“IT HAS LONG BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE SINGLE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD IS ARTHUR BRYANT’S BARBECUE AT EIGHTEENTH AND BROOKLYN IN KANSAS CITY.” CALVIN TRILLIN OF THE NEW YORKER FAMOUSLY PENNED THAT TRIBUTE. BUT HE WAS ONLY TOUCHING THE SURFACE OF WHAT DEFINES KANSAS CITY.
Many in Kansas City, and beyond, might very well agree with the famous author, but even if they don’t, visitors and residents alike are bound to conclude that being a serious restaurant town is one of the area’s many entertainment and culture attributes.
First, the barbecue. Kansas Citians will argue over what’s the best in town much the same way that New Yorkers debate over the best pizzeria or Philadelphians fret over the top cheesesteak joint. Arthur Bryant’s is certainly a much-lauded first pick, as is Gates BBQ, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Joe’s and Slap’s BBQ. And visitors from all corners of the earth come to sample them all.
Almost as traditional as barbecue in the metro is its Mexican cuisine, which has been an area fixture for generations on Southwest Boulevard; around Kansas City, Kan.; and other pockets of the metro. Meanwhile, several other eateries, representing different global cuisines and
independent-business ideas, are constantly opening around the metro area. And if chain restaurants are your thing, most of the country’s biggest players can be found in the Kansas City area.
In some of the most food-filled neighborhoods, the arts also have a strong presence. On the first Friday of every month, the Crossroads area’s galleries are open to the public, and artists display their work on the streets and in galleries along with live music and food trucks. The Country Club Plaza, the area’s best-known shopping district, has an annual art fair in the summer, as does the Westport neighborhood,
which is known for its restaurants, bars and nightlife-entertainment.
Jazz and nightlife go hand in hand, and Kansas City is known as one if its historical hubs. Visitors can learn about its history and influence at the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine district, which has its own attached club, the Blue Room, and is near other venues, such as the Green Lady Lounge. Live music is abundant throughout town, at rock clubs such as the Record Bar, in the Crossroads; Knuckleheads,
in the Northeast neighborhood; and the Uptown Theater, near Westport. Kansas City’s many independent record stores also have regular free live performances featuring local acts.
Outdoor venues that attract out-of-town musicians and other performers include Starlight Theatre, in the beautiful, sprawling Swope Park, and Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, in Bonner Springs, Kan.
For more high-brow tastes, the striking arch-shaped Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, downtown, features performances by the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet, as well as out-of-town musical guests and other events.
Meanwhile, in the Hyde Park neighborhood is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which has 40,000 works in its collection from regions all over the world across time periods ranging from ancient to contemporary, including pieces by Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, and other famous
For all ages and families, there is the Kansas City Zoo, which sits on more than 200 acres in Swope Park. Divided by region of the world,
visitors can see lions, elephants, polar bears, kangaroos and hundreds of other animals.
South of the city, in Overland Park, Kan., is the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, which sits on 300 acres and is undergoing a $12.4-million capital campaign. In the Crown Center area, home of Hallmark Cards’ headquarters, Legoland Discovery Center has several impressive exhibits and hands-on activities. Next door is the Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium, home to seahorses, sharks, jellyfish, octopus and other species.
The adjacent Crown Center mall offers shopping and dining next to an urban outdoor space. Nearby is historic Union Station Kansas
City, which, in addition to servicing two Amtrak routes, is home to Science City, which has 120 interactive displays, as well as travelling exhibitions. Also in Union Station is the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium, which underwent a sizable renovation and expansion in 2017.
A seasonal family draw is the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun theme park complex, which counts seven roller coasters, three water rides and several other entertainment attractions. In the late summer and fall is the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, which features medieval-
themed games, rides, performances, food and other entertainment.
Plenty of outdoor activities in the area don’t cost a dime, with the abundance of parks in around the city that have athletic fields, nature trails–and, of course, barbecue pits.