Authentic travel is an up and coming hot topic. After hearing it discussed so much, I knew what my storyline was from my latest KCK trip. I had been waiting for the inspiration to hit me and there it was. See how you can discover authentic travel in Kansas City, Kansas.
Kansas City, Kansas (or KCK as the locals call it) is a culturally diverse city with a melting pot of different life walks. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I’m drawn to it and the state of Kansas itself. I was shocked to know that there is no ethnic majority in Kansas City, Kansas. Historically the city has drawn immigrants and been defined by its rich ethnic blend.
On my last visit to this Midwestern city, a few other travel writers and I took a look at ways to experience authentic travel in Kansas City, the heart of America. Which one will you want to do first?
Noteworthy KCK Museums
The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Game is a unique museum honoring American farmers to the tune of 30,000 relics and artifacts. While the inventory was mostly foreign to this Southern gal, I loved stepping back in time at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame and seeing the farming equipment (some I recognized the names of) and participating in some family-friendly activities. The one-room schoolhouse is so darling, and there are costumed interpreters on-site to share the history.
Don’t miss the blacksmith shop, gardens, and train depot where you can ride a mini-Union Pacific train. Yes, I squeezed myself into a seat for the fun of it.
Grinter Place Museum
Touring the Grinter Place Museum with Bill, a fabulous storyteller and historical interpreter, was a real treat. Grinter Place is a home built by Moses and Annie Grinter, a white man and Lenape Native American woman, who was instrumental in bridging the gap between them.
The home was sold in the 1950s and later donated to the Kansas Historical Society for restoration as a museum to when the Grinters lived there. While the house is nice and gives a significant step back into those days, Bill’s recounted version is not-to-miss.
Wyandotte County Museum
The Wyandotte County Historical Society and Museum is a cool place to stop by. From a vintage 1903 steam fire engine to a dugout canoe, and whimsical firefighter statues to a Civil War cannon, this museum shares 75,000 artifacts and stories from the area. One of the most noteworthy is a piece of the Arizona ship hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
A Live Wizard of Oz production
Led by Pete Webber (of the Providence Theatre and 11 others), Kansas City, Kansas, welcomed the first live performance of The Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure about this, but I figure every person who grows up in the United States learned about Kansas since they were old enough to watch TV and see the classic and timeless movie.
How is it that the story that put Kansas on the map in the pop culture world had to wait until 2018 to welcome it to an outdoor theater performance? I was lucky enough to have a nearly front-row seat. What an honor it was to see The Wizard of Oz, my daughter Peyton’s favorite movie since age 1, with such a talented cast.
Aside from the weekend show was a host of other Wizard of Oz related activities throughout the city. We stopped into the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame to see the world’s most valued, prized, and elaborate collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia that was on display for a limited time.
The owner of the collection and President of the Wizard of Oz fan club, Jane Albright, gave us a first-hand account of her priceless goodies and the impact the movie has had on her own life. The Flying Monkey costume was pretty cool, but Dorothy’s dress and the interesting hand puppet were my faves. Authentic travel in Kansas City doesn’t get much greater than this!
Local Food: Authentic Kansas
It is fitting to have a famous Kansas City BBQ when you visit the area, so we tried Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque. The menu offered barbecue selections, including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausages, and turkey, with sides of onion rings, potato salad, and baked beans. I liked the smoked turkey best, but my friends raved about the ribs having a great balanced flavor.
Delicious Italian food in KCK? Who knew. Italian Delight was indeed a delight with the vast array of yummy pasta dishes and pizza. Renee, the owner and manager, came by to say hello (and knew everyone in the restaurant) with a plate of cannoli. Does life get any better than this?
I can vouch for the calzones being incredibly packed with tasty ingredients. The side tomato and cucumber salad is a must! Don’t mind the long lines; the food comes out quickly and is worth the wait. Though I did not order it, the Chicken Parmesan looked terrific!
Drop by Splitlog Coffee Co. for a great cup of coffee or tea and some killer pastries.
