Kansas City: Like No Place Else

These events and attractions, from classic barbecue to magical holiday lights, make this Missouri city unique.
By: Lisa Waterman Gray
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Barbecue Heaven

Kansas City is renowned for barbecue. Held each fall since 1980, the American Royal Barbecue has become the world’s largest barbecue contest. The two-day event fills 20 acres with nearly 500 teams that compete in four different contests. On Friday evening, the venue becomes a tent city as barbecue fans fire up grills and smokers of every shape and size. The party begins and many participants spend the night in order to tend their culinary fires.

More than 100 barbecue joints throughout the metro satisfy local cravings. Classic Kansas City barbecue sauce is typically thick, tomato-y and reddish brown, and most often used on pork ribs. A favorite restaurant located in the historic 18th and Vine District since 1930, Arthur Bryant’s uses sauce with a healthy dose of molasses added. Gates and Sons added even more sweetness in the 1940s.

In the 1970s, local psychiatrist Rich Davis created and marketed KC Masterpiece sauce, which again put Kansas City barbecue on the national radar. Oklahoma Joe’s opened in the 1990s and Zagat rated their sauce excellent in 2000.

Half the fun of eating Kansas City barbecue is finding your own favorite joint.

Winter Wonderland

Every year the Country Club Plaza becomes a veritable fairyland with the illumination of more than 80 miles of colorful lights that are strung throughout this one-of-a-kind shopping center. The Season of Lights, which begins on Thanksgiving Eve and typically ends in mid-January, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Residents snap up hotel rooms a year in advance so they can have a birds eye view, the moment a Kansas City celebrity flips the switch that sets the Plaza ablaze for the first time. But there are also several rooftops that offer perfect photo opportunities. On a snowy evening, a horse drawn carriage ride becomes truly magical, and a hot toddy tastes especially delicious.

The Crossroads Art District First Fridays

One of the nation’s largest 'art walks,' this extremely popular event takes place on the First Friday of each month. Street and lot parking is at a premium but generally free and there are free trolley rides available. First Fridays is a time when dozens of galleries throw open their doors to enormous crowds and sometimes serve wine, street performers entertain visitors, and restaurants bustle with customers.

There’s something for every artistic taste, from realistic photography to impressionistic sculptures, gorgeous fiber art, and ultra-modern acrylic paintings. On a balmy evening art enthusiasts really flock to the Crossroads and many happily pull out their credit cards before returning home.

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