All About Kansas City, By Locals Who Love It

published Aug 30, 2017
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(Image credit: BG Captures)

If you haven’t spent much time in Kansas City, you might not realize that it’s a city with a vibrant culture, tons of great food (barbecue, of course, but it goes beyond that, too) and friendly, creative people—but that’s exactly what it is. It’s an up-and-coming city with a lot to offer, so we asked KCMO residents to share what they love about their city, along with their recommendations for visitors and transplants. We know it sounds amazing, but, you know… don’t all move there at once.

So…why Kansas City? Why do locals love it there?

“I love Kansas City because anything you could ever want for, you can find here. We may not have the mountains or the ocean, but everything else we do have makes up for the things we “lack.” There is such a strong sense of belonging and pride here. We are all the sum of our parts, Kansas City. I am definitely not a city-living girl, but being here, I get the same diversity and culture as the city, without all of the people. There are times when you can be in the heart of downtown, and there are people everywhere, and other times where you can lay down in the middle of the street because you are utterly alone. That is something that I have only found here. The sense that you’re part of something much bigger, but still able to maintain that you’re an individual, not just a number in a sea of a million others.” — Beth

“It’s a very accessible city. There is a lot of green space and free parking, but very little traffic. We also have the second most fountains of any city in the world, after Rome.” — Jennifer

“I love the food and coffee communities in Kansas City. We have several really amazing coffee shops and as someone who typically works from home, I am always looking for a new, unique place to set up office for a couple hours. My new favorite is called Monarch, everything is bright and white except this killer dark, floral wallpaper on the back walls. Love it.” — Mary

“I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, moved away for a few years during college and graduate school, and returned when I was hired out of grad school at an organization headquartered in the heart of downtown. I have worked downtown in the Power and Light District for more than seven years now, and this spring I moved from the suburbs to the Library District just a few blocks from my office. I have watched Kansas City grow up and come into its own over the years, and I had a front-row seat to the revitalization of downtown because of my job. There is so much to do in Kansas City – there’s a fantastic arts culture, our sports teams bring people together from all walks of life, the food scene (which goes well beyond barbecue) is phenomenal, and to top it all off, the people are nice and the cost of living is cheap. What more can you ask for in a city? As a single woman, I don’t think there are many cities I would feel comfortable living in the heart of downtown, but in Kansas City, I feel safer in my high-rise apartment on Main Street than I did in my previous place in the suburbs.” — Angela

“KCMO is loaded with talented, determined, creative people who live amongst magnificent historic architecture connected by a glorious parks and boulevards network of trees and forests. The city is full of genuinely nice people, though we have a strong flair of hustle in this town, it never comes before relationships and being a nice person. Walk around for a few days and you’ll see what I mean.” — DuRon

“Its youth. KC is growing and managing to attract more and more young people. This keeps the culture interesting and hip. Bars stay open until 3am, and there are after-hours bars further out in the country that stay open until 5am. We’ve also got a great LGBT community. Check out a place called Missie B’s or Hamburger Mary’s. There’s a strong entrepreneurship and design community. Also, great career opportunities in finance, marketing, IT, engineering, and communications. It’s also cheap. The average cost of rent for a decent 2-bed apartment is $800-$900. If you’re a little more fancy you can get that downtown penthouse loft you’ve always dreamed of for around $1600. And it’s great for travel. It’s a 1 hour flight or 8 hour drive to Chicago, Denver, Dallas, and Minneapolis. It’s only a 3 and a half hour flight to Miami, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Myrtle Beach. Air travel has become so cheap that for the cost of a night out and the time it takes to read a good book, you can spend the weekend wherever you want.” — Chase

“I love the fact that no matter what your interests are, there’s likely a community for you to be a part of here. If you’re new to the city, you’ll be overwhelmed (in a good way!) with locals’ recommendations on organizations to join, attractions and areas to explore, and of course, about 27 different recommendations for where to get the very best KC barbecue.” — Carolyn

