Kansas City pit-masters are a bit like wizards: with dashes of sauce and wisps of wood-smoke, they summon barbecue aficionados from across the world. But tourists aren't the only ones who hunger for their savory-sweet brisket, ribs, and burnt ends??locals do, too. Bethanie Schemel, owner of KC Barbecue Tours, gives both locals and travelers insider's access to the rich history??and deep flavor??of the city's smoked-meat scene through bus-guided food tours.
On these tours, groups visit famed barbecue hot-spots. They also make stops at beneath-the-radar barbecue joints. "We do have a couple smaller places on our tour that we tend to keep a secret because they are the hidden gems that not a lot of people know about," owner Bethanie Schemel told KCTV 5 News. Food isn't the only reason for booking a spot on one of KC Barbecue Tours' expeditions?participants also get a peek at behind-the-scenes preparation techniques, and can ask pit-masters for tips on what type of wood chips to use or how to build a xylophone from leftover rib bones.
Kansas City Fun Tours visit upwards of 17 locations on every 75-minute tour of the city. Hopefully, among the mix of museums, tourist attractions, architectural sites, and shopping plazas, there will be three or four places that visitors can't wait to explore on their own. That's the challenge—and the reward—of discovering a new city, and Kansas City Fun Tours makes it so sightseers don't have to resort to any truck-stop crystal balls to show them the way.
If the company's primary mission is to convey the lay of the land, its second job is to make the excursions as fun and comfortable as possible. For each tour, passengers hop aboard classic red-and-green trolleys, which are old-fashioned in every way save the air conditioning, cushioned seats, and sound system. As the trolley rolls along, charming guides narrate the entire journey, illuminating the history of Kansas City with facts and local anecdotes that you couldn't hope to find just by digging up the time capsules at a local park.
Balloon AD-Ventures' pilots deftly guide their balloon baskets low enough for passengers to pluck leaves from the trees. Alternatively, they can ride the wind to altitudes of up to 3,000 feet, which showcase views of the downtown skyline and wildlife. Since 1985, the company has flown groups over South Kansas City and across the US on aerial balloon adventures.
If your shady parking spot rests beneath bird-filled trees, or someone scrawled carpetbagger into the inch of road salt on your car window, Travel Clean Express Car Wash can give your vehicle its original off-the-lot luster. With today's Groupon, you'll get Travel Clean's ultimate car wash for $5 (a $12 value). Use your Groupon at Travel Clean's locations in Lee's Summit or Overland Park.
PRP Wine International backs up its name by stocking more than 200 different wines from around the globe. A team of vino connoisseurs showcases the shop's international selection during in-home wine tastings and wine-tasting events, held in local hotels, warehouses, and deep-sea bunkers. Personalized wine labels and etched wine glasses and bottles can complement newly discovered wines.
Taking a three-hour lunch break might be frowned upon when you're at the office, but not if you work for Taste of Kansas City Food Tours. The company's tour guides specialize in meals on the move, leading groups to nearby restaurants for samples of their specialties. The stops on the walking tour tend to be locally owned eateries located slightly to the left of the mainstream?though they don't shy away from a famous pizza joint or two.
One route takes guests through Crossroads, and the other explores Westport, but both fill the time between bites with facts about the neighborhood and its history. The tastings on each tour might change from day to day, so surprise is the only common ingredient. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that you'll end the afternoon with a full stomach and a stack of clean plates.