Kansas City offers a little something for everyone — dining and shopping, music and theater, nightlife and attractions. But whether you’ve lived here for a while or are a recent transplant, chances are you’ve only been scratching the surface. The metro area is packed with so much just waiting to be discovered … from secret sanctuaries to underground mazes. Here’s our guide of places and things off the beaten path to eat, drink, shop, see and do.
Suspension footbridge at the Kansas City Zoo
6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, Mo.
Built in 1907 and rehabilitated in 1994, the 277-foot structure is known as the “swinging bridge” and spans the Blue River. This pedestrian bridge was originally meant to span a nearly inaccessible area of dense underbrush and to connect the entrance of Swope Park with a proposed athletic field. The 8-foot-wide bridge now connects the zoo’s African plains area to the Congo area.
River Observation Tower
First and Main streets, Kansas City, Mo.
From the end of Main Street, walk across a long bridge to an observation area that crosses over the railroad tracks. You can take an elevator or stairs down to the riverbank and water’s edge and gaze out over the vast Missouri River.
Fire Training Center
12401 Hemlock St., Overland Park, Kan.
This touching tribute to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, features a 14-foot, 2-ton beam from the World Trade Center, four educational panels and memorial benches. Architects designed the memorial so that on 9/11 each year, the shadow of the artifact travels across the panels, precisely marking the times each of the four flights went down. The remaining elements in the memorial’s design, expected to be dedicated this September, include a Weeping Wall and donors’ panel.
Gladstone Boulevard and Elmwood, Kansas City, Mo.
This four-mile winding drive travels along on the edge of a cliff that looks north towards the flood plains of the Missouri River. Built between 1895 and 1915, it’s the only urban scenic byway in the state of Missouri. There are fountains, a waterfall, limestone bluffs, wildflowers and wildlife, and little coves where you can pull off the road to enjoy the special view. The gates to Cliff Drive close to motorized vehicles every weekend for walkers, runners, cyclists and climbers to enjoy freely.
8201 E. 23rd St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 252-4478 | birdsbotanicals.com
Located within the Interstate Underground Warehouse, Bird’s Botanicals grows and sells orchids and other exotic flowers. Check out the state-of-the-art, climate-controlled cave featuring more than 100 species and more than 200 varieties of orchids.
Kansas City History Museum
3218 Gladstone Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 483-8300 | kansascitymuseum.org
The museum, located in KC’s historic northeast area and known as the R.A. Long House, consists of Corinthian Hall and its outbuildings, most of which have been renovated to house various displays about local and regional history and natural sciences, a 50-seat planetarium, and a 1910-style soda fountain that serves up phosphates and ice cream. Admission is free.
Mill Creek Sanctuary
4400 J.C. Nichols Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.
This sanctuary, which sits at the north end of Mill Creek Park, features two natural waterfalls and water-loving plants in a large pond surrounded by additional greenery. An overlook on the east side completes the lovely setting.
Leila’s Hair Museum
1333 S. Noland Road, Independence, Mo.
(816) 833-2955 | leilashairmuseum.net
This is the only hair museum in the world with hundreds of wreaths and thousands of jewelry pieces made from human hair. You will find pieces containing hair from Queen Victoria, four presidents, the Virgin Mary (allegedly) and multiple celebrities ranging from Michael Jackson to Marilyn Monroe. The oldest brooch in the museum, with a piece of hair enclosed in a crystal case, was made in 1680.
City Hall Observation Deck
414 E. 12th St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 513-3600 | kcmo.org
View KC from the 30th floor of City Hall, one of the tallest city halls in the country. The open-air observation area follows around the entire parameter of the roof. The only aerial view of the city that is better than this one is from an airplane.
10th Street between Wyandotte and Baltimore, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 701-3400 | kclibrary.org
The Community Bookshelf is a striking mural that runs along the south wall of the Central Library’s parking garage. The book spines, which measure 25 by 9 feet, are made of signboard mylar. The shelf showcases 22 titles suggested by Kansas City readers, including “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Catch 22,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Frisco Train Depot & Strang Line Waiting Station
14907 W. 87th St. Parkway, Lenexa, Kan.
(913) 492-0038 | lenexahistoricalsociety.org
This 1912 train depot was relocated to Sar Ko Par Trails park from its original location along Santa Fe Trail Drive in Old Town Lenexa. The Missouri & Kansas Interurban Railroad developed by William Strang became known as the Strang Line. The Wiedemann waiting station once used by the residents in the Morrison Ridge subdivision now houses the history of the rail line it once serviced.
