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, names like “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 offering plenty of things to do. The Power & Light District is an entertainment complex spanning 8 city blocks brimming with hip local 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 redbrick 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 too. 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 Memorial Fountain. This dramatic 80-foot-round fountain features four 10-foot-high rearing horses, dolphins, cherubs and nine arching streams of water.
Other landmark fountains in Kansas City include the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain outside Union Station and the splashing columns of water synchronized to music at nearby Crown Center Square. On the south end of Penn Valley Park stands the impressive Firefighter Fountain and Memorial, which pays tribute to fallen firefighters. 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. Follow your nose to any of the many local restaurants; residents brag that Kansas City has more barbecue places to eat per capita than any city in the country. You’ll see why so many call Kansas City the “Barbecue Capital of the World.”
Kansas City, KS
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The 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.
Research 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.
1321 Baltimore Ave. Kansas City, MO 64105. Phone:(816)221-5242 or (800)767-7700
Kansas City International Airport
Hertz, at the airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (816) 243-5765 or (800) 654-3080.
The Amtrak station, (816) 421-3622 or (800) 872-7245, is at W. Pershing Road and Main Street.
Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, is at 1101 Troost Ave. Jefferson Lines also serves Kansas City.
Yellow 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.
Ride 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.