Kansas City and its suburbs, partially in Missouri and partially in Kansas, is our closest "big city," our nearest international airport, and a favorite day-trip destination. Home to one U.S. President, the Chiefs football team, and great barbecue (Do you prefer KC Masterpiece or Gates?), Kansas City's nickname is "the city of fountains." Supposedly, it has more fountains than any other city in the world except for Rome.
Here are my top six destinations in Kansas City and its suburbs, in no particular order of delightfulness. (Please note that I did not include restaurants or coffee shops. Those deserve a future post of their own.)
Union Station opened to the public in 1914 and saw 271 trains pass through daily during World War 1. Many World War II soldiers passed through this station, and "Meet me under the clock," became a catch phrase. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and it now contains an Amtrak station, post office, science museum, two theaters, a planetarium, world-renown traveling exhibits, a coffee shop, several restaurants, and so many KC Chiefs photo ops and fans.
Country Club Plaza is an outdoor shopping center, designed after the architecture in Seville, Spain. Walking the fifteen blocks of beautiful buildings feels like a taste of Europe, where you never know when you might happen upon a bubbling fountain, a tile mosaic, a carriage full of people, or a pretty girl posing on a flight of tiled steps. On one side The Plaza borders Brush Creek, and the small bridges give it the atmosphere of a European canal. Christmas is the best time to visit, when almost 80 miles of strung lights turn it into a wonderland.
This old neighborhood is full of unique restaurants and coffee shops, all built around the River Market. The main market square hosts a farmers' market every weekend, but the main attraction are the ethnic restaurants and shops surrounding the square. You can sample cuisine from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Brazil, and Morocco...buy imported olive oil at the Italian deli or fresh-baked pita bread at the Middle Eastern store. A block over is a large Chinese grocery store that hits you in the face with the odors from its fresh fish area, and if you walk far enough, you'll get to a trail that takes you along the Missouri River. A free street car runs from the market, through the bustling Power and Light District, and all the way to Union Station.
My all-time favorite place to visit in the state of Missouri: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The building was constructed in the 1930's, and the museum is in the top ten largest art museums in the US. Some of my favorites are the paintings of Van Gogh and other Impressionists, the Egyptian mummy, the French 14th Century cloister, and the medieval stained glass windows set high into the wall so sunlight can pour through. The two-story cafe with the Italian fountain feels like you're eating in an Italian square, and the Chinese Temple Room fills me with awe. This place deserves its own post.
The Liberty Memorial was constructed in memory of those who died in World War 1, and it was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1921. All the Allied leaders of WWI attended the service, marking the first time in history that The Big Five were in one place. Above the bronze doors to the Exhibit Hall is inscribed a verse from Deuteronomy: “Lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen.”
The WWI Museum was constructed around the Liberty Memorial and opened in 20006. The Liberty Memorial is a National Historical Landmark, and the museum is the nation's dedicated World War I museum.
Most impressive to me is the entrance, a glass walkway over a vast field of red poppies, a token to John MaCrae's poem "In Flanders Field." Each of the 9,000 poppies represents 1000 combatants’ deaths during WWI.
The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum opened in 1957. It recently underwent major renovations, which I'm curious to explore. Truman's life spans so many interesting eras, which the museum explores: from a Midwestern farm boy, to a solider in WWI, to becoming President towards the end of WWII, to the beginning of the Cold War, and through the Korean War. Truman faced many tough challenges as President, but now in retrospect, historians tend to rank him among the top half dozen American presidents.
For a smallish city in the Midwest, Kansas City offers a lot. I love my city, and I would sorely miss it if we ever moved to another part of the country. And since many cross-country routes pass through KC, maybe next time you're passing through you could plan for some extra time to stop and explore.
Have you visited Kansas City? Do you have a favorite spot, perhaps one I missed?