A first-timer’s guide to Kansas City

New to Kansas City? No problem. Consider this your quick primer to everything that is unique to this Heartland metropolis. You’ll soon discover there’s no place like Kansas City!

"The Big Three"

Jazz, fountains and barbecue. These beloved traditions are what come to mind when most people think of Kansas City. And for good reason … for they are still near and dear to the city’s heart and culture.

First, let’s talk about KC’s signature sound. Your visit would not be complete until you take in some of Kansas City’s famous jazz. During the roaring ’20s through the early ‘40s, jazz reigned in Kansas City. Head to the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District to learn more about the genre’s rich KC roots. The American Jazz Museum chronicles the city’s jazz legacy and showcases legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, and the Mutual Musicians Foundation hosts fierce, late-night jam sessions.

LANDMARK LOOKOUT: When you’re near 18th & Vine, be sure to stop by the Charlie Parker Memorial Plaza. A native to Kansas City, this famous jazz musician lives on with a 17-foot bronze sculpture that bears his likeness.

Kansas City’s love affair with fountains began with a rather practical purpose. The city’s first fountains were built by the Humane Society as water troughs for horses in the late 1800s, and they have since grown into cherished works of public art. So it's no surprise why this Midwestern metropolis has earned its bubbly nickname, the City of Fountains. Take time during your visit to tour some of our unique water features, including the Fountain of Neptune on the Country Club Plaza, the Waterworks Spectacular at Kauffman Stadium and the Civic Courtyard Fountain inside The Legends at Village West.

FOUNTAIN FACT: The Spirit of Freedom Fountain (Cleveland Avenue and Brush Creek Boulevard) is a tribute to the contributions of African-American citizens to the history of Kansas City.

When you’re hungry, you can’t go wrong with Kansas City barbecue. In fact, it’s practically a rite of passage for our visitors (and a symbolic one at that). As the Heartland of America, nearly everything here is a melding of ideas, concepts and thoughts pulled from other regions and improved with a Kansas City twist. That explains why today there are more than 100 area barbecue establishments in the area, each boasting its personal house specialty—ribs, pork, ham, mutton, sausage and even fish.


Kansas City’s international flair doesn’t stop at its beautiful fountains. See for yourself at the Spanish-inspired Country Club Plaza, KC’s famed shopping district. Modeled after sister city Seville, Spain, this 14-square-block, upscale entertainment district is filled with romantic Moorish architecture, outdoor artwork and intricate fountains. With such beautiful surroundings, it’s easy to see why shopping on the Plaza is considered by many to be an art form.

LANDMARK LOOKOUT: The Plaza’s iconic Giralda Tower, located at the corner of 47th Street and J.C. Nichols Parkway, is a half-scale replica of a Gothic tower in Seville that bears the same name.

Crown Center, the international headquarters for Hallmark Cards, is a must for families. The company’s fun and creative spirit is evident throughout the entertainment complex—from the hands-on art sessions at Kaleidoscope to its three in-house theatres. Crown Center’s outdoor plaza is home to numerous festivals and special events, as well as a winter ice terrace.

The Crossroads Arts District has become a haven for artists and hipsters. Old warehouses now house locally owned boutiques, restaurants and a thriving arts scene. During First Fridays, you’ll find thousands flocking to the district to tour the 60 galleries and shops open until 9 p.m. the first Friday of each month.


Kansas City’s museum experiences have garnered national distinctions and worldwide attention. The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial is the first and only American museum dedicated to preserving the history of WWI. The interactive facility depicts “the war to end all wars” with realistic exhibits such as a 20-foot, walk-in shell crater and chilling re-creation of No Man’s Land. Designated America’s WWI museum by Congress in 2004, the facility boasts the largest collection of WWI artifacts in the Western Hemisphere.

Fresh off a landmark expansion, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is widely known as one of the nation’s premier general art museums. It has received international acclaim for its comprehensive collection, particularly in the areas of Chinese art, European paintings and 20th-century sculpture. The museum’s bold Bloch Building expansion was named the “No. 1 Architectural Marvel” of 2007 by Time magazine.

FOUNTAIN FACT: Now located in the Nelson’s courtyard café, the Rozzelle Court Fountain is one of Kansas City’s oldest fountains. Dating back to 200 A.D., it is thought to have originally been one of the imperial baths of Rome.

A frequent stop for visiting dignitaries, presidents and celebrities, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a national treasure. From Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson to KC’s own Buck O’Neil, the NLBM chronicles the storied history and heroes of the leagues. Located in what was once the epicenter of the city’s African-American community, the museum was awarded national designation in 2006.

Congratulations! You’ve completed your crash course in Kansas City 101.

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