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The History of Kansas City Jazz

The Jazz Tradition Lives On

Kansas City is world renowned for its rich jazz and blues legacy. Jazz in Kansas City was born in the 1920s and continues today in clubs and events held throughout the city. More than 20 area nightclubs feature jazz on a regular basis.

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The roots of Kansas City jazz are quite varied. Blues singers of the 1920s and ragtime music greatly influenced the music scene. Settings such as dance halls, cabarets and speakeasies fostered the development of this new musical style. In the early days, many jazz groups were smaller dance bands with three to six pieces. By the mid-1920s, the big band became the most common. Territory bands also had an influential development on jazz. Many great musicians got their start in these bands, traveling up to 1,000 miles between jobs.

While jazz began in the 1920s with a bang, it flourished in the 1930s, mainly as a result of political boss Tom Pendergast. During prohibition, he allowed alcohol to flow in Kansas City. As an entertainment center, Kansas City had no equal during these dry times.

This "wide-open" town image attracted displaced musicians from everywhere in mid-America. Throughout the Depression, Kansas City bands continued to play while other bands across the nation folded. The city was shielded from the worst of the Depression due to an early form of New Deal-style public works projects that provided jobs, and affluence, that kept the dance-oriented nightlife in town swinging.

Only in Kansas City did jazz continue to flourish. At one time, there were more than 100 night clubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses in Kansas City regularly featuring jazz music. Legends like Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page and Jay McShann all played in Kansas City. A saxophone player named Charlie Parker began his ascent to fame here in his hometown in the 1930s.

Kansas City’s 12th Street became nationally known for its jazz clubs, gambling parlors and brothels, earning the city the moniker, “The Paris of the Plains.” At its height, 12th Street was home to more than 50 jazz clubs. Just six blocks to the south, jazz also flourished at 18th & Vine, which became nationally respected as the epicenter of the city’s African-American community.

Another great outcome of Kansas City jazz was the jam session. After performances, musicians would get together to exchange ideas and experiment with new methods of playing. The best local and out of town musicians would take part in these jam sessions that lasted all night and well into the next day.

Count Basie
Photo: Count Basie

Mutual Musicians FoundationMany downtown clubs were the scene of jam activity as well as the Mutual Musicians Foundation. This union hall, which still stands today as a National Historic Landmark, remains open on weekends for all-night jam sessions.

The Pendergast political machine collapsed after Tom Pendergast was indicted on tax evasion, reform elements took over and nightclubs and cabarets shut down. Jobs for musicians dried up and the bands took to the road. By 1942, with the turmoil of World War II, many of the musicians had been drafted. Finally, by 1944, the great Kansas City jazz era slowed down, but it didn't totally die out. Today, jazz still thrives in Kansas City.

In the history of Kansas City music, blues formed the basic vocabulary for KC-style jazz. The blues originated as a rural Black vocal music with a style improvised to the rhythms of work. That early rhythm evolved and gave birth to the blues, and eventually to Kansas City jazz, a kind of blues that jumps with a jazz sound. In fact, the city's first jazz recording by Bennie Moten in 1923 was "Evil Mama Blues."


Other KC Jazz Venues

Here's a list of member venues featuring live Kansas City Jazz.

22 total results returned.

12 Baltimore Bar & Café

Type: Cocktails Served | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of 12 Baltimore Bar & Café

Hot appetizers. Cold martinis. Cool people. One hip place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., live music Fri.-Sat., and brunch on Sun. Quality contemporary cuisine for all occasions. Located inside Hotel Phillips....
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Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City

Type: Casinos/Gaming | Location: Northeast

  • Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City has been rated 4 out of 5 stars

  • Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City is a Visitor's Choice
Photo of Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City

