49 Reasons to Love KC Right Now – 435 Magazine
By: Kate Baxendale, Jan Dumay, Nancy Staab and Allyson Wilson
February 1, 2016
435 Magazine presents 49 compelling reasons to wear our KC heart on our tees right now — from a craft beer renaissance and the iconic architecture elevating our skyline, to a tech-preneur boom and epic tailgating scene.
We are no longer Flyover Country.
Want proof? Countless glitterati have touched down in KC in the past few years, including The Rolling Stones, elBulli chef Ferran Adrià, Bob Dylan, Anthony Bourdain, Taylor Swift, novelist Jonathan Franzen,Arianna Huffington, former Apple wiz Steve Wozniak and many more.
We are plugged-in.
As the first city in the nation selected for Google Fiber service and as a selected Cisco Smart City (whereby Cisco applies its technology to solving downtown challenges such as transportation, safety, parking and infrastructure), KC is truly plugged-in. Recently, KC was featured in a documentary on the new mobile app economy that was sponsored by The Economist and screened at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Tech incubators are sprouting up like mushrooms. And last fall KC held its first Techweek, as one of only seven cities in the nation chosen to host this conference. With the turnout of more than 5,000 attendees far exceeding expectations, Techweek has committed to returning to KC for the next five years. Silicon Valley is so yesterday. Hello, Silicon Prairie.
Our local craft beer-making renaissance is hopping.
Perhaps inspired by the success of Boulevard Brewing Company, smaller craft breweries have taken over the town. We’ve seen a flurry of new breweries pop up all over the metro in the past two years, with many more to come. Stockyards Brewing Co. is KC’s newest entry and the only brewery in the West Bottoms — occupying the south side of the soon-to-be-revived The Golden Ox restaurant. Other newcomers includeDouble Shift Brewing Co., Brewery Emperial, Torn Label Brewing Co. and Border Brewing Co., all located in the Crossroads. Meanwhile, Crane Brewing Co. opened shop in Raytown, Martin City Brewing in Martin City and Red Crow Brewing Co. in Spring Hill. Waldo-based KC Bier Company has proven so successful — they racked up three medals at the Great International Beer & Cider Competition — that they are undergoing a $1.2 million expansion that will double their capacity.
What was not to love in 2015 about the Kansas City Royals? From the first pitch on April 6 to winning the World Series on Nov. 1, our boys in blue gave it their all for record-setting crowds at Kauffman Stadium. While new faces will emerge in 2016, our dream team continues with returning faves, including catcher Salvador Perez, first basemen Eric Hosmer, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, left field Alex Gordon and closer Wade Davis. The first 2016 spring training game is March 2 against the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Arizona. The first official game of the season is a night game on Sunday, April 3, at Kauffman against our World Series foe the New York Mets. Manager Ned Yost has gone on record saying his team has no intention of stopping its momentum and wants to win the championship title again. Take us out to the ballgame, somebody. We can’t wait.
Impressionist art will get a spectacular new home.
Monet and his gang get a new look when the brand-new Gallery for the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art comes to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in spring 2017. A gift of the Bloch family, the donation also includes the addition of 29 works from the personal collection of Henry and Marion Bloch. Architectural renovations by BNIM architects will create “more fluid” spaces for enjoying the light-suffused works and no less than Philippe de Montebello, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, consulted on the project. The Bloch donation more than doubles the Nelson’s current collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works and includes master works by Manet, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh, Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Seurat and more.
Our food scene is heating up.
Exhibit A: KC chefs continue to rack up prestigious James Beard nominations. Ted Habiger of Room 39,Martin Heuser of Affäre, Carl Thorne-Thomsen of Story, Howard Hanna of The Rieger and Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda have all earned recent James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominations. And recent James Beard Award winners Debbie Gold (1999), Michael Smith (1999) and Colby Garrelts (2013) still ply their impressive culinary skills in the metro. In addition, KC boasts a rising crop of innovative young chefs to watch:Ryan Brazeal of Novel; Michael Corvino of The American; The Local Pig’s Alex Pope and chef Joe West of Kusshi dinner club and the soon-to-open ramen shop Komatsu, to name just a few. What we like best about these talented toques is that they manage to remain humble and rooted — it’s a Midwestern thing. Not only that, but rather than oversalt each other’s soups, KC chefs frequently collaborate with one another — from supporting each other’s Kickstarter projects to cooking in each other’s kitchens. One delicious example: Bluestem hosted a Westport Collaborative series of dinners last year featuring various local guest chefs, including Pope and Corvino.
Our city leaders are truly invested in making KC better.
From the efforts of VisitKC (the KC Convention and Visitors Association) to support a new convention hotel in KC to KCADC’s campaign to attract more businesses to our city in general, our city leaders work tirelessly to make KC better — with one eye on preserving its present-day charms and the other on needed progress. One significant example of civic leadership is the Big 5 initiative. These are the top five metro priorities laid out by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce annually since 2011. The priorities may be revised as some are checked off the list, such as making KC a hub for animal sciences research, but the outlining of ambitious but achievable goals in economics, education, technology, business, social welfare and other sectors is to be applauded.
We re-invented the streetcar for the 21st century.
