Kansas City, Missouri
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Hallmark Cards started in Kansas City with founder, Joyce Hall, selling postcards from a shoebox (1910).
- The jazz players’ jam session originated in Kansas City.
- Russell Stover Candies, with 25 million pieces a year, is the world’s largest maker of boxed chocolates.
- A mouse in Walt Disney’s Kansas City office building was the inspiration for Mickey Mouse.
- Half of America’s soldiers passed through Kansas City’s Union Station during World War II.
A jazz-y city
Kansas City, Mo., sits just across the state line from Kansas City, Kan., and is the larger of the two. This is the Kansas City that is famed for jazz (historically and currently), Hallmark Cards and Union Station. The area also is famed for its fountains and the ubiquitous eateries that serve barbecue.
Jazz got big here in the 1920s for two reasons — talent and a political boss who saw fit not to enforce Prohibition. Visitors can still find live jazz in about 20 spots around town.
Hallmark Cards, the world’s largest greeting card company, remains in the city of its birth. Its visitor center provides insights into this century-old business.
The recently refurbished 1914 Union Station is worth a visit for all the attractions and restaurants inside — and, by some measures, it is America’s second-largest train station after New York’s Grand Central.
As to the fountains, Kansas City, Mo., and its twin in Kansas have more than 200.
And barbecue? Kansas City boasts of more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other U.S. metro area, a hint visitors should give them a try.
One way to plan a Kansas City itinerary is by considering choices on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. The tourism industry promotes several. They include these examples:
- Crossroads Arts District and Westside, a bohemian neighborhood that encompasses the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and is the backdrop for the First Fridays free art crawl.
- Downtown/Power and Light Entertainment District, which boasts more than 50 bars, restaurants and shops in eight blocks. It includes the Sprint Center (arena), City Market, the Garment District collection of stores and the Arabia Steamboat Museum.
- The 18th and Vine Historic District, once Kansas City’s jazz central and epicenter of the city’s African-American community. Some jazz clubs are still here, as are the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
- Westport and 39th Street, a popular nightlife district, notable for its historic buildings and 19th century charm.
- Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping district and home to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Things to do for Venturers
- Devote an evening to the live jazz for which Kansas City has long been famous. Making the rounds will get you to the Power and Light Entertainment District, good for visits day or night.
- Try the mountain biking at Blue River Parkway, or at Landahl Park in Blue Springs, Mo. Trails in the latter are suitable for cross-country skiing in winter.
- Get on the waterskis at Longview Park and Lake, in the city, or at Blue Springs Lake and Beach in Lee’s Summit, Mo. Jet skiing is an option in both places, too.
- Compete in the heavy athletics — such as the caber toss (essentially, throwing a tree trunk) — or the dance competitions at the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games in June. (Heavy athletics aren’t just for men.) Alternatively, the games offer whiskey tasting and other diversions.
- Cross the state line for NASCAR races at the 75,000-seat Kansas Speedway. Campsites are available at and near the speedway.
- Make a July appearance for the KC Fringe Festival, which aims to push the edges of performing arts and visual arts. See and hear the eclectic in dance, fashion, film, music, theater and more. Or, come in October for the 18th and Vine Jazz and Blues Festival.
Things to do for Centrics
- Tour Arrowhead Stadium, home to the Kansas City Chiefs. See a game, too, if feasible.
- Set aside some serious time for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which has prestigious collections in several categories but is distinguished by its Asian collection. Take your breaks between galleries in the 22-acre, similarly impressive sculpture garden.
- Do what Kansas Citians love to do — eat barbecue. The area boasts more than 100 barbecue establishments. Sample locally made beer, too.
- For eclectic connections with history, Kansas City offers these: Arabia Steamboat Museum (a cargo boat that sank in the 1850s); American Jazz Museum and adjacent Negro Leagues Baseball Museum; the Money Museum, and the National World War I Museum. Also, the National Frontier Trails Museum is in Independence, starting point for the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails.
- Lake Jacomo in Blue Springs, Mo., with limited-horsepower regulations, is the place to relax on a sailboat or a pontoon.
- Hunt down Jesse James. The Jesse James Farm and Museum is in Kearney, Mo., and the Jesse James Bank Museum — site of the first American daylight peacetime bank robbery (1866) — is in Liberty, Mo. Kearney remembers its native son at the September Jesse James Festival with a variety of activities (no bank robberies though).
Things to do for Authentics
- Do a photo essay on the fountains you see in the city. Meet an artist or writer (available weekday afternoons) at the Hallmark Visitors Center.
- In Independence, explore the sites associated with the former president, Harry S. Truman.
- Ogle the beautifully restored Union Station, and take the kids to the Union Station’s Science City. It’s a working station, too, serving Amtrak passengers.
- Make some cultural choices as between repertory theater, the Lyric Opera, the Kansas City Symphony or a puppet show.
- To see, or sense, the unusual in public spaces, head to the Loose Park, where the centerpiece is a fountain (of course) and a large rose garden. But, the park also incudes a fragrance-and-texture garden for the visually impaired.
- Play golf on any of several courses. Also, play tennis on one of the free public courts.
For more information, consult Visit KC at www.visitkc.com