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IntroductionWhen it comes to civic improvement, Kansas City has a track record of not sitting still. Diligent development and restoration have resulted in multiple architecturally spectacular entertainment complexes.
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In Depth“I’m goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.” So goes the 1950s hit with the catchy melody. Ditto for Kansas City—once you've sniffed its barbecue-scented air, felt a fountain's cool spray and tapped your feet to its homegrown jazz, you'll never forget the experience, and you'll find yourself singing the city's praises.
From “Possumtrot” to “The Paris of the Plains,” Kansas City has known many names. In 1821, fur trader François Chouteau established a trading post near the Missouri River and called it “Chouteau’s Town.” Kansas City’s prime location at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers as well as at the starting point of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails was instrumental to the area’s growth.
Nicknames “Kawsmouth,” “Possumtrot,” and “Westport Landing” were used during the 1800s when Kansas City was the last stop for travelers to pick up provisions during the great westward migration, including those heading to California during the Gold Rush.
During the heyday of jazz in the 1920s and ‘30s, Kansas City was heralded as “The Paris of the Plains” because of its numerous jazz clubs and gambling halls and local government’s bold disregard of Prohibition. Today, monikers “The City of Fountains” and “Barbecue Capital of the World” describe this Midwestern city.
A $4.5 billion revitalization transformed downtown into a flourishing metropolis. The Power & Light District is an entertainment complex spanning 8 city blocks brimming with hip restaurants, live music venues, dance clubs, and free rock and country music concerts in the summer.
Just footsteps away from the Power & Light District is the Sprint Center, a sparkling wedding-band shaped entertainment and sports venue. Glance at its mirror-like glass façade and you’ll see a reflection of Kansas City’s past and present in turn-of-the-20th-century red brick buildings juxtaposing gleaming stick-straight skyscrapers.
Today's popular music scene jumps, jives and wails, but in the 1920s and ‘30s, blues-influenced Kansas City jazz was really hot. Back then, jazz aficionados had the pleasure of seeing musicians such as Count Basie and Charlie “Bird” Parker perform live. Known as one of the cradles of jazz due to its heavily influential style, Kansas City also is where the jam session was born. After performances, musicians couldn't put their instruments down and jammed into the wee hours. Kansas City's fluid, spontaneous style of jazz eventually gave birth to an improvisational style called bebop; city native and saxophonist Parker was instrumental in this transition.
Besides its legendary contributions to jazz, Kansas City’s cultural scene comprises a mix of art and history museums, theater, ballet, opera and an annual Shakespeare festival. Culture vultures will feel right at home in the city’s high-caliber museums.
Fountain lovers are in the right place. Kansas City has more than 200 fountains, earning it another nickname: “The City of Fountains.” There are more fountains here than almost anywhere; only Rome is said to have more. Used in the late 1800s as water troughs for the horses that provided transportation, the fountains are now appreciated for their beauty. Near Country Club Plaza in Mill Creek Park is the J.C. Nichols Fountain. This dramatic 80-foot-round fountain features four 10-foot-high rearing horses, dolphins, cherubs and nine arching streams of water.
Even Kauffman Stadium has a 322-foot-wide fountain with a waterfall that provides a show before games. Of course, after the Royals' 2015 World Series win, the baseball is the main attraction.
But man cannot live by water alone. Roll down your car window as you drive around town, and inhale the mouthwatering fragrance of barbecue sauce permeating the air. Follow your nose to any of the plethora of barbecue restaurants; locals brag that Kansas City has more per capita than any city in the country. You’ll see why so many call Kansas City the “Barbecue Capital of the World.”
By CarFrom the north, Kansas City is approached by two major controlled-access highways, I-35 and I-29, which merge into I-29/35, or US 71, and cross the Missouri River before leading into the downtown area via 13th Street. Running into Kansas City, Kan., from the south, I-35 provides direct controlled access to downtown via Washington Avenue and 12th Street.
On the Missouri side the fastest southern approach is via US 71, which connects with the I-435 bypass. The bypass circles the city and can be taken north to I-70. Beginning in St. Louis, I-70 bisects the state and enters Kansas City via the 13th Street exit. I-70 also is the controlled-access route from the west to downtown.
Street SystemThe Greater Kansas City area follows a basic grid pattern, slightly complicated by the Kansas and Missouri rivers. North Kansas City and Kansas City, Mo., are separated by the Missouri River, from which cross streets are numbered in ascending order well into the suburbs. The reference point for the east-west block designation in downtown Kansas City, Mo., is Main Street. Conversely, numbered streets in Kansas City, Kan., run on a north-south axis, paralleling the abrupt S-curve of the Missouri River.
State Line Road separates the Missouri and Kansas sides of the city. The street systems of both are peculiar to their own states, although several streets continue across the border unchanged. The main east-west artery over the Kansas River connecting the twin cities is I-70, which leads into US 24/40, the main route through downtown Kansas City, Kan.
I-70 also intersects other major thoroughfares that travel through and around town. The Southwest Trafficway provides rapid access into the central part of Kansas City, Mo.
Generally downtown speed limits are 25 mph or as posted. Right turns on red are permitted unless otherwise posted. Avoid rush hours, from about 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 6 p.m.
ParkingOn-street parking is controlled by meters, but finding an empty space in the right spot can be difficult. Numerous commercial lots and garages are concentrated around Central and Grand avenues, between 9th and 14th streets, and at the southern edge of town. Rates average 90c per half-hour, with a maximum of $5.
Parking also is available for $10 around the Truman Sports Complex and for $7-$15 at Kemper Arena. Several major downtown hotels are connected to the Kansas City Convention Center by an underground concourse.
