What to do in Kansas City

The City of Fountains

Kansas City is well-known for its tangy barbecue, its jazz and blues history and its more than 200 fountains, some of which date back to the days when horses were said to outnumber people in the city.

“The American Humane Society began putting water troughs at every corner to keep the horses hydrated and, over time, the fountains became more ornate and more popular,” said Derek Klaus of Visit KC. “Now the City of Fountains Foundation maintains a database of more than 215 local fountains.”

Today, the City of Fountains is cosmopolitan, yet authentic. While $10 billion worth of investment has been poured into the region, this city of more than 2 million people still treasures its easy-going Midwestern vibe.

“Kansas City is at the heart of American creativity — a home for arts, culture and innovation,” said Tim Cowden, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

As the home to major companies such as GarminSprintH&R BlockCerner, Hallmark Cards and Russell Stover Chocolates, plenty of business travelers find themselves swinging through the city for work.

“Visiting business travelers are always impressed by our thriving downtown, which includes a streetcar, galleries and dining options ranging from world-class BBQ at Jack Stack to cocktails at the Monarch Bar and whiskey tasting at the J. Rieger Distillery,” Cowden said.

If you’re in town for a business trip with just a few hours to spare, we’ve gathered some tips to help you make the most of your off-duty hours.

Downtown Kansas C

If a downtown meeting wraps up early, head over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is a short walk or Uber ride from the Plaza (officially, Country Club Plaza), a 15-block shopping, dining and entertainment district dotted with fountains.

Admission is free to the museum’s permanent collection and many of its temporary exhibitions, so it’s easy to stop in for a short tour of some of the museum’s vast holdings. For a quick bite, the museum has a restaurant and coffee shop and is open on Thursdays and Fridays until 9 p.m. There’s even a happy hour on Thursday evenings starting at 5 p.m.

Back on the Plaza you can take care of that age-old question: “What did you bring me?” The Made in KC Marketplace on the Plaza carries work by more than 200 area artists, designers and makers and has both a cafe and a bar.

And since you’re in Kansas City, you might want to tuck into some world-class Kansas City barbecue, known for the thick, rich tomato sauce lathered on during and after the cooking process.

“We slow-smoke our barbecue for several hours—sometimes up to 18—for that ‘low and slow’ Kansas City technique,” said Derek Klaus of Visit KC

One of five branches of Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue is on the Plaza as well. And if that’s not enough barbecue for you, the KC BBQ Experience app leads you to 100 more BBQ spots around town to explore between meetings.

If you haven’t changed out of your business attire and fancy an after-meeting cocktail in an opulent setting, stop into The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge, in the West Plaza district where the drinks take their inspiration from the flight paths of the Monarch butterfly.

For example, many cocktails celebrating the Monarch’s journey from Canada through the U.S. Midwest and into Mexico pair whiskeys and rums with citrus and fresh fruits.

Jazz and baseball history – plus a great selfie spot

Kansas City’s downtown 18th and Vine historic district is home to both the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and they are conveniently co-located in the same building.

The American Jazz Museum has listening stations and displays memorabilia and personal items that tell the stories of jazz legends. Don’t miss a rare treasure: Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone.

The museum’s Blue Room Jazz Club hosts live music four times a week, with several early shows that shouldn’t interfere with those morning meetings.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum features photographs, historical artifacts and interactive computer stations that document the story of the players and the teams from after the Civil War through to the 1960s. A mock baseball diamond with 10 life-size sculptures of the league’s greats is a popular centerpiece exhibit.

Two blocks away is the Paseo YMCA, the founding site of the Negro Baseball Leagues in 1920. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and outside there’s now a small baseball diamond where you can run the bases and take a photo in front of a large mural portraying Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Buck O’Neil and other Negro Leagues players who also played in the major leagues.

Wonders from down under

If you’ve finished your meetings and have a late afternoon or early evening flight, try one of these bonus attractions located not far from downtown.

The KC Streetcar is free to ride and will take you from downtown to the historic River Market area, and its year-round weekend farmers’ market.

The River Market is also home to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts.

The fully loaded Steamboat Arabia sank on the Missouri River in September 1856. The steamer lay beneath the water for decades. But with erosion, the river chaged course and a century later, the Arabia and its 60 tons of still-intact cargo was dug up from beneath a Kansas cornfield in 1988. The recovered treasure is on display. It includes everything from dishware and fine jewelry to guns, toys and still edible food.

For history with a twist, Uber over to the J. Rieger & Co. in the East Bottoms neighborhood, which celebrates the resurrection of a local distillery with roots dating back to 1887.

In addition to daily distillery tours (samples included), the site houses The Monogram Lounge (cocktails, coffee and small plates) and the swank Hey! Hey! Club.

Bonus: Anyone is welcome to take a ride on the 40-foot indoor slide.

A few bonus items:

I ran out of room in the CNBC story for two other Kansas City treasures.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is two world-class museums in one.

The toy side is home to one of the country’s largest collection of antique toys.

The miniatures side of the museum is filled with the world’s largest collection of fine scale miniatures. They may look like toy-sized, but they are highly crafted works of art that are not for children at all.

Kanas City International Airport (KCI)

You’ll likely arrive in Kansas City by airplane and wonder what’s up at Kansas City International Airport (KCI).

It’s getting a much-needed new terminal and has promised it will be ready to welcome everyone who will visit the city when it hosts the 2023 NFL Draft.

In the meantime, the coolest amenities you’ll find at KCI are the SouveNEAR vending machines filled with gifts, souvenirs and unusual items made by Kansas City artists. So there’s no excuse to go arrive home empty-handed.

Thanks for visiting Stuck at the Airport. Subscribe to get daily travel tidbits. And follow me on Twitter at @hbaskas and Instagram.

 

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