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.
Pedal Hopper turns bar hopping into a workout. Aboard the company's European-style party bikes, up to 16 people?10 of whom are pedaling?cruise between nightlife spots, making brief stops at three of their favorite watering holes. A professional driver steers the bike for the gang as they cruise along, reaching top speeds of 8 mph. For added safety, the vehicle is also extremely well-lit, outfitted with headlights, taillights, LED lights, and a glittering disco ball in accordance with state law.
Each night, KC Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze undergoes a bone-chilling transformation. Its family-friendly rides and activities vanish in the gathering dusk, replaced by the five frightening attractions that make up KC Fear Farm. Ghastly clowns terrorize guests amid the Circus Asylum's dark, billowing curtains, and a Buried Alive attraction horrifies all five senses with a realistic simulation of being six feet under. The corn maze—aptly renamed the Field of Screams—elicits cries of horror from visitors who dare to wander its pitch-black corners. Available on a separate or combined ticket, the Zombie Apocalypse paintball adventure pits turret-mounted paintball guns against armies of bloodthirsty undead.
As summer turns to fall and the barbecue grills begin their migration south, The Patch at The Farm welcomes visitors to celebrate the dawning of the harvest season across its 30 acres. Taking up 11 of those acres, the corn maze's twists and turns test visitors' problem-solving skills. Bright-orange pumpkins pepper a 4-acre patch, patiently awaiting families to bring them home, where they'll fully blossom into pies or grinning jack-o'-lanterns. Over in the petting zoo, goats, chickens, and mini-donkeys entertain wee ones with rides and their ability to speak five languages. Other attractions include a hayride to Lanesfield Museum, ziplining, pumpkin bowling, a pedal track, and bounce houses.
The stresses of the city seem light years away for guests who retreat to Screamin' Oaks Farm, a working farm with goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, cows, geese, quail, donkeys, and hound dogs. Visitors meet the farm's fleet of white and black goats, whose milk is sold onsite and also made into creamy chèvre goat cheese and homemade ice cream. Farmhands foster introductions to creatures large and small, letting guests milk the goats themselves and pet the furry mane of a young donkey. Turtles idle along in their own dedicated habitat as peacocks stalk the grounds, opening and expanding their turquoise plumage when a mate is nearby or when they want to take up two seats on tractor rides.
Hands dig into the springtime earth, heaving up tufts of Missouri dirt cooled by the nearby waters of historic Jowler Creek. The year is 2004 and Colleen and Jason Gerke are trying their hands at winemaking, planting 250 norton grapevines in the ground near their home. Today, the 7-acre plot of land houses more than 3,000 vines, protected by insect-consuming chickens, rodent-hunting hawks and owls, and weed-noshing sheep who graze at carefully managed intervals. The sustainable vineyard sprouts grapes used to concoct nine award-winning wines?from dry to sweet?which are crafted with solar-powered devices. Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery regularly hosts tours for up to 30 people, where patrons spend approximately 90 minutes observing the crash-diet techniques grapes undergo before squeezing into Jowler Creek's trademark baby blue sealed bottles.