If you’re not from KC and you’ve never been to KC, you might be part of that 90% of the world that thinks of it as “flyover country.” I can’t blame you. For some reason, people hear the “Kansas” part of “Kansas City” and get the image of Dorothy running from a twister at the heart of the dust-bowl stuck in their heads.
That’s a pretty fair assessment of Kansas, but Kansas City isn’t in Kansas. At least, the real parts aren’t. The only people with a vested interest in keeping this information from you are people from Kansas. Their agenda is to make their crappy state suck less.
Since I love my city, I spend some nostalgic time going through “You know you’re from Kansas City” lists on occasions. I’ve come to the conclusion none of them are written by people from KC. They all seem pretty much the same stereotypes curated by data-mining Facebook and Wikipedia articles.
Which is why I’ve decided to write my own list.
1. Kansas City is in Missouri. Period.
There is a small, hopeless city in Kansas that also claims the name, but people from Kansas City will always refer to it as “Kansas City, Kansas” or KCK. Why? Because everyone from Kansas City knows the 816 is superior in every way to the 913.
There is an easy way to remember this, Kansas City, Kansas is to Kansas City as Newark, New Jersey is to New York City. Although, Kansas Citians* will allow anyone from the Greater Metropolitan Area to call themselves a Kansas Citian. We’re not quite as snobby as the people from Manhattan. But, the analogy stands because the only people who will ever try to make the false claim that KCK is Kansas City are people from KCK.
Kansas City, Kansas is to Kansas City as Newark, New Jersey is to New York City.
You can actually tell if someone is from the Kansas side because they live in a constant state of denial. They will violently refute this claim. One of their delusional mantras is even, “Kansas City is just too much city for one state.”
Never believe them. They are wrong.
2.But, you are from Kansas City if you live anywhere in the Metropolitan Area.
Kansas City proper only has a population of about 475,000 people. It’s the 36th largest city in the US. The KC Metro area is 2.4 million people. (Which makes it the 30th largest metropolitan area in the US.)
Sure, downtowners could pull a Manhattan and throw a fit when someone from the Southland (me) claims to be from Kansas City, but then the 2 million suburbanites would probably just march on them with pitchforks made from the rib bones leftover from yesterday’s Barbecue.
BONUS: Barbecue is always capitalized.
This is why we allow people from Kansas to still claim they are from Kansas City. Even if we must constantly remind them they are actually claiming to be from Missouri and all other assertions are false lies spread to propagate Satan’s agenda.
3. We Laugh At Your Commute. HA HA HA HA HA!
A few years ago, I moved from KC to Helena, Montana. Helena isn’t a particularly tiny town. It’s only a little larger than my hometown suburb, Belton, MO. And yet, for some reason I regularly hear things like, “I don’t go to that store, I hate to drive all the way across town.”
Whenever I hear this, I think, “Bitch? Please.”
Like I said, Helena and Belton are about the same size. Belton is one of the smaller suburbs of Kansas City and located on the Southern tip of the Southlands (the obviously named southern edge of the greater KC metropolitan area). If I wanted to go from my house in Belton to eat the world’s best pizza, I had to drive 26 miles through the Grandview-freaking-triangle.
Your pathetic 10-minute commute makes me laugh like a dinner theater villain.
I’m sure traffic is much worse in other parts of the world, but Kansas City is spread out across the plains. My last year in Missouri, I lived in a house about 5 miles south of Harrisonville. It was the farthest south you could get and still even consider yourself part of the KC Metro. If I wanted to go to, say, the Zona Rosa in the Northland, it would take me over an hour without traffic.
PS: There is always traffic in the triangle.
4. We do have the only real Barbecue on the planet, but we have lots of other great food, too.
I’m only going to say this once: Kansas City Barbecue is the only real Barbecue that exists. We know this. We invented it. I will not say other areas dry-rubbed smoked meat isn’t also awesome, but dry-rub smoked meat isn’t Barbecue. Stop calling it Barbecue. I’m looking at you, Texas.
That said, our love of Barbecue is probably the most famous thing about Kansas City, which leads to this belief that we are a “meat and potatoes” culture. This is somewhat true, but Kansas City has a very rich food heritage. Sure, we stole most of it from other cities, but we made it better. Because that’s what we do.
