Brush up on your City of Fountains trivia with these 26 things every visitor should know about KC.
A is for American Royal
Cowboy up for one of KC's tastiest traditions, the annual American Royal Barbecue. Thousands of amateur chefs flock to KC to take part in the saucy event each year. The downtown venue also plays host to livestock shows and the PRCA Pro Rodeo.
B is for Barbecue
When most people think of Kansas City, barbecue comes to mind. Today, there are more than 85 area barbecue establishments, each boasting its personal house specialty— ribs, pork, ham, mutton, sausage and even fish. KC barbecue is always slow-smoked over wood, usually hickory, and the sauce is added right before serving.
C is for Country Club Plaza
This 14-block outdoor shopping and entertainment district is filled with romantic Spanish architecture, European art and dazzling fountains. Designed in 1922, the Plaza features boutiques and fashionable national stores as well as distinctive restaurants, outdoor cafes and nightlife hotspots.
D is for Dynamic Arts Scene
The arts are alive in KC with more than 60 galleries in the Crossroads Arts District, one of the most concentrated arts neighborhoods in the country. Just a few minutes from downtown, you'll find the nationally-known Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (both free). No wonder Kansas City boasts the highest percentage of visual artists per capita in the country!
E is for Earhart, Etheridge and other famous names
Aviation legend Amelia Earhart hailed from nearby Atchison, Kan., and musician Melissa Etheridge grew up in Leavenworth. Other celebrities who have called KC home: actor Paul Rudd, artist Thomas Hart Benton, journalist Walter Cronkite, American Idol champion David Cook and professional golfer Tom Watson.
F is for Firsts
The American Jazz Museum downtown was the first museum in the country devoted exclusively to jazz. In nearby Liberty, Mo., famous outlaw Jesse James and his gang committed the first daylight bank robbery during peacetime in 1866. Attached to the stunning Liberty Memorial is the National WWI Museum and Memorial, the first American and only national museum dedicated to The Great War.
G is for Gourmet dining
Just ask Saveur, one of the nation’s top culinary magazines, who recently proclaimed KC “America’s next great culinary destination.” “We all know about Kansas City’s reputation as a great barbecue town,” the magazine noted, “but recently there’s been a fantastic wave of smart, new high-end cooking that’s been lighting a fire in the heart of America.”
H is for Hallmark
Joyce C. Hall arrived in Kansas City in 1910 with two shoeboxes full of postcards and a dream. Today, the company he founded produces more than 2 billion greeting cards each year in more than 30 languages for more than 100 countries. The Hallmark Visitors Center at Crown Center tells the story behind the world's largest greeting card company.
I is for Inventions
The list of Kansas City ideas is a diverse one and includes the McDonald’s Happy Meal, Wishbone salad dressing, the bumper sticker, jazz jam sessions, Chicken Spiedini, Rival crock pot, the multi-screen theater concept and M&M’s candy coating.
J is for Jesse James
The famous outlaw grew up in nearby Kearney, Mo., where there is a festival held each year in his honor. History buffs can tour his childhood home in there, or visit the Jesse James Bank Museum in nearby Liberty, the site of an 1866 James gang robbery that cost the bank nearly $60,000.
L is for Live Theater
The stages are rarely dark in KC. The Kansas City Repertory Theatre, one of the top regional theater companies, has two performance stages in town. Kansas City's oldest theater, The Folly, still hosts a wide range of quality events for the community. Crown Center's Coterie Theatre specializes in productions for young audiences. To catch an offbeat show, head to the Unicorn Theatre where alternative, contemporary shows reign.
M is for Mickey Mouse
The man behind the mouse once called Kansas City home. Walt Disney attended the Kansas City Art Institute in the early 1920s, and then opened his first animation studio downtown, Laugh-O-Gram Studios. There, legend has it that Disney befriended and fed a small rodent in the building, later saying it was the inspiration for Mickey Mouse.
N is for Night owls
Kansas City is open late! To the delight of late-night revelers, many of KC’s bars and jazz venues remain open until 3 a.m. And after the bar closes, keep the party going at one of KC’s five casinos, all of which stay open around the clock.
O is for The Great Outdoors
From cultural festivals to historical festivals, from art fairs to barbecue competitions, KC has an outdoor festival or event to match any interest. In fact, the Urban Institute ranked KC third among the country's top 50 cities for its astonishing number of events and festivals.
P is for "Paris of the Plains"
Jazz flourished in KC in the '20s and '30s when political boss Tom Pendergast went against prohibition by allowing alcohol to flow freely in the city. Consequently, Kansas City's 12th Street became nationally known for its numerous 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 and more than 100 night clubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses.
Q is for Quirky Museums
Go off the beaten path with hidden gems such as the Arabia Steamboat Museum—which offers a rare glimpse of pre-Civil War life through the buried treasure of a sunken 1856 steamboat. The Glore Psychiatric Museum chronicles the history of the treatment of mental illness in America. Leila's Hair Museum houses 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing or made of human hair dating before 1900.
R is for Rome
Today, Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains, boasting more fountains than any other city in the world, except maybe Rome. While the exact number of fountains is not known, it's estimated that more than 200 fountains flow in KC.
T is for Truman
Nearby Independence was the hometown of President Harry S. Truman and is now the location of his memorial Library and Museum. The museum's two permanent exhibits chronicle the Missourian's private life and political career—with intimate theaters depicting his most difficult decisions like using the atomic bomb. The museum's courtyard is President Truman, his wife, Bess, and their daughter Margaret Truman Daniel's final resting place.
U is for Underrated
Kansas City was recently rated one of America’s Top 10 Most Underrated Cities by Yahoo! Travel. Other buzzworthy KC ratings of the moment include: America’s Best Downtowns (Forbes), America’s No. 1 Affordable Getaway (Travel + Leisure), Top Cities for College Grads (Monster) and one of America’s Seven Emerging Innovative Centers (Wall Street Journal).
V is for Vitale
Kansas City is a college basketball mecca. In fact, the city has hosted more NCAA basketball games than any other city in the U.S., and Municipal Auditorium has hosted more Final Fours than any other building in the country (10). The downtown College Basketball Experience is a hoops fan favorite with hands-on interactive basketball exhibits and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame featuring Dick Vitale, Larry Bird and other college basketball legends.
W is for Westport
Once the gateway into the Western Frontier serving migrants traveling the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails, Westport eventually became Kansas City's original entertainment district. Today, Westport is a fusion of local eateries, fashionable boutiques and hot night-spots mixed in with reminders of the neighborhood's historical past.
X is for XOXO
There's no such thing as a hopeless romantic in Kansas City. There is much to do on a getaway for two including theater and ballet performances, intimate restaurants and a stay at one of KC's several cozy bed & breakfasts. Don't forget, a date night in the city is never complete without a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of the picturesque Country Club Plaza.
Y is for Yardbird Parker, and All that Jazz
From the roaring '20s to the early '40s, jazz reigned in Kansas City, producing the swinging signature sound that became known as Kansas City-style jazz. The city's 12th Street became world renowned for its jazz clubs and glamorous parlors. Legends like Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Count Basie, Andy Kirk and Joe Turner all played in KC. Today, live jazz can be heard around town at more than 20 area nightclubs.
Z is for Zilch. As in you pay nothing, zero, free!
As the Associated Press put it, "Budget-minded travelers have a buffet of penny-pinching options in the City of Fountains…" In fact, many of the city's attractions cost nothing at all. Take a tour of local Boulevard Brewing Co.; explore one of the Midwest's largest farmers markets at City Market; partake in a 40-gallery art crawl on First Fridays—all for FREE.