Split in two by a state border, the Kansas City metropolitan area has a geography unlike that of any other American city.
Its primary urban center sits to the east in Missouri, while Kansas is home to a smaller sister city sharing the same name, a section of suburbs, and an international airport. This physical, and at times cultural, divide leaves many travelers wondering where to stay and what to do when visiting this Midwestern hub. Choose a hotel in downtown Kansas City and you will be close to many attractions. Here are five great aspects of Kansas City life that will inspire you to turn your wanderlust toward the region.
Image via Flickr by deanhochman
Barbeque Is Serious Business in Kansas City
Image via Flickr by mliu92
Home to more than 100 barbeque restaurants, several annual grilling competitions, and a barbeque society touting thousands of members, Kansas City is a stronghold in the American barbeque tradition. Its popularity is largely attributed to Henry Perry, a Tennessee native who moved to Kansas City in 1907. Within a year, Perry was serving his special style of smoked meat to local workers from an alley stand. Within a decade, Mr. Perry became a local legend, and customers from a range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds sought his renowned dishes.
In the era that followed, immigrants from Texas and other southern states brought an influx of other meat-grilling techniques. Now Kansas City barbeque is a melting pot of techniques focused on a variety of meats — including pork, beef, lamb, mutton, and fish — as well as the dry-rub and sweet tomato-based sauce that are key to its flavor. Barbeque is a must-try for anyone visiting the Kansas City area.
Kansas City Has a Rich Jazz Heritage
Image via Flickr by TheSeafarer
In the 1920s and 1930s, Kansas City was an incubator for the city’s distinctive style of bebop and swing-infused jazz. Musical greats like Charlie Parker and Count Basie solidified their sound here. In any of the city’s 200 jazz clubs, musicians could be found playing in an all-night jam session. Today, jazz clubs are still part of the fabric in Kansas City still and organizations like the Mutual Musicians Foundation host events at which “jazz greats and popular local players alike continue to show up every weekend, playing the night away just as they have since the 1930s.” The American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th & Vine district facilitates concerts, exhibitions, and educational opportunities to commemorate this musical genre’s influence on Kansas City culture.
Kansas City Has More Founts Than Any Other American City
Image via Flickr by Sangre-La.com
With more than 200 public and private fountains, Kansas City is rightly known as the City of Fountains. In the late 1890s, architect and urban planner George Kessler erected the city’s first fountains in an attempt to beautify the city. Many that followed have served as memorials to war veterans, influential citizens, and notable causes or, more practically, as sources of drinking water for people and animals alike. A fun way to experience Kansas City is through the lens of its water sculptures. Summer is a great time to go hunt for fountains, because many of them do not run during the colder months of October through April.
Kansas City Has an Eccentric Collection of Museums
Image via Flickr by danxoneil
In addition to more traditional museum offerings, Kansas City is home to quirkier exhibitions like the home where renowned criminal Jesse James died, the money museum at the local Federal Reserve Bank, a psychiatric history museum, a carousel museum, an outdoor sculpture park featuring giant shuttlecocks, and Leila’s Hair Museum, which touts a 2,000-piece collection of objects made from human hair. Such nontraditional collections make Kansas City culture and history entertaining.
Kansas City Has a Growing Craft Beverage Culture
Image via Flickr by KCPT
Recently, Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Kansas City seventh among the top 20 coffee cities in America, reflecting the emergence of locally made cold-brew coffee and craft-brewed beer brands. A behind-the-scenes look at The Roasterie‘s coffee factory, a brewery pub crawl, or a tour at one of the dozen or so microbreweries in the city will offer insight into the Kansas City perspective on these popular beverages.
These are just a few fun facts offering a glimpse into the culture, history, music, and cuisine of Kansas City, but there’s much more to explore in this Midwestern city. Find out for yourself when you set out for Kansas City!