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For many travelers, Kansas City, MO is just another cowtown in a “flyover” state. They may be surprised to discover that Kansas City has a vibrant arts and culture scene, a diverse selection of world class museums, shopping that rivals other big cities, a rich history and plenty of good eats. Kansas City is probably best known for its barbecue, but it has also received praise for its beautiful architecture, wide boulevards and nearly 200 fountains. Its fountains have earned it the nickname “City of Fountains” and rival some European cities in their numbers. Kansas City is centrally located to the rest of the country and easily accessible from one of the most convenient airports, Kansas City International.
For those who love culture and the arts, Kansas City has a wide selection. The Starlight Theater, conveniently located adjacent to the Kansas City Zoo, is an outdoor theater that stages musicals during the summer. The Folly Theater and Midland Theater both host dramatic productions, as well as other special events. For children, the Coterie Theater, located in Crown Center near downtown, was named as one of the top five best theaters for kids by Time magazine. Kansas City also has its own ballet company, a symphony and an opera.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is a favorite destination for modern art lovers. For all types of art, visit the Nelson Atkins Museum, just around the corner, near the Country Club Plaza. The Nelson is famous for its sweeping front lawn strewn with larger than life shuttlecocks. Kansas City also has a thriving art district downtown that is easily walkable. Kaleidoscope is a free art studio for children sponsored by Hallmark, which is headquartered in town.
Kansas City is rich in history. Union Station, located on the south side of downtown, was once a major transportation hub for the region and has been reborn with shopping, movie theaters, a children’s science museum and restaurants. Historic Westport, the site of the Civil War Battle of Westport, is now home to comedy clubs, restaurants and shopping. Liberty Memorial is an impressive sight and was the first World War I memorial in the country. The 18th and Vine district includes the American Jazz Museum and the Negro League’s Baseball Museum.
Kansas City’s shopping rivals many other large cities. The City Market has functioned as a farmer’s market since 1857, but has since seen the addition of restaurants, antique shops and entertainment venues. The Country Club Plaza, which has been touted as the first shopping mall, is an outdoor shopping district modeled after Seville, Spain. It has numerous fountains and original sculpture, and is situated on Brush Creek. The Plaza, as it is called by locals, has upscale shopping as well as casual and fine dining. Zona Rosa, another outdoor shopping center, is located further north, as is the Legends at Village West, a part of the Kansas Speedway entertainment area.
Eating is a favorite pastime of Kansas City residents, and many consider the city a mandatory stop on any barbecue tour. Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, established in the 1920s, has been a favorite of Jimmy Carter and Stephen Spielberg. Gates Barbecue and KC Masterpiece are other famous barbecue pit stops. The American Royal Barbecue contest is one of the largest in the nation, with nearly 500 competitors.
Other fun things to do in Kansas City include visiting one of the five casinos located on the Missouri River and attending a Kansas City Chiefs football or Royals baseball game. Kansas City expects to unveil a new 835 million US dollar (USD) entertainment district downtown in 2007. It is part of a three billion USD plan to develop downtown to make it more attractive to the already booming convention trade, as well as to tourists.