City Cheat Sheet: Kansas City, Missouri
The Scout Guide Kansas City Editor Cathryn Farley photographed by Tamalee Baker.
Summertime in America can be just about summed up in a trip to Kansas City, where the season centers on the three B’s: baseball, barbecue, and beverages. To help travelers take advantage of all the area has to offer, we asked The Scout Guide Kansas City Editor Cathryn Farley, a homegrown Kansas City girl who knows this town inside out, to offer recommendations for a perfect summer weekend in her town. From fine barbecue with wine pairings to a historic tour on a streetcar to a highly curated mini-shopping spree, Farley’s insider tips to enjoying Kansas City hit every note.
WHERE TO STAY
In downtown Kansas City, the iconic Hotel Phillips (106 West 12th Street) has been a cornerstone for “just about forever,” according to Farley. Technically, it was established in 1931, and boasts original art deco features, a hidden speakeasy (the go-to spot for a Manhattan after hours), and well-appointed, newly renovated rooms. Right around the corner is the Hilton President (1329 Baltimore Avenue), historically known as The Hotel President. Check out its perfect lobby and pick up a copy of TSG Kansas City to help you get into the local mindset.
If you’re seeking a spot with a more modern aesthetic, consider booking a stay at the The Fontaine (901 West 48th Place) in the Plaza, an area of town known for its shopping options. This elegant boutique hotel is totally streamlined and a little bit edgy (note the Murano chandelier in the lobby when you check in). Stop into 901, the rooftop bar and restaurant, for a martini in an outdoor setting complete with fabulous views.
WHAT TO DO
Sports fans know that Kansas City is one of the country’s best places for catching a game at a storied stadium. The Royals play at “The K” (Kauffman Stadium), which is known for its fountain and waterfall display in right field. The pre-game scene is worth taking in, too. “Tailgating is huge, and not just for football anymore,” says Farley. Not a baseball fan? Join the locals in cheering on the Major League Soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, which plays at Children’s Mercy Park.
When you’re ready to explore the town, Farley recommends hopping aboard Kansas City’s new streetcar for a free tour of some of the city’s historic sites and entertainment destinations. The streetcar begins in the River Market located at 5th and Walnut (pro tip: grab a cup of cold brew or a hot latte at Quay Coffee—pronounced “key”—before boarding). Next stop: the Power & Light District. The city’s entertainment district is filled with great spots to stop for a bite, and includes an open air block called The Living Room where you can listen to live music over an al fresco lunch. Farley’s favorite place to eat in this area is the gastropub Cleaver & Cork (1333 Walnut Street). Go thirsty because their cocktails are amazing, and be sure to sample a few appetizers.
Next, take the streetcar two stops to 16th Street, where you can hit Tom’s Town (1701 Main Street) for a few cocktails. This Gatsby-era distillery, which is named for Tom Pendergast, a corrupt city manager/mob boss who prevented people from getting arrested for bootlegging, serves up award-winning vodka, gin, and Bourbon. History buffs can book a tour of the distillery, which also features more information on prohibition-era Kansas City and the city’s mob history.
Last stop: Union Station (30 West Pershing Road). If this landmark looks familiar, that’s because you’ve probably seen it in some of the iconic photographs of soldiers returning home during World War II. (The giant clock tower is a worthy selfie backdrop.) The station hosts a rotating list of exhibitions, and this summer you can pop into Mummies of the World. Traveling with kids? Leave time to explore Science City downstairs for an interactive, hands-on learning experience.
Before leaving Union Station, walk outside to get a good look at The Liberty Memorial, the national World War I museum and monument. Not far from there you’ll find Kansas City’s very own Scout, a beloved, 10-foot-tall statue of a Sioux Indian on horseback overlooking the city.
WHERE TO EAT
Kansas City is synonymous with barbecue. It’s a huge part of the culture, heritage, and local cuisine (plus, it’s delicious). But that doesn’t have to mean meals on paper plates—Farley recommends visitors sample the elevated options that highlight KC’s barbecue legacy on proper china. “The new Q39 (1000 West 39th Street) has invented a fun, fresh way to keep barbecue alive in the city,” says Farley. Jack Stack (with many locations, but the Freight House at 101 West 22nd Street is the most historic) is a fine dining experience with an exceptional wine list and a lot of history. If you want ribs in a less buttoned-up atmosphere but still prefer to linger over your meal, then go to Joe’s KC (3002 West 47th Avenue).
If you’re not a barbecue fan or reach your barbecue consumption limits, never fear—Kansas City has plenty of other fantastic dining options. Farley’s favorite dinner spots include The Jacobson (2050 Central Street), where she says to leave room for the dutch baby cake for dessert (it’s like a pancake in a skillet loaded with your choice of berries or bananas foster). Bluestem (900 Westport Road) is a special place for those seeking an elevated dining experience, where you’ll want to reserve your table ahead. The Antler Room (2506 Holmes Street) is a new restaurant that serves small plates and features a unique menu. According to Farley, the vegetable options sing, and you should be sure to try the squash carpaccio and the mushroom malagliati. Finally, if it’s steak you’re craving, Stockhill (4800 Main Street) is the place to visit.
A weekend getaway isn’t quite complete without a leisurely brunch. Farley’s favorite picks are Chez Elle (1713 Summit Street), where she goes for the savory crepes and mimosas, and Gram & Dun (600 Ward Parkway), which has a cocktail cart that pours mimosas, Bloody Marys, and brunch punch table side. For a more grab-and-go experience, The Doughnut Lounge (4117 Pennsylvania Avenue) takes these sweet pastries to a new level. Not in the mood for a doughnut? Not to worry. Try a nodut: part doughnut, part savory entrée.
WHERE TO SHOP
Women’s boutique shopping in Kansas City is the perfect way to spend a post-brunch afternoon. Fine Folk (122 Southwest Boulevard) is a beautifully curated, airy boutique where you can shop high-end designers like Rachel Comey in a laid-back space. Anaphora (5601 West 135th Street, Overland Park, Kansas) has interesting, edgy (yet wearable) pieces at great price points, balancing emerging and world-renowned designers. Dear Society (3566 Broadway) is an ever-changing store that blends new and vintage where you can find accessories, shoes, clothing, and even furniture.
For a memorable men’s shopping experience, you can’t miss Ulah (4707 Rainbow Boulevard, Westwood, Kansas). This men’s store has a perfect collection of clothing, accessories, home accents, and gifts. “It’s a pleasure to be inside,” says Farley.
Webster House (1644 Wyandotte Street), a restored Romanesque ex-schoolhouse located next to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, is an excellent place to seek out antiques, gifts, clothing, and accessories.
Last but not least, don’t leave town without hitting Made in KC. The locally revered store with three locations is so much more than a souvenir shop, with offerings from more than 100 local makers, designers, and artist. Bring home a Charlie Hustle t-shirt—a great way to show off your newfound KC pride. And if you love someone with facial hair, do them a favor and bring back some KC Beard Balm, a locally made product that’s been getting national attention.
For more insider’s tips on what to do and see in Kansas City, follow The Scout Guide Kansas City on Instagram.