Ultimate travel guide to Kansas City : Home of America’s best barbecue
Kansas City, Missouri has become the home of America’s best barbecue and jazz music but there is much more to the city than just those. The city known as the bread basket of America is also one of the most cost effective cities to visit for the American traveler.
One of the benefits of visiting Kansas City is that you can easily travel by car, train, bus or plane. The city is serviced by the Kansas City International Airport, Amtrak at United Station, and Greyhound is downtown. You can also easily reach the city by car from St. Louis, Tulsa, and Minneapolis.
The important thing to know is you will need a car or to use the bus system because Kansas City has 7,952 square miles that spreads across 15 different counties. If driving to the old Air Force base in Belton from the airport, you are looking at an hour drive in ideal traffic conditions.
It is also important that if you are visiting in the late fall for college football, Chiefs games, or the lights at the Plaza; remember, this is the middle of the United States and it can get quite cold. Make sure you dress accordingly or you will get very cold.
Getting to Kansas City
When coming to the city of fountains, you have several different options on the table. You can get to the home of the Chiefs by car, bus, train and plane. All of them have their benefits.
If you are coming through the Kansas City International Airport, you can choose from several airlines that serve the city. In 2018, the city also voted to build a new super terminal that will be finished by 2020.
|Air Canada Express||Toronto||C|
|Spirit Airlines||Las Vegas||C|
|Via Airlines||Steamboat Springs||C|
Once you land in the city, you can walk out of Terminal C and get a Ride KC bus to downtown for $1.50. This is the public bus system and it is quite good.
If you would rather come by train, Amtrak comes to Kansas City Union Station daily from Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Traveling by train is a very effective and fun way to travel in the United States.
If you are using Greyhound, they have a terminal right outside of downtown that services St. Louis, Denver, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Jefferson Lines also uses the terminal for their bus line as well.
The most popular way to travel to Kansas City is by your own car. In the city, I-70, I-35, and I-71 all meet through downtown Kansas City. It is easy to get to the city from basically anywhere in America. Having your own car while traveling in the city is also very handy due to the how spread out things can be.
The one thing to be careful about when traveling on any of these is to remember that the city can be hit with ice and large snowstorms. It is not uncommon for ice to shut down travel in the Midwest. There has even been cases where the airport stopped all flights for several days due to weather.
Hotels in Kansas City
Once you have arrived, you need to find a place to stay. There are several options and it seemed that the there is pockets of areas that they focus around. Places like the Airport, Crown Center, Country Club Plaza, Royal Stadium and hugging I-70.
In the area around the airport, about every budget to midrange hotel has a facility that is close and many of offer pickup right from the terminals. The one of our choice is the Holiday Inn next to the KCI Expo center.
However, it is recommended that staying in the heart of the city because most of the things that would bring you to Kansas City are between downtown and the south side of the city. The only thing that most people look for in the Northland is Worlds of Fun or Oceans of Fun.
Downtown has several hotels include Marriott, Hotel Philips, and Hampton Inn. If you can afford it, our suggestion is without question using the Hotel Philips by Hilton. This is where the US Presidents stay when in the city.
One of the most best places, in Last Kodiak’s opinion, to stay is the Crown Center. It is a collection of shopping, hotels, and the Kansas City Union Station all interlinked together by a footbridge that cover several blocks of real estate. They also have an outdoor ice rink just outside of Parena Bread. This is where the Sheraton and Westin both operate from.
If you are mainly coming to see the Christmas lights at the Country Club Plaza, you might consider staying right in the area. You will need to book ahead in December but you can find a midrange to higher end hotel. The recommended one for us would be Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza which is right in the heart of the Plaza festive.
Restaurants in Kansas City
People from all over the world fly to the city of fountains to have the iconic Kansas City barbecue that is talked about around the world. It does’t matter if you are talking about Arthur Bryant’s, Gate’s, Jack Shack, or Q39; it is all high quality barbecue that people will get on airplane to taste. In fact, everyone from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin to Danny Glover has walked through the doors of barbecues shops in Kansas City.
