KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships are returning to downtown Kansas City once again.

The 2022 men’s tournament will be held at the T-Mobile Center with the first round tipping off Wednesday. The men’s championship game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.

Over at Municipal Auditorium, the 2022 women’s tournament is set to begin on Thursday night with the championship game set for Sunday afternoon.

Find the full men’s tournament schedule here and the women’s tournament schedule here.

Both tournaments are expected to be back to normal after the last two years of pandemic-related precautions led to the 2020 championship being canceled and smaller crowds at the 2021 championship.

The conference championships bring thousands of college basketball fans from across the U.S. to Kansas City every year.

Whether you’re from the Kansas City region or out-of-state, there’s plenty to explore in downtown Kansas City in between Big 12 games.

Here are 12 things to do downtown, including some Big 12-related events and some Kansas City classics:

Big 12 Pep Rallies

Cheer on your favorite Big 12 team with dozens of others at the KC Live! Block. Each college’s band, cheerleaders, mascots and more will be there to get fans pumped up about the tournament.

Here’s what’s on the schedule so far:

Wednesday, March 9
4 p.m.: Kansas State
4:30 p.m.: West Virginia

Thursday, March 10
9:45 a.m.: TCU
10:35 a.m.: Kansas
11 a.m.: West Virginia
4:55 p.m.: Texas Tech
5:20 p.m.: Iowa State

More pep rallies are expected to be announced. FOX4 will update this story as needed.

Big 12 Big Q

Pitmasters from around the country will descend onto the streets of downtown Kansas City for the annual barbecue competition.

Each competitor will represent a Big 12 team as they compete for prized in rib cook-off.

  • Burnt Finger BBQ – Kansas City, Missouri – Kansas State
  • Fergolicious BBQ – Gardner, Missouri – Kansas
  • Gettin’ Basted – Branson, Missouri – Oklahoma
  • Old Virginia Smoke – Bristow, Virginia – West Virginia
  • Shake ‘N Bake BBQ – New Haven, Missouri – Texas
  • Slap’s BBQ – Kansas City, Kansas – TCU
  • Sugarfire Smoke House – St. Louis, Missouri – Baylor

Fans can enjoy samples throughout the tournament as well as take part in a more in-depth experience, the Pig Out rib-eating contest on March 11 and 12.

College Basketball Experience

Connected to the T-Mobile Center, the College Basketball Experience has over 40,000 square feet of opportunities to get in the game. With stations like “Beat The Clock,” slam dunk courts, an ESPNU anchor desk and more, there’s something for everyone.

Fans can also find the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, where they can immerse themselves in basketball history and the sport’s legends.

The College Basketball Experience is open every day in March. Buy tickets at the box office or online here.

Crown Center

This Kansas City shopping center is also full of family-friendly attractions like the SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center or the Coterie theater.

Or visit the Crayola store, have a train deliver your burger to your table at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, and enjoy fudge from Chip’s Chocolate Factory. And if you’re looking for a more adult experience, there are plenty of other shopping and dining options to explore.

Just a quick streetcar ride away, Crown Center is easy to get to from the Big 12 tournaments.

GameDay

A free interactive festival will take over Grand Boulevard and down the street at the Barney Allis Plaza.

Fans can play games, take photos with themed décor, eat food and take part in giveaways throughout the Big 12 Tournament.

GameDay on Grand Boulevard:

  • Wednesday, March 9 – 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 10 – 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 11 – 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 12 – 1 to 5 p.m.

GameDay at Barney Allis Plaza:

  • Thursday, March 10 – 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 11 – 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 12 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 13 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Union Station

Take a streetcar ride to one of Kansas City’s most prolific buildings. There families can explore Science City, the Planetarium, the Model Train Gallery and much more.

If you’re looking to relax for a bit, catch a movie — like “The Batman” at the massive Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre.

After all the fun, grab a bite or a drink at Harvey’s or Pierpont’s while you soak in the beautiful architecture of the station.

Grab a beer

Kansas City is home to dozens of great breweries, all serving up their own unique takes.

If you have access to a vehicle, Kansas City classic Boulevard Brewing Co. is always worth a short trip over to Southwest Boulevard. Take a tour of the facility or enjoy a drink and games at the Rec Deck.

If you’re looking for something closer to the Big 12 tournaments, Strange Days Brewing Co. and River Bluff Brewing are just a short streetcar ride to the River Market.

In Kansas City’s Crossroads Districts, another streetcar ride away, you can find Brewery Emperial, Torn Label Brewing Co., City Barrell Brewery + Kitchen and more.

Miller Lite Hoops Central at KC Live! Block

Before and after every Big 12 Tournament matchup, fans can join the all-day party hosted across the street from the T-Mobile Center at the KC Live! Block for spirit rallies, watch parties, live entertainment and more.

It is open to all ages throughout the day, but guests must be at least 21 years old to enter after 9 p.m.

Rally times will be released closer to tournament time and tables can be reserved online.

National World War I Museum and Memorial

The museum holds the most diverse collection of WWI objects and documents in the world. It’s the only museum solely dedicated to preserving these objects, along with the history and personal experiences, from the Great War.

Congress has even designated it as America’s official World War I Museum, and it’s located right in Kansas City.

Outside, the iconic memorial is truly a sight to see and is one of the largest war memorials in the world at 217 feet tall.

Big 12 Run

The morning of the men’s Big 12 Tournament Championship Game will give fans the chance to represent their favorite team while running a 5K through downtown Kansas City.

All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt, a custom finisher’s medal, plus a free beer for those who are 21 and older. 

The race begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. Registration is open to sign up, and the event costs $35. Runners can chose to run virtually, as well.

River Market

The River Market neighborhood, just south of the Missouri River, is full of diverse, charming shops, restaurants and businesses — all right on the streetcar route.

Test your problem-solving skills at Breakout KC, a local escape room, grab a scoop at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, or catch some hockey highlights during your basketball break to The Blue Line sports bar.

Nestled in the River Market area, you’ll find the popular City Market. Many of its shops and restaurants are open every day, but the weekend farmers market is when the City Market really comes alive and you’ll find even more local vendors.

Don’t forget to check out the Arabia Steamboat Museum, showcasing the steamboat that sank near Kansas City in 1856 and was lost for 132 years before it was recovered.

Barbecue

And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Kansas City if you didn’t grab some barbecue. Largely regarded as the barbecue capital of the world, Kansas City has some of the best restaurants around.

If you’re up for a drive, there are great restaurants all over the KC area. But if you’re looking for sites close to downtown — or within a ride on the streetcar — here are three picks:

  • Plowboys Barbeque: Find this barbecue favorite right on Main Street just a few blocks from the T-Mobile Center.
  • Jack Stack Barbecue-Freight House: This family-owned barbecue restaurant is located behind Union Station just off the streetcar stop.
  • Burnt Ends BBQ: Take a streetcar ride to Crown Center where you’ll find this traditional barbecue offerings plus unique twists.