Designated as the 2012 "Best Casino” by Ingram’s Magazine, the 2011 Kansas City Magazine’s “Best of Kansas City” readers’ poll and 2011 Best Casino in Home in the Northland Magazine’s readers’ poll, Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City has become known as one of the largest and most impressive casinos in the country. Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City also was awarded Best Steakhouse, Best Buffet, Best Live Poker and Best Tournaments in the 2012 Casino Player Magazine’s “Best of Gaming” awards. Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City has more than 2,900 slot and video poker machines from traditional reels to video slots and with denominations ranging from penny slots all the way up to $25. Also, don’t miss out on the casino’s “Vegas Bonus” and “50’s Hit Bonus” areas. Both of these games feature random mystery progressive jackpots for the more adventurous slot players. The Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City also provides casino goers with 59 of the most exciting table games around, including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Let It Ride, Mini-Bac, EZ Pai Gow and Fortune Pai Gow Poker. The Ameristar Casino offers the highest stakes around with betting allowed up to $10,000 on select table games to allow guests to bet big and win big! In addition to providing guests with one of the best casinos in all of Kansas City, the Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City also provides visitors with a lush 184-room hotel which offers a mixture of suites and standard rooms featuring single king-sized or double queen-sized beds as well as 21st-century service designed for their comfort. Feeling hungry after the casino? With nine diverse dining options to choose from, Ameristar Kansas City offers an unsurpassed selection and variety of restaurants. Whether you are looking for a quick snack or a very special dining experience, we're certain that you will find just what you're craving with options such as The Horizon Buffet, Pearl’s Oyster Bar, Great Plains Cattle Company and many other delicious dining choices. ...
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Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa

Type: Casinos/Gaming | Location: Northwest

Photo of Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa

Discover Las-Vegas style gaming with non-stop entertainment and gourmet dining at Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa, located just five minutes from downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The award winning hotel features spacious accommodations and state-of-the-art amenities. Each guestroom includes an oversized walk-in Italian tiled shower with rain showerhead, 42” HD television, refrigerator and a work desk with internet. The breathtaking views of the city’s skyline make this hotel a must see. The excitement doesn’t end with the hotel. Take advantage of hundreds of slot machines and table games or unwind with a relaxing massage in the full service Spa, the options are endless! A number of gourmet and casual dining options are also available. From specialty martinis and unique sandwiches at Crazy Olives to wood-fired Angus Beef® steaks cooked to perfection at the Journey, there is something for every palate. Argosy is conveniently located just minutes from Kansas City International Airport and provides the perfect destination for business or leisure travel. The best experience in the city starts here with our luxurious hotel and spa and exciting gaming and dining! Free covered parking and outdoor parking is available. Valet services available for $5. Must be 21. Gambling problem? Call 1-888-BETS-OFF. ...
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Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland

Type: Concert Venues | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland

The Midland by AMC is Kansas City's premiere indoor theatre for live music, comedians, family shows and private events. Located in downtown Kansas City in the Power & Light District, the original Midland Theatre opened in 1927 and hosted many well-known artists throughout its history. Following a renovation in 2008, AEG Live now manages the theatre's entertainment bookings and operations. Since its grand re-opening, many spectacular artists have graced The Midland stage - Jerry Seinfeld, Kid Rock, Paul Simon, Yo Gabba Gabba, Bill Cosby, BB King, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Roger Daltrey, Jewel, Tony Bennett and many more! State-of-the-art sound, lighting and amenities enhance the historic ambiance providing a premium entertainment experience to guests of the theatre. The Midland by AMC features flexible seating configurations from standing to cabaret seating, with live-show capacity ranging from 1300-3000. The theatre is also available for corporate events, wedding receptions and private parties. The breathtaking banquet room, named Windows on Main, showcases dramatic views of the city from the fifth floor. And The Chandelier Bar highlights the entire top floor of the theatre and features a full-circle bar surrounding a large inverted chandelier. This general admission standing-only area has four large LCD televisions for viewing and enhanced sound reinforcement for optimal show enjoyment. The Indie on Main, a modern bar on the ground floor of 13th and Main Streets, boasts a full bar and lounge-style seating. The bar opens at 5pm on show nights and ticket holders inside the bar have the opportunity to enter the venue before doors open to the public. Without a doubt, there is not another venue like this in Kansas City! ...
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B.B.'s Lawn Side Bar-B-Q

Type: Cocktails Served | Location: Southeast

  • B.B.'s Lawn Side Bar-B-Q has been rated 5 out of 5 stars

Photo of B.B.'s Lawn Side Bar-B-Q

Where barbecue meets the blues in Kansas City! Recently featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. The Travel Channel picks BB's as one of the Top 5 must-see activities in Kansas City. Open Tue.–Sun. for lunch and dinner. Slow-smoked Kansas City barbecue in BB's 60+ year-old pit, and Louisiana favorites like gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice. Plus, BB's serves appetizers, soups and sandwiches -sliced thin, piled high. Check out our full menu....
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Blue Room, The

