Kansas City, Kansas City here I come!

Kansas City!

Part 2: It’s not often that you take the time to actually explore and tour your own hometown. This was my friend Hillary’s first trip to Kansas City and I had less than two days to show off the city of fountains!

We arrived in KC on Friday afternoon, but had to head straight for the rehearsal dinner so there wasn’t much sightseeing done on that day. But Hillary did get to see some lovely Missouri countryside on our drive from Excelsior Springs (where the rehearsal was) to Liberty (where the dinner was). Lots of hay bales in the rolling hills :). We had dinner in downtown LIberty which is a very charming little square and that was fun!

Missouri countryside 🙂

We started off our day on Saturday by having lunch in Parkville at Cafe Des Amis. It’s one of my family’s favorite restaurants and the food, service and atmosphere is just amazing! We’ve gotten to know the owners Guillaume and Ingrid over the years and they are the best!! Plus, Parkville is such an adorable river side town that it definitely deserves a visit! http://www.cafedesamiskc.com/

After lunch, Hillary and I headed to The Elms in Excelsior Springs for the wedding of my good friends Sara and Andrew! Even though it was a 100 degrees outside, the wedding was so beautiful and perfect! The bride was gorgeous and the groom was dashing! So blessed to enjoy the day with them!

The lovely couple!

Sunday was the day we actually toured the heart of Kansas City. Hillary and I started the day by driving over the Missouri River via the Broadway Bridge (this gives you the best skyline view of downtown KC), and headed to the City Market. My family used to spend more time here when I was younger, but as my brother and I got older and our schedules became busier, we didn’t make it down to the City Market very often. (Though I did come here a number of times for outdoor concerts!) And their farmer’s market is amazing!! Definitely check it out if you haven’t! My brother and I used to beg mom to buy us a pet bunny that someone used to sell there. In retrospect, I’m really glad mom never caved. Bunnies are cute, but smelly haha.

City Market

View of downtown from the City Market

Fresh produce!

Hillary bought some homemade kettle corn to take back

Steamboat Arabia was and is an important find due to the preservation of life during that time period. Clothes, boots, dishes, tools, etc. were found in excellent condition.

The big steamboat wheel inside the Steamboat Arabia Museum

After exploring the City Market and taking a quick stop inside the Steamboat Arabia Museum, we went to Union Station. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful architectural buildings I’ve seen in person (at least in the United States).

View of Union Station from Liberty Memorial

Kansas City’s Union Station was built in 1914. Due to KC’s central location, the city was a huge hub for passenger and freight train traffic. The size and magnificence of Union Station reflects this. Personally, I think Kansas City’s Union Station in one of the grandest in the country. At its peak during WWII, approximately one million passengers traveled through Union Station!

But due to a decrease in train travel through the 20th century, Union Station officially closed in the 1980s. The building sat abandoned until 1996 when a historic initiative was passed to fund the renovation. I remember mom taking Kord and I to Union Station right before they started the remodel. It was very messy and dilapidated! In 2002, Amtrak came back to Union Station and I took the train out of here to St. Louis a couple years ago. It was pretty cool to board a train at Union Station just like passengers did 100 years ago!  And with Science City at Union Station, and now the post office located inside, there is a steady flow of daily visitors to Union Station.

Union Station

The Grand Hall – entrance to Union Station

“Even with the new age look and feel of Science City, the goal in the renovation of Union Station was always to return it to the original glory last seen in 1914. Working top to bottom, inside and out, no detail was overlooked, including matching of colors and style.”

This was the large waiting area for passengers back in the day. Today “there are currently two trains daily to and from St. Louis, one train daily to Chicago and one train daily to the southwest.”

After touring Union Station, we met up with my parents at Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ in the Crossroads Art District. This Jack Stack is located in an historic converted Freight House. It’s a beautiful restaurant! And you can see the back of Union Station from their parking lot. This was Hillary’s first taste of Kansas City BBQ and we got her approval and praise! Jack Stack might not be THE best BBQ in KC, but it’s my favorite and definitely in the top BBQ joints.

One of Kansas City’s best!

Inside the converted freight house of Jack Stack’s

Ribs, chicken, baked beans, and cheesy corn!

The Western Auto sign has become a city landmark in the Crossroads District. The building was erected in 1914 for Coca-Cola, but later was the headquarters for Western Auto Supply. The sign remains atop the building and is illuminated nightly.

After our enormous lunch, we drove through the Crossroads district and showed Hillary the art galleries and boutiques in this up-and-coming area. We followed that up with a quick tour of The Power and Light District. Then we headed to the Liberty Memorial, which is the official WWI museum in the United States. Even if you don’t go into the beautiful museum, the architecture and views of downtown Kansas City are worth a visit.

The Liberty Memorial

You can go to the top of the tower to get a 360 degree view of Kansas City.

