Monday, January 26, 2009

How well do you know your city?

A good friend of mine who lives in Chicago is visiting me and my wife this weekend. It’s his first trip to Kansas City, and I’ve promised to show him what this city has to offer.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the last several days. I have an image in my head and in my heart of what Kansas City is to me. But do I really KNOW Kansas City?

When I visit my friend in Chicago, what I remember most is the great variety of truly fantastic deep-dish pizza he manages to put in front of me. And I’ve shamelessly touted this city’s great barbecue, so of course trips to Gates, Arthur Bryant’s and maybe a few other local barbecue joints will be on the list. My friend is only going to be here for four days (Saturday-Tuesday), and I figure one barbecue meal per day is a good ratio. So we have to find a few other places, unique to KC, to feed him.

(That part should be easy. There’s a load of great Italian and Mexican places in KC, not to mention a gaggle of top-notch steakhouses - most of which are out of my price range - and a billion burger houses.)

What I’m struggling with is, what else are we gonna do besides eat? We’ll probably drop by the World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial. And, of course, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a can’t-miss. I’ll probably also take him on a driving tour of the Country Club Plaza and a few other unique KC places.

So that’s Saturday. What do we do Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?

We could take him to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is one of my personal favorites, but does the Nelson REALLY reflect Kansas City? Maybe it does. Maybe not.

We could enjoy a night out at the Power and Light District. But do those generic bars and restaurants and the frat-boy crowd tell Kansas City’s story?

We could go to Crown Center. But again, we have the problem of generic stores in a mall venue.

So instead of the Nelson, we could take him to the Thomas Hart Benton Home, one of Kansas City’s best-kept secrets, where you can get a personal look at one of America’s great artists who called Kansas City home.

Instead of the P&L District, we could spend an evening at the Westport Flea Market and some of the other bars in Westport.

Instead of Crown center, we could go to Parkville or Weston or Lexington for the afternoon, to show him idyllic small-town living, KC-style.

Kansas City is no Chicago. But I’m pretty sure I can show my friend a great time right here in the city we call home.

--Matt Kelsey

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