Many people ask ‘What is there to do in Kansas City?’ And any true Kansas Citian would respond, ‘Well, what isn’t there to do in Kansas City!!!’ So if you’re a tourist planning to visit KC, throw on a Kansas City heart shirt and blend in with the locals! If you’re a local and are somehow bored by the visitor center’s slogans ‘60 miles means 60 minutes’ and ‘Kansas City: 3 hours from NY, 3 hours from LA’, here’s a helpful guide to visit the world without leaving Kansas City!
Tired of hearing how Kansas City has more boulevards than any city besides Paris? Or Rome is the only city with more fountains? Let’s take a look at what worldly attractions you can see when you visit KC!
Rome’s Pantheon, sorta.
Tucked away on Independence Avenue, the Independence Boulevard Christian Church was built in 1905. Using a Greco-Roman style, the rectangular main entrance features columns with a traditional pediment. This opens to the domed roof and circular sanctuary. It’s a stretch, but the architectural elements hint at the grandeur of Rome’s ancient Pantheon. It’s first century architecture features a giant concrete dome behind a rectangular, columned entrance. See the similarities? There are plenty of things to do in Kansas City besides eating BBQ! With a massive organ and seating for 1200, this edifice also features wall to wall carpeting, something you will not find at the Pantheon. If that isn’t enough, go across the street to the San Antonio Meat Market and pick up some absolutely delicious tacos.
Paris of the Plains, Part Un
Over the past twenty years, America has become the most jingoist country in all the world! Kansas City has never shied from building beautiful monuments to war, and despite being Liberty Memorial’s little brother, the Rosedale Arch is a monument to the men of the neighborhood who served during World War I. Standing tall on its hill at 35 feet, it also plays the role of little brother to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe’s 164 foot height. In true ‘Paris of the Plains’ fashion, the meager monument’s wikipedia page does the heavy lifting, simply stating: “A groundbreaking ceremony held on July 20, 1923, featuring French General Henri Gouraud, was more impressive than the opening ceremony after the arch was completed.” The groundbreaking must have been one hell of a party!
Sure, you can travel to Bilbao, Spain and visit Frank Gehry’s masterpiece Guggenheim Museum! But tucked away in the East Village is the headquarters of the Zahner Company. Responsible for an array of wild, world class projects in Kansas City (Kauffman Center) and museums, college buildings and stadiums the world over, Zahner is at the top of its field. Surely it’s headquarters stands as a testament to its prowess, it’s best foot forward, right?
Well, if you squint, it sorta resembles the Guggenheim, despite what that slapdash craftsmanship says. So what if the headquarters looks like piles of snow refusing to melt in April. Still, a free ride on the 11 is a lot cheaper than plane fare across the globe! There’s not much in the barren, pre-Royals ballpark industrial landscape, but an Aldi’s is nearby!
The Paris of the Plains, Part Deux
Kansas City got the moniker ‘the Paris of the Plains’ because it was a cultural oasis among the midwestern plains. Laid out with a master plan with wide boulevards and fountains recalling the grand cities of Europe, it was a culturally elite city with jazz and art flourishing on every corner. Of course, the title wasn’t heavily contested, with Des Moines and Saint Louis being the only competitors.
It’s true, Kansas City has marvelous cultural experiences! Arts thrive here, museums prosper, and there’s enough of a draw to maintain a beautiful, world class performing arts center. It’s built up a solid contingent of delicious, locally sourced restaurants and more than its share of breweries, with locally sourced ingredients. There’s also an earnest, thriving Midwestern tshirt culture.
But I’m always more interested in the things that keep Kansas City Kansas City. Like the one woman who drives the streetcar, over zealously leading hometown pride chants while zipping down Main Street. Turning on a Chiefs game to see 68,000 shitheads doing a racist chant in facepaint. All of these things are necessary tools to keep the city off anybody’s ‘cool’ radar. Nobody needs tech bros moving in and flooding the streets and neighborhoods, driving up housing prices and unloading their douchebaggery. But more than anything else, the KCTV Broadcast Tower in smack dab in the middle of Midtown seals the deal for me!
The KCTV Tower stands in at 1,042 feet, a mere 41 feet shorter than the tip of Paris, France’s Eiffel Tower! Next time you’re picking up oversized jars of mayo at Costco, look up and imagine the Eiffel Tower there! If you concentrate hard enough, you’ll be transported to a land of culture, croissants and beauty beyond compare. All from the relative safety of your Costco parking space!
Hollywood Kansas City Walk of Fame
You may think that’s all Kansas City has to offer, but whoa boy, are you wrong! Located on the cusp of (west?) Crossroads along 18th Street is a near forgotten Hollywood Walk of Fame! Among the stars who have stars embedded in the cracked, uncared for concrete sidewalks are Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers, and Robert Altman. The stars are in front of the the Film Row Professional Building, which sounds like it may be a front for the mafia or a legitimate space for film and video production companies.
There are no dates listed, but I’m going out on a limb and just assuming this Star Walk came after Hollywood’s. It probably had a really good opening party in the deserted streets of downtown in the mid 90s when Robert Altman was in town filming Kansas City. Go down and take some pictures! Walt Disney is the guy who brought us Disney+ and probably is trying to buy this blog right now to add to its media empire. Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels! And Town Topic is just a few blocks away, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Kansas City Outclasses Omaha!
You don’t need to be told, but you can ENTIRELY skip Nebraska!
Save yourself a three hour trip to Omaha by checking out the old New York Life Building on West ninth. The exact same building was built a few years later in Omaha! The hits just keep on coming! Who needs to visit a 2/3 scale version of Kansas City anyway? The KC Library and Milwaukee Deli are both close by, also worthy of a quick stop to refresh yourself.
Harry S Truman Peace Bridge
Down by the River Market you can walk right up to an overlook over the Mighty Missouri River. You can relax and enjoy the historical Harry S Truman Peace Bridge. Sure, it’s not his Presidential Library in Independence, but it has a story all of its own! And when you’re in the River Market, pick up a great Neapolitan pizza at Il Lazzarone. Then stop in for a cold beer at the Blue Line.
There’s Plenty of Things To Do in Kansas City!
Despite Missouri’s awful track record of voting in absolutely horrible jerks into office, Kansas City is a fun place to visit! There’s far more to see here than cows and fields of wheat. People are generally embarrassingly nice. The city is a breeze to navigate and there really is a world class selection of large and small museums. There’s a healthy art scene, lots of shows, comedy and concerts, and plenty of places to get late drinks. So stop on by and have a go!