To say I was looking forward to spending a day in Kansas City was an understatement. On the previous four days I had driven five, seven, eleven, and four hours - the last day in a cold rain. I needed a break. A place to rest and recover that would also be fun. A place to quietly get some work done in the morning and then explore the rest of the day. A place where we could stay in a central location and explore a few areas on foot, grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and head back to the hotel. Kansas City crushed those checkboxes. The one day and two nights we spent here didn't feel like enough and I'm eager to return for a second visit and use Kansas City as a spring board to attend a University of Kansas basketball game or take a deep dive into Nebraska and Iowa.
We stayed in the Cross Roads section of KC, which was a cool area in its own right but also a short walk up to the Power and Light District. In a COVID world the financial district was empty but it was still a fun area to explore. There's a PT's Coffee in the neighborhood.
I started researching things to see in Kansas City and began to see that there's quite a bit here. And given that Missouri was a mostly open state during COVID the sites were open. I started the exploration at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th and Vine District - an historically Black section of the city. The Museum did a good job of explaining the history of the Negro Leagues and what Black players faced as they traveled from city to city - there were cities where the teams couldn't stay in hotels so the team bus drove around for hours knocking on homes looking for a place where the players could spend the night.
The Museum provides background on Negro League stars and has a baseball diamond in the center of the Museum that is an All-Star team of sorts with Satchel Paige on the mound and Josh Gibson Catching.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum shares a space with the American Jazz Museum - given that my Dad and I were taking turns watching my dog, neither of us opted for the combo ticket to see this museum but I made a note to check it out on a return visit. I did swing around to the back side of the Museum to snap a photo of the Charlie Parker Memorial.
On the corner of 19th Street and The Paseo is the Buck O'Neil Tribute Park. O'Neil was a longtime manager of the Kansas City Monarchs and the one who brought the Negro League Baseball Museum to fruition. He was a longtime ambassador for the game of baseball and his lack of inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame has to be the greatest outstanding injustice in the game today. While his stats as a player may not qualify him for the Hall of Fame, his role as an ambassador certainly does.
While my Dad was in the Museum I also drove past the nearby Kansas City Workhouse, an abandoned castle of sorts.
After the Museum we drove to the Plaza District. In the manner that Philadelphia is known as a City of Murals, Kansas City is known as a City of Fountains. Below are images of the JC Nichols Memorial Fountain. On a future visit, with hopefully warmer weather, I'm going to take a self guided fountain tour of the city and explore each neighborhood fountain by fountain.
The Plaza area is also home to high end shopping.
The Slabs look like a former fountain that is now a skate park. Kansas City does a good job of having different sections of the city that are worth exploring and having small but interesting sites like this where you can get out of the car, walk around, and get a feel of the area.
Kansas City is also home to the National World War One Museum and Memorial. My dad went through the Museum in the morning while I was doing work - another reason for me to return to Kansas City would be to check out this Museum.
Across the street on the north side of the National World War One Museum is Union Station, Kansas City's Amtrak Station. This was a bustling location even if train track is no where close to what it once was. There was a mezzanine level that allowed for an overhead view so all the activity could be seen.
What impressed me the most about Kansas City was how it managed to blend old and new. How it managed to have many different neighborhoods that could stand on their own but also felt connected. It was a fun city to explore. The images below are of the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts and the Grand Ballroom of the KC Convention Center. The city has a great collection of civic and public buildings - the city feels much grander than I expected.
You can't leave Kansas City without eating BBQ. Our first night we went to the legendary Arthur Bryant's. The second night we went to Joe's, which is considered the best in the city. We waited nearly an hour to get these sandwiches but my dad and I both agreed to was worth the wait. The first two images are of Joe's famous Z-Man sandwich, the third image is a brisket sandwich. The meat was much juicier than Arthur Bryant's, which felt a bit overcooked, and the sauce was sweeter, tangier and more of it.