I already pointed out Grinder’s Pizza. This is just one of the many, many places with awesome food in Kansas City.
The biggest problems with highlighting the great food in KC is there are too many options. It is impossible to start putting together a list. One of KC’s little-known secrets is it is actually a foodie city. I’m not qualified to really get into it and now that I live 2000 miles away, I might never get to finish my exploration of Kansas City’s food scenes.
Fortunately, I don’t have to because FoodieCrush has already put together a pretty good list from some of the best KC food bloggers.
In fact, I think I might have to make my next homeward pilgrimage all about the food.
5. We don’t really care about fountains and boulevards.
Almost every article I read about Kansas City brings up the nickname, “Paris of the Plains.” This is one of those terms I’ve never heard a Kansas Citian say in actual conversation. It’s more like something they tell us in elementary school. When I see it in an article, I assume the rest of the article is also written with the same level of research and understanding as the report on Indiana I wrote in fifth grade. Filled almost entirely with useless information gleaned from an encyclopedia.
Is the Plaza beautiful? Yes. Do we like fountains? Yes. Do we have the most boulevards of any city outside of Paris? Yes.
Do any of us give a crap? No.
Let me tell you something about boulevards. They suck. They create extra traffic. They make navigation a pain in the ass. And, worst of all, they have to be constantly maintained to keep them from turning into death traps.
Of course, you can avoid boulevards by driving on other streets, but in Kansas City, that means ruining your car. Why? Becuase all of the road maintenance money goes to keeping our beautiful, tourist-trap boulevards in perfect, pristine condition. Which means you see potholes covered in two-inch thick steel slabs on 21st street instead of being repaired.
6. We have more than one museum. It isn’t all about shuttlecocks.
Chances are, if you’ve ever read any list of anything about Kansas City, you’ve seen a picture like this:
For some reason, internet writers think this giant shuttlecock is some sort of iconic Kansas City symbol. For most of us, it’s a thing we laugh at every time we see it. What? Shuttlecock is a funny word. And these are giant shuttlecocks. Which, I’m pretty sure was the point of the original sculpture.
Somehow, this has lead to the assumption that the Nelson-Atkins in the only museum in Kansas City. And not just from tourists.
I recently had a conversation with my former Roomlord (That’s a landlord slash roommate in one physical entity). He had just gotten back from taking his kids to the Nelson-Atkins. I made the offhanded remark that he should take his kids to the Kansas City Museum next time.
His response? “Kansas City has more than one museum?”
Now, in his defense, he’s not from KC. He’s from some hellish Ozarkian village where survival depends on your ability to outwit, outfight, or outrun cannibal rednecks.
Still, his assumption isn’t unusual.
So, yes. There are a ton of great museums in Kansas City. Hell, the National World War I museum is in KC, although we just call it the Liberty Memorial, which I know he’s been to. We stood in its shadow six years ago when I went to write about #OccupyKC and he went to be seen in his awesome V for Vendetta shirt.
Of course, this isn’t a mistake kids who went to elementary school in KC make. We all made the field trip to the Steamboat Arabia Museum or Science City (though when I was a kid it was part of the Children’s Museum in the now demolished Indian Springs Mall instead of the beautiful Union Station). And I think everyone I know got dragged to the Harry S Truman Museum and Library anytime the family needed a weekend out of the house but wanted to look like they were responsible instead of just cheap.
And, those are just the tip of the iceberg. I actually got buried in KC Museum goodness when I went to gather links for this article. It made it hard to narrow down just a few to put in.
But, of course, we have so many museums when,
7. Kansas City loves art, history, and music
We might not be a city from the birth of western society or even the nation, but we’ve been around long enough to develop some roots and a strong sense of who we are as a people. We’ve got our own culture and it goes beyond beef and beer.
All you really have to do to see Kansas City’s love of art is go out to the Crossroads District. Sure, you’ll have to navigate streets lined with hipsters, but its worth it. The entire area is filled with bars, restaurants, and shops filled with art from local artists. Hell, there are even some galleries.
Well, like fifty galleries.
Actually, everything is a gallery in the crossroads. Some just sell food or repair bikes on the side.
And, if you like live music while you look at all that local art, you can find it in abundance.
