Entertainment & Culture

By Dennis Boone

We’re in the middle of America, but thanks to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, our Gold winner, Kansas City has access to artworks from every continent and culture—well, they aren’t helping the cause from Antarctica, but everyone else is on board. Silver goes to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, a cultural fixture for its permanent and rotating exhibitions, plus lectures and educational programs. Making its debut in the Best of Business voting is Prairiebrooke Arts, a traditional commercial gallery.

Infusing a taste of Vegas into the local entertainment scene, Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa is a hit with readers who enjoy a robust roster of gaming options, but spa amenities and rooms to boot. Harrah’s Kansas City draws an inside straight on Silver, with Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City earning Bronze.

The crowds alone attest to the power of Jazzoo to resonate with residents of Kansas City, thanks to its blend of music, drinks, and nature’s finest. It snags Gold in this category for a record 19th time. The Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas has a popular hit on its hands with its annual Snow Ball, earning Silver and proving that the philanthropic spirit here is not limited by weather. Bronze goes to Treads & Threads, benefiting The University of Kansas Health System with its unique venue at the Kansas Speedway.

Mainstream, independent or retro, the eclectic mix of cinematic treats make Screenland Theatres the pick for Gold this year. Silver honors are divvied up between New Theatre & Restaurant in Overland Park, with a different spin on a night at the theater, and B&B Theatres, the century-old, family-owned enterprise that’s been in projection—the good kind—nearly as long as film itself.

No denying it: People simply love the Kansas City Zoo. Randy Wistoff, who retired to a part-time position in January, spent 18 years transforming its attractions, and the quality of his work is on display every day. Gold? You bet. Silver goes to the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, often packed with little ones experiencing farm fauna. A somewhat more active venue, Chicken N Pickle, breaks into the top-tier balloting for the Bronze.

Kansas City is blessed with championship-level golf courses, and the voting here each year is . . . volatile. Fans of Hallbrook Country Club in Leawood came out in force to produce Gold honors. The iconic Don Hall hit the first drive when the course opened in 1988, making an instant splash as one of the nation’s toughest challenges. On the other side of the metro, Stone Canyon Golf Club, the only Greg Norman Signature Design Course in the Midwest, bags Silver. Bronze yielded a tie between Blue Hills Country Club in south Kansas City and Nicklaus Golf Club at Lionsgate.

The theme is green, but the tones are Gold for readers who say Crossroads-based Green Lady Lounge has the best of what Kansas City offers in jazz. Silver has a shade of azure to it, with The Blue Room taking honors there; it’s the performance venue for the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine district. And booking the Bronze is Chaz on the Plaza, the intimate setting at the base of The Raphael Hotel on the Country Club Plaza.

A day to get away? Priceless. And when locals here hit the road for a quick trip, they don’t have far to go to find quaint, in spades. Weston, Mo., a perennial Gold winner here, does it again—that’s 19 Golds all-time, and no other locale has ever unseated Weston’s charm for one. Silver goes to nearby Lawrence, Kan., which attracts not only a loyal KU alumni and fan base, but crowds who revel in the cultural amenities and retail bounty of Massachusetts Avenue. The Elms, Excelsior Springs, racks up the Bronze.

The lake life is an attraction all its own and a powerful one for folks from Kansas City and St. Louis alike. They meet—in large numbers—at the Lake of the Ozarks, which can accommodate them easily, as it has more miles of shoreline than the state of California by a long shot. Gold on that water, the readers declare. The quirkiness and cultural appeal of Branson, Mo., make it a Silver winner as the country music world’s vacation home.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming: You build a world-class performing arts center in the middle of Downtown, and the Gold medal is as good as locked in for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It’s won that title every year since its 2011 opening. Starlight retains its outdoor-venue charm and theatric appeal to readers who declare it worthy of Silver. 

Back-to-back Super Bowls, and three straight AFC championship games there, have made Arrowhead the sporting venue in greatest demand for fans. Small wonder, then, that the Kansas City Chiefs earn Gold for this category. The Kansas City Royals shine with Silver, while  Sporting Kansas City makes a strong charge in balloting to claim this year’s Bronze.