About This Place
Pioneers and soldiers, jazz musicians and cattle ranchers, traders and Native Americans would come to define Kansas City. In 1804, legendary explorers Louis and Clark approached the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, deeming the towering bluffs and bedrock cliffs an ideal spot for a fort. Settlers soon followed, establishing the area as a trading post and, in 1850, founding incorporated Kansas City – named for the Kansa tribe inhabiting the Missouri River. By then, the dust of wagon trails stirred through town as adventurers rolled westward, along the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails. In the 1860s, the Civil War era enveloped the city with “Bleeding Kansas,” as citizens fought against pro-slavery advocates from the South.
Kansas City would become legendary not only for its wild frontier history and battles, but also for its culture and industry: barbecue and the birth of jazz music. During the 1930s, the city’s native son – the legendary Charlie “Yardbird” Parker – turned out fast new tempos and riffs, allowing jazz music to evolve and flourish. At the same, the meat industry defined Kansas City with sprawling stockyards and slaughterhouses until floods decimated the area in the 1950s. By then, jazz clubs and chop houses serving prime beef steaks dotted the streets.
Today, Kansas City is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri with nearly 2 million residents, bordering the Missouri-Kansas state line. Nicknamed the “City of Fountains,” Kansas City features more outdoor water fountains than any place in the world with the exception of Rome. In eclectic downtown, Art Deco architecture mingles with historic buildings from the 19th century and modern high-rises. The Power & Light District encompasses eight city blocks of entertainment-venues, restaurants and shops.
One of the top attractions in Kansas City lies just east of downtown in the historic 18th and Vine District, considered the birthplace of jazz. History buffs can wander through the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, housed in the same building. Listening stations play the legendary music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, as a film highlights the history of Kansas City jazz in the 1930s. The attached Blue Room Jazz Club features concerts four nights a week with local musicians.
Established in the 1850s, City Market lies north of downtown on Main and 5th Streets. More than 150 vendors sell everything from flowers to locally grown vegetables, from fresh beef to breads. For some of the best shopping in Kansas City, visitors can also head 15 minutes south to Country Club Plaza. Built in 1922, eateries and shops line the 15-block district modeled after a traditional Spanish village.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is tucked in the verdant Kansas City Sculpture Park, a few minutes east of Country Club Plaza and Main Street. Located in a 1933 neoclassical building, the museum features a collection spanning 5,000 years. Exhibits include European and Asian art, contemporary works by Andy Warhol and one of the most extensive collections of American photography in the U.S.