Kansas City, here we come. In this cosmopolitan city, you can get fat—literally and figuratively—on food and history. To wit:
Barbecue: Kansas City is all about the sauce, and barbecue is big business. Many say it began at Arthur Bryant’s, which has a lineage of smoking meats that tracks to 1908 and still serves throngs today. But Jack Stack, Gates and relative newcomer Oklahoma Joe’s must be sampled. (Then visit the gym.)
Baseball: Kauffman Stadium is awesome, and you should see a Royals game. But the “Wow” moment for baseball fans is found at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It offers a fabulous and insightful look at
the early black leagues and players, from Moses Fleetwood Walker to Jackie Robinson, who played for the Kansas City
Monarchs before breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Beef: Where’s the beef? In a city with roots in stockyards and packing plants, of course. For hamburgers, try Winstead’s, which opened in 1940, or the perennial favorite Town Topic. If you’re hungry for a steak, legend has it the Kansas City Strip was invented at the Hereford House.
Books: The Kansas City Public Library Central Branch houses the Missouri Valley Special Collections, where you will find a wealth of resources such as Victorian trade cards, 19th-century photos of Kansas City, charcoal portraits of guerrillas and outlaws and more.
Civil War: Check out the Westport battlefield, or nearby fight sites at Lone Jack and Black Jack, then head north to Kearney to the Jesse James Farm & Museum. James’s career in crime had its beginnings in the Civil War.
Independence: More than a suburb, Missouri’s fourth-largest city is history-rich. The National Frontier Trails Museum, the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum and the 1881 Vaile Mansion are all here. Don’t forget the town’s favorite son. The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum is a must.
Jazz: If you love the music of Charlie Parker and Count Basie, the American Jazz Museum has rhythm and history. Located in the historic jazz district at 18th & Vine, the museum features not only interactive exhibits, but also the Blue Room, a jazz club open four nights a week.
Livestock: Each fall, the American Royal brings in more than just showcase pigs, sheep, cows and goats from 39 states. A Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event, the world’s largest barbecue competition and singers galore are part of the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show and Rodeo. If you’re in town during the winter, spring or summer, you can still check out the American Royal Museum.
Steamboat: In 1856, the Arabia was heading up the Missouri when she struck a tree snag and sank with 200 tons of supplies north of town. More than 100 years later, the steamboat was rediscovered buried in a Kansas cornfield. Step back into time at the Arabia Steamboat Museum for a glimpse at what life—or at least merchandise—was like in the late 1850s.
World War I: The “magnitude of this memorial, and the broad base of popular support on which it rests, can scarcely fail to excite national wonder and admiration,” President Calvin Coolidge said at the dedication of the Liberty Memorial in 1926. It closed in 1994, but since reopening in 2006 as the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, this 80,000-square-foot facility provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of the war to end all wars, and its consequences.
If it weren’t for the oppressive humidity and heat in the summer and ice storms in the winter, Johnny D. Boggs would likely be living in Kansas City and weighing 300 pounds.