New To Kansas City? We Made You A Guide – KCUR

By: Cody Newill

January 21, 2016

You’re a newbie, huh? Don’t know KCMO from KCK, burnt ends from a short end, but suddenly you find yourself in good old“Cowtown.”

(First hot tip, nobody calls Kansas City “Cowtown” anymore).

Well don’t freak out! The Kansas City metro may sprawl nearly 8,000 square miles, but all you need are a few pointers and you’ll be fine.

Pretty soon you’ll be arguing about barbecue, snow removal and crazy Missouri/Kansas drivers just like the rest of us.

First things first

You’ll have to figure out where to live, which will probably depend on what stage of life you’re currently in. Young and single? Downtown, the Crossroads or Westport are for you. Have a family or want one? Try out Brookside, Waldo or any of the suburbs on either side of the state line.

In your hunt for a place to call home, you’ll probably hear a lot of talk — often negative — about Kansas City’s east side. You should know that Troost Avenue has long stood as a historical divide between white and black in Kansas City, and that’s still the case today.

But as we reported through our Beyond Our Borders project, there are neighborhoods and individuals east of Troost that are trying to change perceptionsand overcome challenges.

Wherever you live, you’ll likely find some good neighbors. Kansas City is known for a certain temperament that you probably experienced soon after arrival: “Kansas City nice.” That means you might experience some unexpected things, considering it’s the 21st century — like people saying “hello” to you without provocation, oravoiding difficult topics to maintain face.

 A sports town through and through  Now stop me if you’ve heard this, but we’re winners here in Kansas City — again. The Royals took the World Series in five games last November after a nearly 30 year drought, our soccer clubs, Sporting KC and FC Kansas City, made big wins last year and the Chiefs were in the playoffs this year.

Part of that winning attitude is reflected in the amount of sports apparel that Kansas Citians wear. You can’t walk a block in this city without seeing both professional and collegiate sports colors, so go ahead and jump on the bandwagon.

A word to the wise — some fans take their rivalriesvery seriously here. Once you make a decision about what team to cheer on, especially college sports teams, there is no going back.

Coffee and food

Once you’ve got yourself up to speed on those basics, you’ll be ready to hit the town and experience a little bit of Kansas City flavor. To start, you’ll probably need to feed the caffeine addiction that a large majority of Americans depend upon.

Kansas City has quite a few options for those of all caffeinated persuasions. Local gas station chain QuikTrip is your one-stop-shop for a massive soda or coffee — just don’t get caught in a tornado there.

Shops like Oddly Correct specialize in pure, black coffee — no cream or sugar allowed there — while places like Thou Mayest and Filling Station offer up a variety of local blends and accoutrements.

As for food options, you can get just about anything your heart desires in Kansas City. KCUR’s Central Standard regularly features a panel of food critics that can can help you find everything from food trucks to brunch to Latin American.

In fact, we’ve got an entire hub of the “best of” foods in Kansas City here.

Places to go and Kansas City barbecue

After you’re good and full, you’ll likely be ready to stretch your legs a bit. You could peruse the Plaza’s shopping offerings or go stroll through the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. They’re both world-class, and they’re both free.

Or maybe you’re feeling a little more outdoorsy? If so, check out some of Kansas City’s extensive trail systems.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t let you in on the basics of one of the city’s biggest cultural claims to fame: barbecue. As a new Kansas Citian, it’s imperative that you develop a taste for smoked meats (or portobellos) ASAP.

If you want old school ‘que, check out Arthur Bryant’s or Gates. They’re both quality establishments that have stood the test of time. Joe’s Kansas City is also a favorite, but be ready for a line that can literally stretch around the building. Newer joints like Char Bar and Q39 are making good impressions on Kansas Citians as well.

Regardless of which one you pick, be sure to try out a Boulevard Brewery product if they’re available. The city’s premier craft brewery makes some delicious IPAs, pale ales and other malty, fermented adult beverages. In fact, Kansas City has a long history of good beer, so don’t be afraid to ask for local offerings wherever you go.

Night life

Looking to burn the midnight oil? Well, you’ve got quite a few options. If you’re looking to nerd out, check out trivia nights throughout the city with Geeks Who Drink. For a true hole-in-the-wall, local experience, check out The Peanut on Main.

You’ll need to check out downtown Kansas City at some point — and Flying Saucer is probably your best bet in the Power & Light District. The sheer diversity of drinks available is absurd.

If you’re the type that enjoys a more hip atmosphere, check out Julep in Westport or one of Kansas City’s arcade bars in the Crossroads. For a more upscale experience, make a reservation at Manifesto for cocktails that can’t be beat.

Ways to keep up on Kansas City’s culture

  • KCUR 89.3. Of course, reading this means you’ve already stepped into our neck of the woods, but we’d love for you to come back. We’re always trying our hardest to keep on the pulse of Kansas City’s arts, culture, government and issues.
  • The Kansas City subreddit. There are always posts about the latest and greatest trends in Kansas City here, so do yourself a favor and keep this one bookmarked.
  • Explore. With thousands of square miles of land, you’re going to have to take a leap of faith sooner or later and just check things out. Kansas City’s historic Northeast has a great restaurant scene, south Kansas City has a wide variety ofbars and shops and Mission and Kansas City, Kansas, have their fair share ofattractions as well.

Welcome to Kansas City! You’re going to have a great time. After all, it’s the“coolest” city in America.

Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at

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