About the City
Sales TaxThe sales tax rate in the city of Kansas City is 7.99 percent. The city's lodging tax is 11.98 percent and there is a rental car tax of $4 per day.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(816) 234-5000
HospitalsResearch Medical Center, (816) 276-4000; St. Joseph Medical Center, (816) 942-4400; Saint Luke's Hospital, (816) 932-2000; Saint Luke's North Hospital, (816) 891-6000; Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill, (816) 404-1000.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersThe major daily newspaper in Kansas City is the Kansas City Star.
RadioKansas City radio station KCMO (710 AM and 103.7 FM) is an all news/weather station; KCUR (89.3 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.
Visitor InformationVisit KC 1321 Baltimore Ave. KANSAS CITY, MO 64105. Phone:(816)221-5242 or (800)767-7700
Missouri Welcome Center 4010 Blue Ridge Cut-Off KANSAS CITY, MO 64133. Phone:(816)889-3330The center is off I-70 exit 9 and Blue Ridge Cut-Off at the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex. It is open daily 8-5, Apr.-Oct.; Mon.-Sat. 8-5, rest of year.
Air TravelKansas City International Airport (MCI) is 17 miles northwest of downtown. Taxi fare into the city is about $50. Many larger hotels offer airport shuttle and limousine service.
Rental CarsHertz, at the airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (816) 243-5765 or (800) 654-3080.
Rail ServiceThe Amtrak station, (816) 421-3622 or (800) 872-7245, is at 23rd and Main streets.
BusesGreyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, is at 1101 Troost St. Other major carriers to Kansas City are Great Southern, Illini-Swallow, Jefferson Lines, Sunnyland and Gulf Transport.
TaxisYellow Cab, (816) 471-5000, is the city's major taxi service. Cabs are deregulated, so fares vary widely. Rates are posted on each cab, and you are not required to take the first cab in a line. Up to five people can share a ride for a single fare.
Public TransportationRide KC, the metro bus system, serves all of Greater Kansas City except Johnson County. The exact-change fare minimum is $1.50 ($3 for an all-day pass) and varies by distance. For more details and for route information regarding construction, phone (816) 221-0660.
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EssentialsWhen in Kansas City, one must have barbecue, a time-honored KC tradition. You'll have a tough time deciding where to dine because there are so many restaurants to choose from, so ask around. Kansas City natives are proud of their favorites, including Gates Bar-B-Q (3205 Main St.) or Smoke Box Bar-B-Que (10020 N. Ambassador Dr.).
Catch a jazz band or two. Warm up at The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum (1616 E. 18th St.) or at The Phoenix (302 W. 8th St.), then head over to the Mutual Musicians Foundation (1823 Highland Ave.), where things start heating up at midnight and go on until the break of dawn.
Wander around Country Club Plaza (4750 Broadway St.), a Midwestern mecca for outdoor mall maniacs. The plaza's exquisite Spanish and Moorish architecture, highlighted by European sculptures and fountains, surrounds upscale shops, the usual mall standards (Banana Republic and the like) and popular restaurants. If you're there during the holidays, don't miss the KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving night. When the power switch is thrown, more than 80 miles of twinkling lights illuminate the plaza for the season.
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Check out the spectacular collection at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (4525 Oak St.) and then relax on its lawn, which also happens to be the Kansas City Sculpture Park. Recline next to 18-foot-tall shuttlecocks made by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen or any of the park's 30 other sculptures.
After sunset, get into the groove at Kansas City Power & Light District, bordered by Baltimore Avenue, Grand Boulevard, 12th Street and I-670. Encompassing eight blocks of nightclubs and restaurants, the entertainment district revitalized downtown KC when it opened in 2008.
The Crossroads Arts District, just south of the downtown loop and north of Union Station, offers up art galleries galore and modern cafés, both of which double as entertainment venues depending on the night. You'll also find one-of-a-kind shops such as Retro Inferno (1500 Grand Blvd.) for midcentury modern furniture (think “The Jetsons” or “Bewitched”); Christopher Elbow Chocolates (1819 McGee St.), nirvana for lovers of artfully designed chocolate; and Webster House (1644 Wyandotte St.), an antique store and restaurant.
Drop into Union Station (30 W. Pershing Rd.), an eye-catching Kansas City landmark built in 1914 for use as a train station. The resplendent interior of the 850,000-square-foot Beaux Arts building boasts a 6-foot-wide clock, three 3,500-pound chandeliers suspended from a 95-foot-high ceiling, marble floors and plaster ceilings. Today there's a small collection of shops and restaurants as well as Science City (a family-oriented science museum) and exhibits about railroad history.
Both children and adults will ooh and aah at the toys that fill 38 rooms at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures (5235 Oak St.). The treasures date back to the Victorian era and include a 9-foot-tall Victorian dollhouse complete with running water, tiny glassware and ceramic pieces, cast iron cars and trains, teddy bears, dolls and toy soldiers.
For a tasty, one-of-a-kind, elegant evening out, visit Bluestem Restaurant (900 Westport Rd.). Every visit will be different, as the menu changes daily and seasonally. The presentation is as delightful as the taste because the chefs use fresh, local ingredients. This New American fine dining eatery also offers a Sunday Brunch.
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Top Picks for Kids
Under 13Kids in the 5-7 age range will love the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City (2475 Grand Blvd.). It has a couple of small-scale rides, short films to watch, a kiddie play area and—most importantly—the opportunity to build something awesome with those beloved plastic bricks. Adults will appreciate the ingenious LEGO re-creations of Kansas City landmarks at MiniLand.
The Reading Reptile bookstore (in the city’s Brookside area at 328 W. 63rd St.) is filled to the rafters with creative decorations inspired by characters from children’s literature. There are toys, a play area for little ones, a cupcake shop and books for both young and young adult readers.
