I’m a big fan of Kansas City. I always have been, and I always will be. I think that the combination of good food, great sites, fun sports, and many friends in town is what makes my visits to Kansas City enjoyable each time. My recent trip did not disappoint, as Tillie, Cal and I were able to have a little Cyclone fun in conjunction with our trip.
A few fun facts about Kansas City:
- Kansas City is the 29th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.
- The Kansas City Barbecue Society reports that KC has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other city in the nation.
- Kansas City ignored Prohibition during the 1920s, leading to an abundance of jazz clubs, brothels and gambling halls. This earned KC the moniker “The Paris of the Plains” after one journalist wrote “If you want to see some sin, forget Paris and head to Kansas City.”
- The jam session originated in Kansas City. Jazz musicians would gather after their gigs and play together into the wee hours of the morning.
- In 1910, Joyce Hall began selling postcards out of a shoebox in KC. Today, his company has grown to the world’s largest greeting-cards maker, Hallmark Cards.
- Kansas City is home to the largest maker of boxed chocolates in the world. Based here since 1932, Russell Stover Candies still hand dips more than 25 million pieces of chocolate each year.
- Walt Disney opened his first animation studio in Kansas City, Laugh-O-Gram Studios. He fed a small mouse in the building, which he later said was his inspiration for Mickey Mouse.
- Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium has hosted more NCAA Final Four Championships than any other venue in the country
- The scoreboard at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, was the first to transmit instant replay.
- More than 22 colleges and universities call the area home.
Tillie, Cal, and I packed up the car and drove the three and half hours down to Kansas City on Saturday morning. The main reason for our weekend trip was to join more than 200 Iowa State Cyclones for “Cyclone Day at the K”, or Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals for those who aren’t down with the lingo. The Iowa State Alumni Association of Kansas City put together a great event for fellow Cyclones in the area.
When we arrived at Kauffman Stadium, the crew had things setup already, and we were able to enjoy a little tailgating and Cyclone camaraderie prior to the game. My buddy Cal even took part in a little cornhole in the lots, preparing himself for the upcoming football season. A baby in the hole is worth how many points?
As mentioned before, we’re lucky to have many friends in Kansas City, as many Cyclones end up in the area following graduation. It was fun to catch up with the Linds, the Lacks, the Laffeys, the Mores’, and many others from our time at Iowa State.
We headed into the K early to catch a glimpse at Iowa State Linebacker Jake Knott throwing out the first pitch. Cy even stopped by for a quick pic. Love this bird. He’s always in a great mood.
It was fun to see Kauffman Stadium again. I hadn’t been to a game since their renovations. They’ve done a tremendous job with the stadium. We lasted about three innings (yes, three innings) before Cal became restless. It had been a long day for the little guy, so we packed up and headed to our hotel for the evening.
We stayed just off the Country Club Plaza, Kansas City’s “premiere shopping, dining and entertainment district.” It’s a neat place, and I love it, because it’s always alive with people and energy. As Tillie attempted to get Cal to sleep, I ventured out for a little food. Kansas City calls itself the “BBQ Capitol of the World”, as do others, but that’s a different argument for a different day. No trip to Kansas City is complete without a little BBQ goodness, and it only makes sense to stuff yourself full of BBQ the evening before a long run. Whether it’s Jack Stack (what we enjoyed this evening), Gates, Arthur Bryant’s, or my personal favorite, Oklahoma Joe’s, you really can’t go wrong. So good.
BBQ in hand, I headed back to the hotel to grub. On the way, I snapped a few pictures of the beautiful plaza.
The next morning, we all headed to one of Kansas City’s many fountains to meet Molly Lack, my running buddy for the day. Kansas City is called the “City of Fountains” for a good reason, with more than 200 fountains in the metropolitan area. They like their fountains. Who doesn’t like fountains?
Molly had jogged a few miles from her house to our starting point, so she had already gotten off to a great start that morning! Molly is the wife of one of my fraternity brothers Andrew Lack, so it was fun to reconnect with her and have her serve as my tour guide for the day. Our first stop was the Kansas City Sculpture Park and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. What a place! As you can see from the pictures below, the park offers very neat life-size art displayed leading up to the museum. Badminton anyone?
It also offered a tricky to navigate, yet neat running path to begin our run.
From the art museum, we ran through many unique Kansas City neighborhoods. I love old neighborhoods that bring interesting architecture with them. You don’t find this stuff in the suburbs. The morning’s rain left the city with wonderful June running weather.