Type: Multi-Cultural Heritage | Location: Downtown Area

  • Blue Room, The has been rated 5 out of 5 stars

  • Blue Room, The is a Visitor's Choice
Photo of Blue Room, The

The American Jazz Museum's Blue Room is a museum by day and a working jazz club at night. Four nights a week, the Blue Room resonates with the sweet sounds of Kansas City jazz. As the only Kansas City club included in DownBeat magazine's list of the Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the world, the Blue Room consistently books top name national and international entertainers while it continues to showcase the best of jazz in Kansas City. Back in the 1930s and '40s, the Blue Room was one of the hottest nightspots in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. Located in the Street Hotel, in its heyday the Blue Room featured some of the biggest names in entertainment. Today that legacy plays on as part of the American Jazz Museum; however, the name is the only thing that remains the same. Designed to resemble a nightclub from the 1930s, the Blue Room is a multifaceted exhibit focusing on the Kansas City connection to the evolution of jazz, featuring a wall of fame exhibiting the images of those local musicians that made the Kansas City-style swing. Each of the nine tables are in fact display cases of rare artifacts from Kansas City's musical heyday when scores of nightclubs were swinging with sounds of live music. While in the Blue Room, you can view "soundies" from a video jukebox that features performances of jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and John Coltrane. Although smoking is prohibited in an effort to preserve the artifacts, alcoholic beverages are available at the bar and an appetizer buffet is available during Indigo Hour Friday evenings. Since its opening in September 1997, the club has built a loyal and ever growing following. Like its predecessor, today's Blue Room is one of the liveliest venues in the world with a strong heritage and a key part of sustaining Kansas City's place as the jazz mecca. Visit our online events calendar for information about performances and show times, or call 816-474-VINE (8463). To reach the Blue Room during night hours, call 816-474-2929....
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Club at Plaza III

Type: Jazz & Blues | Location: Country Club Plaza Area

Photo of Club at Plaza III

KC's Premier Jazz Club. ...
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Fat Fish Blue

Type: American | Location: Northwest

Photo of Fat Fish Blue

FAT FISH BLUE - all about good food, good music and good times! With a 50-seat patio and live music filtering out onto the sidewalk, this "Blues-n-Booze Joint" brings a touch of Bourbon Street to Kansas City." We're talking "American Bistro fare, with a New Orleans flair!" Besides gumbo, jambalaya and peanut butter pie, look for LIVE Blues & Jazz throughout the week....
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Green Lady Lounge

Type: Live Music | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of Green Lady Lounge

Green Lady Lounge features Kansas City Jazz musicians in the rich Kansas City tradition. Free of televisions you can focus on music, atmosphere and conversation....
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Harrah's Casino and Hotel

Type: Casinos/Gaming | Location: Northeast

  • Harrah's Casino and Hotel has been rated 5 out of 5 stars

Photo of Harrah's Casino and Hotel

Harrah’s offers 392 luxurious hotel rooms with 69 suites. The casino offers the best in gaming and entertainment with more than 1,400 slot and video poker machines, 47 table games and the only World Series of Poker room in Kansas City. Property features five restaurants including The Range Steakhouse, Mike Garozzo & Charlie Gitto’s Italian Restaurant, 810 Zone and The Buffet. Also, home of the VooDoo Lounge concert venue and nightclub. ...
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Isle of Capri Casino

Type: Casinos/Gaming | Location: Downtown Area

  • Isle of Capri Casino has been rated 4 out of 5 stars

Photo of Isle of Capri Casino

Conveniently located just minutes away from the downtown area, Isle of Capri Casino offers action-packed gaming, mouthwatering dining and captivating entertainment-all under one roof! We have more than 1000 of your favorite red-hot slots in a variety of styles and denominations. Then try a hand at one of our 18 lively table games. Enjoy four delicious dining options. Calypso's Buffet features a sumptuous all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, featuring crab legs every Friday and Saturdays. Order up a tasty burger with a side of fries from Tradewinds Marketplace or grab a quick bite to eat while you're on the go from Java Bay Trading Co. Party the night away and enjoy delicious food and free live entertainment every Friday & Saturday at The Lone Wolf bar and grill. There is always excitement at the Isle of Capri Casino. For more information call 816-855-7777. Hours of OperationOpen 24 hoursExcept for every Wednesday, 5am – 6am   ...
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Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen

Type: Cocktails Served | Location: Country Club Plaza Area

Photo of Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen

Let the good times roll! No swamps, where there is a dixieland band in every bite. Live music every night. We serve great cajun, creole delights. We re-create the sights, sounds and pleasures of New Orleans....
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Kansas City Power & Light District

