If you can’t get to Rome, then get yourself to Kansas City. The first fountains in Kansas City were for horses, birds and dogs. In 1904 the first fountain was built near the west end of the intercity viaduct, 3rd and Minnesota. It was a large square pedestal with 4 small pools for dogs to drink from at street level and a 4′ diameter granite basin at a height for horses to drink. The water came out of spigots in lions’ mouths into this taller bowl so people could get clean water in their cups. The overflow went into the street level basins for the dogs. The city began putting up drinking fountains for people around the turn of the century, mostly in the downtown area. There are currently over 48 publically-operated fountains; many featured on this link. http://kcfountains.com/COFFbrochure.pdf
On our two days of sight-seeing we witnessed a lot of Zeus and Neptune-inspired geysers but we also enjoyed the Link – an elevated, climate controlled walkway that took us from our hotel, Sheraton Crown Center, over the city streets to the Westin, to the Hallmark Crown Center shopping center and to Union Station. I am sure this walkway is appreciated by both downtown workers and tourists alike when the Midwestern winter winds howl down the city streets and the temperatures begin to drop. During our week-end, we didn’t break a sweat whether inside or out with temperatures a perfect 75 degree both days and no humidity.
On Sunday morning, we walked the deserted Link to Union Station and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the iconic Harvey House restaurant situated in an open-air setting in the heart of the Grand Hall in Union Station. The panoramic views allowed for great sight lines to the architectural features of the massive, limestone shrouded Amtrak Station including the great clock. We learned that in 1997, the station was renovated and the St. Louis Antique Lighting Co. provided 12 full-time experts to strip and restore all of Union Station’s sconces and giant chandeliers. Each chandelier weighs 3,500 pounds, measures 12 feet in diameter, and requires more than half a mile in wiring and 11,400 watts of electricity.
Here is our list of K.C. bests:
- Best local breakfast – You Say Tomato at 2801 Homes Street, just a few blocks south from the Crown Center area. This gem is a locally owned café/deli/grocery store and everything was in-house from scratch. I scarfed on a vegetarian Bierock which included red lentils, potatoes, currents and feta baked into a bread pocket – can you say “Hot Pocket?” The pocket was served with a lemony cucumber sauce for dipping that took it to a new level. C3 testifies to their scratch biscuits and gravy. They have whole quiches, cakes and pies for pick up. Great vibe for hipsters old and young.
- Best farmer’s market – hands down it is City Market located on 5th Street just north of the downtown financial district. The Saturday we stopped by the market was hopping. Everyone was buying huge, fragrant bouquets of fresh flowers at the low, low price of $5. Bunches of sunflowers, native grasses, and perennials were sold at Dutch Flowers – my favorite assortment. There were at least 140 vendor stalls – no joke and many featured multicultural options. C3 and I each purchased a tiny can of condensed milk to support our Vietnamese coffee fetish from a tiny African shop.
- Favorite vendor – well beyond the flower stall, I loved Just Bee Soap which featured small batch crème made from honey and lemon in the shape of a sunflower. It kept my luggage from smelling funky all week-end. If you love Burt’s Bee products, you’ll love Just Bee.
- Best antique store – well weirdest was Weird Stuff Antiques at 700 Woodswether Road but we only looked and giggled as we roamed the aisles in the massive barn-like structure located on the edge of the mighty Missouri River. This place has tons of vintage holiday decorations. Yes, creepy Santa’s are their specialty.
- Best free activity — While in K.C. for the week-end, we enjoyed by chance the Kansas City Aviation Expo and Air Show happenings above us both days featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and the “Fat Albert”C130. The huge cargo plane created a menacing shadow above us on Saturday as it flew over the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool. Best way, in our opinion, to take in an air show is “pool side.”
- Best shopping – C3 and I vote for the Plaza. We shopped for sales and found some deals at Madewell and Anthropologies. Enjoyed shopping at Baldwin for the cool KC baseball cap made famous because Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle and Jason Sudeikis wear one. We stopped into Kaldi’s Coffee for a quick “pick me up” after several hours of shopping. Take your brew and walk to the main plaza fountain and sit a while.
- Best view – definitely from the top of the hill where the Liberty Memorial Tower towers over the KC skyline. Take the elevator to the top, 217 feet, for some spectacular views. Weirdest view was the Assyrian Sphinxes on the south entrance to the memorial. They look like giant sphinxes with shrouds over their faces but they are actually “shielding their eyes from the horror of war.” I get it now that I did some research. https://theworldwar.org/explore/museum-and-memorial/elements-museum-and-memorial
- Best meal – we dined late on Saturday at Novel located on west 17th in a refurbished Victorian mansion. The waiters get their exercise going up and down the old wooden staircase in the center of the restaurant. The chef serves New American Cuisine – our choices were heirloom tomato salad, pig head torchon, trout and ricotta gnocchi. The dessert selection we shared was chocolate flourless cake with bourbon caramel and peanuts (lick, lick). Sneak small flashlights in your purse as the place is kept pitch black with only mood candles for lighting. Thank goodness I had my daughter with young eyes along to read the menu and wine list to me.
Kansas City, KC, City of Fountains, KCMO, Paris of the Plains, Soccer Capital of America (Kansas Citians) or the Heart of America, the city is an affordable week-end destination, only an hour flight from Fort Worth (my flight was less than $150 RT) and sure to delight the most savvy traveler. We ran out of time to experience the famous Arthur Bryant’s BBQ or take in some local blues and jazz. We will save these activities for next time and there will be a next! In search of KC travel destinations, check out visitkc.com