Kids can scamper through room after room of vintage toys, collectibles, puppets and teddy bears at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures (5235 Oak St.). Little girls in particular will be entranced by the old-fashioned dollhouses in all shapes and sizes, including one 7-foot-tall mansion complete with running water.
TeensHip-hop and pop divas may rule the charts today, but encourage musically inclined teens to explore musical roots at the American Jazz Museum (1616 E. 18th St.), part of the 18th and Vine historic district. Kansas City was a prime breeding ground for musicians creating “America’s Classical Music” in the 1920s and '30s, and exhibits focusing on greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker will be an eye-opening musical education lesson.
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All AgesBeautifully restored Union Station (30 W. Pershing Rd.) offers a fun family outing. Of course, there are hands-on railroad exhibits—the Missouri Pacific Railroad, known as MoPac by train aficionados, reached KC in 1865. But there’s also a planetarium, 3D films on the Regnier “Extreme Screen” and Science City , which is loaded with interactive features.
Shooters, cobbles, jumbos, toebreakers—they’re all marbles, and you’ll find ‘em at the Moon Marble Company store (600 E. Front St. in Bonner Springs). In addition to marbles that look like baseballs and eyeballs and handmade, legitimate works of art (check out Dichroic Swirl, a clear marble with swirls of translucent green), marble-making demonstrations are given on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Watching the Kansas City Royals play ball at Kauffman Stadium is a summertime tradition, and the team’s World Series win in 2015 fired up their loyal fans more than ever. If you can’t make a home game, visit the Royals Hall of Fame (One Royal Way) and learn more about Bret Saberhagen, Frank White, George Brett and other hall of famers who have worn the iconic blue uniform.
On a blazing hot summer—or frigid winter—day, while away some time at the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park (6601 Swope Pkwy.). It not only exhibits native Missouri wildlife but is one of the state’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
Kansas City barbecue is world famous, and there are plenty of joints where you can sample it. Gates Bar-B-Q (3205 Main St.) regularly wins awards for the best ‘cue in town, and the not-so-secret secret behind their success is the sauce (original, sweet or extra hot). Regardless of your preference, it’s best slathered on ribs, and you should know the lingo—slab, short end, center cut or long end—before you place your order at the noisy counter.
Who doesn’t love munching on a giant turkey leg while wandering around looking at people dressed up in all sorts of costumes? At the Kansas City Renaissance Festival you can watch jousting knights, get a psychic reading or shop for cool crafts. It’s open on weekends from early September until mid-October.
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ShoppingThe original model for the “outdoor shopping village” concept, Country Club Plaza (47th Street and J.C. Nichols Parkway) is the jewel in the crown of Kansas City shopping experiences. Built by J.C. Nichols, a wealthy developer with vision, the plaza opened in 1923 and was the nation’s first suburban shopping complex designed expressly for consumers who owned an automobile. Doubting townspeople dubbed the plaza “Nichols' Folly” because it was built in a swampy area used for pig farming, but the plaza was a success from the start.
In addition to chain restaurants, local bistros and the Cinemark Palace at the Plaza Theater, the plaza's collection of some 150 retailers includes designer names like Coach and Tiffany & Co., trend-setters like Anthropologie, BCBGMAXAZRIA and J.Crew, and traditional clothiers like Burberry and Talbots.
Spanish and Moorish influences are evident in the 12 towers looming over the terra-cotta rooftops; the most notable is a 130-foot-tall reproduction of Spain’s Giralda Tower. More than 40 fountains and statues imported from Europe fill the plaza; intricate mosaic murals made of Spanish tile adorn storefronts; and terra-cotta planters, window boxes and street medians overflow with colorful plants. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride throughout the year; gondola rides are available on adjacent Brush Creek from April through November.
Special events are held year-round. During a free concert series from May through September, reggae, rock, R&B and bluegrass music fills the air Thursday through Sunday evenings. The KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony celebrates the holiday season. Held every Thanksgiving night since 1925, the event draws thousands who wait for the moment when a switch is thrown and 80 miles of sparkling lights outline shops and restaurants in a kaleidoscope of colors.
In contrast to Country Club Plaza's European ambience, Crown Center (2450 Grand Blvd., in the heart of downtown adjacent to Hallmark Cards headquarters) is contemporary in design. About 30 shops on three levels sell jewelry, toys, gifts, clothing and housewares; restaurants run the gamut from fast food to fine dining.
The fashion-forward youngster will love the child-size versions of Juicy Couture, Lacoste and Ugg in the Kid Oh! department at Halls Kansas City. There are Crayola products galore at the Crayola Store, while the LEGO Discovery Center features every imaginable LEGO creation as well as an interactive play area and a LEGO model of Kansas City.
The turn-of-the-20th-century red-brick buildings in the Westport district house shops, cafés, pubs and entertainment venues that attract a young, hip crowd. Enter Pryde's Old Westport (115 Westport Rd.) and within minutes you’ll be handed a mug of coffee or tea to sip while you shop. This divine emporium overflows with charm as well as everything you need for your kitchen, from Fiestaware, gourmet foods, knife blocks and teapots to bakeware, potato peelers and nutmeg graters. On Friday and Saturday scrumptious, made-from-scratch fruit or cream pies can be purchased at the store’s bakery, The Upper Crust. Vulcan's Forge (3936 Broadway) sells distinctive jewelry created by on-site designers and jewelers.
For a true Main Street-style shopping experience, explore the Brookside shopping district (on 63rd Street between Wornall and Main streets). Cafés and shops beneath blue and red-striped awnings include Brookside Barkery & Bath (118 W. 63rd St.), purveyor of pet-pampering products; the New Dime Store (314 W. 63rd St.), an old-fashioned five-and-dime complete with creaky wood floors; Stuff (316 W. 63rd St.), an artsy bazaar offering affordable art in the forms of jewelry, home goods and other stuff; World's Window (332 W. 63rd St.), packed with eco-friendly and fair-trade art, crafts, clothing, accessories and home décor from around the world; and ShopGirls (6245 Brookside Plaza), a funky fashion boutique.
