KC Attractions

KC Attractions

12th Street and Vine

In the ‘20s and ‘30s, 12th Street was nationally known for its jazz clubs, gambling parlors and brothels, and earned the city the moniker “Paris of the Plains.” At its peak, it was home to more than 50 jazz clubs. Now, it’s a piano-shaped park, with the keys as parking places.

FYI – Vine doesn’t go through from 18th (the interstate cuts it off.) So, taking a walk between the two locations is out of the question.

12th and Vine 
Kansas City, MO
18thandvinedistrict.org

18th and Vine District

Historic District, Jazz, Baseball, BBQ, Signage, Movies

It was the roaring ‘20s, and 18th and Vine was the center of the black community at the time. The stage at the Panama Club was their showcase. It was also the beginning of Mayor Tom Pendergast’s political era, with the lax enforcement of liquor, gambling, and prostitution laws making Kansas City a “wide open” town.18th and Vine was jumping.

Not only will you find the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Jazz Museum, the Gem Theater and the Blue Note, and more – you might notice the old storefronts and signs – remnants from the 1990 Robert Altman film, “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.”

18th and Vine
Kansas City, MO
816-474-8463
18thandvinedistrict.org

American Jazz Museum

At its height in the ‘30s, Kansas City had more than 200 jazz clubs. Music could be heard at all hours of the day and night. It was one giant jazz party. This is the only museum devoted solely to this truly American art form.

Kansas City’s jazz heydays of the 1930s included Walter Page’s Blue Devils and Benny Moten’s BB and D band. Benny’s band was quickly noticed by record producers and eventually got a recording contract, along with a newcomer in the band named Count Basie. Kansas City-style jazz was soon introduced to the world. Among the other jazz greats to come out of our city were Big Joe Turner, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and L.C. “Speedy” Huggins.

1616 East 18th Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 474-8463
americanjazzmuseum.com

Boulevard Brewing Co.

Local brewery, Tours

Back in 1988 John McDonald began construction of the brewery in a turn-of-the-century brick building, while living there with his wife and children. He installed a vintage Bavarian brewhouse, and the first batches of beer were produced in the fall of 1989. The first keg of Boulevard Pale Ale was delivered—in the back of John’s pickup truck—to a nearby restaurant.

Boulevard has grown to be the country’s 10th largest craft brewer. Their gold medal-winning Unfiltered Wheat Beer is a best seller in the Midwest. Be sure to call ahead for a tour – it’s fun and they serve up samples. (Of course, you have to be 21 or older.)

2501 Southwest Boulevard
Kansas City, MO
(816) 474-7095
boulevard.com

Christopher Elbow Chocolates

Christopher Elbow, once worked as a pastry chef for Emeril Lagasse in Las Vegas and local favorite American Restaurant. Today, he is best known for one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” — artistic, divine chocolates.

Elbow also offers Glace Artisan Ice Cream. Flavors are always changing, and if you ever get the chance – try the bacon ice cream…yes. Imagine pancakes, bacon and syrup – all that breakfast goodness in ice cream. If that isn’t enough, he collaborates with Boulevard Brewing yearly around Valentine’s Day for Chocolate Ale…really good when mixed with their Stout.

1819 McGee Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 842-1300
elbowchocolates.com

Country Club Plaza

Shopping district, Gangster folklore

The dining is fine, there’s shopping galore and the third weekend in September brings the renowned Plaza Art Fair. Of course, the Plaza lights at Christmas are legendary. But it’s the concrete that paves Brush Creek that has the story.

Legend has it that back in the 1930s, political big wig and Ready-Mixed Concrete Company owner, “Boss Tom” Pendergast buried his enemies beneath City Hall or Municipal Auditorium. Although evidence points to the contrary, it was heavily rumored that more were disposed of under the thickly paved Brush Creek on the Plaza. Guess who was awarded the contract for those jobs?

Alas, the creek was found to have been paved with 10-12 inches of concrete… The Kansas City Star noted it was “insufficient for burying any but the skinniest political enemy.” (Don’t you just hate it when facts get in the way of a good story?)

