Kansas City, 250 miles due west of St Louis, straddles the state line between Kansas and Missouri. Virtually all its main points of interest are on the Missouri side, where the fountains, boulevards, Art Deco and Mediterranean-style buildings, and the encouraging revitalization of downtown, are welcome features in a Midwestern city.
Kansas City was a convenient staging post for 1830s wagon trains heading west. Its consequent prosperity – and rough-and-tumble "sin city" image – was brought to an abrupt end by the Civil War. However, its fortunes revived in the 1870s, when the railroads brought the boom in meatpacking that was responsible for the development of the huge stockyards, which finally closed down in 1992.
Thanks to political boss Tom Pendergast, an outrageous figure with whom the city had a love-hate relationship, Kansas City's many jazz clubs continued to sell alcohol during Prohibition. As in Chicago and New Orleans, speakeasies, brothels, and gambling dens went hand in hand with superlative jazz – and, to a lesser extent, blues – spawning the careers of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and, in the Fifties, Charlie Parker. KC's resurgent jazz scene, fine restaurants, professional football and baseball teams, and theme parks help make it a popular short-break destination.
Kansas City is nothing like the cow town many imagine it to be. From its sprawling suburbs to its big-city skyline, this charming, hospitable place offers visitors plenty to see and do.
The booming Northland provides many visitors with their first glimpse of Kansas City. The city's largest airport, Kansas City International, is situated in this area, while rolling hills and farmland are just minutes away. Several hotels, including the Kansas City Airport Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotel KCI Airport , are within walking distance of the airport and offer easy access to I-435.
A booming economy has made the Northland an area of widespread growth, with new houses and businesses popping up regularly. Visitors staying close to the airport do not have to venture far in search of fun. The area is packed with shopping centers, strip malls and restaurants, including Jazz , Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum , Smokehouse Barbecue North and Stroud's Restaurant .
Kansas City's impressive downtown skyline can be seen from most surrounding suburbs. Its tall buildings cast reflections on the nearby Missouri River and draw travelers to this central location. The recent renovation of Union Station and the River Market , along with the addition of Science City and the ongoing popularity of Crown Center , has energized the area. Fine dining establishments include the American Restaurant , Hereford House Restaurant and Lidia's Kansas City .
A number of historic hotels, including the Westin Crown Center Hotel and the Hotel Savoy , have made downtown a magnet for travelers. Sightseers wishing to step back in time can do so at the 18th & Vine District , the American Jazz Museum , the Black Archives of Mid-America or the Toy & Miniature Museum .
Charming and classy yet avant-garde is a good description for the popular Country Club Plaza and Westport areas, two contemporary districts that play host to entertainment seekers. The Plaza, America's first shopping mall, draws thousands of visitors annually thanks to its high-class shopping district, breathtaking Spanish colonial architecture and varied dining options such as Californos , Gates Barbecue , Grand St. Cafe and Figlio Italian Restaurant and Bar . Luxurious hotels and historic bed-and-breakfasts are within walking distance, with many offering magnificent views. During the holiday season, the Plaza is aglow with thousands of lights, bathing the sea of festive shoppers who flock there in twinkling white. Nearby Westport, a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, is best known for its contemporary clubs and restaurants. Both districts attract Gen-Xers as well as Baby Boomers, so no one should feel out of place.
Kansas City, Kansas
Like its Missouri neighbor, Kansas City, Kansas (known as KCK) is a place on the move. The Woodlands Racetrack , along with various shopping and dining establishments, attracts visitors from the metro and surrounding areas. Fun, family events, like the Kansas City Renaissance Festival make KCK a popular year-round destination for all ages.
Johnson County Johnson County, KCK's southern neighbor, is also growing, with new businesses and residential neighborhoods sprouting up everywhere. The area has a reputation as a classy place both to live in and to visit. Public venues, such as Town Center Plaza and Oak Park Mall , are always bustling with action. Like downtown, Johnson County is a hub for business, with several new office complexes, which have bolstered the area's economy. The plentiful accommodations here include the Overland Park Marriott , in addition to a variety of charming smaller hotels. East Metro
The stadiums that house the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals can be found in the East Metro District. If there is one thing that riles Kansas Citians most, it is their beloved Chiefs. Most NFL stadiums pale in comparison to Arrowhead, where excitement and explosive fan support bring the venue to life when the Chiefs are in town. For baseball fans, there's Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals.
For those wishing to forego sports and opt instead for a slice of history, Independence is worth a stop. This historic town is the birthplace of former President Harry S. Truman and is home to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum and a host of other historic points of interest, including the Vaile Victorian Mansion and the Bingham-Waggoner Estate .
The East Metro area offers great places to stay, including the Holiday Inn Sports Complex and the Woodstock Inn Bed and Breakfast . Stephenson's Old Apple Farm Restaurant and LC's Barbecue provide a taste of Kansas City cooking for those seeking a down-home dining experience.
South Kansas City
Like its northern counterpart, South Kansas City is experiencing growth in both the business and residential sectors. Locals and travelers alike enjoy dining at the many area restaurants, including the 75th Street Brewery , the Guadalajara Cafe and the locally renowned EBT Restaurant .
Travelers in search of entertainment can make a stop at Swope Park , which provides fun for all ages. The Kansas City Zoological Park makes for an enjoyable day trip. Finally, the open-air Starlight Theatre offers an array of theatrical productions during warm weather months.
Kansas City is a diner's paradise. Known for its outstanding steak and barbecue, Kansas City also includes noteworthy establishments offering everything from juicy burgers and spicy Mexican fare to fresh seafood and vegetarian cuisine. So dig in and see what tasty treats Kansas City has cooked up for you.
