Things to do, places to go in Kansas City

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

It's fair to say that I've been waiting for this one.

Sure, working on the "Things to do, places to go" articles for Louisville and Philadelphia the last couple of years was fun. But this year Congress is being held in Kansas City, Missouri, my hometown. And I've really been looking forward to sharing with our members all the great things that can be found in good 'ol KC.

So settle back and allow me to share with you some of the wonderful things you can do in this town before, during, and after the biggest public works event of the year.

Barbecue and jazz
Kansas City is a Midwest metropolis with all the amenities of big city living, and all the comforts of a small town. Our rolling green parks and crystal blue fountains give it an understated elegance found in few Midwestern towns. And, of course, it's a town famous for its hot barbecue and even hotter jazz—in KC, we serve up the slow roast with all the style and sizzle of a Charlie Parker solo.

No doubt about it, Kansas City has the most mouth-watering barbecue in the world—"no brag just fact," as Walter Brennan liked to say. And fortunately for Congressgoers, there are plenty of terrific barbecue spots near the Congress site and hotels. It would take several pages to list all of the great BBQ joints, so here are a few of the best: Gates Bar-B-Q, Arthur Bryant's Barbeque, and KC Masterpiece Barbecue & Grill. After all, in a city known for its beef, it's only apropos that KC should excel at serving up the fatty patty.

Another famous Kansas City staple is LaMar's Donuts. Folks here have been dunking Raymond LaMar's donuts for as long as they can remember. As the story goes, in 1933 LaMar was without a job. One morning as he was sitting in a drugstore he happened to bump into a guy who sold donuts and wanted to sell the business. LaMar didn't even know what a donut was until that point. But it wasn't long before he took over that fledgling donut stand and built a glazed pastry empire that reaches all the way to New Jersey. Anyway, I can personally guarantee that these will be the best donuts you'll ever eat. And here again you're lucky—there's a LaMar's that's not too far from the downtown hotels.

Of course, of all the things the town is famous for, Kansas City's greatest contribution—jazz—can be heard any night of the week, floating from smoky doorways, spilling out into back alleys and city streets. At places like the Phoenix, the Blue Room and the Grand Emporium, musicians show off their chops while cooking up KC's one-of-a-kind recipes for straight-ahead jazz. A select cut of Dixieland, marinating in a tasty swing sauce, and covered with down-home blues.

The Kansas City jazz honor roll reads like a Who's Who of American musical greats: Joe Turner, Jay McShann, Count Basie, Lester Young and Charlie Parker. Indeed, the KC sound is as old as the city itself—born from the blues and reared in late-night sessions, played 'til the cows come home.

More good stuff...
Okay, we've talked about KC's barbecue, donuts, and jazz. But what other cool things are awaiting you in Kansas City? The answer is plenty. Just check these out:

Royals & Chiefs
Like baseball? Well, if you want to see the Kansas City Royals take on the Cleveland Indians or the Detroit Tigers while you're in KC, you're in luck—the Royals are at home the week of Congress. KC plays the Indians Sept. 21-23 and the Tigers Sept. 25-27 at beautiful Kaufman Stadium. All the games begin at 7:05 p.m. Central Time, except for the Cleveland game on Sept. 22 (6:05 p.m.) and the day game with Cleveland on Sept. 23 (don't plan on that one—after all, you don't want to miss the second day of Congress). For tickets and more information, go to www.kcroyals.com.

The best thing about seeing the Royals play the Indians and Tigers is that you'll be seeing the future 2002 World Champions—and I don't mean Cleveland or Detroit (no offense to you folks who live there). No, the Kansas City Royals are going to win the World Series this year. It doesn't matter that we've been on the losing end since our World Championship year in 1985. It also doesn't matter that, as of this writing, we're currently sitting in the proverbial cellar of the American League Central with a 16-28 record. No, we're going to end up with a 98-64 record and then beat the Yankees for the pennant. Who will we beat in the Series? Hey, that doesn't matter either!

You're also in luck if you're a football fan and would like to see the Kansas City Chiefs battle the Miami Dolphins at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 29. (Of course, this is a few days after Congress officially ends, but it will give you the incentive to stick around awhile, see the sights, and sample our delicious barbecue.) For more information, or to try to get tickets, go to www.kcchiefs.com. I say "try" because a Chiefs game, always a tough ticket, is going to be even tougher this year—after all, everyone knows we're going to win the Super Bowl. It doesn't matter that we haven't even appeared in a Super Bowl for 32 years. It also doesn't matter that we choked like a big dog on a chicken bone the last couple of years. No, the Chiefs will end up with a 10-6 record, will win all their playoff games, and will go on to win the Super Bowl. Who will we beat in the big one? Does it really matter?

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
If you can stay an extra couple of days in Kansas City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art would be well worth checking out. The Nelson-Atkins has prestigious collections of European and American art, but it is known above all for its magnificent collection of Asian art, notably the arts of China, which has made it one of the nation's centers for the study of Chinese art. And if you go, be sure to eat in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant, which is fashioned after an open-air Italian courtyard and is a truly beautiful setting. My wife, son and I are crazy about both the museum and the restaurant.

Kansas City Zoo
If you visit the Kansas City Zoo you'll have the opportunity to explore entire continents and immerse yourself in the animals' natural habitats. The Australia section gives you a glimpse of the wildlife in the outback. Or you could embark on a safari through Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Uganda. When we visit the zoo, we always take the tram to the Africa section and the train through Australia. It's a terrific place.

Shopping in KC
You didn't think we were going to end this article without talking about shopping in Kansas City, did you? Trust me, there are some wonderful places to shop in this town. The Country Club Plaza is the oldest shopping center in the country and attracts 10 million tourists each year. More than 180 stores in a 14-block area make this the perennial end-all, be-all of the Kansas City shopping scene. But keep in mind the Crown Center shops—about 50 specialty stores representing national chains as well as several local merchants on three carpeted levels. By the way, Crown Center is just a stone's throw from APWA headquarters.

Everything's up-to-date in Kansas City
Speaking of APWA headquarters, with Congress in Kansas City this is your chance to see where the headquarters staff works—we're not far at all from the Congress site and, as mentioned above, we're right by Crown Center. We'd love to have you visit our offices.

More importantly, we'd love to see you at Congress. Make plans now to attend the 2002 Best Show in Public Works, September 22-25, in Kansas City. The APWA staff and the Congress Local Management Team have some great things planned this year. In short, it's going to be a terrific event, held in a terrific city. And did I mention that you'll get the chance to eat some terrific barbecue?

When he's not stuffing his face with Gates Bar-B-Q's short end spare ribs, R. Kevin Clark can be reached at (816) 472-6100 or at kclark@apwa.net.