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On the prowl for antiques? The 45th & State Line Antique, Art & Design Center is a quaint enclave of more than 20 shops clustered along the 1700 and 1800 blocks of 45th Street, just steps away from the Kansas/Missouri state line. The merchants here deal in American, Asian and European fine art, furnishings and architectural salvage.
Thirteen miles north of downtown, Zona Rosa (8640 N. Dixson Ave.) is a little out of the way but worth the trip if you like the old-fashioned feel of Main Street shopping combined with nationally known mall stores. Fountains and park benches enhance the relaxing experience. Retailers include Aéropostale, Chico’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap and Sephora, plus more than a dozen restaurants.
Other regional shopping malls include Independence Center , I-70 and SR 291 in Independence; Legends Outlets Kansas City , 1843 Village West Pkwy. in Kansas City, Kan.; Oak Park Mall , 11149 W. 95th St. in Overland Park, Kan.; Town Center Plaza , 5000 W. 119th St. in Leawood, Kan.; and Ward Parkway Center , 8600 Ward Pkwy.
NightlifeKansas City is well-known for its jazz scene—that’s a given. But there’s also some good rockin’ to be found, and not just at midnight. One of the city’s premier entertainment districts is downtown’s Kansas City Power & Light District (bordered by Grand Boulevard, Baltimore Street, 12th Street and Truman Road). The “P & L,” as it’s locally known, is an eight-block area of bars, nightclubs, shops and restaurants. The focal point is KC Live Block, where crowds gather in a covered outdoor courtyard for free summer shows by national rock and country acts.
More than a dozen nightclubs surround the Live Block, which has an open liquor permit and heaters for cooler nights. The Power & Light District is also a great place to hang out for some wining and dining before or after shows at the nearby Sprint Center arena.
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Things often get a little rowdy at Angels Rock Bar (1323 Walnut St.), where you can order a beer, a mixed drink or a glass of fine champagne at the 130-foot-long bar and get your groove on to live or DJ music, depending on the night; phone (816) 442-8112. Or sashay into PBR Big Sky (111 E. 13th St.), where country and western reigns and there's a mechanical bull by the name of Norman; phone (816) 442-8145.
P & L pubs have that traditional warm walnut wood décor as well as a wide selection of international brews (there's also whiskey or wine if you want it). Keep your thirst at bay at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (101 E. 13th St.) and McFadden's Sports Saloon (1330 Grand Blvd.). Boisterous barkeeps and patrons hoisting frosty mugs contribute to the homey neighborhood bar atmosphere. Phone (816) 221-1900 or (816) 471-1330, respectively.
The Westport District, centered around the intersection of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, has a diverse assortment of restaurants and bars ensconced in 100-year-old brick buildings. It attracts locals as well as out-of-towners in search of a friendly neighborhood joint. Kellys Westport Inn (500 Westport Rd.) has walls festooned with sports memorabilia and neon beer signs. U2 singer Bono once stopped in for a pint and gave the place his seal of approval. Throw your extra quarters in the jukebox, toss back a few and stay awhile. Phone (816) 561-5800.
Revisit the 1970s at The Foundry (424 Westport Rd.). Paneled walls, beaded room dividers, bean bag chairs, Pac Man and even the font on the sign outside will remind you of your aunt’s basement circa 1975, except your aunt probably didn’t have 140 varieties of beer to choose from (including McCoy's own hand-crafted beers, ranging from lager to pale ales). The drink menu also includes wine and martinis named after supermodels. Phone (816) 960-0866.
Harry's Bar & Tables (501 Westport Rd.) is a chic martini bar that also serves up delicious steak and seafood; the kitchen stays open until 2 a.m. so you can satisfy those midnight munchies. More than 50 brands of scotch are also on the menu. Phone (816) 561-3950.
Local bands and the occasional touring act play at recordBar (1520 Grand Blvd.) The venue moved to a downtown location in early 2016 and is currently open only on the days shows take place; tickets can be purchased online or in person on show nights. Phone (816) 753-5207 for the latest updates on an expanded opening schedule.
The beat goes on at the 18th & Vine Jazz District, which is home to some smokin’ nightclubs. If you love le jazz hot, this is your territory. Rated among the top jazz venues on the planet by Downbeat magazine, by day The Blue Room (1600 E. 18th St.), with memorabilia tucked under glass-topped tables, is a part of the American Jazz Museum, but at night the jazz is so hot it burns. Phone (816) 474-6262.
After midnight, swing by the Mutual Musicians Foundation (1823 Highland Ave.), where jazz and blues players burn the midnight oil during intense all-night jam sessions. Alcoholic beverages are served until 6 a.m. Elsewhere in town, The Phoenix (302 W. 8th St.) has live performances every night except Sunday; the cozy brick-walled club attracts a crowd of sophisticated ladies and gentlemen. Phone (816) 471-5212 for the Mutual Musicians Foundation or (816) 221-5299 for The Phoenix.
It’s almost a requirement for big cities to have a monthly art walk, and Kansas City is no exception. First Friday happens at the Crossroads Art District (20th Street and Baltimore Avenue), about a mile south of the Power & Light District. Kick off your evening with a stroll through art galleries and boutiques from 7-9 p.m., then grab a meal or a glass of wine at one of the district’s casually elegant bistros and lounges. Street performers and live music add to the fun atmosphere.
