Best of Business Kansas City

We hear from the purists every year—”A museum is not an art gallery!”—but our voters, in the end, will vote as they will vote. So it is that three art museums sweep the honors here, led by the venerable Nelson–Atkins Museum of Art as our Gold winner. Since 1993, it has been an anchor for fine arts in Kansas City. Silver honors are on display for the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, at Johnson County Community College, a relative newcomer by those standards sinceits 2007 opening. The Bronze-winning Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, only a block from the Nelson, gives the Plaza area another gem in its cultural crown.

Kansas City loves its zoo, and demonstrates that with financial support, voluntarism and board service. No surprise, then, that the Kansas City Zoo’s premier fund-raiser, Jazzoo, rates solid Gold with our readers. But it gets a run for that distinction from Silver winner Treads & Threads, a benefit for the University of Kansas Hospital that, not surprisingly, draws from many of the same supporters. With cultural and social needs thus addressed, there’s also room in the hearts of many for Fur Ball, the Bronze winner that benefits Wayside Waifs.

OK, so we’re not known as the Vegas of the Midwest, but once you’re inside, off of The Strip, what really matters? The experience. Your hometown Gold-level example of that is at Harrah’s North Kansas City, readers say, with a robust selection of 1,600 slots, poker room, tables for blackjack, roulette and more—and hotel rooms on-site for visitors. Silver goes to Ameristar, with more than 2,500 slot and video poker machines and 57 table games. The Kansas side is represented by Bronze-winner Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

The local factor, clearly, plays well with readers who make AMC Entertainment our Gold winner for its variety of cinematic offerings in the region. Starlight Theatre, by contrast, is a live-performance venue, but eminently worthy of the Silver this year. Turning in a Bronze-worthy performance is the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, near the Power & Light District Downtown.

Earning Gold for its first time, Worlds of Fun demonstrates its ability to command an audience 41 years after its opening, and millions of visitors. A longtime reader favorite, the Kansas City Zoo earns Silver, while the nation’s—and region’s—growing embrace of soccer, a Major League Soccer Championship in 2013 and a cool venue at Sporting Park all help net a Bronze for Sporting Kansas City.

Anyone who knows about his competitive streak could count on Tom Watson to produce a spectacular venue when he aligned Signature Design with the Country Club at Loch Lloyd, just south of Kansas City. Our readers know a thing or two about golf, and concur, with Gold status. Another choice course, at Hallbrook Country Club, traces its roots to the great Joyce C. Hall, who once owned the land, and it checks in with Silver honors. Bronze goes to Shadow Glen Golf Club in Olathe.

Favorite jazz hangouts are like opinions—everybody’s got one. But a plurality of our readers say The Phoenix Kansas City cranks out notes of solid Gold wafting over the Garment District to go along with its happy hours, lunch, brunch and dinner options. The bon temps do indeed roulez at Jazz, a Louisiana Kitchen, on 39th Street near State Line, and they earn Silver for this club’s first Best of Business honors. A tie for Bronze goes to the Gaslight Grill, Dick Hawk’s classy Leawood club, and the Kill Devil Club in the Power & Light District.

The Nelson–Atkins Museum of Art
has Gold on display this year, but will get a run for its money through 2018, as the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial continues to celebrate centennial milestones of the Great War, riding that awareness to Silver status in 2014. And the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art boasts Bronze.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City
earns Gold for its status as a charitable organization. Another particular favorite of many who volunteer, time, talent and treasure is Operation Breakthrough, offering a lifeline to youngsters and families in tough situations; it takes Silver this year. And just to show that our compassion isn’t limited by the number of legs on a beneficiary, Wayside Waifs earns Bronze for its great work in the animal kingdom.

Pre-Civil War charm, shops, wineries, restaurants and a hometown brewery— the tourism appeal of tiny Weston, Mo., is powerful and, it seems, profound: No other burg has claimed the Gold award for Best Day Trip in the 12 years we’ve counted in this category. That’s particularly impressive, given two competing communities and the numbers of KU and MU graduates who attended school in Lawrence, our Silver winner, and Columbia, which earned the Bronze.

Osage Beach is just one municipality along the Lake of the Ozarks, a city of 4,351 year-round residents that swells to roughly 100,000 on a summer weekend. That helps earn Gold as the best weekend getaway and edges out Silver winner Branson, with its country-themed attractions and access to Table Rock and Taneycomo lakes. A little closer to home, Excelsior Springs gets the Bronze.

When it opened in 2011, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts virtually assured itself of long-term Gold here; three years later, it’s still mentioned among theatrical and musical performing venues that are truly “world class.” Silver goes again to Starlight Theatre, still drawing crowds of nearly 8,000 to Swope Park, 63 years after it was founded. Bronze goes to the Lyric Opera.

A new coach, a season that offered promises of better days ahead—and a 9–0 start in 2013—propel the Kansas City Chiefs to Gold status with Ingram’s readers. It should blend in nicely with the team’s color scheme. After flirting with the playoffs last year and hovering near the division lead as we reached the 100-game mark this season, the Royals win over enough fans to earn Silver. And Sporting Kansas City flexes its professional sports muscles by claiming a second Bronze this year.

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