Know your states
There is Kansas City, Mo., — sometimes called “KCMO” — and Kansas City, Kan. — “KCK.” They are two cities separated by the Missouri River on their north ends. The match is being played in Sporting Park in KCK, but most of the population, the area’s attractions, and what most people think of when they hear the name “Kansas City,” are in KCMO. Prices for everything are about what you’d pay in Salt Lake City.
The airport is on the Missouri side, 23 miles northwest of KCMO. A bus system, called The Metro, services both cities and its website offers apps you can download to find the next bus. There’s also a bike share program. A street car system is under construction but not yet in service. The easiest way to go distances is by car. Traffic and parking is about what you’d expect in Salt Lake City.
• Plaza Lights: Not even Temple Square can compete with the holiday illumination that occupies 15 square blocks of Country Club Plaza in KCMO. The lights shine 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily through Jan. 12.
• Negro League Baseball Museum: You won’t see the collection of memorabilia that occupies the Baseball Hall of Fame, but this KCMO museum offers a history of baseball and American segregation. I dare you to leave the museum without being a fan of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell.
• American Jazz Museum: Located in the same complex as the Negro League Baseball Museum, this museum is heavy on KCK native Charlie Parker and offers a history of the great American art form.
• Arabia Steamboat Museum • The ship sank near the cities in 1856 and was excavated in 1988. The artifacts recovered and placed in this KCMO museum provides a snapshot of the pre-Civil War America.
• Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to see a show, go look at the building, which opened in 2011 in KCMO. The architecture has drawn the attention of the PBS Newshour, among others.
• Fountains: Both cities are known for their many fountains, from big sprinklers in the middle of ponds to European style monoliths dribbling water. Go to www.kcfountains.com for a list.
Shopping and night life
• Power & Light District: It has an array of stores, restaurants and bars spread over an area of about 24 square blocks of KCMO. It’s also a good place to find jazz, something everyone should hear while in either city.
• Westport: It’s not as trendy as the Power & Light District, but Westport still offers a variety of shops and eateries.
• Country Club Plaza: It’s home to the aforementioned plaza lights, and has it’s own shopping, eateries and bars. Locals just call it “The Plaza.”
Where to eat
Barbecue is the delicacy in both cities. Kansas City-style barbecue is optimized by slow cooking the meat over wood and smothering it in a tomato- and molasses-based sauce. You can start fist fights over which is barbecue joints are the area’s best, but here’s a few places where you can’t go wrong. In KCMO, visit Arthur Bryant’s or Gate’s Bar-B-Q. In KCK, try Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue.
Don’t eat meat? These could be rough towns for you. Look for something in one of the aforementioned shopping and night life districts. There’s also a list of vegan restaurants at: www.opentable.com/kansas-city-restaurants
Farther out there
Some attractions considered part of KCMO are actually outside the city and should only be visited if you have a car and extra hours to spend. These include the Truman Presidential Library and the Kansas City Mormon Temple. The stadiums for the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs are also east of KCMO in Independence, Mo. The Chiefs are out of town Sunday.
Click here for a map of all these listings.
Nate Carlisle has been traveling to Missouri his entire life to visit family and is a University of Missouri alumnus.