While New Orleans is considered the home of jazz, Kansas City is where it went off to college. Kansas City Jazz and Blues still has an impact on music. The Jazz District (or officially, the 18th and Vine District) is where KC really got its cultural start. It still houses the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. (See all the museums I’m working into this post?)
One of my biggest cultural shocks moving away from KC is the lack of music venues. I’ve never been to a single bar in Kansas City that didn’t have a stage for live music and almost all of them had music playing. There are hundreds of great bands.
Kansas City’s music scene is easily as big as Memphis or Nashville and is really just starting to see a resurgence in popularity on the national level. I guess American Idol did something for good.
The celebration of Midwest music is still growing in Kansas City, and KC even has its own music festival now, Middle of the Map Fest.
Side note: While researching this article, I discovered Kansas City is listed as #4 on Travel and Leisure’s list of America’s 20 Most Cultured Cities. I’m not sure the list is in any kind of order, but being in the top 20 is pretty awesome. Go KC!
Second Side Note: My friend, Yeti Detective, wants me to add:
Write about First Fridays in the crossroads. One time I saw dudes in tiki masks playing the theme to Kids in the Hall out there for tip money.
8. We party hard
One of the nicknames for Kansas City is “The Paris of the Plains.” We like to pretend this comes from our maniacal obsession for building boulevards and fountains (see above), but the reality is there was a time when Kansas City was the place to get your freak on.
“If you want to see some sin,” advised Omaha World Herald journalist Edward Morrow, “forget about Paris and go to Kansas City.”
That’s right. If Branson, Missouri is Las Vegas run by Ned Flanders, Las Vegas is Kansas City run by Ned Flanders.
We are a city built by pioneers, educated by mobsters, and cultivated by jazz.
We can talk about things like Bleeding Kansas, but I’m going to focus on the fun side of KC’s crazy anarchist history.
We told prohibition to eat a bag of donkey dongs.
Sure, we’re partially responsible for prohibition, since Kansas City (and my hometown suburb of Belton) gave birth to the unkillable super-villain Carrie Nation.
Carrie Nation was a bulletproof giant who hated alcohol, so she used to knock down entire bars with her massive hatchet. The US passed the 18th amendment because banning booze was the only way she could be stopped.
This is history as I remember it, but maybe I need to revisit the Carrie Nation Museum again.
But, Kansas City is a lot like Asgard. We don’t bow down to ax-wielding giants.
So, while most of the country was doing the prohibition and temperance thing, we grabbed ourselves some hootch and jazz and became the cool kids.
Forget Al Capone, we had our own mafia crime family and they kept the moonshine flowing. Unfortunately for us, Chicago keeps trying to steal our history and awesomeness.
That Edward Morrow quote above? Yeah, that’s about how everyone in the country knew that KC was where to be if you wanted to rock out with some great music, good booze, and just about anything else you wanted.
To this day, State Line Road is covered in liquor stores on the Missouri side because Kansas has a dumb beer law that causes dysentery.
Of course, we’re much more respectable these days…
9. We are terrified you’ll find out we’re cooler than Austin
I have a couple of friends who are Austin, TX natives. They love their city. They think it’s an awesome place and really is all of those things people talk about. The only problem they have with Austin is all the people who are moving to Austin and turning it into another homogenized hipster city. They complain they are losing everything that makes Austin… Austin.
Which is the actual meaning of “Keep Austin weird.”
It’s a xenophobic slogan.
Sometimes, I worry that Kansas City is going to go the same way. Our cool city might not have been so cool if it didn’t get left alone for the last 70 years. And now, all these tech companies want to go there because “Google Fiber” man.
Well, nuts to that.
I take it all back. The last 2500 words are garbage. Stay out of KC. Move to Austin instead… or Provost, Utah…
Man… I miss Kansas City…
Dang. This post got long. I didn’t intend for a Top 9 post to send me spiraling into literally hours worth of research. But, Kansas City is a freakin’ cool city. It’s got an awesome history and there is more crap to do here than most people realize.
I didn’t even get into Swope Park, which is more than twice the size of Central Park in Manhattan.
There is just so much. You guys, seriously, too much. Someone should write a book.
*Pronounced “SEE-shans.” This is an official term for people from Kansas City. You will almost never, ever hear someone from KC use this term out loud. If you do, chances are they work for the tourism board.