Weekending in Kansas City

You’ll find a lot of soul and verve in “The Heart of America.”

kansas city

The Kansas City skyline and Union Station / Photograph by Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Like most Kansas City expats, I love my hometown to death even though I’ll likely never live there again. So I was pleased to see Lonely Planet include it on its list of 10 Cities You Must Visit in 2024 — the only U.S. city other than Philadelphia to make the lineup. You may think these two burgs have little in common, but the smaller one is good enough for Jason Kelce’s brother, and who am I to disagree? Besides, since I’m a native, I can also clue you in to what makes it a good place to visit.

Where to Stay

After touching down — American Airlines offers nonstop flights from PHL — check in at your hotel in the center of the city. Stay at Southmoreland on the Plaza (rooms from $99 per night), a boutique hotel in a 1913 Colonial Revival mansion, to experience K.C. like a native. If you’d rather stay close to the Crossroads arts district, the Hotel Kansas City (rooms from $250 per night) offers luxe lodgings in a 1920s Gothic Revival former private club.

Where to Eat

kansas city barbecue

Arthur Bryant’s barbecue in Kansas City / Photograph by Philip Scalia/Alamy Stock Photo

Of course you’re going to have barbecue. With apologies to Memphis and central Texas, K.C. is the heart of American barbecue, with more than 100 restaurants serving it in the city. Arthur Bryant’s and Gates, which has five locations, are the staple Q joints that trace their roots to Henry Perry, the father of K.C. Q. More recent arrivals include Q39, Joe’s Kansas City (head to the original location in a gas station), and °F325 BBQ. And if you tire of Q, try the J. Rieger & Co. craft distillery or tacos al pastor at San Antonio.

What to Do

You could easily­ devote the weekend to museum-­hopping. The Truman­ Library chronicles the life of the president who dropped the atomic bombs; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is free to attend and has one of the country’s best collections of Asian art (and a miniature golf course); and the National WWI Memorial­ and Museum takes a deep dive into “the war to end all wars.” While at that one, ride to the top of the memorial tower for breathtaking city views. Finally,­ the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American­ Jazz Museum, in the 18th and Vine Jazz District, K.C.’s historic­ Black downtown, celebrate Black contributions to American­ sports and music.

kansas city art

Claes Oldenburg’s shuttlecock at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City / Photograph by Bill Grant/Alamy Stock Photo

The Can’t Miss List

1. The Country Club Plaza, the nation’s first planned shopping center, is also an open-air gallery of European art, all placed on streets and in courtyards lined with Moorish Revival buildings.

2. Westport is where the city comes to play on the weekends, with live music, buzzing bars and a great Q joint (natch).

3. Put on your walking shoes or running gear and take in the views along Cliff Drive.

4. A onetime warehouse hub, the Crossroads Arts District now houses the city’s performing-arts center.

5. Founded by a Penn alum from Iowa, Raygun offers apparel and merch with cheeky commentary.


Published as “Jaunt: Weekending in … Kansas City” in the March 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.