Located in (literally) the heart of America, Kansas City is the most centered metropolitan area in the United States. Split right down the center between Kansas and Missouri, the city is big and growing, but it still embodies a small town feel.
Though not typically thought of as a hotbed of tourism, Kansas City has a lot going for it. It earned the nickname “The City of Fountains” due to the 200-plus water features throughout the metro area—more than any other city aside from Rome. Add in historic districts (the West Bottoms once housed the city’s stockyards and now offer some of the its best dining and shopping), urban green space (KC boasts more boulevards than Paris), impressive architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic church is here), art galleries and two professional sports teams—the Royals and Chiefs—and it all helps make up a vibrant patchwork.
Kansas City is also known for its barbecue. Locals and tourist alike will argue over who does it best, but let’s be honest—a lot of places do it really, really well. Check out B.B.’s Lawnside for a taste of barbecue served alongside its best accompaniment: blues music. If you tire of the barbecue thing, the city also offers top-notch fine dining, great burgers and restaurants that focus on local and sustainable cuisine. You won’t be going hungry here.
The city doesn’t shut it down when the sun sets, either. Sample inventive cocktails at bars such as Manifesto and The Drop. As for the music scene, this is a major blues and jazz hub. From swank clubs to gritty venues way off the beaten path, there’s something going on every night. Who knows—you might even witness the next Charlie Parker launching his or her career.