Want a ride from Union Station to the River Market at no charge and free Wi-Fi connection? Then come aboard what is surely to be a newfound love, the No. 801, Kansas City’s first modern streetcar in more than 50 years. The No. 801 is scheduled for a “soft opening” in March and a grand opening celebration in April, after months of testing. And this baby looks sleek and sophisticated, courtesy of iconic branding by local firmWilloughby Design. The white streetcar features a patterned exterior finish modeled after a luxury train, with a cool interior palette of cobalt blue and silver — a nod to the Metro blue buses familiar with current riders. Once operational, the streetcar will run seven days a week with varying hours. A second car is undergoing testing, and two more will be added later.
Because barbecue is a religion here.
Other cities brag that their ‘cue is king, but there’s no doubt about who does it best. Out here, barbecue isn’t just a way of life; it’s a religion. Just the passing smell of smoked meats has us singing the praises of red smoke rings brought on by hours of “low and slow” perfection. Just how serious are we about ‘cue? KC is world-renowned for its official BBQ dish, the flavorful, crispy and meaty pieces known as burnt ends. Just last year the famous Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que changed its name to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in homage to its KC ties. And our Kansas City Barbeque Society, at more than 14,000 members, is the largest organization in the U.S. dedicated to the art and science of ‘cue. Best of all, we’re home to the American Royal World Series of Barbecue competition, which ropes in more than 600 teams from 40 states annually, each vying for top honors. Around town we do all kinds of barbecue, from beef to chicken and Carolina to Texas style. Meanwhile, new ‘cue spots like Q39 and Char Bar complement KC’s classic barbecue canon by adding new twists to old favorites.
Because KC is one of the best examples of urban planning.
With as many fountains as Rome and more boulevards than any other city except Paris, Kansas City also boasts countless parks and charming neighborhoods that provide a picturesque landscape for its residents — all of which were created with deliberate planning. It started in the late 1800s with August Meyer (of Meyer Boulevard fame), a mining magnate who initiated KC’s “park and boulevard movement” with lead architectGeorge Kessler. The beautification movement continued with J.C. Nichols, creator of the Country Club Plaza, among other treasures. In short, Kansas City was planned with the idea that if its citizens were cared for, they in turn would contribute to the welfare of the city. Nichols’ internationally famous innovations in residential zoning, city beautification and urban revival, which built upon Meyer’s efforts, resulted in generations of grateful citizens and a picture-postcard city.
We take fandom and tailgating to new heights.
We’re passionate about our sports, and we’ve got the fans to prove it. To catch games at Arrowhead and the K are experiences of a lifetime. In Chiefs Kingdom we pack seats to the brim, intimidating opposing teams with our Guinness Book of World Records-winning 142.2-decibel roaring war cry. When it comes to the Royals, our whole city turns blue with pride —fountains, buildings and milk included. We celebrate our home runs by Mike Moustakas with Moose Man Craig Rookstool’s powerful rack of antlers dancing in the crowd and our wins withDave Webster hoisting the glorious “W” alongside 37,000 of our closest friends.
And the real action begins hours before game time. A bucket-list event for sports fans here and far, tailgating for football season at Arrowhead is a cultural experience to be had. It’s not just the halo of smoke from our smokers lined up as far as the eye can see that earns us a top-10 spot on NFL best tailgating lists year after year. It’s also our jaw-droppingly tricked-out trailers, delivery vans, buses and “fanbulances” like theArrowhead Assault Vehicle; our way of making friends no matter what team you root for; and our homemade chili and barbecue sauce contests. At Arrowhead a three-hour game becomes a six-hour event, and strangers become family.
KC fosters world-class dance.
In addition to celebrated troupes such as Kansas City Ballet and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, there is another major dance group that calls KC home. Many cities are lucky to experience the entrancing choreography of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, but only KC is lucky enough to be the celebrated dance company’s official second home. In 1984 KC was chosen over more obvious cities like L.A. and Miami to further Alvin Ailey’s vision for a diverse community united by dance. Since its inception, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey has delivered dance to more than 1 million spectators in the KC community through its inspiring studio programs, performances, workshops and collaborations. Experience KCFAA’s interactive walk through African-American dance history in Setting the Stage on Feb. 25 at the Gem Theater. Want more bragging rights? KC-born Misty Copeland is the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.
We wear our heart on our tee…and everywhere else.
You can’t cross the street in this town without bumping into someone wearing a KC tee in this town, and we’re cool with that. The T-shirts often call to the simplicity, charm or overlooked potential found in the “Paris of the Plains.” And the rise in unique KC-themed apparel (and its makers like Raygun, Seen Merchandising, Baldwin, Normal Human and Freelance Brand Clothing, to name a few) has got both sides of the state line feeling the heartland pride. We especially love supporting local. Proceeds from the purchase of a T-shirt fromRed Dirt Shop’s “goods for good” goes toward helping the impoverished and Freely Given’s customized shirts, inspired by kids and families in crisis, are a nod to our city’s giving nature. Ocean & Sea’s nautical-themed apparel inspires us to see our role as the port to the coasts. And the nation is feeling the love, too. Since actor Paul Rudd sported Charlie Hustle’s “KC Heart” design during the Royals’ postseason, natives and out-of-towners alike have been clamoring to wear their love for the heartland on their chests.