(Image credit: Tupungato)

If you’re curious about the food and culture scene, wonder no more:

“When you come to KC, you definitely need to see some live jazz. I recommend The Green Lady Lounge, but there are so many great places that offer fun experiences and talented musicians. As for the food, everyone thinks of barbecue when they think of KC, but we have so much more to offer than that. I think Kansas City has a great food scene, and even though I’ve lived here most of my life, I’m still discovering new, delicious restaurants all the time. Some of my favorite neighborhoods for food include Westport, 39th Street, 17th and Summit and the Crossroads.” — Angela

The City Market is a great start. It’s part of the river market—they always have events going on on the weekends. Things like the KC Ragtime Festival, Farmer’s markets, fairs, and the like. Plus, there are a lot of great open air restaurants. It’s a great place to go and just walk around. While there, check out the Wine Walk on Delaware. The KC Public Libraryis not only a great library to visit if you like libraries but they always have interesting events like lectures, author talks, local politics, movies, wine and cheese tastings, etc.” — Chase

“KCMO is home to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the UMKC arts program, and the KC Ballet. There are local artists and street art all over the place. And you cannot talk about the arts without mentioning First Fridays. The first Friday of each month, several different neighborhoods become art galleries. Literally, every business in certain neighborhoods become an art gallery and the sidewalks overflow with people.” — DuRon

“As you’ve probably heard, the BBQ is delicious. There are a ton of bars, and the Sprint Center hosts all of the big events. There are late-night jazz bars and lovely museums.” — Jennifer

“The food and culture scene is surprising…but only if you’ve never been here. Kansas Citians’ authenticity, passion, and desire to create something special comes out in the flavors and the performances you’ll find throughout the city.” — Carolyn

“I love the fact that there are so many small and local businesses here to support. I never eat at a chain in Kansas City because there are so many places that will legitimately satisfy whatever it is you want while supporting a KC establishment. Ramen has finally reached KC over the last couple of years. Granted, it is not the caliber of NYC ramen, that’s for sure. But, it’s cool because it’s homegrown people, trying to bring something beautiful and new here to their people. We have huge and small music venues, so essentially every artist will make a stop here, no matter the genre. The small venues are so supportive of the local music scene and you can easily catch a live show any night of the week. In my early 20s I was going to shows almost every weekend, and not just of local bands, but touring bands that I really loved. And I loved that I could see these people in a venue where I wasn’t going to drown in 100s of sweaty dudes pushing me to the back. The music scene in KC seems a lot more intimate than in other places. We have amazing art galleries, and again, the city is so support of local artists, which is amazing. Kansas City is also becoming really active in the social justice scene. I personally know quite a few people who are spearheading groups and activities and demonstrations about all types of current social and civil issues, and I think that’s really badass and it makes me really proud of them and those who will listen.” — Beth

“Kansas City’s culture has really grown over the last several years. There seem to be endless farm-to-table restaurants popping up all over the city. There are also a couple of really great, lesser known bars with live music. The Green Lady lounge has live Jazz every night of the week and a fabulous atmosphere. There is no end to good places to get brunch in our city, either. As far as music goes, I think there has been a huge push to support local musicians. In Northtown a new venue just opened up and they are primarily booking lesser known bands. We get some big artists here on a regular basis—we just saw Sufjan Stephens last year at the Uptown and missed Fleet Foxes this week while we were traveling.” — Mary

(Image credit: MGH)

If you’re thinking about visiting, here’s when to go:

“We get all four seasons here in Kansas City and our summers are really hot and humid. If the heat isn’t your thing, I suggest spring and fall. There are a couple music festivals throughout the summer, though, so if heat doesn’t bother you, there is so much to do between June and August.” — Mary

“Spring and fall have the best weather. The lighting of the Christmas lights on the plaza on Thanksgiving is also a great event.” — Jennifer