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Performing ArtsKansas City's opera and ballet companies as well as its symphony orchestra perform at the stunning Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (1601 Broadway). Lyric Opera of Kansas City performs in the center's Muriel Kauffman Theatre; for information or tickets to its two fall and two spring presentations phone (816) 471-7344 or (877) 673-7252. The Kansas City Ballet mounts four productions a year, also in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, including “The Nutcracker” in December; phone (816) 931-2232 for schedule information. The Kansas City Symphony presents its October through May concert season in the center's Helzberg Hall; phone (816) 471-0400 for information and tickets.
Local and national acts in a variety of genres take the stage at the 3,000-seat Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland (1228 Main St.). Thirsty concertgoers can grab a cold one at the Midland’s in-house bar The Indie on Main before and after shows; those in the bar before a show are allowed to enter the venue first. Phone (816) 283-9900 for general information, or (816) 283-9921 for tickets.
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The University of Missouri-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance, 4949 Cherry St., draws patrons from within as well as outside the university. Concert series also are sponsored by the Harrington Arts Program at William Jewell College.
The university-based equity company of the Kansas City Repertory Theater stages classic and modern productions in the on-campus Spencer Theater, 4949 Cherry St., September through June; phone (816) 235-2700. Musical comedy productions, light opera and concerts of all types are on the bill at Swope Park's Starlight Theatre, the nation's second largest outdoor amphitheater. Top stars perform during the mid-June through September season; phone (816) 363-7827 for the box office.
From mid-June to mid-July, works by the Bard of Avon are presented in Southmoreland Park during the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival; phone (816) 531-7728. The Theatre League brings the national touring companies of Broadway musicals to the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St.; phone (816) 513-5000.
The Folly Theater, W. 12th and Central streets, is a restored turn-of-the-20th-century burlesque house that presents a variety of entertainment, from children's theater to jazz concerts; phone (816) 842-5500. The Gorilla Theatre, 517 E. 18th St., stages original and avant-garde works as well as classic dramas; phone (816) 510-3372. The New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster St. in Overland Park, offers evening performances Tuesday through Sunday as well as Sunday matinees; phone (913) 649-7469.
Other area theaters include the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St. in Bonner Springs, Kan., (913) 825-3400; Comedy City at 817 Westport Rd., (816) 842-2744; Coterie Theatre (on the Crown Center's first level), (816) 474-6552; the Quality Hill Playhouse at 303 W. 10th St., (816) 421-1700; Theatre for Young America at 30 W. Pershing Rd., (816) 460-2083; the Unicorn Theatre at 3828 Main St., (816) 531-7529; and the Just Off Broadway Theatre at 3051 Central in Penn Valley Park, (816) 784-5020.
The events section of the Kansas City Star has current information about the city's performing arts offerings.
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Driving Tours“Day Tours from Kansas City,” a 40-page booklet detailing eight trips within a day's drive, is available to AAA/CAA members free at any AAA service office in Missouri.
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Kansas City in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Kansas City.
By Patricia Miller
Day 1: MorningStart your exploration of Kansas City with a hearty meal. If it's Sunday, it must be time for brunch, and your options are plentiful in Kansas City. Depending on what's closest, here are some eateries that prepare some of the best in the city: Blue Bird Bistro , Bristol Seafood Grill and Lidia's Kansas City .
Breakfast also can be had at Chaz on the Plaza , the Raphael Hotel's swanky in-house restaurant.
Day 1: AfternoonKill two birds with one stone at The Museums at 18th and Vine , home to the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum , a true score if you love both sports and music. The American Jazz Museum pays tribute to the originators of jazz with memorabilia, listening stations, film clips and neon lights that once glowed outside nightclubs. Check out the Blue Room, a part of the museum that is transformed into a live jazz club when night falls. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum presents the history of the leagues from the 1800s through 1960.
Shopaholics will find it difficult to tear themselves away from Country Club Plaza, Kansas City's penultimate shopping venue. Spanish and Moorish buildings with terra-cotta roofs, colorful tile murals, fountains, statues and lush greenery everywhere you look distinguish this shopping mecca from many others. Grab lunch at a hip restaurant, such as Kona Grill for Pacific Rim cuisine.
See how many fountains you can count during your trip; at last count, KC had about 200. One of the most beautiful is the J.C. Nichols Fountain near Country Club Plaza; adorned with horses, dolphins and cherubs, it's 80 feet in diameter. Find more fountains in Country Club Plaza, including fountains of Bacchus and Neptune, and the humorous Boy and Frog fountain.
Day 1: EveningKansas City is famous for a few things, not the least of which is barbecue. When dinner time rolls around, chow down at such tried-and-true restaurants as Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue - Freight House and Gates Bar-B-Q .
Jazz: It's another of Kansas City's claims to fame. Have a hot time in the old town in the 18th and Vine Jazz District. Live musicians play The Blue Room, KC Blues & Jazz Juke House, and The Gem, a renovated theater with a colorful marquee which hosts a jazz concert series. There's good rockin' after midnight at the Mutual Musicians Foundation, where the jamming starts at midnight and keeps going until dawn.
Day 2: MorningSports aficionados will want to check out a Kansas City Royals baseball game April through December at Kaufmann Stadium and visit the Royals Hall of Fame , also at Kaufmann Stadium, any time of the year. Step out of the sidelines at The College Basketball Experience near the Sprint Center, where you can work on your lay-ups and 3-pointers while you walk or run in the shoes of your favorite college hoop-shooter.
Day 2: AfternoonDon't miss The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art , housed in two equally impressive buildings: the 1933 Beaux Art Nelson-Atkins Building and the modern 2007 Bloch Building. The expansive lawn is marked by gigantic shuttlecocks, statuary and large pools. Highlights include the indoor Noguchi Sculpture Court; Bauhaus, Cubist, Expressionist and Surrealist works; a comprehensive collection of bronzes by English sculptor Henry Moore; ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art; and Claude Monet's “Water Lilies.”