Type: Shopping Centers & Malls | Location: Downtown Area

  • Kansas City Power & Light District has been rated 3 out of 5 stars

Photo of Kansas City Power & Light District

Visitors can now experience a new Downtown Kansas City with the Kansas City Power & Light District. The $850 million entertainment district - the largest new development project in the Midwest - has reenergized downtown, creating an entertainment, retail and dining hot spot for visitors and conventioneers. It transforms itself from a unique lunch and retail destination by day to an exciting dining and entertainment experience in the evening. Below is a list of venues in the Power & Light District either already open or opening soon. • 801 Steak and Chop House • Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet Theatre (6-screen all-digital theatre) • Angel's Rock Bar (rock bar with live and recorded music) • Balsano's Gelato Café • Bar Louie • BRGR Kitchen + Bar • Bristol Seafood Grill (2nd location for local seafood legend) • Chipotle Mexican Grill • Cosentino’s Market Downtown (gourmet grocery store) • Drunken Fish • Dubliner (Irish pub made in Ireland, literally) • Elements (Seasonal) • Envolve Boutique • Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (more than 225 beers from more than 15 countries) • Fuego • Garment District Boutique (retail) • GNC (features a full smoothie bar) • Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant (hand-crafted beer and made-from-scratch food) • HOTEL Nightclub • Howl at the Moon (dueling piano bar) • Indie on Main • Johnny’s Tavern (sports bar) • Jos.A.Bank • KC Live! • Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood • LatteLand Espresso & Tea • Living Room • Lovebird • Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge (premium Kentucky bourbon in sophisticated setting) • McFadden's Sports Saloon (Irish-themed sports bar) • Mema’s Bakery • Mosaic (South Beach-style lounge) • Organic Power Dry Cleaners • PBR Big Sky (country bar) • Pizza Bar • Polished (full-service nail salon) • Polished Edge Fine Jewelry • Rooftop Park • Shark Bar (nightlife with a Caribbean flair) • Sprint Studio (retail shop) • T-Moble • Tengo Sed Cantina (south-of-the-border flavor) • The Jones (pool and lounge) • The Marquee Lounge • The Midland by AMC (3,000 capacity live music venue) • The Mixx (homemade salads, soups and sandwiches) • Whopper Bar • Zafar, Spa & Boutique • Z-Strike Bowling...
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Knuckleheads Saloon

Type: Concert Venues | Location: Downtown Area

  • Knuckleheads Saloon has been rated 4 out of 5 stars

Photo of Knuckleheads Saloon

We are a 119 year old 2 story building who hosts the best live music in Kansas City! We are a Honky Tonk Blues Roadhouse, the kind you would find in Key West or South Texas. We have a cool, down home feel with a very relaxed atmosphere. So, come down and unwind while sitting inside our funky old building or sit outside in our large courtyard with a real caboose & large stage. While your here, stop by our kitchen and try our famous tacos, best in KC! Call for directions, tickets or information. Check out our website for a calendar of coming events ...
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Legends Outlets Kansas City

Type: Festivals | Location: West

  • Legends Outlets Kansas City has been rated 4 out of 5 stars

Photo of Legends Outlets Kansas City

Legends Outlets Kansas City is Kansas City’s premier outdoor shopping and entertainment center and the only designer outlet center in the market. With a diverse and exciting tenant line-up satisfying every style, every age and every price range. A true shopping destination since nearly half of the stores and restaurants have their only location in Kansas City at Legends Outlets. Some of the nation’s hottest retailers call Legends home, including Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, J Crew | crewcuts, Under Armour, Nike Factory, Banana Republic Factory Store, Forever 21, Ann Taylor Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBGMAXAZRIA Factory, White House | Black Market and many more. Legends Outlets also brings several first-ever restaurants and entertainment venues to the region, including Dave and Buster’s, The Legends 14 Theatre, Yard House and T-Rex – a 20,000-square-foot destination restaurant where dinosaurs come to life amongst extravagant theatrical settings including geysers, waterfalls and ice caves. Legends Outlets is located at I-70 and I-435 in the heart of Village West, the single largest tourist attraction in Kansas, which includes leading outdoor retailer Cabela’s, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Schlitterbahn Vacation Village Waterpark, Hollywood Casino, Great Wolf Lodge, the NASCAR Kansas Speedway, Northern League Kansas City T-Bones baseball team and Sporting Park, featuring concerts and the major league soccer team, Sporting Kansas City. Legends Outlets hours of operation are 10am-9pm Mon.-Sat., 11am-6pm Sun., with some stores and restaurants open extended hours. To learn more about Legends Outlets, call or visit Customer Service is available at 913-788-3700 8:30am-6pm Mon.- Fri., noon-5pm Sat. and is located across from Charming Charlie and under Dave and Buster's. View a listing of stores, events, deals and more at www.LegendsShopping.com. "Like" Legends Outlets on Facebook(www.facebook.com/LegendsOutlets), or follow on Twitter at @LegendsShopping. ...
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Mutual Musicians Foundation