Black Hoof Park/ Lake Lenexa
93rd Street and Monticello Road, Lenexa, Kan.
A 210-acre park with a 35-acre, deep-water lake for boating and fishing (sorry, no swimming), this park has an architecturally innovative dam and spillway, trails, picnic shelter, playground and boat launch. Visitors can experience nature and observe a wide variety of wildlife — deer, coyotes, red foxes, birds, butterflies, rattlesnakes, frogs and lizards in their natural habitats.
RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack
5835 Lamar Ave., Mission, Kan.
(913) 262-7300 | rjsbbq.com
As seen on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” RJ’s Bob-Be-Que is a must-stop for barbecue fans. The award-winning, hickory-smoked meats and the popular fries tossed in Bob’s secret seasoning are all reasons why this off-the-beaten-path BBQ joint is worth checking out. In the warmer months, you can enjoy live music from local artists on the back patio dubbed “Mission City Limits.”
Café de Amis
112 1/2 Main St., Parkville, Mo.
(816) 587-6767 | cafedesamiskc.com
This French bistro is one of the most romantic and charming spots to dine in KC — the upstairs location overlooks quaint downtown Parkville. Choose from a mix of traditional and progressive French dishes, including duck, elk, escargot, lamb, mussels, scallops and sea bass, not to mention a variety of amazing pastries and desserts, and more than 60 wines and after-dinner drinks.
1702 Summit, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 842-7272 | fervere.com
If you’re looking for the most perfect, crusty, chewy, yeasty bread you’ve ever tasted, head over to Fervere as soon as the doors open or call the day before to reserve a loaf, because they will sell out. Fervere handcrafts loafs of pain au levain, pain de campagne, grain travel, polenta, orchard, olive rosemary, whole grain travel, ciabatta, cheese slipper and sprouted whole wheat using all-organic flours and other organic ingredients whenever possible.
Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum
323 Armour Road, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 421-0002 | chappellsrestaurant.com
You’ve never seen a restaurant inside a sports museum, or at least not one like this. While the family restaurant-style food is good, it’s the impressive collection of sports memorabilia that sets Chappell’s apart. The interior is packed floor to ceiling with items from the last 100 years. We’re talking dozens of autographed Hall of Fame baseballs from the likes of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Dizzy Dea; a World Series trophy; Super Bowl rings; torches from two Olympic Games; autographed gloves and trunks worn by Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky”; and thousands of jerseys, football helmets and pennants.
Chapalas Restaurante Mexicano
5224 E. Truman Road, Kansas City, Mo.
Enjoy traditional and authentic Mexican fare at this family-owned and -operated restaurant tucked away in east KC, across from the St. John School of Theology. There’s something for everyone — from enchiladas, burritos, tacos and tamales to chicken mole, chilaquiles, pork and birria carnitas. Plus, the fresh, homemade tortillas are the warmest and fluffiest around.
604 W. 75th St., Kansas City, Mo.
Situated in a Shell gas station, Papu’s serves up fast, fresh and flavorful Greek and Middle Eastern take-out such as gyros, falafels, shawarma and tabouli salads at cheap prices.
7723 W. 151st St., Overland Park, Kan.
(913) 495-9993 | sweetcarolinescandyshop.com
All the yummy treats at Sweet Caroline’s will put a smile on your face: delectable chocolates; creamy fudge in unique flavors like chocolate cheesecake, chewy praline and red velvet; huge caramel apples loaded with nuts, candy and chocolate; homemade ice cream; and nostalgic and novelty hard and chewy candy.
Sylas & Maddy’s
11925 S. Strang Line Road, Olathe, Kan.
Sylas & Maddy’s makes 150 flavors of homemade ice cream and features about 40 of them each day. These are creamy and dreamy flavors you won’t find at the chains: Kansas Twister, Maddy’s Mud, Cookie Monster, Birthday Bash, Gold Rush, Peanut Butter Freak, Coconut Cream Pie, Blueberry Cheesecake, Cherries Grande, Cotton Candy, Bubble Gum and Margarita Sherbet. A scoop or two served in a homemade waffle cone with a malt ball at the bottom is a must.
Eden Alley Café
707 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 561-5415 | edenalley.com
This vegetarian, vegan, gluten- and soy-free café is located behind Unity Temple on the Plaza, so unassuming amid the busy crowds that it’s easy to pass right by. But your taste buds will thank you for stopping in for a lunch or dinner of salads, sandwiches, pastas, soups and desserts made with fresh and local organic ingredients.
