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Kansas City, Missouri has much to offer visitors and locals – stunning architecture, drenching fountains and the pungent smell of barbecue, infused with the echo of jazz notes from 18th and Vine. Visitors could spend days exploring every venue, but those who only have a few days to taste Kansas City’s best will not be disappointed with these star attractions, all of which are located within a few miles of each other.
4525 Oak Street
Open since 1933; the Nelson-Atkins Museum has an impressive collection of world-renowned paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. Everyone will recognize pieces like Rodin’s Thinker and Monet’s sizable Impressionist painting, Water Lilies. There is much to see to please any art lover, but the size of the museum is manageable for those who simply want to spend a pleasant afternoon in a peaceful, beautiful setting.
Nelson-Atkins is for everyone. Children will love the outdoor sculpture garden, especially four shuttlecock sculptures in the front lawn. (You can’t possibly miss them.) Post-1945 art is located in the Bloch building, including works by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. The main building includes collections ranging from the ancient art of the Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian as well as artistic periods of European and American art, and so much more.
Admission is free except for special exhibits in a small section of the Bloch building. A covered parking garage is $5, worth the price to avoid a parking ticket on the side streets (reserved for buses but not always clearly marked). On your way in you can leave your coat and shopping bags at the coat check, then head over to the information desk to request free handheld devices programmed with an audio guide. These allow the visitor to listen to music and commentary about specific works of art in each room, usually 2-3 pieces per exhibit. It’s a great idea for visitors of all ages, but it really boosts the experience for children.
Don’t pass up the chance to visit the Rozelle Court Restaurant, located in the center of the original building. The 15th-century Italian design of the two-story courtyard can transport you right back to old-world Europe. The menu is reasonably priced, and the food is delicious, but even if you only sample coffee and dessert, the ambiance alone is worth it.
The museum allows photography as long as you turn off the flash function. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays. Consult nelson-atkins.org for hours.
100 West 26th Street
As the nation’s official museum for World War I (designated by Congress), this museum quietly offers a compelling presentation on a subject overshadowed by many other 20th century events. Located opposite the grandly restored Union Station and Crown Center (the central hub for Hallmark and another worthy tourist destination), this recently-opened museum is a rare find well worth the time and price of admission. Although the underground museum opened in 2006, Kansas Citians have been collecting the artifacts for exhibits since the close of World War I, according to its official website. Exhibitions are interactive, and though it couldn’t be described as light-hearted fun, it is kid-friendly. An afternoon at the museum might be described as thought-provoking and inspiring. In keeping with the museum’s purpose as a memorial to those who served, such exhibits as a field of 1,000 red poppies evoke the gravity of honorable sacrifice.
Hours are 10-5 daily except Mondays. Parking to the south is free. Admission ranges from $4-10, depending on whether you choose to visit the tower, the museum, or both. Prices are reduced for seniors and kids 6-11. Children under 6 are free. Military personnel is granted free admission (currently active or retired with 20 or more years of service).
310 Ward Parkway
After hours of contemplating art and history, what better way to wind down than in the world’s first and most beautiful outdoor mall? But don’t dismiss the Plaza as just another mall or shopping experience. Within its square of 15 blocks, visitors are surrounded by art and history with Spanish architecture, fountains, murals, and sculptures, rubbing shoulders with happy people (because Kansas Citians are renowned for friendliness, and tourists are happy to be there). Quaint, upscale, and artsy shops plus trendy food venues complete the formula for a fabulous location to relax and enjoy the very best of Kansas City.
These three attractions are only the tip of the iceberg that is Kansas City’s cultural heritage, but they are an ideal beginning and are not to be missed. Come for the day, and plan a longer trip soon to enjoy the dozens of captivating attractions Kansas City has to offer.