30 Things You Need To Know About Kansas City Before You Move ThereKansas City is full of surprises. While the name conjures images of cows and cornfields, KC was once known for its sinful ways, and has been home to a number of colorful characters past and present.
1. It's Not Actually in Kansas - Except When It Is
Source: Flickr user Todd Wade
Kansas City is actually two cities in one - KC, Missouri lies on the east side of the Missouri River, while KC, Kansas is on the west, just across State Line Road. Most of the "downtown" attractions are in Missouri, while the Kansas side has, well, more suburban-type stuff. Plus a major-league soccer team called Sporting Kansas City, in case anyone's interested.
2. The Heart Of the Heartland
Source: Flickr user MHTroop130
While the geographic center of the Lower 48 lies in Lebanon, Kansas, to the west, Kansas City is the nation's most centrally-located big city. It's surrounded by farmland, which means plenty of fresh meat and produce, but the seafood's usually frozen.
3. KC Strip Steaks Put New York's To Shame
Source: Flickr user BlueGold73
Seriously, how could there possibly be any doubt? Kansas City is the third-largest beef capital in the United States, and the Big Apple...isn't. Chow down on LOCAL beef at Jess and Jim's, named America's best steakhouse by none other than Playboy Magazine.
4. Where Jazz Grew Up
Source: Flickr user KellyK
New Orleans may be the birthplace of jazz, but Kansas City put its own special spin on things when this All-American music genre headed north. The American Jazz Museum hosts music performances throughout the year, and really gets swinging with the annual 18th and Vine Jazz and Blues Festival each October. Plus, each visit to the museum comes complete with a free photo op -- posing with an 18-foot tall bronze head of native son Charlie "Bird" Parker.
5. Barbecue Battle!! KC Takes On the South
Source: Flickr user Jim Hagans
Texas, the Carolinas and Memphis may each claim that their barbecue is best, but Kansas City begs to differ. The distinctive KC barbecue style involves a molasses- spiked sweet tomato sauce, and there's no finer place to experience it than at the original Arthur Bryant's on Brooklyn Avenue. Food writer Calvin Trillin once declared it possibly the world's best restaurant, and its famous customers have included former presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and that well-known chowhound, Bill Clinton.
6. First In Shopping
Source: Country Club Plaza via Facebook
The Country Club Plaza, which opened in 1923, was the world's first drive-in shopping center. Although back in the day it was built on land which was once home to pig farms, that distinctive odor has now been replaced by the smell of fresh-popped corn from Topsy's and scented candles from Bath and Body Works.
7. KC Got Culture
Source: The Kansas City Symphony via Facebook
They's right classy folk up there in Cowtown. They gots a real live orchestra what's called the Kansas City Symphony, and ladies prancin' around in pink tutus over to the Kansas City Ballet. Reckon things ain't over 'til the fat lady sings - but she'll be hollerin' her little heart out down to the Kauffman Theatre soon's the Lyric Opera throws one of them there hootenannies.
8. Get Outta Town, Or Stick Around
Source: Charles O'Rear, Environmental Protection Agency via Wikimedia
Amtrak trains rumble in and out of Union Station day and night, running east to St. Louis and Chicago and west all the way to L.A. The station's actually a pretty cool place to hang out in even if you're not going anywhere. It's got a cool interactive museum called Science City, a movie theater with an 80 by 53 foot "extreme screen", shops selling science-y stuff and KC souvenirs, several restaurants, and an artisan coffee shop where you can get trendy but oh-so-yummy French macarons in pretty pastel colors.
9. Nutty For Doughnuts
Source: Lamar's Donuts and Coffee via Facebook
Kansas City is the home of Lamar's Donuts, which has been ranked as "tops" in taste tests by known doughnut experts including police officers, firefighters and journalists. Although the original Linwood Boulevard location has been "temporarily closed" since 2003, you can still chow down on the signature "butterfly", pecan-topped sticky gooey love child of a doughnut or a cinnamon roll at 9 locations throughout the KC area.