The smaller Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art on 20th and 21st-century art by well-known artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol and William Wegman, as well as lesser-known but equally intriguing names like Lesley Dill, Fairfield Porter and Frank Stella. After you've had your fill of oils and abstracts, have lunch at the museum's in-house restaurant, Café Sebastienne . The menu is small but varied, with items like spinach salad and fish tacos.
Take a ride to the top of the 217-foot-tall Liberty Memorial Tower at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial for breathtaking views of downtown Kansas City. The impressive limestone tower is flanked on each side by a sphinx and a museum building. Inside the museum you'll find soldier's uniforms from past wars, photographs, letters, weapons, battle plans and other artifacts describing the war in great detail.
Day 2: EveningHead to downtown's Power & Light District and have dinner at a fashionable café like Bristol Seafood Grill , where the seafood is never frozen, or Drunken Fish , for sushi aficionados.
You could take in a film at one of several theaters, but if you'd rather paint the town red, livelier choices abound. Hit the stylish Mosaic Lounge or retro-beachy Shark Bar for drinks and dancing; party on at Angel's Rock Bar to classic rock tunes by bands and DJs; or sing along to dueling piano players at Howl at the Moon. Or try your luck knocking down some pins at Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge.
Day 3: MorningSweep into Swope Park , where outdoor enthusiasts can hit the links, hike or ride a bike on nature trails, play disc golf, make a splash in the Olympic-sized swimming pool, or use the park's lagoon for boating, fishing and ice skating, depending on the season. Also in the park is the Kansas City Zoo , where you can see animals from Africa, Asia and Australia; experience a somewhat bumpy camel ride; wander through an indoor rain forest inhabited by a variety of birds and monkeys; and ride the merry-go-round.
Day 3: AfternoonGet a warm-and-fuzzy feeling at the Hallmark Visitors Center , where displays of greeting cards and holiday ornaments from the early 1900s to the present are bound to bring back sweet memories. Learn how cards are made and make your own bow to take home.
Union Station is noted for its history, its Beaux-Arts architecture and its gargantuan size. Originally a railroad state that eventually fell into disrepair, it was renovated and reopened in the late 1990s. Check out the marble floors, huge glass chandeliers and restored plaster ceilings with intricate designs. The building also contains shops and restaurants as well as Science City , a family-oriented attraction that offers such activities as digging for fossils, concocting weird foods in the Test Kitchen and riding a bicycle 30 feet above the floor.
Day 3: EveningThe Starlight Theatre is also in Swope Park, so if you've spent the day at the park or the Kansas City Zoo, make advance arrangements to get tickets for a show; the schedule includes touring musicals as well as pop and rock performers.
If seeing a show isn't included in your plans head for Brookside Park, a neighborhood about 4 miles west of Swope Park, and do some window shopping at the Brookside Park Shopping District (centered along 63rd Street between Main Street and Wornall Road). There are also plenty of options for dinner here. A good choice if you're in the mood for Italian is Carmen's Café (do you hear lasagna calling your name?).
AttractionsIn 1856, a steamboat holding 200 tons of cargo sank to the bottom of the muddy Missouri River. In 1989, a team of salvagers found the wreck and brought her to the surface during a process that took about 2 years. The Arabia Steamboat Museum , a AAA GEM attraction, holds the contents of that steamboat, a bounty that included thousands of pieces, from spices, eyeglasses and underclothes to guns, fine china and still-edible food, all preserved by the mud. The museum tour features a short video with actual footage of the work done to raise the Arabia, and one of the boat's excavators answers questions from the audience.
National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial , a AAA GEM attraction, is the only museum in the United States dedicated to preserving the history of World War I. A display at the entrance features more than 9,000 red silk poppies under a glass platform, each poppy representing a thousand soldiers who died in combat. Besides artillery, uniforms, maps and photographs, there are first-person accounts of the war written by an American nurse and soldiers, original recordings of news reports and period music, and simulated trenches complete with actual artifacts and recordings that closely replicate the harrowing experience. The 217-foot-tall Egyptian Revival Liberty Memorial was built to commemorate the war; climb to the top for a bird's-eye view of Kansas City.
The Royals Hall of Fame , a AAA GEM attraction, is located in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium, home to Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals. Among the exhibits are a video about Kansas City's baseball history and the bat and ball that gained George Brett entry into the 3,000-hit club. Interactive exhibits allow you to design your own baseball stadium, be a sportscaster or sit in a dugout. Visitors also can see the baseball used in the first World Series game in 1903 (then called the Fall Classic) and other World Series memorabilia from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Slip into the shoes (almost literally) of college basketball players and see how you measure up at The College Basketball Experience , a AAA GEM attraction. You can also see how your hands compare in size, practice your free throws and slam dunks, and run down the tunnel onto the court, fans cheering you on, just like the pros do. Catch your breath and take a shot at sports broadcasting while sitting at the ESPNU news desk. Don't expect to cool down while you check out the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame; it has hands-on exhibits that will keep your heart rate up as well as displays about the history of college basketball.
After his retirement in 1953, President Harry S. Truman helped develop the displays at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum , a AAA GEM attraction located in Independence. The museum focuses on both his years as president and his personal life. You'll learn about his love of music, his close relationship with his wife and daughter, his first jobs as a bank clerk and in haberdashery and his vacations in Key West, Fla. Visitors also can see a replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during Truman's presidency, several of his cars, and the graves of Truman and his wife Bess.
Expect to be wowed at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art —this AAA GEM not only has an outstanding and comprehensive 33,500-piece collection but impressive grounds that encompass a modern sculpture garden and a stunning reflecting pool. Housed in two massive buildings, one a neoclassic mansion and the other clean-lined and ultramodern, the art includes objects from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Etruscan region of central Italy; art spanning Neolithic and medieval times to the 20th century from Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States; an 8,000-piece photography collection; and Native American art.