Back to the Plaza itself…developed by J.C. Nichols, and designed by architect Edward Buehler Delk, it opened in 1923 to immediate success as the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers with cars.

The design reflects architectural influences of Seville, Spain, although it doesn’t have the traditional open plaza, despite shopping district’s name. More than 30 statues, murals, and tile mosaics grace the area, as well as architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized version of Giralda Tower of Seville, which is the tallest building in the Plaza. They also have the exact light fixture reproductions of San Francisco’s “Path of Gold” streetlights.

4706 Broadway St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 561-3456
countryclubplaza.com/Index.htm

Crossroads Art District

Galleries, restaurants and shops

Welcome to the epicenter of Kansas City’s art scene, an enclave of galleries, restaurants and shops located in renovated warehouses and industrial buildings. Hallmark, the Art Institute, and a kajillion ad agencies and design studios provide the raw materials (aka artists).

The infamous First Fridays began back in the ‘90s, when gallery owners Jim Leedy and John O’Brien were lured to the area by cheap rent in old buildings. They invited the city to see their wares, all under the guise of a street party. And it has been going strong ever since.

19th Street and Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO
kccrossroads.org 

Janssen Place

Beautiful neighborhood

This Hyde Park enclave of homes built between 1897 and 1917 were conceived by the railroad magnate, urban planner, and staunch believer in fairies, Arthur E. Stilwell. It has been widely reported that he took business advice from the otherworldly sprites. (Remember, this was around the time of Maxfield Parrish, and “spiritualism” was the trend du jour among socialites.)

Often referred to as “Lumberman’s Row” because of the large number of lumber and construction tycoons who originally lived here (although it is ironic that none of the homes are wooden structures…brick, stone and stucco rule the road.) But still, a hidden gem.

Janssen Place
Kansas City, MO

Kemper Art Museum and Cafe Sebastienne

Contemporary art, Upscale cuisine

A giant spider and a “Crying Giant” grace the lawn of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. They have more than 1,000 pieces of art are here, including paintings, sculptures, installations, prints, and works on paper, as well as photography.

Great art isn’t the only they serve up. The restaurant is a place of beauty, both culinary and esthetically. Chef Jennifer Maloney uses fresh seasonal ingredients and local organic produce in her innovative menus. (The Reuben is one of the best in town, as are the fish tacos.)

4420 Warwick Boulevard
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-5784
kemperart.org

Municipal Stadium

This legendary stadium near 18th and Vine played a pivotal role in Kansas City’s BBQ and jazz scenes.

Municipal was home to the minor league Kansas City Blues (then the Athletics) from 1923 to 1954 and the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues during the same period. Later, it was the stage for many of the shenanigans of Kansas City A’s owner Charlie Finley. Once he tried to shorten the distant fences by creating Pennant Porch, a tiny bleacher section in right-field, to mock the famed short right field fence at Yankee Stadium. He was vetoed.

Ever the showman, Finley had a small zoo with goats and sheep as well as a picnic area that stood behind the right-field fence. When home runs were hit into the field, the goats and sheep would head for the proverbial hill. Finley also replaced the Athletics’ old elephant mascot with a live mule, named “Charlie-O.”

Best yet, on September 17,1964, the Beatles played Municipal Stadium as part of their first U.S. tour…on their their day off. Finley offered their manager, Brian Epstein, the then-record amount of $150,000 to perform. The Fab Four opened the concert tour and honored the our town with their medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey,” songs they did during their Hamburg days, and never sang again in the U.S.

Odd thing was, only 20,000 people filled the 35,000 seats, as many were protesting Finley and the losing franchise. (over 45,000 now claim they were there.)

Now, a plaque and pile of dirt mark the historic spot.

22nd and Brooklyn
Kansas City, MO 

National WWI Museum at the Liberty Memorial

High on a hill in Penn Valley Park, the Liberty Memorial honors the fallen soldiers of World War I and also houses the The National World War I Museum. Visitors enter the across a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each flower representing 1,000 combatant deaths.