We love our historic buildings.
What can we say? We love our historic buildings, which include art deco, beaux arts and Gothic styles, making Kansas City’s skyline distinctive and unique. Along with favorites like the Power & Light Building, the New York Life Building, Union Station and the Jackson County Courthouse comes a renewed emphasis on refurbishing oldies but goodies. For example, currently under renovation are the Hemingway Building in the Crossroads Arts District, where the famed writer once worked in 1917-18 while employed as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star; the iconic Golden Ox restaurant in the West Bottoms; and the Kansas City History Museum with its resplendent Corinthian Hall in the historic Northeast. Recently restored gems include The Brass on Baltimore and the opulent, gilt- and-red-velvet interiors of the Midland Theatre downtown.
…But we can also put up cool modern-age icons.
Beginning with the pivotal years of 2006 and 2007, KC sprouted several architectural stunners to modernize our skyline. The Bloch Building at Nelson-Atkins Museum, designed by Steven Holl, features five glass “lanterns” that gracefully step down into the landscape. We also love contemporary icons like the glass-cladSprint Center by Rafael Viñoly; the KC Star Printing Plant by The Austin Company; and the Kansas- limestone-clad Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College, which was designed by Kyu Sung Woo Architects in 2007. Inspired by prairie fire burns, the innovative Museum at Prairiefire (2014), by architectural firm Verner Johnson, incorporates angular panes of colored Dichroic Glass (developed by NASA) and iridescent stainless steel panels into its flame-like exterior. Meanwhile, the museum’s dynamic interior creates engaging spaces for learning and discovery. At night the façade glows with the illumination of countless LED lights. Last but not least, Moshe Safdie, fashioned a spiraling, nautilus shell-like exterior of stainless steel and glass in 2011 for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. A November 2013 article in Dwell magazine asserts, “It’s easy to overlook Kansas City, Missouri. Located squarely in the nation’s center, it is better known for its barbecue and bebop than as an incubator for creative design anud architecture. But the city’s image is evolving. The opening in 2011 of the visually striking Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts…helped the city stake out a new reputation as a culturally vibrant metropolis…”
Our local music scene is growing.
It’s no secret that Kansas Citians love music. Our love affair goes back decades with KC as one of the cradles of jazz. Today, our music scene boasts a sound for every kind of music lover, from classical to punk rock — plus we’re home to the SxSW-rivaling Middle of the Map Fest. In 2015 several local acts gained rightful national and international attention. After signing with Epitaph Records last year, alternative rock bandBeautiful Bodies took the world and the Warped Tour stage by storm with their electric debut album, Battles. On the opposite end of the music spectrum, Independence-based mother/son duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear spun an acoustic Midwestern lullaby with their folk music debut, Skeleton Crew. KC favorite Tech N9ne brought double the fun with Special Effects, which includes the song “Dyin’ Flyin’” featuring local jazz pianist Mark Lowrey, and collaborative effort Strangeulation Vol. II. Be on the lookout for his 17th album, The Storm, set to release this year.
Downtown living has hit a tipping point.
First came 21st-century attractions like Sprint Center and the restaurant and entertainment-filled KC Power & Light District, and then the downtown living scene followed suit with more and more locals attracted to its urban allurements. In fact, the current downtown occupancy rate is a whopping 98 percent. One Lightapartments proved so popular, with luxe amenities such as an on-site sommelier, rooftop pool and free membership to Onelife Fitness Club, that Two Light is already in the works for 2018. Nearby, art deco gem thePower & Light Building is getting a spit-and-polish conversion to luxe apartment dwellings, set to open this year. Amenities include a la carte services such as housekeeping and massage therapy, Italian Calacatta Quartzite countertops, glass-tiled showers, concierge services and a spa. Another interesting downtown project: the $35.9 million conversion of the historic Folgers Coffee plant downtown into apartment units set to open this summer.
Culinary pop-ups and food labs are creating foodie fellowship.
First food trucks were all the rage, but the trendiest new arrival on the local food scene are pop-ups and underground dinner clubs. The members-based Test Kitchen, organized by local food journalist Jenny Vergara, is the classic standard. New dinner club arrivals include a local outpost of the nationally run Dinner Lab, Überdine (by KC chef Joe Shirley), and Kusshi (Japanese for “precious”) run by chef Joe West. Other aspiring local chefs/entrepreneurs have chosen to launch their businesses with teaser pop ups and Kickstarter-fundraising special dinners, like the wildly popular Columbus Park Ramen Shop before it went brick-and-mortar or, more recently, Pistachio Bakehouse. The common denominator of all of these endeavors: cool, often unexpected locations; curated menus; intimate access to talented local or even national chefs, mixologists and sommeliers; and tons of foodie fellowship.
Even our second-tier sports teams rock.
KC sports fandom is more than just about the red (Chiefs) and the blue (Royals). There’s plenty more to cheer about. The Missouri Mavericks, now owned by sports lord Lamar Hunt Jr., just ended an epic 14-game winning streak at press time. The premier AA hockey team recently became affiliated with NHL team the New York Islanders, which helps with scouting, player development and strength and conditioning. The Mavs made the playoffs their first five years as a team, and with Stanley Cup-winning coach Richard Matvichuk at the helm, they are on track to make an appearance once again. And in the indoor soccer circuit, the Missouri Comets sailed into the playoffs undefeated in regular-season play. Now if we could only get in on some horse racing action…
We like to dig in the dirt!
