BEST ART GALLERY
In Kansas City, it’s a one-of-a-kind entity and it stands in a field above all others: THE NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART is home to more than 35,000 works of art, representing almost every continent and culture on the planet. It stands alone in this category as the Gold standard of visual arts and a cultural touchstone in this community. Gifted to the city from the estate of newspaper magnate William Rockhill Nelson, with a land-acquisition bequest from Mary McAfee Atkins, who amassed an impressive sum in those days after retiring as a school teacher: That initial $333,000 gift from her estate would be worth nearly $9 million today.
BEST CHARITABLE EVENT
Coming off a tough year for non-profit fund-raising events, Kansas Citians and their penchant for philanthropy are back into the giving groove as fundraisers again become a reality. A longtime reader favorite and this year’s Gold winner, JAZZOO, went virtual amid the 2020 pandemic but welcomed patrons back in June to benefit the Kansas City Zoo. Silver winner TREADS & THREADS, benefiting the University of Kansas Health System is on track for September, while the BIG SLICK event on behalf of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, earns Bronze. This terrific event held in June brings a terrific cast of characters to KC each year.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but people don’t seem to think of “theater” quite like they once did; the Big Screen has overtaken the stage. Easy to see why when you visit any of the B&B THEATERS venues brought to you by the Gold-winning chain based in Liberty. Bob and Bridget Bagby and their family have created an entertainment monster with 1,400 employees operating 462 screens in 12 states. STARLIGHT THEATRE, a unique setting for outdoor theater, stakes a claim for traditional stage venues by earning the Silver, while the global screen venues of AMC THEATERS earns the Bronze. Please support them all in their quest to serve.
BEST DAY TRIP
Many Kansas Citian are a generation removed from the farm, so it’s no surprise that the small-town feel and appeal of a place like WESTON, MISSOURI, attracts visitors there in droves, and earns the Gold. Less than an hour away from the big-city busy-ness, a trip to Weston is stepping back in time when the pace of life was wholesome. Similarly, fans of PARKVILLE, MISSOURI, with its small-town commercial vibe and sprawling park on the Missouri River bank, earns the Silver. And a trip to the Bronze-winner KANSAS CITY ZOO appeal to families, groups and individuals.
Eclectic tastes? Ingram’s readers’ certainly demonstrate them with selections in this category. And that includes an affinity for rap. Who knew? Well, we did, actually: This isn’t the first time hometown product TECH N9NE has walked off with the Gold for his unique and edgy urban musical stylings. THE ZEROS, featuring Brad Gaddy, Shawn Poores, and Larry Groce, took a short-term musical gig and turned it into more than a decade of dazzling lights, fire-spitting and large-scale ’80s-era dance parties, good for the Silver. (Their rendition of When in Rome’s “The Promise” is not to be missed.) OUTLAW JIM AND THE WHISKEY BENDERS earn Bronze for, as their name implies, bring a different sort of musical vibe with their interpretation of the outlaw-country themes popularized by country artists like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard.
BEST FAMILY OUTING/VENUE
Baseball, hot dogs and great family fun are foundational elements in a trip to KAUFFMAN STADIUM to catch the KANSAS CITY ROYALS in action, and that experience earns Gold for family outings. With fans back in the stands and a full 81-game home schedule, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge the crew throughout the summer. Switching from bats to clubs, TOPGOLF picks up the Silver as a unique attraction for the whole crew, blending the cultural appeal of socializing in a great driving range venue with hopes of achieving that perfect tee shot. Always high in the rankings, the ever-changing and ever-expanding KANSAS CITY ZOO snaps up Bronze.
BEST GOLF COURSE
Hometown golfing legend Tom Watson gifted the region one of the most challenging—and visually spectacular—courses in the Midwest with his design of THE NATIONAL GOLF CLUB OF KANSAS CITY. The course in Parkville earns Gold for both its aesthetic appeal and its ability to test a golfer’s skills. Silver honors go to the near-ly 110-year-old BLUE HILLS COUNTRY CLUB, which relocated to south Kansas City in 1963 after half a decade in the lands just east of Brookside. Bronze produced a tie between Lenexa’s CANYON FARMS GOLF CLUB and the esteemed LOCH LLOYD COUNTRY CLUB near Belton.
BEST JAZZ OR BLUES CLUB
Featuring skilled musical artists who carry on Kansas City’s proud jazz tradition, the GREEN LADY LOUNGE picks up Gold for a fourth straight year, in part for its seven-nights-a-week performances, dark ambiance—and no cover charge. Don’t just take our word for it: The on-line reader reviews speak glowingly of the relaxing combination of silky notes, specialty drinks and time with special friends. Across Downtown in the Garment District, THE PHOENIX has been building a jazz fan base for a quarter-century, and earns Silver. This year’s Bronze is shared by KNUCKLEHEADS, a social anchor in the East Bottoms, and CHAZ ON THE PLAZA, on the street level of the Raphael Hotel.
BEST PERFORMING ARTS VENUE
When it opened just a decade ago, the KAUFFMAN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS earned accolades as a world-class performance venue; that’s as true today as in 2011, and readers agree, delivering Gold honors. The twin-venue concepts of 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall and the 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theatre allow for stage designs that optimize the impact of various performing troupe’s sizes. The venerable STARLIGHT THEATRE, a signature destination and the genesis of memories for thousands, picks up the Silver. And the broad mix of acts that take the stage there make the FOLLY THEATER the Bronze-level favorite.
BEST SPORTS EVENT TO ENTERTAIN CLIENTS
Recent years have been kind to Kansas City sports fans, delivering a World Series title in 2015, a Super Bowl victory in 2020 and the MLS Cup for soccer in 2013. No surprise, then, that the eternal appeal of baseball helps the KANSAS CITY ROYALS and KAUFFMAN STADIUM secure Gold in this category. Likewise, the red-hot KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, across the Jackson Sports Complex lot at ARROWHEAD STADIUM, earn Silver status with executives trying to impress clients with what is hands-down the most entertaining offense in all of professional football. And Sporting Kansas City’s claims the Bronze and took the fan experience to new levels when what is now CHILDREN’S MERCY PARK opened in 2011.
BEST TEAM-BUILDING VENUE
If you’re getting the team out of the office to build deeper connections, you want the venue to be authentic—and original. TOPGOLF delivers on both counts, earning Gold here, with its innovative approach to key aspects of the game, combined with a relaxing venue and all the requisite amenities. MAIN EVENT, with locations in the Northland, Independence and Olathe, is a Silver winner for its team-based options with bowling, virtual reality, laser tag and more. And the outdoor courts in for pickleball and other activities make CHICKEN & PICKLE, in Kansas City and soon to open in Overland Park, the Bronze winner.
BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
Missouri’s appeal as a recreation destination shows up clearly with readers who say BRANSON, MISSOURI is the Gold standard, both for its riot of family-friendly tourist kitch, diverse entertainment venues and quick access to the clear waters of Table Rock Lake. Speaking of lakes, the LAKE OF THE OZARKS pulls in the Silver as the Midwest’s premier water destination. Offering more than 1,100 miles of shoreline though the main channel and its various tributaries, the lake is a magnet for boaters, anglers, skiers and patrons of all types—voted time and again the Best Recreational Lake in America. The surrounding entertainment options, both on the water and land, are impressive in their diversity, as well. And for the wine lovers and weekend travelers among us, HERMANN, MISSOURI, the center of the Missouri Rhineland, is good for Bronze. A day trip there can include tours of numerous wineries in some of the Show-Me State’s most picturesque scenery.