Stepping Out: Kansas City

By Erika Mailman

Kansas City, Missouri, offers a pleasant mix of urban and midwestern, and is a cultural hub with long-standing jazz traditions, a famous penchant for barbecue, and a reputation for friendliness. The Power & Light District downtown is a busy center for shopping, dining, and music, where you can stare up at clustered skyscrapers, including the beautiful art deco building for which the neighborhood is named. Sports fans can cheer on the Royals, and the city’s 200 bubbling fountains provide a relaxing soundtrack for rambles around town.

A city of sin?
During Prohibition, Kansas City was known as the “Paris of the Plains” due to its flagrant embracing of alcohol (it was the only major city that refused to pursue bootleggers and nightlife that involved jazz and brothels). Today, that independent spirit and pursuit of joy carries over into the city’s many brewpubs. KC Bier Co serves German beer brewed with a medieval process; you can step outside to the traditional biergarten to enjoy it or stay inside the bierhalle attached to the brewery. A firefighter looking for entrepreneurial opportunities on his “second shift” opened Double Shift Brewing Company, a five-barrel brewhouse in a former bicycle shop. If craft cocktails are more to your liking, Julep Cocktail Club focuses on whiskey-based concoctions with a southern flair. Repeal 18th Bar & Bistro has 400 brands of whiskey—and gourmet pizza to boot.

Succulent and tangy
Meat lovers will dig in with relish. At Jack Stack Barbecue, indulge in burnt ends, brisket, pulled meat, ribs, sausage, and everything you could wish for in a restaurant setting. B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ is more of a slide-into-a-picnic-table-with-strangers scene, with live music. Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque is self-service; roll your meat up in Wonder bread and savor the sauce that three presidents have loved!

Visual arts abound

With a sculpture park playfully anchored by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s four 19-foot-high Shuttlecocks, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has something for everyone. From works of contemporary art by Louise Nevelson and Andy Warhol to ancient antiquities from Europe, Africa, and the Near East, the collections cover impressive territory. The First Fridays art scene is a happening with food trucks, street music, and 10,000 other art lovers moving on foot from gallery to gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

A little ditty
Looking for live music? One fan says going to CrossroadsKC is like seeing a show in someone’s backyard. Green Lady Lounge offers traditional live jazz nightly in a retro environment. The Phoenix lets you imbibe in a one-time speakeasy and enjoy live jazz, blues, soul, folk, and R&B. The chicken and waffles make the night more fun.

Shades of the past
Covered wagons passed through Kansas City on the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails. Vestiges of that history can be found in the Arabia Steamboat Museum, a fascinating collection of artifacts salvaged from the Arabia, which sank in the Missouri River in 1856. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum pays homage to the unsung heroes of African American baseball history. The National WWI Museum and Memorial honors those who served; residents raised today’s equivalent of $34 million for the memorial in just 10 days.

See it all before you go

Google features Kansas City as its inaugural roll-out city for its Arts & Culture platform. The site has compiled artifacts and artwork from 15 different arts organizations and includes 360-degree panoramas from places such as the Black Archives of Mid-America and Harry S. Truman’s home, where the telephone nook holds an avocado-green rotary dial phone and the table is set for dinner. DW

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