It’s safe to say KC isn’t afraid to get dirty. BoysGrow, a nonprofit farming and marketing program that hires inner-city boys ages 14 to 16 to grow and sell produce and fresh products like salsa and ketchup, has caught the attention of chefs like Lidia Bastianich (Lidia’s Kansas City) and Howard Hanna (The Rieger). Bastianich has hosted a benefit dinner for the past three years at the BoysGrow farm, and Howard cooked at the inaugural Gather & Grow farm supper to benefit the program. Then there’s Green Dirt Farm, a sheep farm in Weston that produces sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt and was named a finalist for Martha Stewart’s 2015 American Made awards. Their Farm Table Dinner series, which sold out quickly, invites the city’s most creative chefs to prepare multicourse meals using farm products and other locally sourced ingredients. And althoughBadSeed Market in the Crossroads is closing next month, owners Brooke Salvaggio and Dan Heryer will continue to “…grow food (lots of it!)…nurture the land and feed the community” via their Kansas City farm,Urbavore.
KC is a growing incubator for tech startups and entrepreneurs.
Kansas City is, simply put, a burgeoning tech and entrepreneurial hub, fostering local talents and luring innovators throughout the country to relocate here and join the revolution. For example, we are home to such entrepreneurial enterprises as Kansas City Startup Village, KCSourceLink (a resource for networking),Digital Sandbox KC (an incubator for startups that has launched 23 businesses since its inception in 2013) and 1 Million Cups, a free, weekly educational program of the Kauffman Foundation. Now in 66 cities, 1 Million Cups was designed to connect entrepreneurs over a cup of coffee following six-minute presentations of new-business ideas. To top it all off, The Huffington Post recently touted KC as “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.” Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau backs up this claim, showing that the state of Missouri leads the entire nation in job creation at 1,293 new businesses for the year 2013 (the most recent year for which data is available), and representing an impressive surge of 16 percent.
We’ve never met a festival we didn’t like.
Maybe it’s the influence Lewis and Clark left on this city when they arrived at Kaw Point, but we love to explore new things, especially festivals. We can’t resist a good one, and KC features plenty. From March to November there are more than 100 festivals with something for everyone. There’s the popular Plaza Art Fair and theRenaissance Festival; more obscure finds like Noir City Film Festival, the Burlesque Fest, Maker Faireand Fringe Fest; epicurean events like the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival and BaconFest; and cultural ventures like the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, KC India Fest and Japan Fest. Promising newcomers include Boulevard Brewing‘s Boulevardia and Chipotle’s Cultivate, both fests combining good food, music and brews. In the fall locals relish classics like Louisburg’s Ciderfest. Think old-fashioned apple cider, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and cider doughnuts. This year we’re kickstarting the festival season and shaking off the chill with the Folk Alliance’s second annual music fair Feb. 21 at Westin Crown Center andCrossroads KC’s Blizzard music festival Feb. 27, featuring top DJs spinning house music.
Our libraries are four-star.
Check it out! With 10 branches in the metro, the first-rate Kansas City Public Library system offers something for every bookworm: film screenings and discussions, youth activities, book launches, exhibits and speakers on a myriad of fascinating subjects. For example, the Central Library downtown, with its iconic book-spine façade depicting literary classics, offers summer movies on the roof. The bustling Plaza branch offers Friday Night Family Fun and a thought-provoking series of speakers for grown-ups. A recent visitor was Russian world chess champion and author Garry Kasparov. Not surprisingly, our library system was yet again among a select group of public libraries across the country awarded a four-star designation from the Library Journal, which measures the contributions that public libraries make to their communities.
Our coffee scene is really percolating.
Delivering every kind of brew from a flat white or corto to cold brew “nitro” coffee, KC has a java joint for every personality profile. For example, Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters even serves cocktails with their beans, Starbucks at 41st and Main was the first in the nation to be kitted out with Google Fiber, and elegant Parisi Artisan Coffee appeals to Europhiles, while Oddly Correct is for purists who favor serious single-brew coffee and espressos with no milk or sugar allowed. As KC’s first original and independent coffee house, Broadway Café in Westport is the sentimental favorite. It has a cult following so loyal they kicked out the neighborhood Starbucks. And Quay Coffee sticks to the basics serving Oddly Correct’s direct-trade bean in a casual living room setting.
KC is a haven for outdoor fun.
Aside from bustling city life, Kansas City is also teeming with hiking and biking trails, lush gardens and sprawling parks just begging to be explored. Landahl Park in Blue Springs is an 18.5-mile loop in a forest setting perfect for mountain biking, running or walking. The trails are of varying skill levels and dog-friendly, and the park even has trails for horseback riding. Black Hoof Park, a 210-acre hidden gem in Lenexa, is a natural wonderland with Lake Lenexa as its centerpiece. Roanoke Park in Midtown Kansas City is 37 acres of natural beauty and other amenities like soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, a sand volleyball court, many paths, and hiking and biking trails.
