KANSAS CITY IS A ROCKING SCENE, BUT TRUE CULTURAL DEPTH ABOUNDS, AS WELL.
The Power of Attraction | KC’s Power & Light District is a strong draw for visitors and residents throughout the region.
When people think about arts and culture, they typically think of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Austin. Coastal cities are always kept in mind as epicenters of artistic breakthroughs, and other parts of the nation are largely dismissed as arbitrary cities lacking in soul and culture. If you’re from Kansas City, you know that this simply isn’t true when it comes to your hometown, and if you’re not from Kansas City, allow us to educate you.
In addition to art museums, Kansas City also has a couple of art fairs worth mentioning, one of which is the Art Annual, in the Brookside neighborhood, not far south of the Plaza. It lasts for a weekend every spring, and hundreds of artists congregate near Brookside to showcase their work at the fair. Another large-scale art fair in the area is the Plaza Art Fair, which occurs every fall. Attendees can grab food, listen to live music, and, of course, admire and purchase artwork. It takes place, as the title suggests, at the Country Club Plaza, one of Kansas City’s largest shopping districts.
Although Westport is typically thought of as a bar and nightlife area, it also houses several music-related enterprises. Mill’s Record Co. in Westport is Kansas City’s primary locally owned record store. It has shelves full of all genres of music, and occasionally artists will perform in the store. Westport also has the Riot Room, a small concert venue and bar for music fans to catch intimate performances from both national and local artists.
The River Market is bountiful with a collection of eclectic restaurants, a true foodie’s dream. There’s Le Fou Frog, a high-end restaurant serving French cuisine, Il Lazzarone, which offers some of Kansas City’s best pizza, and Nguyen Pho and Grill, one of the area’s best Vietnamese restaurants. On top of the abundance of restaurants in the River Market, residents can also shop for farm-fresh produce in the City Market itself.
Around the area, you’ll find satellite retail and entertainment centers that give this region a diverse range of entertainment options. In the northland, the Zona Rosa retail and entertainment center offers shopping, dining and nightlife; the same is available in the Village West district of Wyandotte County, on the Kansas side. Johnson County, Kansas, is brimming with similar nodes, with some true gems, like Prairie Fire, offering a range of attractions and events for the entire family, and for the entire day. It’s biggest city, Overland Park, is home to the most successful, and still vibrant, Oak Park Mall. Eastern Jackson County is anchored by both the other remaining major stand-alone mall, Independence Center, and the nearby Hartman Heritage retail development.
If you’re a music fanatic, there are several concert venues that are worth your time. Although everyone knows about Sprint Center, the main local arena, Kansas City also has a host of theaters and smaller venues. Starlight Theatre in Swope Park is an outdoor theater setting for both Broadway plays and concerts. The Truman, Kansas City’s latest concert ven-
ue, has a more industrial aesthetic and is a tad smaller than the Midland. Crossroads KC, located behind Grinder’s, is an outdoor space perfect for a summer or fall concert. There are also intimate venues such as recordBar and the VooDoo Lounge to watch smaller acts perform.
Kansas City has no shortage of an arts and culture scene. It’s in full bloom and has been for a while. There’s something for everyone in terms of what area of arts and culture you’re interested in, whether it be music, theater, food, or visual art. We may be overshadowed by larger urban areas on the coasts, but Kansas Citians can still get their cultural fix in the heart of the country.
Of course, one of the truly nice things about living in a community bisected by a state line is that you often have twice the cultural resources. Take libraries, for example. The Kansas City Public Library, best known for its distinctive “bookshelf” exterior design at the Downtown headquarters, anchors the Missouri side, and has nine branch facilities that extend across the broad sweep of Kansas City proper. Overlay-ing that map is the Mid-Continent Public Library, a 34-branch system that extends to the far reaches of the region’s exurbs.
In each case, patrons have access to tremendous amounts of literature, reference material, periodicals, films and more—a wealth of knowledge and entertainment sufficient to fill a lifetime of curiosity and inquiry.