Did you know Kansas City, Missouri, has more fountains than any other city in the world except for Rome? Here are some other things you probably didn't know about the so-called “City of Fountains”: It has ample parks, expansive boulvards, and, in recent years, a growing influx of young professionals with sophisticated tastes. A visit to this hip, friendly Midwestern city offers a range of cool corridors, from upscale Country Club Plaza to laid-back Westport to the bustling Crossroads District. In Kansas City you'll also find plenty of niche eateries, a robust cocktail scene, indie coffee shops, fashionable stores, plenty of art, and, of course, two popular (and winning) professional sports teams. Recounting the lyrics from Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 song, “Kansas City, here I come…” and below are five reasons you should visit.
In the historic East Bottoms, the general store Urban Provisions offers a range of handcrafted products supporting local artisans (think soaps and candles). The small niche department store Halls, in Crown Center (where Hallmark resides) carries classic and on-trend labels for men and women, from Ralph Lauren to rag & bone. In the trendy Crossroads District, the artist Peregrine Honig founded the fun lingerie boutique Birdie, which sells colorful intimates for every shape and size. The Webster House, situated in an old schoolhouse, offers a range of antiques and gift options. Just upstairs, the on-site restaurant offers mains like seared salmon with tapenade potatoes pairing perfectly with a glass of sauvignon blanc. On Country Club Plaza, an outdoor shopping area with beautiful Spanish architecture reminiscent of Seville, extremely chic Standard Style (pictured above) is the place for hot fashion labels like 3.1 Phillip Lim and Aesop products. A block down, gents will find plenty of in-house-made jeans at Baldwin Denim to match Surf Saturdays tees. The narrow shops at the charming Crestwood offer an array of options from George, a light-filled lifestyle store carrying clothing, local art, and books; to Underdog Wine Company, perfect for a bottle of vino to go (there are around 400 bottles) plus craft beer and bean-to-bar chocolate.
Diverse Dining and Drinking Options
Ample food and drink are gloriously at your disposal in Kansas City. In the historic Westport area, the popular Mexican spot Port Fonda is always packed with tipplers who come for margaritas, extra large cans of Tecate, and the legitimate mezcal program. Chef Patrick Ryan is a master at the wood-burning oven, whipping up pork and red chile tamales with Chihuahua cheese, and roasted pork belly with dried cherries, frijoles, knob onions, salsa, toasted peanuts, and queso fresca.
The neighboring and recently renovated Blue Stem, led by James Beard Award-winning chef Colby Garrets, is a low-key restaurant with high culinary ambitions like artfully plated tasting menus and a well-stocked wine program. Just snacking? Visit the bar for a cheese plate or charcuterie board and a proper libation.
Near downtown, in the Crossroads District, The Rieger Hotel and Grill serves up a homegrown KC strip steak with smoked butter, and the hearty rabbit sausage is paired with tomatoes, jasmine rice, and zucchini sauce. Below, the candlelit speakeasy Manifesto functions as a late-night option for the cocktail set.
Sunny, casual Belfry, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Celina Tio spins out snacks like pulled-chicken nachos with Manchego cheese, and hearty classics like burgers and rigatoni with house-made Italian sausage. Beer aficionados will appreciate a healthy selection of 20 taps.
Kansas City’s oldest bar and grill (open since December 1933), The Peanut on Main Street, is a divey affair with a lively crowd sipping on an array of beers in plastic cups and munching on chicken wings dressed in blue-cheese dressing as well as triple BLTs stacked high crispy strips of bacon, and plenty of mayonnaise.
For the discerning coffee, look no further than Oddly Correct, an industrial-looking storefront outfitted with wood and steel; their caffeinated beverages are served by gents who take their brewing methods seriously.
Kansas City takes its art seriously and so should you. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (free admission) boasts a stunning contemporary addition by Steven Holl. There’s also the lovely Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Court, a broad collection of Asian Art, and a new home for the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionist Art. After some art education, sip a glass of wine at the tranquil, indoor sculpture garden of Rozzelle Court.
Across the street, the smaller Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (free admission) has a growing permanent collection that includes works from Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois and Dale Chihuly.
In the West Bottoms, galleries like HAW Contemporary and Bill Brady showcase local and regional art. In between visits, stop at the popular old gas station spot known as Genessee Royale for burgers and Bloody Marys (bacon is optional), or Amigoni Urban Winery for a snack and a local glass of wine.
Sports, Barbecue, and Beer
A Royals game during baseball season is a must, but most locals will tell you a trip to their hometown is incomplete without a visit to Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. For the true experience, pack a BBQ tailgate and a pigskin for tossing; if you don’t have a portable grill, nab your provisions from the famed Joe’s Kansas City (the original gas station spot). Order the famed, award-winning Z-Man Sandwich with slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese, and crispy onion rings on a toasted Kaiser roll.
Closer to the stadium, the legendary Arthur Bryant’s BBQ (where Presidents Truman, Carter and Clinton have dined) is great for an authentic slab or two of ribs while the no-frills LC’s Bar-B-Q has mouth-watering burnt ends. Of course, all Kansas City BBQ washes down well with a crowd-pleasing Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from the local Boulevard Brewery, which you should tour. Inside the stadium, the raw energy of the fans coupled with the chanting and a sea of red (nearly 80,000 strong) make the spirited Arrowhead an epic, memorable outing.
The 132-room Hotel Sorella appeals to a younger, stylish set thanks to rainfall showers and a lovely white, blue, and charcoal palate, while the classic, venerable Raphael has warm décor and walking access to Country Club Plaza. Both families and leisure travelers alike appreciate The Intercontinental's sweeping views of the plaza (ask for a room on a high floor) and Champagne inside the dark, clubby Oak Room.