Type: Associations | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of Mutual Musicians Foundation

The Mutual Musicians Foundation is located in the heart of Kansas City's historic jazz district. Originally home to the Black Musicians' Protective Union Local 627 A.F. of M., The Foundation continues its grand tradition as a living tribute to the city's long and illustrious musical history. Jazz greats and popular local players alike continue to show up every weekend, playing the night away just as they have since the 1930s. This national historic landmark hosts fierce late-night jam sessions each Fri.-Sat. midnight-6am. Jazz rush hour 4:30-8:30pm. Food & full bar. Located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. ...
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The Broadway Jazz Club

Type: American | Location: Country Club Plaza Area

Photo of The Broadway Jazz Club

The Broadway Jazz Club preserves, presents and promotes the best in Kansas City jazz. We offer the ambiance and cuisine to compliment the quality of our musical experience. Live music only happens once. We want to help you enjoy it.A unique venue in Kansas City, the Jazz Club that offers full service menu and a Sunday music Brunch....
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The Kill Devil Club

Type: Dining - All Restaurants | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of The Kill Devil Club

The Kill Devil Club is an adult oasis, downtown. It's Kansas City’s newest hotspot featuring hand crafted cocktails, plates for sharing and live music that moves you. For a full list of upcoming acts check out Facebook.com/KillDevilClubKC or KillDevilClub.com...
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The Phoenix

Type: Cocktails Served | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of The Phoenix

A Kansas City landmark! Locally owned and operated. Live jazz & blues five nights a week. Serving lunch and dinner ranging from seared crab cakes to sandwiches and desserts at a price that won't break your budget. ...
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Theater League

Type: Art Associations | Location: Downtown Area

Photo of Theater League

Theater League is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, performing arts organization dedicated to the development of professional legitimate theater, both as a cultural and an educational resource. Serving its constituent communities by producing and presenting live Broadway musicals, plays and live jazz in local performing arts centers, the League enriches the lives of more than 300,000 theatergoers annually across the United States.. Theater League's presentations include the top national touring companies of all of the major Broadway musicals of the last twenty-five years. In addition, the League's own in-house producing division mounts annual revivals of classic Broadway fare. Theater League presents live Broadway musicals, live theater, and live jazz in the communities it serves....
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VooDoo Lounge - Harrah's

Type: Concert Venues | Location: Northeast

Photo of VooDoo Lounge - Harrah's

It's time for Kansas City to rival Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles as a nightclub destination. VooDoo hosts the hottest parties in the Midwest. Nationally-known DJs are flown in each week to work their magic using one of the most sophisticated sound and lighting systems in the country. As the night heats up, flair bartenders entertain, VooDoo Doll Dancers set the pace and the crowd connects. Rock the VIP experience as we raise the velvet rope exclusively for your entourage. Party at your reserved table - bottle service provided. Contact VIP reservations at voodooreservations@harrahs.com. Dress Code: casual chic, fashionable attire required. No baggy clothing. No tennis shoes or sneakers. No athletic gear or jerseys. No fitted caps or baseball caps. No T-shirts or shorts. The dress code is at managements discretion....
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Westport

Type: Associations | Location: Country Club Plaza Area

Photo of Westport

Westport, Kansas City's original entertainment district, boasts a rich history as the oldest established community in Kansas City. More than 150 years ago, Westport marked the passage into the Western Frontier and set the foundation for what it is today; a thriving shopping and entertainment district. Westport is a fusion of local eateries, fashionable boutiques and hot night-spots compounded with remnants of the neighborhood's historic past. Annual Events Include: St. Patrick’s Day (March), Westport St. Patrick's Day Run (March), Summer Beer Festival (June), Art Westport (September), Holiday Open Houses (November - December), Westport Santa Dash (December) ...
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