10. It's Hipper Than You'd Think
Source: Oddly Correct via Facebook
Kansas City was actually ranked #10 on Travel and Leisure's list of America's best cities for hipsters, which cited the city's readily available locally-sourced foods and plethora of farmer's markets. The list also made mention of Oddly Correct, a coffee house so strict, its barista nazis won't let you doctor your brew with any cream or sugar. Heaven help the poor fool who asks for Splenda!
11. It's Artsy-Fartsy
Source: KC Crossroads Arts District via Facebook
The Crossroads Arts District, at 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue, is the place to be on the first Friday of every month. You can wander through the galleries and pretend to admire the paintings while trying unobtrusively to score a free dinner of crackers, cheese and wine.
12. The Gettysburg Of The West
Source: Wikimedia user Americasroof
The Battle of Westport, which took place in what is now the trendy neighborhood of the same name, was the largest Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi. Exhibits at the Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum depict the events of October 21-23, said to be the most dramatic event in Kansas City history - at least, up until the day the iPhone5 became available at the Apple Store in Country Club Plaza.
13. The Royals Play Baseball...Sort of
Source: Flickr user Mike Kalasnik
Where have you gone, George Brett? The Royals used to be a good team, but yeah, disco used to be popular, too. They do actually have one World Series win to their credit, but that was back in 1985, and things haven't been looking too good since then. On the bright side, you can usually score cheap tickets.
14. Football Is King
Source: The Kansas City Chiefs via Facebook
The Chiefs, on the other hand, are usually a pretty decent team. Ok, they haven't won the Super Bowl since 1970, but they make it into the playoffs every couple of years. During football season, fans wear so much red and white they look like walking candy canes.
15. Get Medieval(ish) At the RenFair
Source: Flickr user Out.of.Focus
Dress up in your finest codpiece or lace-up bodice, grab a turkey leg, and prepare to shoot "huzzah" while quaffing a flagon of mead in your ringside seat at the joust. The Kansas City Renaissance Festival runs from Labor Day through Columbus Day each year - go early, go often, and be sure you don't miss the singing pirates and human combat chess.
16. The Paris of the Plains
Source: New York World-Telegram and Sun staff photographer via Wikimedia
Believe it or not, prohibition-era Kansas City ran contrary to its straitlaced Midwestern image when a local political boss refused to enforce the nationwide ban on alcohol. The city's scofflaw reputation was cemented when a 1920s journalist remarked, "If you want to see some sin, forget Paris and head to Kansas City."
17. It's Surprisingly Diverse
Source: Facebook User Mark Frazier
Not every Kansas resident is a corn-fed Midwestern blonde. The city's actually got two Little Italy neighborhoods, one in Columbus Park and one in North East, and Argentine is one of the area's oldest Hispanic neighborhoods. Strawberry Hill, a historically Croatian community, is your best bet if you're craving (and who isn't?) povitica with a side of tamburitza music, while the bizarro food and music combo of your dreams is sure to be found at the Ethnic Enrichment Festival held each August in Swope Park.
18. It's Got Soul (Food)
Source: Niecie's restaurant via Facebook
Dig into a plate of fried catfish or chicken and waffles at Niecies on 64th and Troost, and don't forget the sweet potato pie for dessert. If you really want to pack on the pounds, the Peach Tree Restaurant on Eastwood Trafficway has an all-you-can-eat buffet with fried chicken, red beans and sausage, mac and cheese, and, of course, peach cobbler.
19. Not All Cows Wind Up As Steak
Source: Glacé Artisan Ice Cream via Facebook
Food and Wine Magazine selected Kansas City's Glacé Artisan Ice Cream as one of the best ice cream spots in the U.S. Goat cheese and honey was the magazine's pick for a must-try flavor, and the menu also includes such exotic treats as Thai peanut curry and sweet potato with candied pecans as well as the slightly more mainstream orange sorbet, peanut butter chocolate and Madagascar vanilla.
