dinner platter from Q 39, just one of the many
Kansas City restaurants that pays homage to the
city's illustrious reputation for great barbecue.
is a belated apology to Kansas City: Sorry that it took me
get it now.
wife and I arrived in Kansas City, Mo., knowing little of
its history or cultural attractions and expecting even
less. We’d driven through it, mostly on our way to other
destinations and stopping only to sample barbecue.
we were astonished — and a little embarrassed — to
discover this clean, livable western Missouri city as a
treasure-trove of great food, fine museums and musical and
are just a few reasons why you should love Kansas City:
it’s a down-to-earth, friendly town that offers the
planet’s best barbecue, a world-class art museum that is
free, and you can park almost anywhere for little or
it’s a city of surprising beauty, culture and history,
where the unexpected seems ridiculously commonplace.
Beautiful buildings and impressive monuments seem to leap
out of the prairie and beckon visitors with alluring
its citizens actually believe in civility and welcome
strangers with open arms. There’s a strong sense of
civic pride in this big Midwestern metropolis that beats
with a small-town heart.
it’s the home of the only World War I museum in the
United States, with great exhibits, a wide display of
weapons, uniforms, trenches and amazing historical facts.
it boasts more fountains than any world city but Rome.
Fountains are ingrained in the city’s identity and offer
gurgling oases throughout the city. The more than 200
fountains feature statuary, waterfalls and color and light
it is home to both The American Jazz Museum and The Negro
Baseball Leagues Museum, which share space in the Lincoln
Building in the historic 18th and Vine neighborhood, a
center of black culture and entertainment through the
1960s. That area, which produced jazz giants such as Count
Basie and Charlie Parker, is home to many jazz clubs even
today. The neighborhood also hosts the annual 18th and
Vine Jazz & Blues Festival.
American Jazz Museum includes rare films of early jazz
stars and exhibits on jazz giants, as well as historic
recordings, posters, photos and interviews. A connected
performance venue, The Blue Room, offers live jazz acts;
it is named after a legendary local jazz club of the 1930s
and ‘40s that was located across the street. The museum
harkens to a time when jazz was king and Kansas City was
one of its capitals.
the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, fans are transported to
the days before blacks were allowed to play in the major
leagues, when most U.S. cities with sizable
African-American populations fielded teams boasting stars
such as Ernie Banks, Josh Gibson, Willie Mays, Saturnino
"Minnie" Minoso, John "Buck" O’Neil,
Leroy "Satchel" Paige and Jackie Robinson. Some
went on to become Major League All-Stars, while others
played in relative anonymity, unknown outside of their
community. Kansas City hosted the Monarchs, a storied
franchise that was the pride of the black community. The
museum explores the history of the leagues and the lives
of team founders, players and coaches, as well as films,
oral histories and a smaller mock-up of the Field of
Legends baseball diamond. The museum preserves the history
of the leagues and reveals how brave athletes triumphed
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art features a diverse collection
of modern, ancient, Native American and international art
spanning 5,000 years. While special exhibitions, such as
the recent display of American muralist Thomas Hart
Benton, charge a fee, admission to the museum is always
free. Collections include Impressionists such as Monet,
Gauguin and Van Gogh and artists as varied as Caravaggio,
de Kooning and Moore. The museum also features an outdoor
sculpture garden that includes Claes Oldenburg’s famous
Shuttlecock, a modern wing and the original neoclassical
structure that opened in 1933.
has long been represented in college basketball’s Final
Four, but you don’t have to be a Jayhawks fan to
appreciate "The College Basketball Experience"
at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inside
the Sprint Center. It’s an interactive experience that
celebrates men’s college basketball. Not only does the
showplace delve into college hoops throughout the decades
and honor the star players and coaches, but it also allows
fans to work up a sweat and compete on free throws,
game-winning shots and more at activity stations. It’s a
decidedly different kind of museum experience.
National World War I Museum & Memorial pays homage to
the doughboys who fought the "War to End All
Wars." The museum is located on a grassy stretch
beneath the Liberty Memorial, an imposing tower that
offers a grand view of Kansas City from its 217-foot
observation deck. Through news reports and eyewitness
accounts, visitors can immerse themselves in the lives of
all soldiers fighting the war, with re-creations of
trenches and displays of original weaponry. Accompanying
the well-conceived displays, films and interviews are
chronologies of the war and the perspectives of soldiers,
generals and politicians of the time. Touring this vast
museum is a remarkable and insightful experience that puts
historic events in digestible context.
City also boasts some fascinating neighborhoods, including
the old Power & Light District downtown with its
architecturally significant buildings, theaters and
restaurants and the historic City Market area, where the
resurrected Steamboat Arabia, "The Titanic of the
Missouri River," sank in 1856 and is now restored as
also the Crossroads Arts & Design District, featuring
art galleries, nightclubs and the soaring arches of the
Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing
Arts, and Westport, site of a Civil War battle and the
city’s original entertainment district.
COURSE, THE BARBECUE
is a religion here and besides classic joints such as
Arthur Bryant’s and Gates Bar-B-Q, and newer eateries
such as Plowboy’s BBQ and Q 39, there are barbecue tour
buses and outdoor competitions throughout much of the
year. Kansas City is the headquarters of the Kansas City
Barbecue Society, the premier barbecue event-sanctioning
organization. And as part of its monthslong annual
livestock competition and rodeo, the 116-year-old American
Royal, the city also hosts the World Series of Barbecue
and the Barbecue Hall of Fame.
there’s more to eat in KC than just barbecue. Since its
stockyards made the city a center for livestock transport
and processing, meat has been a Kansas City staple and
fine steakhouses abound. The area’s growing Latino
population has spawned some fine Mexican restaurants, and
visitors will enjoy sushi and pan-Asian offerings to
complement a handful of old-school German spots.
if you’re making Midwest travel plans, consider KC. It
will surprise you.
great place to start in planning a trip is the Kansas City
Convention & Visitors Association, now known as Visit
KC. There you can find updated listings covering a
spectrum of interests, including art, sports,
entertainment, shopping and tours. The site also cites
attractions with free admission, as well as restaurants,
hotels and deals. City maps, tourism guides, parking and
transportation options are also linked. The stylish new
Visit KC office is at 1321 Baltimore Ave. For more
information call 800-767-7700.