Make no mistake: The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures , a AAA GEM attraction, is not just a museum for children. It's a place for everyone who has ever played with a toy—and that's just about everyone. History and art buffs will also find the collections fascinating. With nearly 40 rooms full of every toy imaginable, chances are good that you'll encounter at least one you played with as a kid that will bring back precious childhood memories.
Flashy neon signs advertising jazz clubs of yore are one of the first things you see when you step into the American Jazz Museum . Soft-shoe on over to the listening stations and pop on headphones to hear what some call the only true American music; you'll be tapping your feet in no time. Glass-encased exhibits display original sheet music, photographs, ticket stubs and other memorabilia from legendary artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker's saxophone is on view as well. Local jazz club The Blue Room is part of the museum; come back in the evening to hear today's musicians play the music created decades ago by jazz greats.
As you enter the Hallmark Visitors Center , you're warmly greeted by a couple of smiling volunteers. You'll stop at a bow-making machine to make a bow you can take home, and you leave you'll receive a free greeting card. You can also watch while greeting cards are made and wander throughout exhibit rooms containing Christmas ornaments, Christmas trees and a timeline of greeting cards through the decades; you may even spot one you once gave or received.
Watch out! There's a giant spider on the lawn of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art —has it come to take over KC? Never fear: The spider (a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois) is merely an amuse-bouche to the contemporary art housed between the four walls of the Kemper. Fun, funky and fabulous modern pieces line the walls of the museum's interior; the permanent collection has works by major artists like Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jackson Pollock and William Wegman.
In 1917, Union Station was a railroad terminal that half of all World War I soldiers passed through. Today this massive Beaux-Arts building contains a science center, railroad exhibits, theaters, restaurants, shops and a planetarium. You can take a guided tour and learn about the building's history. The stunning interior design is also quite a marvel—black, gray and rose Italian marble floors; retro pay phones with dials; tall, arched windows; Art Deco-style signs; and 95-foot-high ceilings adorned with frescoes, three 3,500-pound chandeliers and a 6-foot-wide giant clock.
There's almost nothing you can't do in Swope Park . Play a round of golf or tennis, pack a wicker basket for a picnic lunch, dive into the pool, take a hike on foot or by bike, play disc golf, or go boating, ice skating and fishing in or on the lagoon. In summer months, folks flock to the Starlight Theatre for concerts, children's theater and Broadway musicals under the stars.
Within the park grounds is the Kansas City Zoo , where the resident animals include chimpanzees, gorillas, kangaroos, sea lions, meerkats, zebras, gazelles and hippos. One of the newest arrivals is Berlin, a female polar bear who shares a 144,000-gallon swimming pool with male Nikita. Rare animals like New Guinea singing dogs, Sumatran tigers and Bornean orangutans live at the Tiger Trail exhibit. Kids can take a spin on endangered species like antelope and koalas on the carousel, or ride a real camel. Glide 35 feet above cheetahs, giraffes, lions and rhinoceroses on the African Sky Safari.
The more than 40 rides at Worlds of Fun include sx world-class roller coasters, including two old-fashioned wooden coasters. Oher scream-inducing thrill rides are the Zulu, a wheel-shaped ride that will turn you upside down and sideways, and the Detonator, which takes you up a 200-foot tower and reaches a speed of 45 mph. At Camp Snoopy younger kids can ride bumper cars, a train, boats, rockets and Snoopy's red biplane. The Kite-Eating Tree will whisk them up 20 feet before gently descending, or they can jump into a hot-air balloon and embark on the Flying Ace Balloon Race.
The water's fine at Oceans of Fun , Worlds of Fun's sister park. This tropically themed water park has a million-gallon wave pool, thrill rides like Hurricane Falls and the Caribbean Cooler, an 800-foot lazy stream. Grown-ups have the adult pool to themselves and can indulge in a frozen adult beverage, while children will enjoy spraying each other with water cannons on Captain Kidd's pirate ship.
RestaurantsAs the saying goes, life is short; eat dessert first. With this in mind, go straight to the sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls served at Stroud's Oak Ridge Manor . Don't ignore the raved-about chicken pan-fried in cast-iron skillets, though, and have it with mashed potatoes and green beans—it's stick-to-your-ribs goodness like grandma used to make. Forget portion control while you're here; the generous meals come with your choice of homemade chicken noodle soup or garden salad. Chicken-fried steak and pan-fried pork chops also will have you smacking your lips.
Yes, they do serve pot pie at PotPie (both beef with mushrooms and chicken with vegetables). In this cozy room with red brick walls, the changing menu is written on a blackboard, and the atmosphere is laid-back with a French bistro vibe (with a smidge of gastro pub thrown in for good measure). There's nothing precious here, just basic food made with flair. You'll want to try the spinach and brie tart, garlicky steamed mussels or seared scallops with tomato leek risotto and blueberry sauce.
For a hearty, palate-pleasing breakfast, try Falcon Bakery , which serves full breakfasts until 11 a.m. Try the Deuces Wild breakfast, which consists of eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes, or the old-fashioned fried egg sandwich, made with thick slices of Texas toast. Also available are the usual morning treats like French toast, Belgian waffles, omelets and oatmeal. For your sweet tooth, choose from a variety of luscious pastries.
DeliLux in the Ameristar Casino is the place to go for a wide range of light meals and is open almost all hours of the night, from 11 a.m.-5 a.m. High rollers and slot machine enthusiasts alike can order budget-minded items like burgers, hot sandwiches (Reubens, Philly cheese steaks and grilled chicken clubs), tacos and nachos, salads, and even Asian dishes like a roast duck rice box or yang chow fried rice with shrimp.
