When you think of city street art, Kansas City may not immediately spring to mind. But it turns out KC is a veritable canvas of murals. A mural tour has been on my bucket list for a while, but it was only recently that my friend Emily (shoutout to my always-game wandering buddy!) and I found a free — and not 100-degree — day to do it. And we had to do it right, obviously — full mural madness. Electric scooters required.
Actually, Kansas City has way more murals than I expected, and we didn’t nearly make it to all of them. However, I think we made the rounds pretty well, and the results were pretty darn cool in any case. Follow along with us!
Generally, maps are a no-no for legit wandering. However, Kansas City is a spread-out city, and I love a good list, so I had a detailed list and corresponding map for our mural tour. Obviously, you can follow whatever path you want to see any (or all) of these. Our escapade started in River Market, then went down to East Crossroads, plus a few extra in the Crossroads, Brookside, and even Independence. And, of course, we stumbled across at least a few unexpected gems. As with any wander, the best discoveries are always the ones you find by accident.
*A full list of the Kansas City murals we visited, with addresses, will be at the end of this post.
Our first stop was the kooky and colorful Betty Rae’s Ice Cream mural. This was by far the hardest to get pictures of, as there was the usual crazy line of people bursting out of Betty Rae’s. That said, the vibrant, cartoonish ice cream drippings are definitely worth a look. And hey, you can always stop for a cone while you’re at it!
After that, we headed on to the Lewis & Clark mural around the corner at River Market Antiques. As far as I know, this is one of the older murals in KC, and it doesn’t have the graffiti vibe of a lot of spots on our list — it’s more like a classic painting. It fits in perfectly with the storied brick buildings of River Market, a little slice of Missouri history.
At this point, we hit the scooters — mostly, in truth, to get to our chosen coffee spot before closing time. A separate Coffeeshop Love post will be coming on that, but suffice it to say, we made it, and the coffee at Thou Mayest’s newest home, Thee Outpost, is not to be missed (also shoutout to the friendly barista who didn’t even give us an evil eye for coming in two minutes before closing). If you haven’t given the electric scooters many cities now have a try, do it — now. I’m not sure I’d use them for a regular commute, but they’re a fun and speedy way to get around, and worth it for the nostalgia trip back to fifth grade alone (I suddenly wish I hadn’t sold my electric scooter…)
East Crossroads might just be the Mecca of murals in KC. The grittier sister of the Crossroads Arts District around 19th and Main, this neighborhood has true street art — and it’s everywhere. We hit a few preplanned spots (I’ll list the addresses), but my best advice is to go to about 18th and Oak and start wandering. From Art Alley (a long passage covered street to roof in graffiti and murals) to a Kansas City Royals wall, there’s a splash of paint around almost every corner. Just be sure you don’t miss the vibrant Production Wall, in the Made in KC lot, and eclectic Art Alley, between 17th and 18th around Locust and Cherry Streets. Meander around east of Oak Street from about 17th to 19th, and you never know what you’ll stumble across.
Crossroads and Beyond
Fully caffeinated and a little high on art, we headed west to the Crossroads. Just past the Kansas City Star building, the lovely rainbow of the “Love You Like A Summer Night” mural hides behind Messenger Coffee (also a good stop if you’re not already java-ed out). Then on to Main Street, to Tom’s Town Distillery and Gallup Maps for a little Art Deco and antique flair, respectively.
We couldn’t pass by the Strong Women Empower mural, of course (cheesy selfies are a must). For those who know the area, this spot, across from Up Down bar, used to house the Kansas City I’m So In Love mural. Never fear — that classic has been relocated. We hit it next, incorporated into the Imagine That art at Imagine That (a lovely tribute to this arts organization for developmentally disabled adults). Along the way, we stumbled across the KC skyline splashed across the Spira Care building, another beautiful surprise. You see why I wander?
Full disclosure: I cheated a bit on the Damn Fine and Love the Square murals — I had already visited and snapped pics of those, so I included them for good measure. Maybe a little outside the downtown mural tour track, but they were too good to not throw into the mix!
Obviously, this was a whirlwind tour! To do the art full justice, you’ll really have to go take a look yourself. And while you’re at it, you’ll probably discover even more we didn’t hit. Check out SpraySeeMo and @grafittikc for more Kansas City mural moments (plus more detailed info).
**If you want to follow our tour, here’s a list of the murals we visited and their locations. I included the artist when I could find it. Most titles, however, are just my own descriptions.**
Betty Rae’s (412 Delaware St.) @jtdaniels_art
Lewis & Clark (115 W 5th St.)
Production Wall/Made in KC lot (18th & Locust St.)
Art Alley (between 17th & 18th, near Locust & Cherry Sts.)
Rainbow Faces (1822 Cherry St.) @rifrafgiraffe
Ten Hundred (19th & Cherry St.) @tenhun
Until the Rave Summons (around 17th & Locust St.)
Retro Noir (501 E. 17th St.) @sikestyle & @lucidflows
Revilo Octopus Panda (500 E. 18th St.) *This building is unfortunately now partially collapsed*
Vulpes Bastille Fox (1737 Locust St.) @sabertooththomas
Sebastian Coolidge Woman (1608 Locust St.) @sebastiancoolidge
Tropical Starry Night (17th & Oak) @pyramidguy
Pyramid Girl (446 E. 17th) @tylercoey
I Love You Like a Summer Night (1624 Grand Blvd) @abbyyemm
Tom’s Town (17th & Main St.)
Gallup Maps (1733 Main St)
Strong Women Empower (1919 Baltimore)
Spira Care KC skyline (1916 Grand Blvd) @rifrafgiraffe & @amiayars
Imagine That (200 E 20th St)
Independence Love the Square
Damn Fine (Brookside)