guy's Big Bites. A VIP ticket provides added perks, including VIP-only bars and an air-conditioned lounge and restaurant. This is well-priced, outdoor entertainment at its finest, with a distinctly urban vibe.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Nearly a decade after it began, this festive outdoor concert destination rocks the heart of Kansas City, MO. dozens of times, every year.

Lisa's expert tip: General admission tickets offer first-come-first-served seating and a limited number of picnic tables. Unassigned bleacher seats put you closer to the show, while still mingling in general admission. You can bring lawn chairs and/or blankets to many concerts; check the web site in advance.

Read more about CrossroadsKC at Grinders →


Knuckleheads
Photo courtesy of Knuckleheads KC


'Where the World's Greatest Musicians Play,' Knuckleheads KC offers multiple stages in an industrial neighborhood near a series of train tracks. There's a white-hot music scene on Wednesday through Sunday amid funky, laid-back surroundings and plenty of vintage neon. In nice weather, have a cocktail on the large horseshoe deck at the Outdoor Stage and Courtyard or enjoy a show at the Electric Park, which offered the first outdoor stage in Kansas City. The Saloon is famous for some of this area's best open jam sessions, which have included Leon Russell and Tower of Power. And the Gospel Lounge/Back Lounge has become synonymous with comforting gospel as well as 'Listening Sessions,' from rock to bluegrass. You'll long remember a night at Knuckleheads.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The only music venue in the East Bottoms, this no-frills place offers plenty of cold drinks, good food and memorable performances to huge crowds.

Lisa's expert tip: Knuckleheads Garage is the newest performance venue at this multi-faceted entertainment complex. Across the street from The Saloon, it couples an industrial feel with a funky vibe and a state-of-the-art sound system, for an intimate yet exciting performance space.

Read more about Knuckleheads →


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Meet Lisa Waterman Gray

Lisa Waterman Gray moved to the Kansas City area 35 years ago and has written professionally for 20+ years. A member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, she's excited about the...  More About Lisa

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