Posts

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Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner : taking the train from Kansas City to St. Louis

Traveling from Kansas City to St. Louis is typical done by car or by plane but there is another option: Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner. It is a train that runs between the cities twice a day. It is a shame that more people do not use the cost effective service from Amtrak to be honest. Read more

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Housing Crisis in Kansas City?

Many have talked about the housing crisis in Kansas City around the coffee table at Parena Bread but it seems that even the Kansas City Star believes there is a serious housing crisis in Kansas City, at least in downtown. On April 20, they publish an article about it called, Shortage of low income downtown KC housing will hurt city. Read more

Open Letter to Walt Disney

Dear Bob Iger and Walt Disney,

This is one of those boring old open letters. I am from Kansas City, the hometown of Walt Disney. I know many people forget that he is from here and part of the reason for that is you and your company has forgotten it as well. However, without Kansas City; there is no Walt Disney Company.  Read more

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.

Corpus Christi International Airport

 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.

AirlineMain DestinationTerminal
Air Canada ExpressTorontoC
Alaska AirlinesSeattle B
Allegiant AirlinesOrlando C
American AirlinesChicagoC
American EagleDallasC
Delta AirlinesAtlantaB
Frontier AirlinesDenverC
Southwest AirlinesDallasB
Spirit AirlinesLas VegasC
United AirlinesHoustonC
Via AirlinesSteamboat SpringsC

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, Las Vegas, 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.

 

 

 

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Complete guide to Kansas City International Airport

While the glory days of TWA are over, Kansas City International Airport still remains to be a major hub to the United States and North America. It is from here that you can connect to about anywhere on the continent. The vast area of the airport is somewhat a challenge to get around so here is your guide to the airport. Read more

Kansas City guide : 20 things to do in the City of Fountains

Kansas City is the city of fountains but there is a lot more in the city than just that if you are looking to explore the place that is known as the bread basket of America. Read more

Kansas City Zoo has become of America’s best zoo to visit

One of the best ways to kill a day in Kansas City (besides Worlds of Fun) is to go to the Kansas City Zoo. It has really came together since I first was there on a field trip in the first grade. The city has really spend some serious cash into bringing it back to life. It was not much to see back in the 1980’s but that has changed now. It is quite the attraction for many. Read more

Walt Disney has unknown ties to Kansas City that formed his views

Walt Disney is an iconic name to the United States but what many forget is that his roots are actually from Missouri, not Florida. In fact, it is commonly believe that the idea behind Mickey Mouse was developed while he had a studio in Kansas City and was attending the Kansas City Art Institute. Read more

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is very interesting for the sports historian!

If you are a sport fan, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a must see for you. It is a reminder of the “separate but equal” culture of the early 20th century that also ruled in the sport world of America. It is interesting and it is something that many of us don’t remember as it ceased to exist in 1950. However, for those thirty years, it was entertainment to many black Americans that did not have much to smile about.  Read more

Personal Project matters…. a lot!

I have heard photographers, including myself, for years recommend doing personal projects from time to time. However, truth be told: I rarely actual do one. They are important because you are shooting for you; not a client to please. Most photographers are their worst critic.

The other reason is I have been dealing with some personal junk over the last six months. As a result, there has been more days that I did not pick up a camera or load Photoshop than I did. I need to push myself back into doing what I love: photography.

While I could just find a client to do some work for or make a trip to get some prints; I want to challenge myself with something that could fail. If it does, it is not the end of the world. That’s the beauty of a personal project. Failure is a setback, not a loss of income.

The truth is personal projects are excuses to push some boundaries. What could I try and that I would not take a chance doing with a client or in front of a group? That is something I want to do on a project that doesn’t matter if I am successful or not. It is about growth and getting my head “back in the game.”

GoPro Challenge!

I have an idea for a personal project. It is to take a GoPro action camera and use it to get images around Kansas City. I have to make it work. Whatever limitations that the camera gives me (which is a hell of a lot), I have to work within to make the image the best I can.

Because I am very limited (ok, completely limited) by the fact that I have zero control over exposure, aperture or focal length; I have to make up for it in composition. I have to make the images interesting by doing things I can control.

The real challenge will be once the images are loaded into Photoshop. This is an editing challenge without question. There is no question in my mind about it. They will be shamelessly heavily edited in post production.

Why would I do a project like this? The Gopro is without question the worse camera on the market. It just can’t do the most basic things. It is purely a one trick pony. If I can make it work with one, I can do anything I want to with a real camera used for real pictures. This is meant to push me to the impossible.

I am also sure that out of this will come some very unique shots of Kansas City that bring a fresh look at life in the bread basket of America. Getting hero shots will be very easy as an example. It will also be more simple to get street photography because a GoPro does not yell “camera” to everyone.

Plus, after the project, I still have a camera to use for time lapses so I don’t destroy my DSLR.

Personal Projects become cash cows

In some cases, whole photography company were changed by one. You never know what interest people will have. It is possible that people will just love the idea. It happened for some really big names!

Sharing these images on Facebook and Flicker could lead to printing a book that would sell like crazy. It could land some work with tourism companies in Kansas City. The options are endless with a project like this. One of my most iconic images from the Philippines came from a test shot for something else.

If all else fails, I have added a lot of unique images to the website, Flickr and social media. For all I know that one of them will become popular a year from now. That stuff does happen from time to time. Just saying.