If a less rustic environment is more your pace, discover (or revisit) one of KC’s most beautiful gardens. TheEwing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden, a 2-acre gem located just east of the Plaza, winds through lush greenery, seasonal flowers, jumping fountains, a Parterre “Canal” and Orangery. On the other end of the scale, Swope Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks at 1,805 acres, is home to many of our most-visited attractions, like the zoo and Starlight Theatre, in addition to two golf courses, baseball diamonds, picnic areas and a fishing pond.
Our local celebs remember their roots.
Whether they’re born and raised or transplanted here, hometown heroes Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner represent our bi-state beauty with pride on the small screen, the big screen and even in our community. From the Arthur Bryant’s and Oklahoma Joe’s shirts worn in Sudeikis’ 2013 We’re the Millers, to Rudd rocking a KU ball cap in 1995’s Clueless and narrating the Emmy-winning documentary Inside Pediatrics for Children’s Mercy Hospital, to Stonestreet’s Modern Family character being from Tonganoxie, they remind us that home is where the heart (land) is. Each year the fabulous five hosts Big Slick KC, a two-day fundraising event featuring them and their celebrity friends and raising millions to benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Our airport is getting a major makeover.
We love Kansas City International Airport, smack-dab in the center of the country, because it offers easy navigation inside its terminals and relatively short flights to the east and west coasts, plus one-hour flights to desirable destinations like Denver and Chicago. Two great bits of news happened last year: Southwest Airlines celebrated 30 years of flying in Missouri by painting a plane with the state flag. And late last year, a new airline, Allegiant Air, came to KCI offering nonstop, low-cost flights to four popular Florida vacation destinations: Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Tampa/St. Petersburg. On the horizon: proposed plans to build, for added convenience and efficiency, a new billion-dollar single-terminal airport facility.
Our symphony plays music in the middle of nowhere.
Every year since 2006, the Flint Hills of Kansas come alive with the sound of music offered by the Kansas City Symphony set against the backdrop of a sublime sunset and rolling hills. This popular and unique event, appropriately called Symphony in the Flint Hills, offers about 6,000 people the opportunity to witness the magical union between symphonic music and the prairie landscape, as well as educational activities highlighting the ecological and cultural significance of the Flint Hills, guided walks, catered BBQ and a musical instrument “petting zoo.” But hurry. Tickets for the 2016 event, which will be held on June 11 on a private ranch, go on sale March 5. Historically, general admission tickets sell out in record time. Last year featured Lyle Lovett. Stay tuned for this year’s guest performer.
We love our pets.
Kansas City is home to one of the largest open-admission, no-kill shelter in the nation, KC Pet Project. Of the 9,000 animals it serves each year, more than 90 percent of them are either adopted, returned to their owners or transferred to other rescue groups. Other area shelters include Wayside Waifs, a 47,000-square-foot pet adoption campus; Great Plains SPCA, a nonprofit that resulted in the merge of two smaller shelters; and Unleashed Pet Rescue, a nonprofit in Mission that “works to save the lives of homeless pets and strives to improve the image of bully breeds in society.” KC also has plenty of off-leash dog parks (Penn Valley, Swope Park, Waggin’ Trail, Leawoof Dog Park) for your pups to socialize and roam freely.
Because the Chiefs have lots of heart.
Despite the ups and downs of this team, Chiefs fans are proud to live in Chiefs Kingdom — especially with a recent seven-game winning streak. On Dec. 27 The Chiefs clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Cleveland Browns, making this the first time ever that the Royals and the Chiefs made the playoffs in the same year. However, the real feel-good story of the season is safety Eric Berry’s recovery from Hodgkin lymphoma. He was cleared medically to practice with his team just eight months after his diagnosis and has certainly pulled at the heartstrings of KC (and the nation). Berry was recently selected as ESPN’s NFL Nation “Midseason Comeback Player of the Year.” And Berry may also get to play for Super Bowl berth. As of press time, the Chiefs hold the AFC’s first wild-card spot and the fifth overall seed. Can they make it all the way to the Super Bowl? Either way, we’ll be cheering — loudly.
Creatives call us home.
These days Kansas City is a buzzing hub of creative types, including artists, graphic designers, filmmakers, techies and advertising/marketing firms like MMGY, a global travel marketing agency that counts American Express, Lufthansa and Princess Cruises as clients; Benstein-Rein ad agency, creators of McDonald’s Happy Meal; or global ad agency VML, which won seven National ADDY Awards in 2015. Smaller firms like Whiskey Design and Walz Tetrick have also carved out a niche with their award-winning campaigns for Boulevardia and the Kansas City Royals, respectively. Quixotic, the multidisciplinary arts troupe in the Crossroads, continues to create eye-popping spectacles at home and around the world. World-class architecture firms likeBNIM, which will undertake the renovation of the impressionist wings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum; andPopulous, which designed the 2012 Olympic Stadium in London and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Arena in Brazil also call KC home. And KC-based A. Zahner Company, subject of a recent feature in The Atlantic magazine, makes large-scale metal fabrications for starchitects like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry as well as fashioning metals for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Last but not least, there’s the granddaddy company of them all, Hallmark, which is virtually synonymous with KC and creativity. And with the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) exceling in its mission of attracting creatives to our city, KC will continue to be a talent magnet.