The Lewis and Clark Historic Park
Not only do you get an authentic travel experience at this park found at Kaw Point, but also exceptional views and photo ops, as well. As shared by our guide, Mike Calwell, Explorers Lewis and Clark arrived on the shores in 1804 on their way to the Rocky Mountains. They spent several days there repairing boats and gathering supplies. Mike is part of a team of local men who re-enact the arrival from time to time.
The Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point feature 10-acres of trails, a boat ramp and is where the Kansas and Missouri Rivers join. The park was called Kaw Point Park until being designated a National Historic Trail. Historic plaques detail the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At the educational pavilion, you can view the 19 flags representing regional native tribes.
The Wyandots of KCK
We spoke with a gal from Big Turtle (Anna Brown), who shared a moving story, along with her mother (Louisa Libby), about her family’s arrival in Kansas City, Kansas. Long story short, in 1843, the Wyandot nation was forced to migrate from their homes in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
The families caught a steamboat to KCK. Six hundred sixty-four people arrived on the banks of the river with no land and little supplies. One hundred of them perished the first winter. They resided in longhouses, with 30-40 families in each house.
One of the first purchases the Wyandottes made after securing an income was to buy the Wyandot National Burying Ground to honor their dead. There are 1,000 people buried there, with 200-400 of them being Civil War soldiers in mass graves. It is a National Landmark, and we visited it to pay our respects to those buried here.
It was a moving experience to think about the struggles they faced and the strength they mustered as they continued pressing on against all odds. Anna informed us that the correct spelling of her clan is Wyandot, not Wyandotte.
Underground Railroad Sites
Did you know that Kansas (a free state) was instrumental in the Underground Railroad? Running along the Mississippi, Quindaro was the first free port for freedom seekers. A fascinating story we learned is this:
The Monroes, an African-American family, met with the Wyandot clan back when the river froze over, and they’ve been like extended family ever since. Anthony Hope, a relative of the Monroe family, met with us to share his story. We met at the Quindaro overlook. From this point, you can see four counties. It is beautiful and peaceful. He shared the meaning of Quindaro, which means “a bundle of sticks is stronger together”.
While the river was frozen over, freedom seekers (slaves) made their way across the ice. The Monroes helped hide them in Wyandot hotels, tunnels, and cisterns. There was an 18″ area that food and supplies would be dropped into to keep them alive.
Today, the area of Quindaro Township Ruins awaits Senate approval to become a historical landmark. Be sure to visit the educational Old Quindaro Museum with artifacts once belonging to the freedom seekers and the Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum (in the Vernon multipurpose center).
And a Few Not So Authentic…But Recommended
The Legends Outlets Kansas City showcase 100+ stores, all along the Yellow Brick Road, making outstanding social media shares and photos. There are entertainment venues and restaurants, as well, at this regional shopping mall. Check out the cool public art and sculptures located throughout the complex.
Next up, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, one of my favorite casinos in the country. This pristine gambling complex offers 3,000+ slot machines, 52 table games, and a poker room. There are five restaurants in the casino, with some offering outdoor seating that gives a great view of the Kansas Speedway racetrack. The speedway hosts 2 NASCAR race weekends each year.
Where to Stay in KCK
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Kansas City Speedway is a superb hotel. Every room is a suite, so there is plenty of room to move about and in a great, convenient location. The complimentary breakfast is spectacular!
Kansas City Kansas, More Than Meets the Eye
Kansas City, Kansas, is a delightful city to visit that offers a diverse selection of outings and attractions, with some great shopping and dining thrown in the mix. I hope this post will make you want to learn more about authentic travel no matter where you go.
Thanks to the Kansas City, Kansas CVB for hosting my travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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Read more about KCK in these posts by us and our friends who were on the trip with us:
9 Unique Family Experiences in KCK by Nicky Omohundro
I Found the Best Pizza in KCK! by Nicky Omohundro
History and Agriculture in KCK by Katy Flint
KCK History & Wizard of Oz Legacy by Cindy Ladage
Another great Midwest post: