What began in the 1820s as a trading post for settlers heading west has grown into Missouri’s largest city and headquarters for such companies as Russell Stover chocolates and Hallmark Cards. Not to be confused with the neighboring Kansas City in Kansas (known to locals as KCK), KCMO (pronounced “Kay Cee Moe”) claims the nicknames the “Paris of the Plains” (with more boulevards than the French city) and the “City of Fountains” (more than 200 citywide). Kansas City’s continental climate experiences extreme swings in temperature, with sweltering summers and single-digit temperatures in winter, although spring and fall enjoy very pleasant weather.
KCMO boasts more than 100 eateries serving its renowned barbeque, with the most famous being Arthur Bryant’s, once named “the single best restaurant in the world” by Playboy magazine. City officials all but ignored Prohibition, leading to a heyday of jazz and gambling, which became the setting for Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City. Legendary musician Count Basie was just one of a number of jazz artists that helped bring fame to the “Kansas City stomp” genre, and legend has it that the first jam sessions were performed right here in town. Science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein spent his formative years in the city and later based several novels in his hometown.
Aside from its larger-than-life badminton art installation, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is best known for its immense collection of European and Asian works. Upscale shopping and Spanish-inspired architecture abound at Country Club Plaza, build as the world’s first shopping destination for motorists. The city’s African-American heritage is celebrated at institutions such as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which honors Jackie Robinson and other ballplayers who helped break the color barrier in sports. The National World War I Museum and Memorial commemorates those who served in the Great War with a retrospective of the years leading up to the conflict and its aftermath.
The vast downtown area consists of several neighborhoods, including the Power and Light District, where mixed-use high-rises house offices and apartments above and a mini-city of restaurants and shopping at street level. The ethnically diverse River Market offers dining options from around the world, as well as the year-round weekend City Market, a KCMO staple since 1857. The Crossroads Arts District lives up to its name with an abundance of galleries, events, and the nearby Kauffman Preforming Arts Center, home to the city’s opera, ballet, and symphony. East of downtown, the 18th and Vine historic district, which once played an important role in both jazz history and local African-American culture, is home to the Blue Room jazz club and the American Jazz Museum.