Our jazz scene rivals the Roaring Twenties.
The spirit of the Roaring Twenties is alive and well in our little corner of the jazz world — minus the Prohibition. Drop into notable nightclubs like The Phoenix, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, The Blue Room, Green Lady Lounge and The Majestic Restaurant any night of the week and unwind with a signature cocktail and a hot jazz performance. Some of the hometown talents we’ve got up our sleeves include Lonnie McFadden, Hermon Mehari, Mark Lowrey, The Sons of Brasil and many more. And we nurture jazz, too. Grammy -nominated saxophonist, composer, educator and producer Bobby Watson said, “Jazz was born in New Orleans, but it grew up in Kansas City,” and it rings true. Budding musicians come from across the country just to study with greats like Watson and Stan Kessler at UMKC’s Jazz Studies program.
Our medicine is cutting-edge.
Whether it’s robotic surgery, 3-D mammography, cancer or DNA research, everything’s up-to-date in Kansas City regarding cutting-edge medicine. Among the many top-notch hospitals or hospital systems that serve the metro are HCA Midwest Health, Saint Luke’s Health System, Children’s Mercy and the University of Kansas Medical Center, to name a few. A point of pride is KU Med’s Cancer Center, which in 2012 earned the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation with Dr. Roy A. Jensen at the helm. The designation means patients have access to clinical trials and federal research grants only available to NCI-designated cancer centers, with the potential for bringing millions in additional funding to the area. All told, KU’s externally funded research totaled $238.8 million in 2015.
We haven’t forgotten our stockyard roots.
We might have earned the nickname “cowtown” back when we were the second largest distributor of meat in the nation, but KC is still very much a cowtown today. From having a prime cut of steak named after us, to our 117-year-old tradition of the American Royal, it’s safe to say we know our way around meat — andAndrew Zimmern would agree. In 2015 he chronicled a mouthwatering, meat-centric tour of KC for his TV show Bizarre Foods. KC mainstays like McGonigle’s Market and Bichelmeyer Meats are a nod to our cultural heritage, while newcomers like The Local Pig, Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence and Broadway Butcher Shop have signaled a new renaissance in the art of craft butchery. You, too, can get in touch with your carnivore roots by taking a hands-on butchering class with The Local Pig’s Alex Pope. But sign up early because these popular classes, which were chronicled in The New York Times, sell out rapidly.
WalletHub listed Overland Park as its 2015 best city for families, and livability.com listed it as No. 14 on its “Top 100 Best Places to Live 2016” for offering kids a “safe environment to explore while inspiring them,” and we couldn’t agree more. There’s plenty of fun for tots in town. Every second Saturday from May to October, the Kansas City Power & Light District hosts Sprint Family Fun Days, a series of free themed outings (luau, carnival and superheroes, anyone?) for families. Kaleidoscope, the Arabia Steamboat Museum,Wonderscope, Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, the Kansas City Zoo, Coterie Theatre, and Science City at Union Station are just a few of the family-friendly options in town.
New this year is LEGO KidsFest. Budding little builders are invited to let their imaginations run wild May 13-15as they enjoy hands-on fun, meet LEGO master builders, see life-sized models and more. For more fun of miniature proportions, grab a magnifying glass and examine the newly renovated National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Through a unique partnership with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Museum at Prairiefire brings a solid slate of world-class educational exhibits and programming to Kansas City. Children of all ages will delight in everything from the 16-foot-high cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Great Hall to an interactive Discovery Room highlighting natural sciences like paleontology, geology, astronomy and zoology. Rotating special exhibits bring new subject matter to the museum every few months. Opening March 5 is a fascinating special exhibit on the human brain, including various interactive displays and a walk through a giant neural network. At the hidden Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, kids can get in touch with nature, experience the monarch butterfly garden and learn about wildlife with a live-animal exhibit. And if you’re daring enough, families can put pedal to the metal with indoor Grand Prix go karting at Extreme Family Fun Center & Sports Events in Raytown.
…But we also have strictly adult forms of fun.
With a plethora of bars, live jazz music, opportunities for gambling (hello, Harrah’s, Argosy, Ameristar), and recent boom of craft distilleries, KC could be poised for the Roaring ‘20s all over again. Most impressive is our sheer range of bars from honky-tonks, speakeasies, dance halls, biergartens, Irish bars and dives, to special wine-, Champagne- and whiskey-dedicated bars, etc. Pick your poison.
Our arts leaders are strong, dynamic and visionary.
KC is blessed with talented and visionary leaders at so many of its cultural institutions, whether the directors of facilities like the Sprint Center, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or Union Station, or the creative minds behind our various arts groups. This list must certainly include Michael Stern, who leads the Grammy-nominated Kansas City Symphony (he recently renewed his contract through 2020); Julian Zugazagoitia, the director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (since his arrival museum attendance has risen 43.5 percent); and the artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, Devon Carney, who has not only focused on teaching and cultivating rising dance talents, but recently debuted an utterly enchanting new version of The Nutcracker. The list could go on and on…
Because “soccer nation” starts in KC.
