Groupon Getaways Guide to Kansas City

In Kansas City, the ratio of fountains to barbecue joints is roughly 2:1—that’s more than 200 public fountains and more than 100 restaurants serving the city’s signature slow-smoked meat. Though KC is known for its aquatic architecture and barbecue, it has also evolved into one of the nation’s artistic hubs. Here you’ll find a world-class art museum, a legendary history of jazz and blues, and a brand-new performing-arts center for opera, theater, and music. Add a diehard sports community and a downtown Forbes named one of America’s best, and the at-times overlooked Kansas City has all the makings of a memorable getaway: midwestern charm, culture, and an endless supply of sauce-slathered ribs.

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Three Must-Visit Barbecue Joints

You can’t turn a corner in Kansas City without running into a barbecue joint, though sometimes you might not realize it. Some of the city’s more than 100 barbecue restaurants have been built into gas stations, warehouses, and freight hangars, but they all serve slow-smoked meats smothered in tomato- and molasses-based sauces. Make sure to try the city’s signature burnt ends—crispy, flavorful tips of a beef or pork brisket.

  • Oklahoma Joe’s—The original, critically acclaimed Oklahoma Joe’s is in a working gas station at 47th and Mission. Get there early, since the line starts forming at 10:30 a.m.
  • Arthur Bryant’s—A pillar of KC barbecue since the 1920s, the restaurant serves beloved hickory- and oak-smoked meat that has attracted several celebrities to its Brooklyn Avenue location, including presidents Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter. Writer Calvin Trillin called Arthur Bryant’s “the single best restaurant in the world.”
  • Danny Edwards—At the spacious new location, lines are less of an issue than at some of the smaller storefronts. Don’t miss the pork spare ribs.

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Three Jazz Hotspots

Well known as one of the nation’s great “cradles of jazz,” Kansas City continues to produce a jazz style heavily influenced by blues, ragtime, and big-band music. Led by Charlie Parker and Count Basie, this unique sonic style flourished in the 1920s and ‘30s. Today, jazz continues to thrive in numerous clubs especially around 18th and Vine, which is also home to the American Jazz Museum.

  • Mutual Musicians Foundation—Instrumental to the development of Kansas City–style jazz, the MMF hosted legends such Charlie Parker and Count Basie in the 1930s and ‘40s. The venue is still popular with locals for Friday and Saturday live shows, which start around 1 a.m. and last until dawn.
  • Power & Light District—This nine-block neighborhood in the middle of downtown is home to more than 50 shops, restaurants, and bars. While the weather’s still warm, head to the open-air rooftop lounges at Elements and The Jones.
  • Czar Bar—Up-and-coming local bands perform most nights at this downtown bar, which serves grass-fed beef burgers and Boulevard draft beers.

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The Sporting Life

The Chiefs
Where: Arrowhead Stadium
When: regular season from September 9 to December 30
Why: the legendary tailgate scene with some of the NFL’s most-loyal fans
Big matchup: November 25 at home against the rival Denver Broncos
Player to watch: explosive running back Jamaal Charles

The Royals
Where: Kauffman Stadium
When: now to October 3
Why: Kauffman Stadium, which underwent a $250 million renovation in 2009 and added a massive HD scoreboard, just hosted the MLB All-Star Game.
Big matchup: The White Sox come to town for a three-game series starting August 17.
Player to watch: first baseman slugger Billy Butler

Sporting KC
Where: Livestrong Sporting Park
When: now to October 24
Why: The soccer club is currently near the top of the MLS’s Eastern Conference.
Big matchup: August 26 at home against New York Red Bulls
Player to watch: 22-year-old rising star Teal Bunbury

Shopping: Boutiques and Malls Galore

Shoppers will be happy to learn the city has a mix of quirky boutiques and mega shopping centers. At the outdoor Country Club Plaza, about 5 miles from downtown, upscale eateries and designer stores line 15 blocks of pedestrian-friendly boulevards. A few miles north, Crown Center contains three levels of local and chain retail shops as well as kid-friendly attractions such as the LegoLand Discovery Center, two playhouse theaters, and an indoor ice-skating rink (reopens November 2). For one-of-a-kind finds, check out these two local favorites:

  • For Jeans: Baldwin Men’s Shop in nearby Leawood—Designer Matt Baldwin earned praise from GQ for his eponymous collection of jeans, particularly the slim-fitting Henley, cut and sewn from 100% indigo-dyed cotton yarn.

  • For Vintage: Re-Runs—Women’s and men’s clothing and accessories from the 1920s through the ‘80s fill two locations, a shop in the Westport district and a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in the West Bottoms district.

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Two Day-Trip Ideas

Worlds of Fun, a kid-friendly amusement park
Where: about 10 miles northeast of downtown
When: open on weekends and select weekdays until October 28
Why make the trip: six high-velocity roller coasters, a water park, and Planet Snoopy, a Peanuts-themed area with rides and attractions designed for young children
Check out: Mamba, one of the world’s fastest, tallest, and longest coasters, reaching up to 75 miles per hour

Missouri Town 1885, an outdoor history museum
Where: about 25 miles southeast of downtown
When: open Tuesday–Sunday until November 15 and on Saturdays and Sundays only from November 16, 2012 to February 28, 2013
Why make the trip: more than 25 buildings dating back to the mid-1800s staffed by guides in period clothing
Check out: the blacksmith’s shop, where you can watch a professional blacksmith forge tools and trinkets available for purchase

Nicknames

  • The City of Fountains—for its more than 200 fountains, the second-most of any city in the world, behind Rome
  • The Paris of the Plains—for its many Paris-style boulevards
  • The Heart of America—for its location near the geographic center of the contiguous United States

Getting There

  • Major airport: Kansas City International Airport (MCI), about 20 miles northwest of downtown
  • Cab fare: about $50 from MCI to downtown
  • Public transportation: Route I-29 on the Metro runs from Terminal C to downtown. The bus runs Monday–Friday; regular one-way fare is $1.50.

Getting Around: the MAX

A rapid-transit bus system known as MAX services downtown Kansas City. Hop on for $1.50 a ride, or ask the driver for a $3 full-day pass, which expires at midnight. Bus stops are easy to spot; keep an eye out for the 18-foot-high station signs.

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