This year Kansas City made Frommer’s Top 10 Best Destination Trips of 2012. Their museums alone made the list, but there are so many attractions that should be mentioned anywhere from an adult outing to learning about history to fun trips for the whole family. It may be time to rethink Kansas City as a vacation destination!
In 1968, Signboard Hill was transformed into Crown Center, one of KC’s most vibrant entertainment centers. Crown Center Square has fountains and terraced lawns that feature year-round events. The Entertainment Pavilion has a free-form tent that has many free family centered activities. During the summer one can expect concerts and outdoor movies, and from November through March an outdoor skating rink. Inside Crown Center one can find 50 unique shops, restaurants, a movie complex, and two live stages.
With 14 blocks of Spanish-style buildings filled with over 180 shops, restaurants, nightclubs, coffeehouses, antique shops and boutiques, the Country Club Plaza is truly amazing. “In every corner you’ll discover a sculpture in bronze or marble, a lacy wrought-iron gate, a painted tile mural, a fountain, or flower bed” (Insider’s Guide). There so much to do at the Plaza that there are three separate brochures to help you find your way: retail map, dining and entertainment map, and a walking tour of the artwork and fountain map.
Union Station / Science City Museum
Union Station reopened October 1914 after it went through $5.8 million in rennovations. At the time it was the third largest train station, following New York’s Grand Central and Pennsylvania. The phrase “meet me under the clock” was common as friends looked for familiar faces, and more than half of all World War II soldiers boarded trains here. As the 1950’s rolled around, train travel was and less common, and 1985 the last Amtrak station pulled out. In 1996, city leaders decided to restore Union Station. $250 million and years later we have today’s Union Station and the Science City Museum. In the Grand Hall and North Waiting Room, don’t forget to look up at the ceiling 95 feet above you, as the artwork was done by artists as far as Liverpool, England. Science City Museum is a place beyond imagination. Instead of staring at artifacts behind glass, children (and adults, too!) are encouraged to play, interact, and learn with over 50 hands-on science activities. Stop by Dino Lab and see a scientist getting ready for real dinosaurs for display in the laboratory, one unique since it’s the largest in the US. For groups of 50 or more, you can plan an overnight camping trip at the Museum! The Theater District is also something you don’t want to miss where two- and three-dimensional films come to life.
American Jazz Museum
The 1920s and 1930s music was focused around jazz, and according to some, “no place played it with more passion than Kansas City” (Insider’s Guide). Some of the greatest legends started in Kansas City – Count Basie, Bennie Morten, and Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, and at the American Jazz Museum these performers are honored. This was the first museum to be created dedicated to jazz music. With many interactive displays throughout the museum, you can be part of the time period, and enjoy hundreds of the greatest jazz recordings ever made – Ella Fitzgerald’s A Tisket, A Tasket” and Big Joe Turner’s “Goin’ to Kansas City”. There’s even a place for children to learn about jazz – in the Wee-Bop Room – where they can play at a mixing station, experiment with harmony, melody, and rhythm, and learn the sounds of different instruments.
Liberty Memorial and World War I Museum
In 2004, the World War I Museum was named the Official Museum of World War I and it’s no wonder! As you experience the museum, by entering the underground museum, you’ll first cross a glass bridge, see one last glimpse of the tower through the skylight, and pass a field of 9,000 red poppies. Each poppy represents 1,000 men and women who died fighting in the Great War. There are over 50,000 artifacts – many that have never been seen before – and interactive displays. This museum will take you through the physical, emotional, cultural, and political experiences during the Great War. Galleries bring combat to life through the eyes and ears of those who served.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Ranked among the top 15 art museums in the United States, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has over 35,000 pieces, and among those includes artists such as Rembrandt, Renior, and Caravaggio. The newest addition, the Bloch Building, featuring modern art including European, Asian, and American Indian art. Many of these pieces had never been seen before due to lack of space. The displays in the Bloch Building have a more thoughtful approach to displays: decorative arts, paintings, and sculptures from similar time periods grouped together to depict life during that time period.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which is the only museum of its kind in the country, follows the history of the Negro National League, that began in 1920. There are two short videos that share stories of the games played, and there are multiple displays that brings the memorabilia to life. There are documents and photographs that show the highs: wins and the fans’ adulation; as well as the lows: segregation and racism. Eventually the Negro National League ended for the very reason they began: “sheer talent”. In 1945, Jackie Robinson was recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers and many others followed in Robinson’s footsteps. The last game was played in 1960. One museum display called, “Field of Legends”, have 10 life-size bronzed players positioned on the ball diamond. These 10 players represent the first Negro League players inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Kauffman Center for Performing Arts
Opened in September 2011, the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts is the new home of the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The 400,000 square feet building has a 1,600-seat concert hall, and a 1,800-seat proscenium theater. The architect of the Koffman Center has already become an icon due to the building’s has dramatic curves, fascinating textures, and generous use of windows and open space. Future theatrical shows include: Aladdin, Romeo and Juliet, and Narnia the Musical.
Need some travel ideas for Kansas City? Check out TSCPL’s catalog!
The Kansas City travel bag includes Hiking Kansas City, Insider’s Guide to Kansas City, Eat, Shop Kansas City, and brochures to attractions.
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