Artifacts on display cover the entire first World War, from the first shots in 1914 to the last attempts at peace in 1919. They have both the common items carried by the soldiers in the field, as well as rare treasures of national significance are here.

Dedicated in 1921, you can see the Liberty Memorial from most places in KC. At night, the top of the memorial tower emits steam illuminated by bright orange lights, creating the illusion of a burning pyre.

100 W. 26th Street
Kansas City, MO
816-784-1918
theworldwar.org

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was founded in 1990 by a group of former Negro Leagues baseball players, including Kansas City Monarchs outfielder Alfred Surratt, Buck O’Neil, and Horace Peterson.

The walls are lined with pictures of players, owners, and officials from the Negro League of 1920 through the Negro American League, which lasted until 1960. By far the most impressive aspect of the museum, however, is the Field of Legends. You can walk onto a field filled with nearly life-sized bronze statues of twelve figures from Negro league history.

1616 East 18th Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 221-1920
nlbm.com

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Art Museum, Photo collection

The museum boasts an impressive Chinese art collection as well as works by regional favorite, Thomas Hart Benton. It is also home to the famed Hallmark Photographic Collection, with over 8,000 works spanning the history of photography.

In 2007, the Bloch Building was added and its architecturally-award winning architecture is beloved by most. The architecture is beautiful at night and from certain vantage points, just not when viewed along Rockhill Road during the daylight.

4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 751-1278
nelson-atkins.org

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige Gravesite

Satchel Paige rose above his humble beginnings to become a true sports hero. He played 27 years with the Kansas City Monarchs, and was known for sharing his secrets for staying young:

1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society.
The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.

6901 Troost Avenue
Kansas City, MO

Sprint Center & Power and Light District

Big arena events

Looking like a glass spaceship that plopped down on downtown, the high tech Sprint Center is home for sports, concerts, collegiate competitions, tournaments and special events, and acts as the cornerstone for the Power and Light bar district, (a convenient spot for meeting friends before that big, big concert or Big 12 tourney).

1407 Grand Boulevard
Kansas City, MO
816-949-7100
sprintcenter.com

Steamboat Arabia Museum

On September 5, 1856, the Steamboat Arabia, a side wheeler steamboat, hit a snag in the Missouri River and quickly sank in the mud near Parkville.

It was rediscovered in 1988 by a team of researchers. The mud proved to be such an effective preservation agent, the yellow packing straw was still visible. Thousands of artifacts were recovered intact, including jars of preserved food that are still edible. Today, those items are in the museum.

Random “fact”: The site where the boat sank is an unassuming field about half a mile from the river and believed to be haunted by “Patchy,” a local drifter who died under mysterious circumstances.

400 Grand Boulevard
Kansas City, MO
(816) 471-1856
1856.com

Western Auto Sign

Old neon and bulbs

The 58-ft-tall landmark sign consists of 2,500 light bulbs and 1,000 feet of neon. It sits atop a 1915 “pie slice” building, which was originally the Coca-Cola Building. In 1932, it was sold to the Western Auto auto parts chain, founded by George Pepperdine (who went on to found Pepperdine University). The iconic sign went up in 1952.

Today, the building has turned to condos, but the renovated sign still shines brightly in the downtown skyline.

2107 Grand Blvd
Kansas City, MO
en.wikipedia.org

Westport

When the sun goes down, Westport gets hopping. There is truly great food here and shopping, but let’s be honest, Westport is about drinking. With more than 20 bars squeezed into about 2 square blocks, this has historically been the place folks go to celebrate (or commiserate).

Kelly’s is the oldest building in KC, and if you look up to the second story window, you will see a nod to Westport’s past. By 1850, Westport was the outfitting and starting point for traders, trappers, and emigrants heading west on the Santa Fe Trail and Oregon Trail. The Battle of Westport was fought there in October 1864. Now, it’s just the battles of drunken idiots.

4050 Pennsylvania Avenue
Kansas City, MO
816-531-4370
westportkcmo.com

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