While there is a growing debate over the best barbecue in the city, it is a lot of other restaurants in the city that are just as good. In fact, there is a group of Facebook that just evangelizes about great eateries. It is currently over 20,000 members strong. Click here for more information.
In the same way as the black immigration to the urban core fueled barbecue culture, Kansas City is currently seeing the rise of many quality Mexican and Caribbean restaurants popping up all over the city. A growing favorite is El Sombrero in Claycomo. They currently have authentic tacos for $1.25.
There is a several great options for authentic international food in the Westport district of the city. The days of being an outpost for the Oregon Trail are over and the days of being a place to get unique meals and to drink are here. One of the most popular eateries there is Jerusalem Cafe.
If you are downtown, there is really two highly recommended places to try. The first of them is a pizza shop in the River Market area. This is the old city market where all of the action in the city started over a century ago. The restaurant is called Minsky’s Pizza. It is a little upscale from Domino’s that is just up the street on Main.
The other popular option is to the west in the historic West Bottoms district called EJ’s Urban Eatery. They offer a farm to market burger that many locals love to get and will drive across town to buy. It is on West 9th on the way to Kansas.
Downtown Kansas City to Crown Center
There is a street car that was built that runs from the Union Station by Crown Center to the River Market District and back to the Union Station along Main. This places everything you would need within a few blocks of the free train connecting restaurants and attractions in the area. Make no mistake about it, downtown is mainly for business and government but there is some cool places to check out.
One of them is the original city market that has been re-development for commerce. It is mostly mid-range specialty shops these days but it is pretty cool to check out. Saturdays has the place buzzing with vendors buying and selling just like did back in the late 1800’s. There is also a museum in the area about steamboats.
On the other end of the streetcar route is Bartle Hall and Power and Light district. This is where the city comes alive, especially during March Madness (NCAA Basketball). There is several upscale restaurants between the Sprint Center and Main where there is a IMAX theater (that is upscale too). This is just a few blocks away from the Kansas City Convention Center that is build around Bartle Hall. It is a regional epic center for major events in the Midwestern United States.
At the end of the KC streetcar route is the Kansas City Union Station that is completely restored and it is a place of culture and social events. It is home to the largest screen in the United States and has several nice restaurants. It is also still a functional Amtrak Station as well.
Once to go to the second floor of the Union Station, you can walk along The Link that is a climate controlled catwalk that connected you to every major building in the Crown Center including the Westin and Sheraton hotels and the commerce centers that houses Parena Bread and a full size outdoor ice shaking arena.
There is also many different projects that are ongoing at the Crown Center aimed at education and personal enrichment. Crown Center is also home to the Hallmark Vistors Center.
Westport & Country Club Plaza
The area around 39th and Broadway to just past 47th is probably where most of the action goes on in Kansas City. It is Westport District on one end and the Country Club Plaza on the other end. One is for partying and the second one is for upscale shopping.
The old Wesport, Missouri that use to be for trading before crossing for the Oregon Trail is now party central. The corner of Westport Rd and Pennsylvania is ground zero for drinking. This is where you will find Kelly’s Westport Inn, the oldest bar in Kansas City. McCoy Public House and Harry’s Pub are also quite popular in Westport. If you want drinks to take home, you can check out World Market and the Westport Flea Market.
Down a few blocks is the Country Club Plaza that is known around the world for its Christmas lights. However, it is a pretty cool to shop anytime of the year. There is an outdoor shopping area that was popular long before outdoor shopping was “cool.” Everything from Parena’s Bread to a HUGE H&M store to Cheesecake Factory.
In December, they light up the plaza and it become a very bright North Pole with people handing out hot chocolate. It is not uncommon to see church groups standing on the streets singing Christmas carols.