Frequent travelers know about the major cities in the world and this is where they flock for the most part – Paris, London, Dublin, New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Singapore, Sydney, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Berlin…..but what about the lesser known gems that have a whole lotta culture but perhaps not the draw of a non-urban getaway that the allure of Canada or Patagonia’s natural beauty provides?
And yet, in the serene wildwest, Kansas City has it’s fair share of natural beauty, from sunsets to architecture as is the case of these two beautiful shots of the Kansas City Mormon Temple.
Rolling into Kansas City, you might just notice a quirky blend of a growing urban center with innovation and cultural activities you wouldn’t have expected ten or even five years ago. The city is changing and as it does, it gives a fresh new impression to the phrase America’s Midwest.
Some of this is due to the fact that Kansas City has had a history of hosting industries others haven’t – like Minneapolis in that there’s a twin city thang going on between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Kansas City is located in both the states of Kansas and Missouri.
While Silicon Valley has its fair share of hungry entrepreneurs hoping to launch the next Facebook and the pulse that keeps the area alive is all things tech, Kansas City still focuses on manufacturing. It may not be as sexy on the surface, but the investment here is supporting jobs and in a country that is seeing an increased division of rich and poor, a thriving economy with very affordable housing is becoming more and more unique not to mention compelling for those who are struggling to make ends meet in the urban centers on both coasts.
In addition to its known manufacturing investment, there are some new technology companies sprouting up, but they’re not quite the mom and pop bootstrap start-ups you see in Silicon Valley or more recently Israel. Think medical and health technology.
There’s also the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts which is less than three years old. As an annual media partner of Louisville’s Idea Festival, I’ve seen what organizations and performing arts center like their very own Kentucky Center for the Arts can do to not only boost cultural and technology activities in the area but an earnest re-faith and commitment to a second tier American city.
The new addition of the Performing Arts center has drawn more artists to the area, which due to the nature of the community of it, is a natural draw to younger entrepreneurs and as a result, start-ups. Yup, they’re coming. Like I’ve been seeing in other second tier American cities, like Missoula Montana, Portland Oregon and Boulder Colorado, which has already made huge leaps forward on the high tech start up scene, Kansas City is priming itself to draw a new wave of talent and with it, innovative ideas.
Below a shot of The Scout.
As the talent pours in, so does the demand for all things cultural, artsy and funky, which includes of course, great food. In the so called Power & Light District, which someone I chatted to once compared to San Diego’s Gas Lamp district in Old Town, there are a growing number of fun bars, restaurants, bistros and galleries across roughly eight blocks of real estate. Apparently locals refer to the area as the Kansas City “living room.”
Like some of America’s more southern counterparts, you can find great barbecue in Kansas City. In addition to great “eats” (see a few recommendations below), be sure to take in some of their more fascinating museums, like the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum and as mentioned above, the newer Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
For music, visit Knuckleheads, BB’s Lawnside and 18th & Vine for some classic blues and jazz.
For eats, give Yardhouse a try, and if you’re an Italian foodie fan, head to Garozzo. There’s also the American Restaurant for a more classic experience, The Magestic where you can hear jazz while you eat, and Oklahoma Joe’s and Arthur Bryant’s for barbecue. While Kansas City may not have the national barbecue reputation that Texas perhaps does, its barbecue history dates back to the early 1920’s.
For families, bring your kids to the Underground Railroad to learn some fun train history and Verrukt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City, the tallest waterslide in the world. They also tout great sporting events, from the Kansas Speedway to soccer and baseball games (look up Kansas City T-Bones and Kansas City Royals if you’re not familiar with the area). For football, the team to follow is Kansas City Chiefs.
Kansas City is also home to the SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium, where you and the kids can take in exotic marine life, including sharks, rays and other exotic fish. For the geekier among you, there’s Science City and the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium.
Since we’re huge fans of festivals and events at We Blog the World and cover a lot of them, we’d be remiss not to mention some of Kansas City’s annual to-do’s. If you’re a festival lover, be sure to check out the Kansas City Irish Fest (go Ireland), the Crown Center Antique Festival (yup, I love antiquing despite leaving my New England roots around nearly a decade ago) and the more well-known Fiesta Kansas City.
The city is in growth stage I’m told and there is certainly an interest in bringing innovation, great food, culture and arts into the area. If the Midwest is part of your hit list, be sure to add Kansas City to it, particularly if you’re traveling with a family.
Photo credits in order: ldschurchtemples.com (both temple shots), Red Bubble, wikipedia (The Scout), Power and Light District from PowerandLightDistrict.com.