Expert Tips


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Um-kansas City
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.

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.

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.

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.


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