The metropolitan Kansas City area includes Kansas City, Missouri, an established destination, and Kansas City, Kansas, an up-and-coming destination in its own right.
Kansas City, Kansas, aka KCK, actually has a dual personality. “There are two kinds of experiences here—culture/heritage experiences and big-attraction experiences,” says Alan Carr, executive director of Visit Kansas City, Kansas. “It’s kind of ‘choose your own adventure.’”
The Village West area is home to major attractions, including many themed activities for groups. Sporting activities include: Sporting KC, a Major League Soccer team playing at Children’s Mercy Park; the Kansas City Monarchs, a minor league baseball team that plays at Legends Field; and Kansas Speedway, where NASCAR races burn the track twice a year. Gaming groups enjoy Hollywood Casino, with 2,000 slot machines, 52 table games, and five restaurants. Legends Outlets, KC’s only designer outlet center, is a favorite, too.
In contrast, the downtown area of KCK is a mosaic of ethnic neighborhoods where visitors enjoy cultural attractions and foods from many lands.
Some people don’t know how diverse Kansas City, Kansas, is. “We’re the most diverse city in the Kansas City metro area as well as in the state of Kansas,” Carr says. “Groups really like to explore the heritage and culture of the neighborhoods.”
Strawberry Hill Museum, a popular attraction, focuses on the history and culture of Eastern European settlers, including Croatians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Slovenians. Another historical point of interest is Quindaro, a town that served as an entry point for enslaved people who were seeking freedom in Kansas. “Quindaro really tells the story of the Underground Railroad and slaves who were escaping Missouri across the Missouri River,” Carr says. Although an important station on the Underground Railroad, Quindaro was short-lived. All that remains are ruins visitors can view from an overlook above the river. Nearby is Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum.
Visit Kansas City, Kansas is launching its self-guided KC Legacy Trail to highlight the cultural heritage of five ethnic groups—Latinos, Eastern Europeans, African Americans, Indigenous peoples, and “modern immigrants” who have emigrated in the last 40 years. Trail participants can earn prizes by visiting multiple stops.
Group planners will find plenty to do in KCK: “You can certainly fill a tour here,” Carr says. “Kansas City, Kansas, is group-friendly. We offer planning services, and we can suggest group-friendly hotels and restaurants.”
Taste KCK: Tacos and ‘Q’
With diverse ethnic groups come interesting eats—Kansas City, Kansas, has everything from Cuban sandwiches at Chips & Coins to Puerto Rican food at Caribe Blue. Find authentic Neapolitan pizza and an option to make mozzarella at 1889 Pizza Napoletana. KCK’s Taco Trail features more than 50 restaurants where taco heritage can be explored and experienced.
And groups can sample heat galore at Spicin Foods, the maker of salsa and hot sauce. “Visitors have to sign a waiver to sample spicier varieties,” says Alan Carr, executive director of Visit Kansas City, Kansas.
Don’t forget the “Q.” Some of the iconic barbecue places in Kansas City are in Kansas City, Kansas. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, born in a gas station, is a local favorite.
Article by Kathie Sutin
Main image: Sporting KC; Credit: Visit Kansas City Kansas