In my pre-V3 life, I wrote a Kansas City travel guide, and there’s nothing I love more than giving recommendations about what makes KC so great. Sure, we love our fountains and BBQ—but there’s much, much more to the city. Whether you’re headed in town for the #ASG, are passing through at another time or already live here, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things to do so you can get out and explore.
Head to downtown Kansas City’s Crossroads District for First Fridays, a gallery crawl that gives participants a diverse sampling of what the city’s arts community has to offer. A number of shops throughout the district stay open late, too—Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates, Birdies and Hammerpress are three of my favorite boutiques, if you’re ready to do some shopping. Plus, the Crossroads is full of bars and restaurants, so you’ll have no problem finding a great spot for happy hour or a late dinner.
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
The newest addition to downtown Kansas City’s skyline is not only an architectural masterpiece—it offers a prime photo opportunity, too. While you’re exploring the Moshe Safdie-designed structure, take a break from sightseeing while enjoying a number of hammocks that are set up around the center. The hammocks are part of the Avenue of the Arts public art installations, which can be found along Central Avenue from 9th to 16th streets.
Take a tour
A guided tour is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Not only will you learn new things about the city, but you’ll get an up-close look at topics like architecture and food. Two of my favorite tours include the newly launched Taste of Kansas City Food Tours, which will give you a sampling (pun intended) of the best food and drink the Crossroads District has to offer. Stops include Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Cellar Rat Wine, Lidia’s Italian Restaurant, Grunauer, Café Gratitude and Nica’s 320. Tickets are $53/adult and $35/child. The Historic Kansas City Foundation’s Art Deco Downtown tour is a fantastic opportunity for architecture buffs. Kansas City has a large concentration of Art Deco architecture, and this tour gives you an up-close look at some of the city’s favorite architectural icons. The tour is $10/person and lasts approximately 1-1.5 hours.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
No matter when you’re in Kansas City, a stop at the Nelson is a wonderful way to spend some time. The permanent collection features styles ranging from African and American Indian to decorative arts and South/Southeast Asian. Be sure to visit the Bloch Building, a recent addition to the museum that features rotating exhibits and contemporary art. Plus, don’t miss Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs (1851-1939), which is open through August 19, 2012, and explores themes of the World’s Fair exhibitions. While you’re at the Nelson, step outside to see the sculpture garden, and make a special point to stop by the Sun Pavilion, held in conjunction with the World’s Fair exhibit. The temporary structure includes interactive experiences that highlight the progressive principles of contemporary design and technology.
Other must-see museums include Union Station’s Science City, Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank, the National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial, American Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Steamboat Arabia Museum, the Toy and Miniature Museum and the Hallmark Visitors Center at Crown Center.
If you find yourself in Kansas City on the weekend, head to downtown’s River Market neighborhood and browse the City Market, one of the region’s largest farmers markets. Not only is the City Market packed with local produce, meats, plants, baked goods and more from area farmers, but the eclectic market also offers wholesale produce, as well as a number of specialty shops and restaurants that cater to the most diverse of palates. Some of my favorites include Al Habashi Mart, which has an amazing selection of affordably priced bulk spices. Bloom Baking Company boasts a mouthwatering array of baked goods (try the cupcakes and sugar cookies) and Carollo’s Italian Gourmet Grocery is the perfect mix of old-school Italian charm and cuisine. The farmers’ market selection is slim in the off-season, but the City Market is still worth a stop in the colder months.
Have a drink
Quench your thirst with one of the city’s signature refreshments. Boulevard Brewing Company beers are available throughout Kansas City, and if you plan in advance, you can usually snag some spots on Boulevard’s brewery tours. The best part? Free beer tastings at the end! If coffee is more your thing, The Roasterie brews up a variety of local joes, including the Kansas City blend. Learn more about The Roasterie’s product and technique during a free tour Monday-Saturday, which concludes with a tasting.
Kansas City is also in the midst of a cocktail renaissance as bartenders pay homage to the craft cocktail. Some of my favorite watering holes include Manifesto, a dark and cozy speakeasy beneath The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange that only seats about 40 people; The Farmhouse (try the Monk’s Cup); Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen, a wine bar with an extensive selection and incredibly knowledgeable servers; Harry’s Country Club, a casual bar with an impressive beer selection; McCoy’s Public House, which brews their own beer and has a great cocktail list; and Snow & Company, home of deliciously sophisticated frozen cocktails.
If you’re headed to Kansas City for a family getaway, you’ll find no shortage of things to do. Make an artistic masterpiece at Kaleidoscope, or channel your inner basketball star at the College Basketball Experience. Crown Center boasts two new attractions: SEA LIFE Aquarium and the Legoland Discovery Center. Get your fill of thrills at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, or check out the city’s new water attractions at Schlitterbahn Kansas City. Animals and activities await at the Kansas City Zoo, or follow a real-life yellow brick road at The Legends Outlets. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, where your food is delivered by a model train. Don’t forget your conductor’s cap on the way out!
Now I’m ready to get out and explore Kansas City all over again! Join me, won’t you?
And in the meantime, I’d love to hear what’s on your Kansas City must-see list. Feel free to leave a comment and share some #KC love!