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Kansas City Missouri

Photo by Bruce N. Meyer

Kansas City Missouri Itineraries

Kansas City Barbecue Bonanza

Kansas City for Art Enthusiasts

Kansas City for Sports Lovers

Kansas City in 48 Hours

Kansas City Outdoors

Kansas City with Kids

An energetic, low-cost Midwestern gem with fabulous food, sports and art

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Here’s something you probably don’t know about Kansas City Missouri – Walt Disney drew his first mouse while living here.

Here’s something else you probably didn’t know – the NCAA was founded in Kansas City, where we now host more tournament basketball games in March than any other city in the U.S.  The FFA was also founded here.

What else might you not know about Kansas City – the City of Fountains? There are more than 200 of them, by the way.

Located in the heart of America’s Heartland, metropolitan Kansas City is home to more than 2 million really friendly people who scream for their world-champion Royals baseball team, chant for their Chiefs football team, and roar for their Sporting KC soccer team.

It’s an energetic, youthful community where street cars keep us moving in style and bike trails are expanding as fast as the bike share program can keep pace.

When Google launched its first fiber community with the world’s fastest internet in 2013, it chose Kansas City, unleashing an entrepreneurial flurry of creative ideas and business acumen resulting in the nickname “Silicon Prairie.” You might not have heard of the Cerner Corporation, but there’s a pretty good chance that wherever you are in the world, the company’s technology are managing your health care information. Yep, Cerner is based in KC.

Of course, Kansas Citians are quite familiar with start-up companies. A guy named J.C. Hall came to town in 1903 and started a little business you might know as Hallmark Cards.

And brothers Henry and Richard Bloch started a little accounting business using their initials – H&R Block and you’ll find their name on art museums and theatres around the city. McDonald’s Happy Meal got its start in KC, as did a guy named Russell Stover.

All of those companies and our sporting teams have reached their zeniths as a result of the people who share their creative spirits, their passions and their lifestyle. A beautiful system of parks, boulevards and fountains welcome visitors and nourish locals, creating lovely neighborhoods, engaging museums and so many festivals and events that there’s always something happening in town.

Those are just a few things of the fun things about Kansas City that those of us who live here love about our home.  We’re more than a spot in fly-over country; we are the heart of the heartland.


Start with these itineraries:

Explore all of this and much more on both sides of the state line, starting with itineraries for families/kids, those who love the outdoors, sports lovers, art enthusiasts and those who have a weekend to kill and 48 hours in Kansas City.


When To Go

How Much Time To Spend

You can experience a lot of Kansas City in a nice three or four day weekend, depending on your interests and how well you manage your time. But you can also fill a full week of activities, based on the season.

Weather and Climate

Kansas City experiences the best and worst of all four seasons. Spring can be lovely and fall always wonderful; summer can be brutally hot. Temperatures touching 100 degrees in July or August are not uncommon. Who can tell about winter anymore?

Some years, the city doesn’t get more than a couple of snow flurries and some years, it seems all we do is shovel January and February. Temps can be mild, in the 30s or so; or they can be brutal for a few days in the single digits.

Events and Holidays

Three events really define Kansas City.
March Madness. Kansas City hosts more basketball games via tournament than any other city in the US during the month of March. It starts with the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center and a big party in the Power & Light District, followed by women’s tournaments and the NAIA. Did you know the NCAA was founded in KC?

American Royal BBQ Contest. The first weekend of October brings about 500 of the country’s top competitive barbeque teams to Kansas City for what is called the World Series of BBQ. About 70,000 people attend the three day festival.

The Plaza Lights. From Thanksgiving night until early January, the Spanish architecture of the Country Club Plaza is illuminated with hundreds of thousands of lights. Carolers, carriage rides and other events make the district festive.

National Holidays: Thanksgiving night draws about 200,000 people to the Country Club Plaza to flip the switch on hundreds of thousands of lights throughout the shopping district. The Friday night after Thanksgiving, the holiday crowd descends on Crown Center, the home of Hallmark Cards, for the lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. It’s often one of the largest live trees in the country.

St. Patrick’s Day is a huge event in Kansas City with a massive parade, special masses and other events at the Irish Heritage Museum. The nation’s oldest Irish-owned business is Browne’s Irish Deli in Kansas City. About 1 in 8 Kansas Citians claim Irish heritage.

Opening Day of Baseball, although not recognized by Congress as such, is a national holiday for baseball fans across the country. The opening day for our boys in blue is a special day indeed. The city’s 200 fountains run blue and not a lot of office work gets done the first day of the season when hopes are high for another post-season run.

January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Day
February (third Monday): President’s Day
May 8: Harry Truman’s Birthday (celebrated in Missouri)
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day (aka Native American Day)
November (11th): Veteran’s Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas

Time Zone

Time Zone: Kansas City is located in the Central time zone.

To check the local time in Kansas City, click here.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (early March, on a Sunday morning at 2AM). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (late October or early November on a Sunday morning at 2AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’

What To Pack and Wear

Kansas City is extremely casual in most places most of the time. Jeans or slacks and a nice shirt will do just fine. Few restaurants require more.

Pack shorts and light weight clothes for the summer, rain gear for spring, and hats/gloves for winter. Your royal blue Royals T-shirt will garner lots of smiles and make you feel like a local.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their “friend” or subscribe to their e-mailings.

 Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ’em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8-10 per hour; gas and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)

Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation – About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical – Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption – For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay – Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage – Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework – check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include, RoamRight, Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions – Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance – If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.

Coins in wide circulation include pennies (1 cent), nickels (5 cents), dimes (10 cents), quarters (25 cents). The 50 cent and dollar coins are seen occasionally.

Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so plan to have $20s or smaller bills in hand.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs
If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash back” when paying for your goods – this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.

Credit Cards
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Some companies issue cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are often held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:

Restaurants:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill.

Hotels:
Most bell staff receive $1-$2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5-$10.

Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2-$3 per day and about $5 per day in higher end properties.

At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets, or simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Current etiquette calls for $10-$20 per person, per day for concierge help. Car valet staff expect $1-$2 for delivering you your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.

Other costs:
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Getting There

Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is located “north of the river” at the intersection of I-435 and I-29, about 20 minutes from downtown. It is beloved by most locals, but sometimes considered limited by visitors. Its multi-terminal lay-out allows easy access from the street to the gates, and that’s what locals love about it.

But with an increased security presence in recent years, the original design has morphed into a less accommodating facility. In November 2017, voters overwhelmingly approved a new one terminal airport design that, if all goes well, will be operational in late 2021.

Southwest Airlines is the predominant carrier out of KCI, followed by American, United, Delta, and Frontier, among others.

Kansas City’s historic Union Station, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014, is a daily stop for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Missouri River runner crosses the Show-Me State from St. Louis to KC.

Getting Around

Streetcars: A brand spankin’ new streetcar system debuted in downtown Kansas City in May 2016, the first of its kind in 60 years. The two-mile line links the River Market to downtown to the Crossroads Arts District to Crown Center.

Bike Share: Kansas City’s bike share program is called B-Cycle. With 27 stations from the River Market to Waldo, locals and visitors may pick up a bike 24-hours a day.

Ride Sharing: Both Uber and Lyft have an energetic presence in the Kansas City metro, but note that the government regulations that oversee matters like security and background checks vary between Missouri and Kansas.

Stadium Events: The Truman Sports Complex is located east of downtown Kansas City at the intersection of I-70 and I-435. During major sporting events, such as the World Series or play-off games, or NFL games at Arrowhead Stadium, special bus routes are established to accommodate the crowds. Plus, a city bus is quite a bit cheaper than stadium parking. If you’re in town for a game, ask about those routes.

Background

History

As with many of the world’s great cities, Kansas City was founded because of its location on a great river, in this case the Missouri River. The Kansas River (locals call it the Kaw) flows into the Missouri here just as it takes a turn north. Lewis & Clark commented on the potential of this location when they camped at the rivers confluence in July 1804.

Over the years, Kansas City, Independence and nearby St. Joseph became major launching points for the pioneer trails moving west: Santa Fe, California, Oregon, Pony Express. The Trails West Museum in Independence tells that story.

The railroads brought cattle and the stockyards to Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms, once the world’s largest livestock trading center. The stockyards closed in the 1990s. Today, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, investments and major corporations, such as Hallmark Cards and H&R Block, have replaced the agricultural interests as a major economic force, but livestock is at the heart of what built Kansas City.

Many people are surprised to learn that Walt Disney lived and worked here before heading to California. Although there’s not much to see of the dilapidated building under renovation at 31st and Forest, the Laugh-o-Gram Studio is where Walt first drew a little character named Mortimer, who grew up to be the beloved mouse known round the world

Cuisine

More than 100 barbecue joints operate in the Kansas City metro and the people who live here love everyone one of them. Sure Bryant’s and Gates are the best known, but the savvy traveler knows where to find the hole in the wall where the burnt ends – a Kansas City specialty chopped just right.

However, you’re making a mistake if you define Kansas City simply by BBQ. Five James Beard-award winning chefs and several other nominees in various categories provide an elevated sophistication in dining options throughout the city. Frequently, Kansas City is listed as among the best unexpected food destinations in the U.S.

Music

Yes, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, but music historians and jazz lovers all pretty much agree that Kansas City is where jazz came of age.  During Prohibition when jazz joints around the country were shut down, the criminal enterprises of Kansas City’s legendary Tom Pendergast allowed jazz and alcohol to flow unrestricted here.

At one point, about 40 juke joints operated in the area that is now the 18th and Vine Historic District. Now, the Blue Room, adjacent to the American Jazz Museum, is one of the best spots to relive a bit of that energy that gave Kansas City its own chapter in music history.

Soundtrack for a Road Trip

“Going to Kansas City” originally recorded in 1959 by Wilbert Harrison but more famously done by Fats Domino. Bring a bottle of wine and your Kansas City baby for a selfie at the “Going to Kansas City Park” not at 18th & Vine as the song suggests, but instead at 12th & Vine.

Other

Kansas City has been called “The City of Fountains” and some people say that we have more fountains per capita than any other city besides Rome. Who says these things?

At last count, Kansas City has about 200 functioning fountains, managed by the City of Fountains Foundation. Originally developed to provide for the physical needs of the city’s animals and humans, today the fountains fulfill the emotional and aesthetic needs of those who live and visit here. Each one has a special story that contributes to the beauty of the sculpture and flowing waters.

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