Getting back to barbecue, meat lovers and those on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet will love the selection at Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue - Freight House . A dish called burnt ends is a specialty, but the name is really a misnomer. These chunks of pork, beef or ham are seared on the outside so that the outer part is a little crispy while keeping the inside melt-in-your-mouth tender. The list of meats goes on and on, but includes barbecued ribs (choose from pork spare or baby back, beef back, crown prime beef or lamb), smoked beef brisket, turkey, pork, ham and Polish sausage, which you can smother with your choice of four sauces. As for sides, servers won't steer you wrong when they suggest the cheesy corn bake or hickory pit baked beans.
"Hi, may I help you?' shouts a friendly Gates Bar-B-Q employee as you walk through the door. Don't be flustered; just march right up to the counter and place your order for some of KC's finest ‘cue. Gates is one of KC's most legendary barbecue joints, and it's easy to see why once you sink your teeth into the succulent barbecued ribs, chicken, sausage or mutton. There's only one dessert: yammer (as in yam) pie (a.k.a. sweet potato pie). As for the barbecue sauce? A sign on the wall says it best: "Please do not use coffee cups for sauce." It's that good.
Ponak's Mexican Kitchen & Bar boasts of having the "world's best margaritas on tap," and it's been voted as one of Kansas City's best Mexican restaurants more than a few times. Test out these claims for yourself with a sampling of recipes inspired by the Sonoran region of Mexico at this cantina started in 1975 by a retired Marine of Croatian heritage. (In case you're wondering, Ponak is not a Mexican name.) Dishes such as quesadillas, burritos, tamales and enchiladas incorporate only the freshest ingredients. Don't expect fancy décor here; the 80's furnishings are comfortable enough, though, and the tropical mural on the wall with its psychedelic fiery sky is a sure conversation piece.
Enter Harry's Bar & Tables through its glass-paned double door, and you enter not just a bar with tables, but an elegant room with a tin ceiling where locals gather for martinis, scotch and cigars as well as unusual takes on the usual dishes. The menu regularly changes, but you can expect dishes like pulled pork macaroni and cheese, Creole onion soup, smoked brisket tacos and strawberry champagne cake. Housed in a charming red brick building in the Westport area, Harry's also offers a tree-shaded brick patio perfect for people-watching.
Although Kansas City is nowhere near the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, the fish at Bristol Seafood Grill is flown in daily, so you're guaranteed only the freshest fruits of the sea. The extensive menu features such dishes as lobster bisque, steamed mussels in white wine and garlic, San Francisco-style cioppino and grilled salmon panzanella. Dessert options stray from the norm with choices like apple croustade, orange cream-chocolate tart and banana cream crepe with root beer sorbet. Sunday brunch is simply stupendous: Tables are laden with such dishes as the usual eggs, waffles and bacon and the not-so-usual mesquite grilled Atlantic salmon, lobster mac and cheese and roasted golden beets.
A blue tin bird hovers over the turquoise door at the adorable Blue Bird Bistro , where all dishes are organic, vegetarian, natural, wild-caught and/or cage-free. Inside, small tables set upon a colorful mosaic-tile floor are covered with white cloths and adorned with dainty flowers in a glass jar. Feast on scrumptious breakfast items like ciabatta French toast or sweet potato and granola pancakes; for lunch, tuck into a bison or black bean burger, shrimp bake or bluebird salad with blueberry vinaigrette. Come suppertime, your choices may include house-made beef ravioli, Moroccan stew or pan-seared scallops with honey slaw.
For modern sophistication, reserve a table at Michael Smith , the eponymous restaurant owned by the James Beard-award winning chef who cooks up exquisite meals created with artisanal and local products. Eight-hour pork roast, grilled Hawaiian swordfish and grilled New Zealand lamb rack are a sampling of the delectable main courses at this chic eatery furnished with chocolate leather chairs and vanilla drum pendant lamps.
In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Things heat up in Kansas City beginning in mid-March with the Greater Kansas City Home Show at Bartle Hall, presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City. Also in March is the St. Patrick's Day Parade , which threads through downtown and is followed by festivities that continue throughout the city well into the night. The NAIA Basketball Tournament , which features the men's Division 1 games, takes place in mid-March.
Say Ciao L'Italia! to Festa Italiana , a 3-day weekend festival in late May and early June that's guaranteed to bring out your inner Italian.
Fiesta Kansas City is held in mid-June at the Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd. The event celebrates Hispanic culture with a weekend of Latin-American food, drink, art, crafts and entertainment. The Crown Center also sponsors free outdoor Summer on the Square activities, including concerts and children's entertainment, the Hospital Hill Run in June and the Kansas City Irish Fest in early September.
Over the July 4th weekend KC Riverfest , at Berkley Park on the Missouri River, salutes the nation's birthday with entertainment, games, crafts, food and a spectacular fireworks display.
The third full weekend of August brings the Ethnic Enrichment Festival to Swope Park, where the world's cultures are celebrated with live music and dance performances, craft exhibitions and a tempting lineup of food booths. Events include Scottish Highland games and the colorful pageantry of the Parade of Nations.
In early September, the 3-day Greek Food Fest will have you shouting "Opa!" as you load up on souvlaki, baklava, gyros (pronounce it like "hero" if you want to sound authentic) with tzatziki sauce and other goodies. It takes place at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 120th Street and Wornall Road.
Get ready for some mouthwatering eats at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue over Labor Day weekend, sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
Thanksgiving evening marks the KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony , which illuminates Country Club Plaza's fanciful towers with miles of tiny, colored light bulbs. The display lasts until mid-January. The day after Thanksgiving, a nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree is illuminated during the Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Crown Center Square. Decorated with more than 900 red and gold ornaments and white lights, the tree stands as the symbol of a citywide charity drive to help people in need during the holidays.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
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