View of downtown KC from Liberty Memorial

A group of about 40 Kansas Citians formed an organization and fundraiser in 1919 for the construction of a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in WWI. Groundbreaking commenced on November 1, 1921 and was completed and dedicated by President Coolidge on November 11, 1926. The architecture is classical Egyptian Revival with a limestone exterior.

The museum underwent major reconstruction and was reopened to the public on December 2, 2006, as the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. “The Museum presents a comprehensive interpretation of World War I (1914-1919) and its lasting consequences, providing a vivid and memorable experience for all.”

Designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as the official museum dedicated to WWI.

Entrance to the museum

The tower of Liberty Memorial stands at 217 feet and features carved stone figures around the top, representing the four Guardian Spirits: Courage, Honor, Patriotism and Sacrifice. The surrounding landscape is modeled after the Mall in Washington DC.

“At night, the top of the memorial tower emits steam illuminated by bright orange lights. This effect creates the illusion of a burning pyre and can be seen for some distance”

Liberty Memorial showcases it’s 1920’s art deco architecture

The two sphinxes covering their eyes represent the POW and MIA soldiers.

After touring Liberty Memorial, we headed to Kansas City’s most iconic place to visit: The Plaza. We did more of a drive through of The Plaza since it was such a warm day, so no shopping for me that day :(. For those who do not know, Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza was built in 1922 by J. C. Nichols and modeled after Seville, Spain. And Country Club Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile.

Probably Kansas City’s most famous fountain: The J. C. Nichols’ fountain at The Plaza

The fountain was erected by the Nichols family in dedication of J. C. Nichols

Fun fact:  One of the dolphins on the J. C. Nichols fountain was not the original up until last year. This went unnoticed until 2010, when a man from Florida called the park officials and told them he has one of their missing dolphins. Apparently a replica was made when the Nichols family purchased the 1910 Henri Greber fountain in the 1950s and discovered that one of the original nine pieces was missing, unbeknowst to the public. It was known to the public that the fountain was missing various parts and those were commissioned to be replaced, but someone up top kept it underwraps that an entire sculpture needed to be recreated. The missing dolphin was added last year and now the J.C. Nichols fountain is officially complete.  Click here for full story: http://catherinesherman.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/mystery-of-the-fountain/

If you are in Kansas City at Christmas, The Plaza light display is a must-see. The tradition began in 1925 with just a single strand of colored lights and has transformed into over 80 miles of lights on every building of The Plaza.

After touring The Plaza, we made a quick stop at my high school: St. Teresa’s Academy. They just finished adding a new chapel to the campus and I wanted to see how it looked. It’s a beautiful addition to the grounds!

The new Windmoor Chapel and high-tech classrooms at St. Teresa’s Academy

STA campus

My immortalization on the campus sidewalks at STA (but of course my brick is in a high traffic area and is showing wear…hmph!)

Next, we headed to another old stomping ground of mine in high school: Brookside. Brookside is a charming little neighborhood and many of my days and nights in high school were spent grabbing coffee at The Roasterie Cafe, or a yummy sandwich at Pickerman’s, or my favorite, a delicious concrete at Foo’s!

Eating my usual: Reese’s Lovers concrete!

Foo’s Menu. They even have a Cherry Mash concrete 😉

On our drive back to The Northland, we drove up Ward Parkway to marvel at the grand homes!

We finished our tour of Kansas City with a trip to the West Bottoms. This was Hillary’s favorite place in KC due to it’s preservation and rustic charm.

The West Bottoms

The West Bottoms is an industrial area to the west of downtown at the confluence of the Missouri River and the Kansas River. This is one of the oldest areas of KC and it’s where the first Union Station was located, as well as being home to the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange and the Kansas City Stockyards. The West Bottoms was a booming industrial and stock exchange area until the end of World War II when the economy took a hard hit after military construction suddenly ceased. A second hit to the area took place in 1951 when a major flood caused many businesses to move out of the area.

In 1974, Kansas City attempted to reclaim the area by building Kemper Arena. But the biggest annual event in the West Bottoms is the 6-week American Royal show (which is definitely worth visiting in the fall! Especially if you want good BBQ!).October is also a busy month for the West Bottoms with the haunted houses (restored factories) during Halloween. Thousands of people flock to the West Bottoms in the fall for the American Royal and haunted houses. And now the area is showing more signs of renewal with artists using old structures as galleries and antique stores. The West Bottoms is organically becoming another Crossroads Art District and hopefully this will be a lasting movement.

One of the recycled and salvaged material art galleries that are popping up in the West Bottoms

Old factories in the West Bottoms

I love the rustic charm of the area

Trains still make their way through the West Bottoms

Some original signage

One more miscellaneous picture!

Kansas City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown

Thanks for taking a tour of my hometown with me!

One Comment on “Kansas City, Kansas City here I come!

  1. Pingback: The West Bottoms | Wherever Life Takes Me

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