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9 Free And Cheap Things To Do In Kansas City This Memorial Day And Beyond

Andrew Birgensmith
Kansas City Symphony
The Kansas City Symphony performs its 17th annual Celebration at the Station this weekend in Kansas City.

Whether money’s tight or you have more moolah than you need, why pay more for your go-and-do than you have to?

Free, or nearly so, activities in the coming days and weeks range from expressions of national patriotism and promising local talent to appreciations of veggies, Italy and the entertainment value of William Shakespeare’s hypothetical love life.

Indeed, you don’t have to deplete yourself to enjoy yourself. So take a look – no charge!

1. Celebration at the Station

Blankets and lawn chairs and their attendant people will pack the south porch of Union Station for the Kansas City Symphony’s annual Memorial Day weekend festival and concert. The 17th annual Celebration at the Station includes family friendly pre-concert diversions leading up to dusk, when the symphony and special guests take the stage to tunefully honor America’s fallen military members. A resplendent fireworks display caps the communitywide tribute.

Sunday, 3-10 p.m.; Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

2. PrideKC Kick-Off

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Set it in local motion at the PrideKC Kick-Off, sponsored by RideKC, RideKC Bike, the KC Streetcar and the KC Regional Transportation Authority. Bring a lunch, share refreshments and enjoy photo ops. Most of all, do what you can to achieve true diversity in the land of the free. Hint: The former is how you get the latter.

May 28, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Union Station Streetcar Stop, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

3. Festa Italiana

Italian food and entertainment are the main attractions at Festa Italiana. There will be bib-worthy meatball and cannoli eating contests, as well as skilled cover bands making like Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and … the Beach Boys. What, you don’t remember “Mama Mia, That’s a Good Vibration,” “Per Favore, Surfer Girl” and “I Get Around, Grazie?” Here’s your chance to catch up!

May 31, 5-11 p.m.; June 1, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; June 2, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Zona Rosa, 8640 N. Dixson Ave., Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

4. Sand Volleyball Pickup

Are you better at serving, spiking, passing, blocking, covering, digging or pancaking? If you don’t know, find out by playing in Memorial Day Sand Volleyball Pickup games sponsored by KC Crew. If you do know, try not to brag. The beach-like playing area will overlook the Missouri River just north of downtown KC’s scenic skyline. The view may be inviting, but don’t forget to pay attention to the game, unless you want to learn how to pancake the hard way.

May 31, 7:30-10 p.m.; Berkley Riverfront Park, 1298 Riverfront Road, Kansas City, Mo.; participation fee: $5 advance, $7 walk-up.

5. MagicFest

Card games come and go, but one that has withstood the test of time – not to mention countless assailments by over-confident wizards – is Magic: The Gathering, introduced in 1993. Enter MagicFest, a great place to test your Magic: The Gathering luck – uh, I mean, skill – against the horde of players expected to gather for an entire weekend of intense collectible-card-playing action. You might even take home a swell trophy, if a sore-losing wizard doesn’t make it go poof first. Darn wizards.

May 31, 8 a.m.-June 2, 5 p.m.; Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan.; admission: free.

6. Party on the Prairie

Jackson County’s sole remaining grassland is the site of this family event inspired by National Trails and Prairie Day. All ages can find something to do out in the fresh air, from bird walks and horse-led hay rides to a scavenger hunt and a quick paint contest, plus free hotdogs, chips and cups of water while they last. Hikers will want to bring extra water. It’s not a party unless you share!

June 1, 8 a.m.-noon; Jerry Smith Park, 139th and Holmes streets, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

7. ‘Shakespeare in Love’

Instead of hitting the boards with an original Shakespeare play, this summer’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival is taking a more fanciful turn by delivering a stage version of the 1998 Oscar-winner for Best Picture, “Shakespeare in Love.” Set during the time that the Bard of Avon was writing and staging “Romeo and Juliet,” the world’s greatest playwright is depicted as a young man whose own fiery love life imitates his art – or is it the other way around? Or both? Gadzooks, methinks I doth complicate too much.  

June 11-July 7, 8 p.m. (Tuesday-Sunday, no show July 4, no show Monday, July 1); Southmoreland Park, 4598 Oak St., Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free (donations accepted); upfront reserved seating $25 Tuesday-Thursday, $35 Friday and Saturday.

8. VegFest

Vegetables are good for you. But that axiom is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce for those interested in a “plant-based lifestyle.” VegFest is where the vegetable-devoted and those who may simply want to learn a bit more about the benefits of vegetables can find common ground in the garden. Whatever your perspective, explore the latest vegan (non-animal) foods and related dietary products, while hearing anecdotes from and hobnobbing with folks who are sold on the stuff that comes up out of the ground.

June 7, 6-10 p.m.; June 8 and 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; City Market Park, 5 W. Third St., Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

9. Future Stages Festival

Talent will out, but it’s got to start somewhere. Experience the burgeoning abilities of more than 3,000 youth performers on four stages inside and outside the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Music, dance and theater venues of the future will need someone to capably tread them. Encourage!

June 16, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com

Brian McTavish follows popular culture in the belief that the search for significance can lead anywhere. Brian explains, "I've written articles and reviews ... reviewed hundreds of concerts, films and plays. And the thing is, these high arts all sprang from the pop culture of their day. Don't forget: Shakespeare was once Spielberg."
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