Kansas City: more to do than just eat great barbecue!
Author: Tod Hughes "Tasteful Detours"
The largest city in Missouri, Kansas City borders Kansas on the western part of the state. Far beyond its reputation as a destination for barbecue lovers, the city offers a surprising cultural diversity in its museums, music scene, vibrant neighborhoods and performing arts venues. Its museums in particular cover a fascinating range of historical, artistic and musical genres and are must-see points of interest on any itinerary.
Hart Benton Home
Art, History and Jazz on display at Kansas City Museums
History buffs will want to visit one of several great local museums, including the expansive World War I museum perched on a hillside across from Union Station with great vistas of downtown. Hear the unforgettable music of jazz greats like Charlie Parker at the American Jazz Museum.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art near Country Club Plaza, which its architects modeled after Seville, Spain, is a world class trove of art. Kansas City’s western heritage is on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in the City Market just north of downtown, featuring the full contents of the sunken ship, like a Sears Roebuck store preserved in time from 1856. And learn about Harry Truman’s presidential life and times at the Truman Presidential Library Museum in nearby Independence. Art lovers will enjoy a tour of the Thomas Hart Benton home and studio to learn more about one of America’s great regionalist painters.
Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum
Top Dining, Barbecue and Beyond
Any mention of the Kansas City dining scene has to start with great barbecue, but there is so much more than that. Talented local chefs have trained elsewhere or overseas, then come home to open a wide array of top quality restaurants in KC.
There are many quality choices for succulent barbecue in town, but having sampled all around town, I would recommend these as the top three: Q39 in the Westport area, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue in the historic freight yard building near Union Station and Joe’s KC, with its original location in a service station.
Venture beyond barbecue and you’ll find great choices such as:
Chef Rick Mullins innovative cuisine at Café Sebastienne in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
The Power and Light district has some average fare to be sure, but several chains really do provide great meals, including 801 Chop House for steaks, Bristol for seafood (tough to get good quality in landlocked KC) and the extensive menu at the Yard House.
The Crossroads district provides a wealth of fine dining, including my favorites Novel, Chef Michael Smith’s newest restaurant, Farina, the Reiger (fun to sit at the bar at the back facing the open kitchen) and authentic German entrees at Affare.
Jazz in Kansas City
Don’t miss Kansas City’s Jazz Joints
Choose your Jazz spot day or night in venues all around town. Crossroads has a pair of winning establishments side by side, the Green Lady Lounge and the Black Dolphin, where you can enjoy music into the wee hours. Several places pair brunch or dinner with Jazz, such as The Phoenix and The Majestic in the Library District, or Chaz at the Plaza in the Raphael Hotel, also a great place to stay. My favorite is the Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum, which is in the historic 18th and Vine district, and brings great Jazz and blues acts to the intimate stage while you sip your drinks.
Kansas City offers many fun options for evening entertainment. Consider these options:
First Fridays celebrate local art studios every first Friday of each month in the Crossroads district, when studios stay open late and many provide wine to encourage browsing and conversation,
The beautiful Kauffman Center whose architecture crowns the skyline above Crossroads offers a full schedule of music, opera and plays.
If you arrive in summer, baseball at Royals Stadium is a fun place to enjoy the national pastime.
Country Club Plaza is another place to stroll, doing some shopping or dining and admiring the architecture. These buildings are especially magical at Christmas when they are decorated with lights.
You’ll find plenty of late afternoon/early evening happy hour spots. One of the best is at Tom’s Town in Crossroads. Interesting drinks and snacks plus you can book a tour of their vodka distillery!
Amazing museums are reason enough to visit the City of Fountains but round out your days with the plentiful evening entertainment and dining opportunities in the lively Power and Light District, catching a show at the Kauffman Center in the Crossroads area or enjoying some jazz in the historic 18th and Vine district. Get more information on all on offer at VisitKC.com and start planning your Midwest getaway!
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