Kansas City, Missouri, is organized into a system of more than 150 neighborhoods, some with histories as independent cities or the sites of major events.
Downtown, the center of the city, is currently undergoing major redevelopment. Downtown Kansas City has a variety of neighborhoods, including historical Westport, the Crossroads Arts District, 18th and Vine Historic District, Pendleton Heights, Quality Hill, the West Bottoms and the River Market.
Other areas near Downtown Kansas City include:
The 39th Street District is known as Restaurant Row and features one of Kansas City's largest selections of independently owned restaurants and boutique shops. It is a center of literary and visual arts and bohemian culture.
Crown Center is the headquarters of Hallmark Cards and a major downtown shopping and entertainment complex. It is connected to Union Station by a series of covered walkways.
The Country Club Plaza, or simply "the Plaza," is an upscale, outdoor shopping and entertainment district. It was the first shopping district in the United States designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile, and is surrounded by apartments and condominiums, including a number of high rise buildings.
The associated Country Club District to the south includes the Sunset Hill and Brookside neighborhoods, and is traversed by Ward Parkway, a beautiful, landscaped boulevard known for its statuary, fountains and large, historic homes.
Kansas City's Union Station is now home to Science City, restaurants, shopping, theaters, and the city's Amtrak facility.
Parks and parkways
J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, in Mill Creek Park, adjacent to the Country Club Plaza
Kansas City is well-known for its spacious parkways and numerous parks. The parkway system winds its way through the city with broad, landscaped medians that include statuary and fountains. One of the best examples is Ward Parkway on the west side of the city, near the Kansas state line. Originally designed for aesthetics and minor automobile/horse and buggy traffic, many parkways were drastically altered to accommodate more and more vehicles, becoming minor freeways.
Swope Park is one of the nation's largest in-city parks, comprising 1,763 acres (2.75mi²), more than twice as big as New York's Central Park. It includes a full-fledged zoo, two golf courses, a lake, an amphitheatre, day-camp area, and numerous picnic grounds.
Kansas City has always had one of the nation's best urban forestry programs . At one time, almost all residential streets were planted with a solid canopy of American elms but Dutch elm disease devastated them. Most of the elms died and were replaced with a variety of other shade trees. A program is underway currently to replace many of the fast-growing sweetgum trees with hardwood varieties.
Kansas City steaks
During the heyday of the Kansas City Stockyards, the city was known for its Kansas City steaks or Kansas City strip steaks. The most famous of the steakhouses is the Golden Ox in the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange in the stockyards in the West Bottoms. The stockyards, which were second only to those of Chicago in size, never recovered from the Great Flood of 1951 and eventually closed. The famed Kansas City Strip cut of steak is largely identical to the New York Strip cut, and is sometimes referred to just as a strip steak.
Kansas City-style barbecue
Along with Texas, Memphis & North Carolina, Kansas City is a "world capital of barbecue." There are more than 90 barbecue restaurants in the metropolitan area and the American Royal each fall hosts what it claims is the world's biggest barbecue contest.
The classic Kansas City-style barbecue was an inner city phenomenon that evolved from the pit of Henry Perry from the Memphis, Tennessee area in the early 1900s and blossomed in the 18th and Vine neighborhood. Arthur Bryant's was to take over the Perry restaurant and added molasses to sweeten the recipe. In 1946 Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q was opened by one of Perry's cooks. The Gates recipe added even more molasses. Although Bryant's and Gates are the two definitive Kansas City barbecue restaurants they have just recently begun expanding outside of the Greater Kansas City Area.
In 1977 Rich Davis, a psychiatrist, test-marketed his own concoction called K.C. Soul Style Barbecue Sauce. He renamed it KC Masterpiece and in 1986 he sold the sauce to the Kingsford division of Clorox. Davis retained rights to operate restaurants using the name and sauce, with a restaurant in the suburb of Overland Park, KS.
Kansas City is home to the Kansas City Symphony, founded by R. Crosby Kemper Jr. in 1982 to supersede the Kansas City Philharmonic, which had existed since 1933. The symphony currently is located at the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Kansas City, but will move to the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, also downtown, when it is completed in December of 2009. The current music director and lead conductor of the symphony is the world-renowned Michael Stern.
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City, founded in 1970, is one of the nation's premier regional opera companies. It prides itself on offering one American contemporary opera production during its annual season consisting of either four or five productions. Originally, all operas were performed in English, although in the late-1990s the company decided to perform all productions in their original languages. The Lyric Opera also is located at the Lyric Theatre, and also will move to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in 2009.
The Kansas City Ballet, founded in 1957 by Tatiana Dokoudovska, is a ballet troupe comprising 25 professional dancers and apprentices. Between 1986 and 2000, it was combined with Dance St. Louis to form the State Ballet of Missouri, although it remained located in Kansas City. From 1980 to 1995, the Ballet was run by renowned dancer and choreographer Todd Bolender. Today, the Ballet offers an annual repertory split into three seasons which ranges from classical to contemporary ballets. The Ballet also is located at the Lyric Theatre, and also will move with the Symphony and Opera to the Kauffman Center in 2009.