El Pollo Rey
1101 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan.
You can’t go wrong with a simple menu featuring nothing but finger-licking-good chicken that is grilled over a wood fire. For less than $10, you get a half chicken, pico sauce, pinto beans, red onions and tortilla shells for making your own tacos.
Green Dirt Farm
20363 Mount Bethel Road, Weston, Mo.
(816) 386-2156 | greendirtfarm.com
Located just outside of KC, Green Dirt Farm is a small sheep dairy farm and creamery that will soon become legendary for its farm-to-table dinners. In fact, the dinners for the 2013 season have already sold out, so make sure to get tickets for the 2014 dinners as soon as the schedule is announced. In the meantime, the farm still has openings for its cheese appreciation events in August and October, and you can always take a guided tour of the dairy and creamery and snack on cheese samples.
5012 State Line Road, Westwood Hills, Kan.
A relaxing patio is this tiny and quaint coffee shop’s saving grace, but even so, feeling slightly cramped is worth it to enjoy a good cup of joe among friendly faces here. Choose from regular, decaf and organic roasts, or get fancy with an espresso, latte, mocha, iced coffee or chai tea.
Jowler Creek Winery
16905 Jowler Creek Road, Platte City, Mo.
(816) 858-5528 | jowlercreek.com
You will thank yourself for making the trip just outside of KC to check out this new winery, which uses green technologies such as solar power to make wine, sheep to control weeds and chickens to reduce insects in the six-acre sustainable vineyard. You can sample nine award-winning dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines for free in the tasting room and take home a bottle to enjoy later.
811 W. 17th St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 287-1444 | littlefreshie.com
Many words can describe this snow cone trailer-turned-soda shop: charming, inviting, natural, artisanal, delicious. Head over to KC’s Westside neighborhood for a famous snow cone or a handcrafted soda in flavors like blackberry lavender, banana cardamom, pineapple & serrano pepper, strawberry rhubarb and spicy ginger fizz. Little Freshie also has an espresso bar that serves cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, pour-over coffee, tea and chai, as well as sandwiches and sweet treats.
1924 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.
Located in the underground depths of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, this is the best lounge in town. To get in, you need to call or text ahead and be buzzed in at the back door of the building. The bar is down the steps and through a tunnel. Dark, cozy and cool, this place is a gem with experienced bartenders mixing up incredible cocktails. Be sure to try the patron favorites: Beautiful Red Bell, Shatto Blanc and Stay Wet.
Cellar & Loft
525 Walnut, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 283-0593 | cellarandloft.com
Located in Kansas City’s historic River Market, this is the perfect place to browse through racks of wines organized by region and shop for party snacks. But the real hidden treasure is the large tasting room downstairs, where you can sample a glass of wine (or two or three) and strike up a conversation with a fellow vino aficionado.
2715 Rochester St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 483-1456 | knuckleheadskc.com
It’s definitely a dive, but it’s also the best place in town to catch live music if blues and honky-tonk are your thing. Grab drinks at the bar and then grab a seat and prepared to be entertained. Knuckleheads also features open jam sessions on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
8300 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.
This retro bar packs in a diverse crowd, most of which are there to enjoy drinks with friends while reminiscing over hits from the 1970s and 1980s. You’ll find plenty of tables for people-watching and plenty of space for dancing the night away, especially during the song “Car Wash,” when a giant car wash brush comes down and foamy bubbles spray out on the dance floor.
The Blue Line
529 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 472-7825 | thebluelinekc.com
The only hockey-themed sports bar in the area (the interior is made to replicate an ice rink), The Blue Line offers fantastic daily food and drink specials. The place gets a solid crowd, especially during St. Louis Blues and Chicago Black Hawk games, and shots are 50 cents every time a goal is made.
Martin City Brewing Co.
500 E. 135th St., Kansas City, Mo.
Martin City Brewing Co. looks like an ordinary neighborhood pub. The space is cozy inside, but this little brew-pub is no ordinary spot. In addition to an impressive menu, there are more than 50 craft beers to choose from and a charming beer garden that’s a fun setting on a warm summer night.
316 W. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 361-8222 | pursuegoodstuff.com
This family-owned boutique has a mission to bring handmade originals by local artists, as well as creative mom-and-pop goods, to people in a cozy setting. The fun store is filled with positive energy, happiness and the joy of collecting and giving creative goods.