Kansas City is widely considered the soccer capital of the U.S., and rightfully so. Sporting Kansas City was named the MLS Cup champions twice (most recently in 2013), FC Kansas City was named the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League champions and Major Indoor Soccer League team the Missouri Comets won their championship in 2014. Together, these teams have ignited fútbol fever in this town. And it’s not just the fans who think KC equals soccer nation; the U.S. Soccer Federation will build its $75 million National Training and Coaching Development Center in KCK. The national men’s, women’s and youth teams will train at the the 190-acre soccer village, slated to open in 2017.
Heartland Soccer Association, the nation’s largest youth soccer league, also calls KC home. With 30,000 players and 1,300 teams, Heartland Soccer alone created a high demand for soccer facilities. Enter theScheels Overland Park Soccer Complex, which opened in 2009 and covers 96 acres with 12 lighted, regulation-size synthetic turf fields. There’s also Heritage Park in Olathe, which has 18 grass soccer fields, and three major newcomers are in the works: Gateway Sports Village in Grandview, Futsal City USA in Lenexa and Paragon Star’s proposed development in Lee’s Summit.
Because our WWI Museum is a national treasure.
Kansas City is the proud home of Liberty Memorial, the only national monument and museum honoring the men and women who served in World War I, and lovingly funded by local Kansas Citians. The National WWI Museum and Memorial, located at Liberty Memorial and opened in 2006 is also a treasure in terms of its architecture and programming. The museum (recently ranked the No. 5 museum in the U.S. by Yelp) offered a series of special exhibitions, programs and events in 2014 to commemorate the centennial of the Great War in 1914. And this year the museum enjoyed record-breaking crowds. As a way to reach out to millennials, the museum has hosted fun yet educational events such as whiskey and chocolate tastings, Downton Abbeyscreenings and holiday concerts on the lawn with the Kansas City Symphony. Be sure to check out the current exhibition: “The Second Battlefield: Nurses in the First World War,” running through March 6.
Local craft spirits makers are trending.
Move over, craft beer makers. Now KC is coming into its own as a craft spirits-making hub. J. Rieger & Co.revived a pre-Prohibition label with popular vodka, whiskey and gin releases in 2015. Their first release, Kansas City Whiskey, fortified with a dash of sherry, was selected as a top 10 best new release at the prestigious Tales of a Cocktail convention in New Orleans. Their latest release, Midwestern Dry Gin, was created by a former master distiller for Tanqueray Gin. Recently, Tom’s Town, a downtown distillery/bar/tasting room by two local KC entrepreneurs launched a craft gin, vodka and bourbon in the name of historic city boss Tom Pendergast. These newcomers join the already established Dark Horse Distillery(soon to change its name to Union Horse, but no changes to its award-winning whiskeys and vodka) and S.D. Strong Distilling, which produces its vodka in real caves. In November 2015 McCormick Distilling Company in Weston, Missouri, added a gin to its repertoire with the purchase of Broker’s London Dry Gin. Bottoms up.
We give back.
Without a doubt, Kansas City is a generous town. Some of the city’s top charitable trusts that contribute to the city’s welfare include the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation and theMarion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, to name just a few. In addition, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, a nonprofit, has become one of the largest and most entrepreneurial public charities of its kind, managing more than $2 billion in assets and providing more than $2.4 billion in grants since its inception in 1978. Another powerhouse charitable organization is United Way of Greater Kansas City, which raised more than $35 million last year. Smaller charitable actions are also treasured. Royals Charities, the philanthropic arm of the Kansas City Royals, is helping to build a community baseball park near 18th and Vine, among many other endeavors; and most recently, when two firefighters died last year in the line of duty, everyday Kansas Citians responded in kind. Memorial contributions for the firefighters’ families included Kansas City Royals fans raising more than $100,000 and more than 100 area restaurants donating 10 percent of sales to a Dining for Heroes Fund.
Our theater scene is lively and varied.
Our creative and varied local theater scene offers something for every drama king or queen. The list includes stalwarts like Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Starlight Theatre, Coterie Theatre, Unicorn Theatre and theNew Theatre Restaurant. Catch edgier alternative fare at venues like The Living Room, which is in an unconventional art space founded in the Crossroads Arts District; or at its neighbor, the Fishtank Performance Studio, which inspires experimental theatrical entrepreneurship. Plus, a brand-new Irish Repertory Theatre is making a splash with a debut 2016 season that includes She Stoops to Conquer, Dancing at Lughnasa and A Behanding in Spokane. Marquee shows coming to longtime venue faves include the world premiere of the spy thriller Roof of the World and the musical The Fantasticks at KC Rep, and The Bridges of Madison County and Bullets Over Broadway at Starlight.
KC offers both town and country charms.
Kansas City provides an array of choices when it comes to both city amenities and country charm. City slickers love KC’s urban attractions, including world-class museums (the Nelson-Atkins was recently ranked the No. 1 museum in the nation by Yelp), sports stadiums, the symphony, theaters, shopping venues and restaurants galore. But when nature calls, locals also love the idea of jumping in their cars for a short ride along country roads to countless wineries, pumpkin farms, botanical gardens and country festivals.
Our art scene is energized.
Our art scene is part of the heartbeat of our city, and oh, how it thrives. Mainstays, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, offer free admission and breathtaking displays of art. This is just one of the reasons whyThe Huffington Post ranked us No. 4 on its “20 Most Cultured Cities in America” list. In addition, KC boasts a burgeoning alternative art scene, including works by local artists — many of whom are products of the Kansas City Art Institute. Monthly First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District and the Nelson’s Third Thursdayseries, featuring live music, art activities and the talent of local artists, bring arts to a new generation. Lastly, exhibits of local artists staged everywhere from the Hotel Phillips to our public libraries put our creatives center stage.
Retail therapy abounds.
Last year saw a wave of sparkling new retail arrivals, including Scheels All Sports at Corbin Park (with an indoor Ferris wheel to boot!), hipster eyeglass vendor Warby Parker and cheery colored jewelry vendorKendra Scott, both on the Country Club Plaza; sporting nirvana L.L. Bean and modern furniture meccaMitchell Gold + Bob Williams at Town Center Crossing; and a Sephora beauty emporium and Athleta shop at Town Center Plaza, just to name a few. We’re also excited about Anaphora, a sleekly modern women’s boutique and brand-new addition to Prairiefire (launched by the same mastermind behind Made in Kansas City). And coming in 2016, RH Gallery, the fancy reconceptualization of Restoration Hardware set in a lavish, mansion-like setting at Town Center. We heard there might even be a swanky rooftop garden!
The Westport revival is in full swing.
Westport has always been a favorite destination, particularly for nightlife, but now, several grown-up businesses are injecting new energy and a slightly more sophisticated vibe to the neighborhood. Some of the newer arrivals include popular Mexican eatery Port Fonda, Champagne bar Ça Va, whiskey bar Julep, and most recently, the creative doughnut/coffee/cocktail hangout known as Doughnut Lounge. Up next: an artisanal cocktail spot from the owners of the underground bar Campground. Cheers.
UMKC Arts has a new sheen.
UMKC’s proposed Downtown Arts Campus is just $14 million shy of its fundraising goal, thanks to generous donations, including $20 million from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. The school must raise $48 million by June 30 in order to request matching funds from the state of Missouri. If funds are met, UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance would be placed in the heart of downtown’s thriving arts scene, next to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Todd Bolender Center for Dance.
In addition, UMKC’s Kansas City Repertory Theatre got its own upgrade. For its 50th anniversary season, the theatre underwent a $5.5 million renovation of the main stage, Spencer Theatre, completed in late 2015. The capital campaign goal of $5 million was exceeded by $667,176, a true testament to the city’s generosity and in large part due to the David T. Beals III Charitable Trust, Bank of America challenge grant for $250,000. The renovation includes state-of-the-art new lighting and acoustic design, a new stage floor, an expanded theater lobby and a new second-floor lounge.
It’s never been a better time to check in.
Not one but two boutique hotels with lots of cultural cache are coming to town. 21c Museum Hotels, the darling of media outlets such as The New York Times, Condé-Nast Traveler and Wallpaper magazine, is planning to bring its popular blend of contemporary art, modern decor and a buzzy restaurant to a renovated, historic Savoy Hotel location. Expect an art gallery lobby and the hotel’s signature crayon-colored penguin sculptures. The project is currently in development. And in mid-2017, the hipster hotel group Aparium comes to the Crossroads District in the historic Pabst and Pendergast buildings. Expect local color in terms of the art on display and the food at the hotel’s eatery, as well as a sceney bar. Last but not least, a $300 million Hyatt convention hotel, paid primarily via tourism taxes and dollars, is planned adjacent to the convention center in 2018. KC was ranked last among its 18 competitor convention cities, but that is about to change. With 800 rooms and tons of meeting and banquet space, the new hotel is projected to bring in nearly $4 billion in potential annual revenue.
KC is now on the national map.
Several marquee sporting events have put KC on the national radar. After the Royals took the crown in the2015 World Series, Kansas City was flung into the national spotlight — demonstrating just how beautiful our city is as a sea of blue. And with the annual Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship to be held at Sprint Center through 2020, the event promises 11 consecutive seasons of beaming KC to screens across the nation. Lastly, U.S. Figure Skating announced it will host the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in our town, yet another opportunity for our city to be featured on the world stage.
But it’s not just national sporting events highlighting KC. Google Fiber also put KC in the headlines as the envy of all tech nerds by selecting it as its first market for its 1 Gbps high-speed Internet in 2011 from a candidate pool of more than 1,000 cities. In 2012 Google started rolling out its ultra-high-speed services in KC followed by reams of press.
Speaking of press, we aren’t the only ones who have noticed KC’s new cool factor. Kansas City has gotten lots of love from the likes of The Huffington Post (“Five Reasons to Fall in Love with Kansas City,” coolest city in America), USA Today, Wired magazine (“Kansas City, Land of Crazy-Fast Internet and Crazy-Good BBQ”) and many more. In 2015 celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe published an article on her blog called “The Fashion Girl’s Guide to Kansas City,” and Matt Baldwin of Baldwin Denim was featured in a two-page spread in Voguemagazine. By now the world should definitely be able to point to KC on a map.