Kansas City, Missouri 72-Hour Vacation
Start the morning off with breakfast at Room 39, where most of the dishes on the menu are made with locally grown ingredients. Then, fueled by a house-made chai, head toward downtown and see the 18th and Vine Historic District, once the heart of the city's African American community. Check out the American Jazz Museum, where you can listen to rare tunes from the 1930s, see instruments of such greats as Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker and watch videos of performances. In the same building (combination tickets available) is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which recounts the segregation that forced a separate league and pays tribute to the contributions made to the game by African American players. Drop by the Gem Theater right across the street, where notable, contemporary jazz entertainment from music, theater and dance greats is routinely showcased.
Arthur Bryant's Barbeque is considered the home of Kansas City-style 'cue, and fans rave about the original sauce, spicy heat and the hickory-smoked meats piled high on white bread and wrapped in brown paper. Another popular place to sample the slow, mouthwatering fuel that defines Kansas City barbecue is Gates Bar-B-Q. Ollie Gates, "Master of the Cue," has done as much as Arthur Bryant to propel his smoky style into fame.
Walk off some of that BBQ while strolling across a pedestrian bridge to get to the restored 1914 Union Station, where the Grand Hall lives up to its name with a 95-foot ceiling and chandeliers that are twelve feet in diameter. Railroad fans will enjoy the exhibit detailing the role trains have played in the history of Kansas City. Head downtown to the City Market and relive the riverboat days with a visit to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, where you will find a fascinating array of goods salvaged from a steamboat that sank in the 1850s. Horse lovers should visit the nearby American Royal Museum, which has exhibits and interactive displays telling the story of the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show and Rodeo, a major annual event that draws competitors from across the country.
Meander over to the Crossroads Arts District, which is the hottest neighborhood in the area thanks to its hip collection of art galleries, restaurants and boutiques within a ten block radius. It's situated between Crown Center and Union Station to the south and the new Kansas City Star's Press Pavilion and the Sprint Arena to the north. Shop at Christopher Elbow Artisnal Chocolates for exquisite, handmade and hand-painted chocolates. Tomboy Design and Birdies are must-stops for trendy, handmade clothing. If your visit coincides with a First Friday, know that the neighborhood will be jammed with folks strolling from one art opening to another, from a wine tasting at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants to happy hour at JP Wine Bar and Coffee Shop. Or check out Michael Smith's and his adjacent restaurant, Extra Virgin, for European-inspired dishes.
There are dozens of new restaurants and bars in the District, ranging from Raglan Road, serving Irish fare in a dark, authentically-designed Irish pub atmosphere to Maker's Mark and PBR Big Sky, where a mechanical bull is waiting to toss wannabe cowboys. The entire district is non-smoking, including Angel's Rock Bar and Howl at the Moon, both late-night, music and drinks-only venues.
While much of the action takes place at night, day-trippers and sports fans will want to check out the College Basketball Experience and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Located across the street from the Power and Light District and adjacent to the Sprint Areana, the College Experience is an interactive activity center and museum. Visitors test their skills at various stations, complete with hoops, three-point lines and buzzers.
Lots of activities are planned in the "Living Room" of the District, the covered (and heated) courtyard in the center of the neighborhood. Royals games are shown on the 93-foot tall screen (as was the "American Idol" finale); it's also where free concerts are given away on a regular basis. Also of note: the Sprint Family Fun series runs every weekend beginning in May, with free, family-friendly entertainment.
When you're ready to leave the hubbub, head to Le Fou Frog in the River Market area downtown, featuring a wide-ranging menu and extensive wine selection. Another dining option: Bluestem, where Colby and Megan Garrelts prep exquisite, contemporary American cuisine. Colby is noted for his discriminating savory menu while Megan lends magic to the confections.
Wrap up your evening by catching some reggae, blues or other tunes at The Blue Room Jazz Club at the American Jazz Museum.
* Historic District Image Courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association.