Since the Northland is home to a slew of businesses, residential neighborhoods and shopping areas, it is no surprise that the area boasts some excellent restaurants as well. If an intimate dining experience is what you are looking for, an evening at Cascone's Italian Restaurant is a good bet. This establishment offers the perfect spot at which to woo a client over lunch or a sweetheart over dinner. For a much more casual experience, try Chappell's Restaurant & Lounge , a veritable sports museum masquerading as a restaurant. The burgers are deluxe, but the real draw is the awe-inspiring collection of sports memorabilia, including a size-20 sneaker that once graced the foot of basketball great, Shaquille O'Neal. If some great Kansas City barbecue is in order, stop by the Smokehouse Barbecue North , where burnt ends are just the beginning of a finger-licking meal you will never forget.
If you find yourself downtown when hunger strikes, there are plenty of terrific restaurants to fill the void in your stomach. The Hereford House Restaurant , a Kansas City landmark since 1957, is a traditional, yet intimate steak house offering tender cuts of beef prepared to order over a hickory-fired grill. The wine list here is tops: the restaurant was presented with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 1996. Lidia's Kansas City serves excellent Northern Italian cuisine in one of the most stunning dining rooms in the city. The 30-foot fireplace and the monstrous chandeliers (constructed from blown-glass Grappa bottles) help make Lidia's a restaurant to remember. Meanwhile, romantic upscale dining can be found downtown at both the Savoy Grill and the American Restaurant . If you are in the mood for a fiesta, try Manny's Restaurante Mexicano , where authentic Mexican cuisine is served in a festive atmosphere.
The Country Club Plaza and Westport neighborhoods offer dining at its finest. In fact, the Plaza's many outstanding restaurants make choosing just one nearly impossible. When in doubt, try Plaza III - The Steakhouse , which offers traditional steakhouse dining in a very upscale atmosphere.
In Westport, the chefs at Figlio Italian Restaurant and Bar pride themselves on using only the freshest ingredients available. The eclectic menu, outstanding wine list and inviting terrace seating keep diners coming back time and time again. Californos Westport offers contemporary dining in a elegant atmosphere. In warm weather months, the restaurant offers one of the finest outdoor "dining rooms" in the city, so order a cocktail, sit back and soak in the charm of Westport. For dinner and a show, try Hibachi Japanese Steak House , where chefs prepare your meal right before your eyes.
This booming area of town offers a delightful blend of dining experiences. For a romantic meal, try the upscale Italian bistro Il Trullo , a popular KC tradition. If authentic barbecue is what you are craving, give the KC Masterpiece Barbecue & Grill a try. This popular spot offers its sauce at grocery stores across the country, so don't fret if you get hooked. You can readily pick up more sauce when you get home.
East Metro/South KC
The East Metro dining scene is alive and well with a variety of restaurants to please every palate. For upscale fine dining, the EBT Restaurant is a sure bet. Located in what used to be a large department store, EBT offers an atmosphere that is ideal for special occasions as well as romantic or business dining. For some of Kansas City's most popular barbecue, try LC's Barbecue , where the chefs smoke the meats outside, distributing the succulent scent throughout the neighborhood.
For comfort food, look no further than Stephenson's Old Apple Farm Restaurant . The large portions, "down home" menu and apple-based desserts keep locals and tourists coming back for more. Fried chicken is the specialty at Stroud's Restaurant , a South KC favorite known for big portions and long waiting lists. Reservations are not accepted, but don't let that scare you. The food is worth the wait.
Whether you are settling in for a long stay or just passing through, touring Kansas City can be an exciting adventure for young and old alike. From The Grand Tour on the Trolley to a cruise along Brush Creek, a slew of guided tours await you. Should you prefer to explore Kansas City on your own, grab your walking shoes; there are many hot spots waiting to be discovered.
Union Station Nestled in the heart of downtown, Union Station and Crown Center offer a plethora of activities for the entire family. Enjoy lunch at the American Restaurant , then catch a show at the nearby American Heartland Theatre , or stop into Science City , which allows visitors to delve into a world of hands-on scientific discovery.
Kansas City Museum The Kansas City Museum is located downtown and features exhibits that detail the history of the city. Visit Parade Park and Theis Park , where there is always a concert or event happening. Dine at the elegant Savoy Grill , then tour the Black Archives of Mid-America , which detail the history of African Americans in Kansas City.
Theater District If you are a movie or arts lover, make time for the Theater District . The Folly Theater and the Gem Theater offer contemporary performances. There are also many dining options in this district. Try traditional American at Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue or contemporary French at Le Fou Frog .
Harry S. Truman Library & Museum One of the most popular attractions in the East Metro area is the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum and Truman Farm Home , where you can spend hours touring the former president's library and home. LC's Barbecue is famed for its no-nonsense atmosphere and delicious food. Also in this area is the 1859 Jail, Marshall's Home & Museum and the historic Bingham-Waggoner Estate , which showcases 19th Century furnishings and architecture.
Westport Westport is a popular district known for its restaurants, shops and nightclubs. There are also many cultural attractions, such as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art . Have a bite to eat at the nearby Classic Cup Cafe . If you are a jazz lover, explore the 18th and Vine District . Here you will find the American Jazz Museum , where you will learn about great jazz performers through interactive displays. Blue Room , a live music venue housed inside the museum, regularly hosts live Kansas City jazz performances.
Contacting a professional tour company will allow you to see Kansas City in style, whether it's on the deck of a ship or on board a trolley.
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