The Jazz Capital of the World, aka Cowtown, is Packed with Personality, History, Fun, and, yes, Fountains
It was just over 50 years ago when Leiber and Stoller wrote the lyrics: “I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come…” The song eventually became their most-recorded hit with over 300 versions made over the years.
It’s no wonder so many musicians have longed to warble about this huge city with an even bigger personality.
Kansas City – a metropolitan area of 2 million people – is known for its barbecue, its jazz, and its fountains and has undergone a $9 billion “renaissance” in downtown redevelopment.
Often called the City of Fountains, Kansas City has more fountains than any other city in the world, except maybe Rome. The exact number of fountains is not even known, because so many new public and private ones are added regularly – but there are at least 200 flowing fountains in Kansas City and 48 of them are public.
The city’s love affair with fountains may be related to the importance of water to the city’s development: It’s located where the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet and many arrived in Kansas City by steamboat to begin their overland journeys westward.
The city’s first fountains date back to the late 1800s and were purely practical: They were erected over springs by the Humane Society to provide clean drinking water for animals (in 1910, there were an estimated 70,000 horses in KC!).
Over the years, Kansas City’s fountains have become a cherished public art form, erupting with magnificent symphonies of water, light and sculpture. Today, it’s sort of an unwritten policy that a fountain of some fashion be incorporated into the design of major new public or commercial building projects.
The city’s fountains come to life each year on Fountain Day, which is usually in April; you can check the event calendar at KCParks.org for current information. For more information, visit CityOfFountains.org.
Following are some attractions in Kansas City you don’t want to miss during your visit to the area, which is an easy four-hour drive or so northward from Eureka Springs. For more information about visiting Kansas City, go to VisitKC.com or call 800-767-7700.
Must-See Attractions in Kansas City
The museum, ranked among the top in the nation, recently completed a $200 mil-lion expansion and still offers free admission – unheard of considering the quality of the art it houses. Designed by Steven Holl, the Bloch Building adds the equivalent of a 67-story office building lying on its side, and was ranked by Time magazine as a No. 1 architectural marvel.
The redeveloped, eight-block, $850 million district – the largest new development project in the Midwest – has reenergized downtown KC, creating an entertainment, retail and dining hotspot for locals, visitors and conventioneers. Live entertainment offered more than 150 days per year.
The Federal Reserve Bank’s new 600,000-square-foot complex houses its operations facilities on a 15.7-acre site in midtown’s Penn Valley Park. The complex includes a Money Museum, which offers a priceless opportunity to learn about the nation’s financial system through interactive exhibits. Lift a $360,000 gold bar, create your own currency and peer into the region’s largest cash vault.
Kansas City’s botanical garden has unveiled what may be the first garden of its kind in the country. The 100 percent edible, 12-acre Heartland Harvest Garden shows the path of food from seed to plate. The new are includes a demonstration kitchen, education garden and four acres of intricate quilt gardens that visitors can view from the top of a 45-foot silo. Powell Gardens has much more to offer as well as fun events throughout the year. Learn more at PowellGardens.org.
Opened in spring 2011, Planet Snoopy features more than 20 rides, shows and attractions devoted to pint-size play, plus daily meet-and-greet opportunities with Charlie Brown, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang. It’s part of the Worlds of Fun amusement park, adjacent to Oceans of Fun water park.
The booming Village West area in Kansas City, Kansas, welcomed its first casino in early 2012. A joint venture between Kansas Speedway and Penn National Gaming, the initial phase of the new complex at Turn 2 of the racetrack includes 100,000 square feet of gaming floor with over 2,000 slot machines and more than 40 exciting table games, including baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette and a live poker room. Recent additions include a luxury hotel, convention center and an entertainment district. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of their five on-site restaurants, including Turn 2, which sports spectacular views of the Kansas Speedway.
The Kansas City Zoo was one of 60 Zoos honored in “America’s Best Zoos 2008,” and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for “African Animals and Exhibits,” and ranked among the Top 10 in the nation for “Australian Animals and Exhibits” and for “Pachyderms: Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos.” Read more about my visit to the Kansas City Zoo and check out the Polar Bear Cam here.
An inspiring and enormously fun spot to visit with the whole family is LegoLand Discovery Center, located at the Crown Center. After you take the elevator to the floors above the Kansas City Aquarium, you’ll enter a world where everything is either made of Legos or is about Legos.
LegoLand features more than 2 million Lego bricks under one roof; Kingdom Quest, an interactive Lego laser ride; 4D Cinema, where the audience can actually feel part of the story; Master Model Builder (watch him at work or sign up for hands-on lessons); MiniLand with iconic miniature landmarks made entirely of Legos; plus party rooms, school workshops and a huge Lego shop. It’s the ultimate place for Lego fans – young and old.
Tickets start at $19 and it’s well worth it. Plan on being there for up to four hours: There’s a lot of playing to be done here! LegoLand is located at 2475 Grand Blvd., Kansas City. Learn more at LegoLandDiscoveryCenter.com/kansascity/ or call 816-471-4386.
This article was first published in Currents magazine, a lifestyles publication for Carroll County, Arkansas, residents published by Rust Communications when the author was executive editor. Click here to view the PDF pages as they originally were published in the magazine.