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With Seville-inspired architecture and an eclectic patchwork of neighborhoods, Kansas City is an exhilarating fusion of history, soul and influences from around the world. And though the “Paris of the Plains” got its nickname during Prohibition, today the vibrant destination is in its most exciting chapter yet. Discover the “New Midwest” with these 16 attractions you won’t want to miss.
In 1915, The Rieger was a functioning hotel, and a famed one at that – checking in guests such as Al Capone. Its basement is now cocktail lounge Manifesto, which pays homage to the space’s Prohibition past, back when it functioned as a speakeasy. Expect moody, low lighting, soft music and strong drinks. The cocktail menu is particularly adventurous, but the classic gimlet is always a winner.
The entertainment epicenter of Kansas City truly comes alive at night. The city is renowned for its live music scene, and you’ll find plenty of great spots to catch a concert or impromptu performance. It’s also where you can have a ball at a host of clubs, restaurants and venues like the Midland Theatre (which first opened in 1927) and Sprint Center, a major sports and live entertainment arena.
The Kansas City Zoo is often recognized as one of the top zoos in North America, covering 200 acres of Swope Park. It’s home to more than 1,700 animals, and you’ll find unique habitats such as the Orangutan Canopy, Helzberg Penguin Plaza and African Sky Safari, allowing visitors to catch all the wild action up close.
Kansas City’s sister city is Seville, Spain, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Country Club Plaza. The first outdoor shopping center in the US is landscaped with fountains, cobblestone pathways and Spanish-style architecture. There are 100 shops and 30 restaurants worth exploring, and if the weather’s nice, make a beeline for a rooftop terrace at the upscale Parker at The Fontaine or popular O’Dowd’s gastrobar. Once you leave the Plaza, visit the JC Nichols Memorial Fountain to grab a picture of an iconic landmark.
Jazz, barbecue and local history is how you can sum up the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. Hit this part of town to learn about Kansas City’s contributions to music at the American Jazz Museum and retrace the area’s history at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, housed in the same building. Attached to the jazz museum is the Blue Room, a jazz club where you’ll find more rare memorabilia and lively shows several nights a week.
A trip to Kansas City wouldn’t be complete without visiting the National WWI Museum and Memorial – the world’s most comprehensive collection of artifacts, videos and immersive experiences dedicated to the history of The Great War. The Liberty Memorial tower and galleries were first opened to the public in 1926, and the museum continues to educate visitors with an impressive trove of everything from antique weapons and propaganda posters to soldiers’ uniforms and equipment.
Root, root, root for the home team, the Kansas City Royals, at the legendary Kauffman Stadium. Also known as “The K,” the ballpark was built in 1973 – but today it gives sports-loving visitors more than just a ballgame, with views of the impressive City of Fountains and stunning Midwest landscapes from the stands. There are also quality refreshments available from hometown favorites Boulevard Brewing Company and Belfonte’s Ice Cream, as well as AZ Canteen from celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern.
A jewel in the crown of the Downtown skyline, the historical Union Station is a cultural center in one of Kansas City’s most beloved buildings. You’ll discover the KC Rail Experience, a planetarium, Science City and a museum with rotating exhibits. Past shows have explored the history of Pompeii, the Titanic and Da Vinci – and for the best view of the grand halls, sit and dine on the upper level at the much-loved Harvey’s.
This single park makes for double the fun (with only one admission fee). At Worlds of Fun, rides and rollercoasters for all ages are split into five sections, themed after the book Around the World in Eighty Days. From May to August, Oceans of Fun is where you can cool off by kayaking in Buccaneer Bay, swimming in the wave pool or launching yourself down a water slide.
The grand entrance of Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa is just a teaser of the decadent spirit you’ll find inside. Slot machines, table games and high-limit games are naturally all available to play, but the Argosy isn’t just a casino: the complex contains an in-house spa and six dining options. Spend the night in one of the rooms or suites in the casino’s hotel and continue the fun the next day.
The best bookstores are often warrens crammed with shelves of aged titles, inviting book lovers to peruse at their leisure. This is exactly what you’ll find at Prospero’s Books, which has been a literary hub in Kansas City for more than 100 years. Located on the lively 39th Street West, the three-story store is packed full of stories for everyone, whether in the form of a well-loved novel, a used vinyl record or a classic movie. The bookstore also hosts monthly events including author readings and themed music nights.
The Crossroads Arts District is Kansas City’s creative pulse, as it’s home to more than 300 local artists and 100 studios, making it one of the most densely concentrated gallery districts in the US. It’s also where you’ll find Art Alley, brimming with incredible street art and best explored on foot. But aside from the cutting-edge artwork, there’s plenty more to be enjoyed here. If you’re around for the monthly First Fridays, the district turns into one big block party, with many bars, restaurants, galleries and boutique shops staying open later, often with live music.
The West Bottoms is a historic neighborhood full of antique treasures and vintage goods waiting to be found in its impressive warehouse spaces. It’s worth passing by for the day to bag a bargain, but make a few stops while you’re there: sip small-batch roasted coffee at local favorite Blip Roasters, dine on hot chicken at Lucky Boys, or sample craft beer at Stockyards Brewing Company.
Founded in 1887 in the West Bottoms, the distillery fell victim to Prohibition before being revived in 2014. Distilling craft whiskey, vodka, gin and other spirits, the brand has become a beloved local favorite with Kansas Citians and beyond. This summer, J. Rieger & Co. will open a new distillery location; it will continue to offer tours and tastings but in a bigger space with a bar and lounge. It will also showcase a historical exhibit that’s a nod to its unique past, as it prepares for its next chapter.
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