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Playing Tour Guide in Kansas City
Friends are in town and looking to enjoy a night out in KC. Or family pays a weekend visit and needs a personal tour guide every step of the way. Thankfully, some of the city’s best ambassadors are Kansas Citians themselves, often because locals just can’t seem to get enough of KC. But where to start and how to pack everything in is always the hardest part.
Here are some of the best ways to show a guest around KC:
Things to Do and See
Essential Kansas City experiences aren’t hard to come by—often the most iconic are out in the open or towering in the sky, beckoning out-of-towners to visit.
There’s the city’s incredible assortment of museums, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a free institution consistently recognized as one of the best museums in the country, and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. While you’re over there, head into Union Station for a glimpse of the landmark’s beautiful architecture—and internationally renowned traveling exhibits.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts stands out in the city’s skyline—and regularly hosts ballets, orchestral live shows and more. If exploring neighborhoods is more up your alley, check out the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District, birthplace of Kansas City jazz, as well as home to the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
All along the way, be sure to keep an eye out for KC’s many famed fountains (more than 200 dot the landscape). Start at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, one of the city’s most well-known spouts, which can be found right across the street from Country Club Plaza.
It’s impossible to show off the best of Kansas City dining in a single weekend. Actually, you could spend an entire month eating a meal a day at just barbecue restaurants and still not have dined at half of the establishments in town. They don’t call us America’s Favorite City for Barbecue for nothing.
When guests are in town, they’ll no doubt want to sample our famous cuisine. Check out Gates Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant’s for old-school tastes. These innovators made KC barbecue what it is today. Get gas station gourmet at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, an international sensation thanks in part to the Z-Man sandwich.
Nobody can agree on which place is the best, but a local favorite is LC’s Bar-B-Q. With five locations throughout the metro, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue is great dining no matter where you happen to be.
But barbecue is far from everything here. Kansas City’s booming foodie culture is a full-on phenomenon, with appetites reaping the rewards. Get a taste of the city’s iconic meals, such as the Kansas City strip steak, or try out farm-to-table deliciousness at The Farmhouse. Make Gram & Dun and its inventive menu of new American flavors a must-try.
High-caliber cuisine takes center stage at The Rieger with Chef Howard Hanna at the helm, while James Beard Award winners each run the show at Extra Virgin and Farina (Michael Smith); and Bluestem and Rye (Colby Garrelts). Venture into Westport for a one-of-a-kind take on Mexican (and amazing brunch) at Port Fonda.
Lunch and dinner aside, no Kansas City trip is complete without brunch. Try out a mid-morning meal at La Bodega, known for its authentic Spanish tapas menu. Bristol Seafood Grill boasts one of the best brunches in town. The best part? It’s buffet-style. Or make it a boozy brunch by going to Summit Grill & Bar in either Waldo or Lee’s Summit.
As most locals know, KC can’t be encapsulated in a single experience, meal or place. The longer people stay and the more places they visit help visitors better understand exactly what makes this city so great. When showing guests around town, be sure to take them to some of the coolest neighborhoods and places to hang out, such as crafty cocktail bars, smooth jazz clubs and relaxed coffee shops.
Go underground at Manifesto, an actual speakeasy operating beneath The Rieger in the Crossroads Arts District. Explore the area while you’re in the Crossroads. You’ll find it’s a paradise of artistic inspiration, an avant-garde neighborhood as eclectic as it is cool. Take in some of KC’s signature jazz scene at Green Lady Lounge, one of the city’s many music clubs.
KC’s expansive brewery scene makes the perfect exploration opportunity for guests, no matter where the tour takes you. Spend time at the new Boulevard Beer Hall, where exclusive, trial flavors are available in an innovative beer hall setting.
In between the sights, meals and hangouts that comprise a visit to KC, your guests will find that the city shines brightest when shows, festivals and more come to town. Major annual events fill up the calendar month to month while live shows bring artists of international, national and local renown to the Paris of the Plains.
Big-time competitions like the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship attract large crowds from all across the country to Sprint Center in the Power & Light District while art shows like Art Westport continue traditions 35+ years in the making. Timing a visit can be critical to creating a lasting memory—and fostering a friend’s love for KC.
With all of this in mind, it’s vital to remember the best part about playing tour guide in Kansas City: no matter how often your visitors return, there’s always something new to see, interesting to explore and delicious to try.