In this issue:
Kansas City is a hearty Midwestern city in virtually the geographic center of the United States. The town originally was a small outpost at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, and the town flourished in the 19th Century as a jumping off point for settlers traveling west. It grew rapidly and today some 5 million people live in the greater Kansas City area. Today, Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains, with only Rome displaying more public water fountains. There are beautiful working fountains all over the city with the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain among the most notable.
Where is Kansas City, MO?
The city of Kansas City, Missouri sits on the border between Missouri and Kansas, in the far western portion of Missouri. Bookending the state of Missouri with St. Louis on the eastern side, KC is often considered the beginning of the American west. Confusingly, the small city of Kansas City, Kansas is its neighbor on the Kansas side, but when most people refer to Kansas City, they mean Kansas City Missouri. Many airlines fly into Kansas City and the city is easily reached via highway from points north, south, east and west. It is roughly a 3.5 hour drive from St. Louis.
A Museum City
Kansas City boasts a surprising array of National Museums. Perhaps the most renowned is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Whether you are a fan of baseball or not, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into American history, culture and sport. With a talented corps of players, the Negro Leagues operated in the United States as parallel leagues from 1920 through 1960. Teams were located in the North, South and Midwest and even one in Cuba. For the most part these baseball teams were very successful ventures drawing huge crowds both black, white and Hispanic - who enjoyed the aggressive, exciting style of baseball. This museum is about protecting and saving a precious piece of American history, said the irrepressible Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The museums Field of Legends has bronze statues which depict the best Negro Leagues players standing at their respective positions on a baseball field. A very large, new mural showing Kansas City Monarchs players, (the local Negro Leagues team) is depicted on the side of a building across the street. http://www.nlbm.com/
Located adjacent to the Negro Leagues Museum, in the historic 18th & Vine District, is the intriguing America Jazz Museum, the only museum of its kind showcasing this beloved American art form. Four featured jazz artists: Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker provide the backbone of the exhibits. The American Jazz Museum gives visitors a chance to view and listen to rare jazz recordings, see old musical acts on films and television shows, see the instruments of famous artists and view countless photos. Their Blue Room is a cool, active performance space where modern artists perform. http://www.americanjazzmuseum.com
Important and sobering, the National World War One Museum is the only American Museum dedicated to World War One. Housed underneath the towering Liberty Memorial a Kansas City landmark, this museum brings visitors the history, timelines, and madness associated with WWI. It shows off period clothing, armaments and depicts a scene replicating what trench warfare looked like. http://www.theworldwar.org
On a happier note, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is a true civic treasure. Entirely free to enter, and offering a huge collection of European, American and Asian art, the museum also displays a 22 acre sculpture garden in the back. Its a lovely spot. http://www.nelson-atkins.org/
Great Barbecue and more
Though other regions like North & South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and even parts of California have a thriving barbecue tradition; Kansas City is well known for its delicious barbecue. Kansas City was a big livestock town with the 2nd largest stockyards in the United States. Lots of beef came through KC plus many Southerners relocated to this part of the world after the US Civil War and brought along their barbecue traditions. Doug Worgul, Director of Marketing at Oklahoma Joes said, Kansas City is a real barbecue town. Its part of our culture and civic identity. The best Kansas City barbecue items to sample include pork ribs, beef brisket, (fantastic) pulled pork and burnt ends.
There are more than 90 working barbecue restaurants located throughout the KC Metro area - and these places do a brisk business. Arthur Bryants is perhaps the most famous as is Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q which now has 6 stores. Louis Gates, son of the original owner still can be found cheerfully greeting customers with the familiar, Hi, may I help you? (I love their ribs) http://www.gatesbbq.com/ A newer arrival, Oklahoma Joes, has won a prestigious local barbecue competition numerous times. (Oklahoma Joes originally used an Oklahoma smoker, and the owners are from the Kansas City area) http://www.oklahomajoesbbq.com/Weve contributed our unique brand of sauces, mostly tomato and molasses based here, said Worgul. However its not just the sauce its the wood, the quality, the technique and the rub. One local chef told me, We didnt invent barbecue, but we perfected it. The city also boasts many other types of cuisine including contemporary American, French, Italian, Asian and other styles. Various worthy spots include: Chaz on the Plaza (very nice, deconstructed barbecue), Chappells Restaurant, a sports bar boasting more than 10,200 pieces of sports memorabilia on its walls and the upscale, Michael Smith, the eponymous restaurant from a James Beard award winning chef.
This city and baseball go a long way back, all the way to the 1880s when the Kansas City Cowboys hit the ball around. Today the Kansas City Royals, who play in beautiful Kaufmann Stadium, can be enjoyed. (Dont miss the KC baseball museum housed in the stadium.) In fact, for further details take a Kansas City baseball tour which offers an intriguing glimpse into the citys sporting past. http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/kc/ballpark/tours/index.jsp The Kansas City Chiefs are the local National Football team and Sporting Kansas City is the major league soccer team. The College Basketball Experience is where visitors can learn about everything pertaining to American College Basketball - and shoot some hoops too. Various college and high school tournaments come through Kansas City. The locals love their sports and catching a game here is well worth the experience.
Staying in town
There are many hotel options, large and small, elegant as well as down-to-earth to be found in Kansas City. One boutique property, right on Country Club Plaza (a prime shopping and dining outdoor mall) is the Raphael Hotel, a restored 1920s era building. The Raphael is a perfect spot for exploring KC.
Kansas City is a fun, vibrant modern city with friendly people displaying honest Midwestern values. And getting better all the time - this city is hot and on the rise.
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Written by: Bob Ecker
Top Photo Credit: ©Bob Ecker
Photo Description: The Kansas City Skyline
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