5B & Co. Candles
6231 Brookside Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 361-6393 | 5bandco.com
More than 175 unique, seasonal scents with clean-burning soy-vegetable wax and lead-free wicks are hand-poured at the shop, where you can find the perfect fragrance for your home or office or for special occasions and gifts. You can have a custom fragrance created just for you, or choose from a variety of votives, tea lights, pillars, diffusers and sprays.
Junque Drawer Boutique & Studio
11270 S. Ridgeview Road, Olathe, Kan.
(913) 261-8183 | junquedrawerstudio.com
This is the best place in town to find cool, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, accessories and even home décor made from a wide range of odds and ends from beads, wood and glass to game pieces, buttons, bottle caps and license plates. Owner Jane Hosey-Stern also makes custom pieces and hosts workshops in her studio where you can invite your friends for a party and make your own jewelry.
Von Maur’s Shoe Room
6701 W. 135th St., Overland Park, Kan.
(913) 681-1031 | vonmaur.com
Here’s one of the best kept secrets of shoe collectors: Von Maur, the high-end department store at Corbin Park, has a nook tucked into its shoe department called the clearance room, and it’s always stocked floor to ceiling with designer labels at steep discounts. For example, a pair of Donald J. Pliners originally $198 was priced at $49 on a recent visit.
West Bottoms shops
12th and Hickory streets, Kansas City, Mo.
At this urban bazaar in the Historic West Bottoms — open on First Friday and some Third Thursday weekends — more than a dozen vendors offer unique vintage, repurposed and up-cycled items you won’t find anywhere else in town. Be sure to stop by Bella Patina, Brocante Bliss, Circa KC, Good Ju Ju, Hickory Dickory, Nook & Cranny, One Man’s Treasure, Rag and Bone, and Stuffology.
Pop Culture Comix
9337 W. 87th St., Overland Park, Kan.
(913) 341-0040 | popculturecomix.com
From traditional super heroes and Star Wars to cartoons and other cult classics, you can endlessly browse through this modest — but well-organized — store’s great selection of comic books, trading cards, action figures, collectibles, shirts, posters, games and more. And stop by for new comic book Wednesdays.
The Doll Cradle
10910 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan.
(913) 631-1900 | dollcradle.com
The Doll Cradle has been buying, selling and restoring dolls since 1970. A must for doll collectors and enthusiasts, the store carries new and vintage dolls, toys and gifts, and specializes in clothes, accessories and furniture for all dolls, including the American Girl variety. And at the doll hospital, the talented staff can provide emergency care for most dolls and stuffed animals.
Chez LaRue by Encore
11006 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan.
Hosted by Encore every third Friday and Saturday, Chez LaRue, a styling and design studio, offers an eclectic mix of new and vintage interior accents, artwork, stationary and accessories, such as bowties and boutonnieres by HA VanHorn.
The Pink Chandelier
5053 W. 117th St., Leawood, Kan.
(913) 383-5399 | vintagemarketkc.com
The newest vintage market to open in KC — the others are in the River Market and Parkville — this girly boutique tucked into the back of Town Center Plaza specializes in antique- and vintage-inspired home décor, furniture, fashion and accessories. Merchandise changes every month with a new, inspirational theme. The Pink Chandelier also hosts tea parties, birthday parties, luncheons, book club meetings, Bunco nights, and baby and bridal showers.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
7000 NE Barry Road, Kansas City, Mo.
Experience 19th century pioneer Missouri brought to life through special events, programs, tours and reenactments at Hodge Park. Have a picnic in the park, stroll across bridges, spy on chickens, and come face to face with buffalo on the grounds which are open daily until dusk.
The National Archives
400 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 268-8000 | archives.gov/kansas-city
One of only 13 outposts of the National Archives, the KC facility — which serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — hosts events, tours and an informational film. Learn how to search old federal records, dig up your own family history, learn about your ancestors, or search old records of inmates from the Lawrence Penitentiary.
The Local Pig
2618 Guinotte Ave., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 200-1639 | thelocalpig.com
The Local Pig offers a wide selection of steaks, roasts, chops, sausages and burgers from happy cows, pigs, chickens, lambs and goats, but it also offers hands-on classes in all aspects of butchering — that’s right, you chop it up and take it home. Topics include breaking down animals, making sausages and creating charcuterie.
Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 363-4600 | lindahall.org
The Linda Hall Library is the world’s foremost independent research library devoted to science, engineering and technology. Open to the public, the library’s distinguished Rare Books Collection includes the first editions of many landmarks of science and technology, some dating back to the 15th century, including Galileo’s “The Starry Messenger,” Copernicus’ “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” and Isaac Newton’s “Principia.”
The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve
1 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Mo.
At the Money Museum, you can learn more about the Fed through interactive exhibits that explore the nation’s financial system, banking and how people pay for things. You’ll also be able to take a peek into one of the region’s largest cash vaults, give the nation’s currency your own redesign and view the famous Truman Coin Collection, which includes coins from each U.S. presidential administration.
Jaegers Subsurface Paintball
9300 NE Underground Drive
Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 452-6600 | jaegers.com
The world’s first and only underground paintball arena catering to all skill levels is nestled right into the hillside of one of KC’s oldest limestone mines. Jaegers is staged with five underground recreation fields and a three-person speedball field. Jaegers also has four outdoor fields. Need a new challenge? Try your hand at hyper pipe, woods ball or speedball.
The KC Fringe Festival is an 11-day cultural arts festival in July that’s jam-packed with live theater, dance, burlesque, performance art, visual art, spoken word, puppetry, storytelling, film and fashion. The festival celebrates non-traditional local, regional and national artists, presenting events at venues throughout the city.
The Maze Craze
8610 N. Dixson Ave, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 587-6293 | themazecraze.com
Getting lost has never been so much fun at the Maze Craze at Zona Rosa. You can choose from a mirror maze, laser maze and laser tag. In the 1,200-square-foot mirror maze you’ll step through the light portal and be surrounded by endless hallways and infinite reflections. In the laser maze, your mission is to climb, crawl and slither through the brilliant green (and completely safe) lasers, similar to scenes in movies such as “Entrapment” and “Mission: Impossible.” The high-tech laser tag arena features black lighting, fluorescent graphics and intriguing obstacles.
The Living Room Theatre
1818 McGee, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 533-5857 | thelivingroomkc.com
Sure, KC has a number of options for live theater, but none as cool and artistically free as this unconventional art space founded by Shawnna Journagan and Rusty Sneary in the Crossroads Arts District. With the tagline “Provocative theatre, comfy chairs,” The Living Room is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that allows an audience to abandon their fear of theater.
Moon Marble Co.
600 E. Front St., Bonner Springs, Kan.
(913) 441-1432 | moonmarble.com
This unusual specialty shop carries marbles in a multitude of colors and designs, as well as traditional toys and games for all ages. Artisan and owner Bruce Breslow frequently demonstrates his marble-making, explaining the process of glasswork and marble history.
817 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 842-2744 | comedycity.cc
This is KC’s original improv comedy show — our very own Jason Sudeikis used to perform here. In the back of the Wesport Flea Market, Comedy City’s quick and witty improv actors make it up as they go in this interactive, audience-driven comedy spectacular. The teams, in “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” style, compete against each other while you supply the suggestions, cheer for your favorite team and even help out on stage.
We asked 435’s Facebook fans to share their ideas for the best hidden spots in KC. Here are our some of our favorites:
“Shatto Dairy. Fabulous locally produced milk (especially flavored!), cheese, butter, etc.”
— Ray Kaspar
“Ricco’s. Their Sonoma Torte appetizer is to die for.”
— Cathy O’Connor
“The Webster House. Best lunch venue in town and great shopping finds in the lower-level shops. And don’t miss the powder room … it’s lovely!”
— Staci Stathopoulos Elliot
“Kate’s Kitchen in the Northland. Amazing breakfast/brunch and cheap too! And they are so nice!”
— Rachel Lynn Peterson
“The observation deck at the end of 2nd and Main in the City Market area. If you have a bad day or want to be alone to think or want to take a date somewhere really tranquil and romantic, this is the place to go.”
— Lance Strawn
“It’s got to be Wine Flights in Leawood! Excellent wine selection and a huge menu variety! They also have an awesome patio for dining. And the staff … so knowledgeable and friendly!”
— Colleen Chambers
“J’adore at 63rd and Oak. Eclectic mix of French-influenced items in a casual neighborhood setting, complete with a dog and friendly staff.”
— Greg Fowler
“The Foundation in the Jazz District downtown stays open on the weekends until 5 a.m. and has been around nearly 100 years. Great jazz artists play downstairs and you can bring your own instruments and jam with others upstairs.”
— Aaron Gabler
photos: Paul Versluis, Steve Puppe, Brooke Vandever