20. Home Of the Happy Meal
Source: Flickr user Claudio Lobos
Kansas City ad man Bob Bernstein, whose agency worked with the McDonald's Corporation, came up with the idea for a specially-packaged kid's meal complete with surprise prize. Happy Meals were first introduced in the KC market in 1977, 2 years before they rolled out nationwide.
21. Kiss Me, I'm Irish!
Source: Kansas City Irish Fest via Facebook
The Kansas City Irish Fest takes over the Crown Center at the end of August each year. The event includes seven stages full of "whack fol the diddle" and "me tiddery idle loodle la dem da", free- flowing Jameson whiskey and a kids' area where the wee boyos and, uh, girl-os get to dress up like pirates and fairies.
22. Roll The Dice Like An Oldtime Riverboat Gambler
Source: Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa via Facebook
Put on your straw hat and sleeve garters and get set to gamble the night (and the family fortune) away on a genuine Missouri riverboat casino. Harrah's North, Ameristar, Argosy and the Isle of Capri offer floating craps games that are, quite literally, floating.
23. Treasure Trove From A Sunken Ship
Source: Wikimedia user Daderot
The Steamboat Arabia went down in the muddy waters of the Missouri in 1856, and there it has remained ever since. A 1988 salvage operation, while it did not recover the ship, brought up thousands of artifacts which are now housed in the Arabia Steamboat Museum. This museum contains one of the finest collections of well-preserved mid- 1800s relics, including food items that are (ugh) supposedly still edible. World's oldest pickles, anyone?
24. Beer, Beer, Beer, It Makes Us Want To Cheer
Source: Boulevard Brewing Company via Facebook
Boulevard is THE Kansas City beer of choice. Boulevard Pale Ale is the brewery's flagship beer, unfiltered wheat is the regional best seller, and seasonal brews such as the chocolate ale released around Valentine's Day are so popular they often sell out as soon as they hit the shelves of local liquor stores.
25. Wine, Wine, Wine, It Makes Us Feel So Fine
Source: Amigoni Vineyards and Urban Winery via Facebook
Kansas City's no Napa Valley but it does have its own wine trail that runs for seventy miles and has nine wineries. Amigoni Urban Winery, in KC itself, offers daily tastings of wines made from grapes grown at its vineyard in Centerview.
26. Ward Off Dementors
Source: Elbow Chocolates via Facebook
Tormented by soul-eating demons? Christopher Elbow can help. This KC chocolatier crafts tiny, edible works of art with a taste so magical it can break down the gates of Azkaban itself.
27. Going Around in Circles
Source: Kansas Speedway via Facebook
Kansas Speedway is perhaps the biggest attraction located on the Kansas side of the border. It hosts two annual NASCAR race weekends, and if that's not enough of a thrill, the Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you get behind the wheel of a 600hp race car and zip around the track at speeds of up to 155 miles per hour.
28. The Original Mickey Mouse
Source: Wikimedia user Iknowthegoods
Walt Disney began cartooning in Kansas City, producing animated shorts at his own Laugh-O-Gram Studios in the McConahay Building on East 31st Street. Legend has it that a mouse he kept in his desk drawer was the inspiration for his most famous creation, Mickey. Legend, however, does not answer the burning question of whether he dressed his pet in little tiny shorts.
29. Walk In Papa's Footsteps
Source: Wikimedia User Acroterion
Ernest Hemingway also used Kansas City as a launchpad to fame and fortune. He began his writing career at the Kansas City Star, and occasionally slept in a bathtub at the Muehlebach Hotel, now a part of the downtown Marriott. The Muehlebach gets a shout-out in his novel "Across the River and Into the Trees", but its bathtubs aren't mentioned.
30. Down In The Trenches (WWI Museum)
Source: National WWI Museum via Facebook
The National World War I Museum, housed inside (and underneath) the 217-foot tall Liberty Memorial, has one of the world's largest collections of memorabilia from the not-so-Great War. The replica of the blown-up French farmhouse is grim, but the Renault FT-17 tank and life-size trenches are pretty cool. Try the Reuben von Steuben at the museum's Over There Cafe, but ask them to hold the mustard gas.
Zip Codes and Neighborhoods in Kansas City, MO
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