“KC summers and falls are full of well-loved annual festivals, major sporting events and opportunities for enjoying the outdoors. Certain weekends you’ll be torn on which ones you want to make time for!” — Carolyn

Fall. Period. We actually have a lot of trees compared to other cities. Apart from just the only time the weather is perfect, seeing all of the trees as their colors change (while actually still being in the city), is something you can’t beat.” — Beth

“Pretty much any time except the dead of winter is a great time to visit KC. Even winter has some unique experiences to offer, such as ice skating at Crown Center, the Plaza lights, and many other winter or holiday-themed activities. Personally, I think summer in KC offers the greatest diversity of activities with the least chance of weather ruining your plans. It can get pretty hot and humid in July and August, so June, late August and September are probably some of the best months to visit.” — Angela

“Though the weather is great year round, I’d say fall is best. The colors of the trees are breathtaking while the weather is usually mildly warm, breezy and dry!” — DuRon

“Overall, the best time to visit is springtime, May or June, but anytime during the summer months is pretty great. This way you can enjoy the River Market, the open air dining, outdoor music festivals, and the aura of all the fountains. It’s beautiful at winter time too, but mostly when it snows which can be hard to predict.” — Chase

And, you know…don’t move there, but if you want to, look here:

“For people without kids, I definitely recommend downtown, about anywhere along the streetcar line. There are literally thousands of residential spaces opening up or recently opened in these neighborhoods, so there are a lot of options for different budgets and needs. For families, Roeland Park and Mission top my list. You are close to a lot of the best areas in KC while still getting the advantages the suburbs offer families (yards, good schools, etc.).” — Angela

“If you’re a transplant with a family, I would actually suggest the suburbs of Kansas City (Leawood, Olathe, Overland Park, etc.). If you’re single or a young couple, I would definitely look into Midtown or the Plaza area (so you won’t be too far from anything you may want to go to and see, KC can be fairly spread out, nothing is really concentrated). If you can afford it, Brookside.” — Beth

“We have so many different neighborhoods! Kansas City, Missouri actually offers a variety of choices depending on if you’re seeking density and walkable neighborhoods, or a bit more space and separation from downtown. I’ve lived downtown for 7 years and it’s not the same neighborhood I moved in to. It’s only gotten better!” — Carolyn

River Market—KCMO’s most walkable neighborhood containing several great restaurants, shops, and other attractions including the City Market, the Streetcar, and Berkely Riverfront Park. Southemoreland—it’s nestled in the museum district, with historical mansions (still affordable) lined with 100+ ft trees within walking distance to the Country Club Plaza and 4 miles from downtown. There are so many incredible neighborhoods in KC including Volker, Union Hill, Longfellow, Hyde Park, Columbus Park, Pendleton Heights, Brookside, Waldo, and Beacon Hill.” — DuRon

“I think it depends on what you are looking for. I really love Northtown, with a lot of historic homes, great parks and an affordable cost of living. If you are looking for something in the heart of the city, I know a lot of people love living in Midtown. Further south is Johnson County, which is on the Kansas side but is supposed to have some of the best schools in the city.” — Mary

It depends on your situation. For families I would recommend Blue Springs, Olathe, Overland Park, Mission, Brookside, Leawood, or Prairie Village. Great schools, safe neighborhoods, minimal traffic, nice local cafes. For young people I would recommend the Crossroads, Westport, Midtown, and the Plaza. These are the places with all the music venues, bars, art galleries, local theaters for dance/theatre/poetry/comedy. A great hangout is the Uptown arts bar, Westeros, or Grinders. For an urban scene, check out 18th & Vine or Independence (which is where the rapper Tech N9ne lives).” — Chase

“If you’re looking for affordable, Midtown is a great place to look. For the bar hoppers, Westport is great. If you’re living with a group, there are great houses to rent in Waldo. Long story short, there are different neighborhoods for different people. The housing market is affordable and accessible, especially for first-time buyers.” — Jennifer