We ended up passing a few schools that are currently not being used. Molly mentioned some of the troubles that the Kansas City, Missouri school district has gone through over the past few years. The state board of education revoked the districts accreditation on Jan. 1, 2012, and the issue remains a hot topic throughout the region. One can only hope that the district makes a comeback in the near future, as education is obviously a crucial component to a thriving city. As one who appreciates old architecture, it was amazing to me to think that such striking buildings are vacant.
We ventured through Union Hill, where the Lacks live. Union Hill is a wonderful little area, offering very nice views of downtown Kansas City. The Lacks themselves live in an awesome place with a few decks off the back of the house that oversee the city. More on this later. We headed down the hill, passed Union Cemetery, and ran towards my new favorite war memorial. The Liberty Memorial is a memorial to the soldiers who died in World War I and houses The National World War I Museum, as designated by the United States Congress in 2004. Wow, this place is amazing! First of all, when one thinks of the world’s wars, WWII is generally what comes to mind. This isn’t the case in Kansas City, as it has done a tremendous job honoring those who lost their lives in WWI. Leading up to Liberty Memorial, the city has added paths that make it very accessible. The hill leading up to the memorial was well worth the struggle.
At Liberty Memorial, the views of the city are absolutely tremendous. The memorial itself is striking and provided a little intrinsic motivation for the run. As you can see, underneath the memorial is the National World War I Museum, a museum that I will need to visit during a future trip.
My favorite picture from the run came at the base of the memorial looking up.
As mentioned before, the memorial sits atop a large hill, so the views are amazing. We stopped to admire the city for a few minutes and took back off down the hill towards downtown.
Our next stop was Union Station. Odds are, when something is named Union Station, it is probably worth a stop. The city was booming that morning, and we came upon a cycling race that was getting ready to begin at Union Station.
From Union Station we proceeded towards the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. On the way, we passed a few neat buildings in an area that is seeing great growth from the addition of the Kauffman Center.
Now, I’m not big into the performing arts, but I have to say that the Kauffman Center is one of the most striking centers for the performing arts that I have ever seen. The pictures that I took do not do it justice. Its construction was a major part of the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Kansas City, and the center was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It is absolutely magnificent. The Kauffman name is on so many things throughout Kansas City.
From the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts we headed downtown to find the city’s downtown library. You’ll see why very soon. As the son of a librarian and an avid reader, I dig libraries. I especially dig libraries that use their creativity to spruce up a city. As seen below, the Kansas City downtown library looks like a bunch of books. Very cool!
From the library, we ran over to the Power & Light District. The Kansas City Power & Light District is a vibrant, new eight-block neighborhood in the heart of downtown Kansas City that offers a little bit for everyone. Amongst the Power & Light District, you can find the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The last time I was in Kansas City, the building was AMC’s flagship cinema. AMC is headquartered in Kansas City but was recently bought by the Wanda Group, a Chinese company. If you place the word “drafthouse” in your cinema, it’s ok in my book. It’s one awesome building!
Just around the corner, we stumbled upon a few fun murals that depict the area’s neat sports culture. Kansas City is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The museum has been on my places to visit for quite some time, and I can’t wait to peruse it at some point.
Kansas City’s Sprint Center is located in the Power & Light District. Only a few years old, the venue hosts sporting events as well as concerts. It’s appearance is great, and attached to it is The College Basketball Experience.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit The College Basketball Experience during a past trip to Kansas City, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a college sports fan, they’ve done a great job to capture the history of college basketball in a fun and interactive way.
The Power & Light District was our final stop, and Tillie and Cal picked us up. We headed back to the Lack’s house to grab one picture of Molly and me. The picture is from their top floor deck! How awesome is that? I learned during the trip that the Lacks are moving to Scottsdale, Arizona in the next few months as Molly will be completing a fellowship in the area. So as a plug to help them find a renter for their place, come on, check out this view! Imagine yourself waking up, grabbing a cup of Joe, and sitting out on your deck overseeing Kansas City. You know you want to rent it. Thanks Molly for a great run!
We headed back to the hotel to shower and get packed up. We had one more stop and some great company to see before we ventured back to Iowa. One of my favorite spots in Kansas City is the Winstead’s Drive-In. Home of the delicious steak burger, Winstead’s offers amazing food and delicious shakes at a ridiculously low price. We met my brother-in-law’s brother Brian and his wife Kari for brunch. It was great to catch up with them.
On our way out of town, I had to stop to get one more picture, highlighting one of my favorite things about Kansas City – Boulevard Beer. Until next time KC.