The locals call it “KC” – the home of hot jazz, cool fountains, hickory-smoked barbeques and the iconic Harley-Davidson.
Divided between two states and a river, the largest city in Missouri makes an unusual mark on the tourist map.
Kansas City is the celebrated capital of the all-American barbeque. The pungent smell of hickory smoke oozes from many of the city’s best-loved restaurants, and sampling this homespun delicacy is a priority for most visitors. The city is also famous for its fountains, which are as glorious and elaborate as any in Italy, lending a Renaissance elegance to the public parks and squares.
KC is also synonymous with world-class jazz, and the legendary live music scene in the clubs and bars around 18th and Vine is one of the city’s main cultural attractions. The historic Starlight Theatre in Swope Park is one of the last surviving, self-producing open-air theatres in America, with a sell-out programme of musicals, comedy and drama. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has one of the best collections of modern art in the Midwest, housed in a striking building shaped like a bird in flight, while the Spencer Museum of Art displays treasures from around the world alongside the prestigious ethnographic archive of the University of Kansas’s anthropology department.
There are plenty of unusual attractions to satisfy a variety of tastes. The Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City brings out the child in everyone with its nostalgic collection of dolls, bears and tin models, while the Arabia Steamboat Museum tells the fascinating story of this historic vessel which sank in the Missouri-Kansas River and has now been fully restored. The displays of personal artefacts belonging to First World War soldiers in the museum at the Liberty Memorial offer a poignant glimpse of life on the front line.
Don’t leave Kansas City without visiting the home of a genuine American icon. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company was founded in 1903 by two friends and has since become one of the industry’s biggest success stories. Join a factory tour for a glimpse behind the scenes of this famous marque and have your photo taken astride a gleaming machine to make the folks back home green with envy.
Kansas City has a reliable public transport system which links up most places of interest in the city centre, but a car is recommended for exploring further afield. Parking is usually plentiful at these out-of-town attractions.