Meet Me at 18th and Vine
Story and Photos by John Gasawski
A modern version of the song “Kansas City” would say “meet me at the corner of 18th and Vine.” That is where we begin our tour of this diverse city in the heartland of America.
My first stop is The Museums at 18th and Vine. Here I listen to a story about this famous intersection. From the early 20s to the 50s, the clubs in were the place to enjoy the jazz of Count Basie, Bennie Moten, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker and others. Many ballplayers from the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the original Negro League teams, could be spotted in the clubs enjoying the lively music. This area features the American Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum , and the recently renovated Gem Theater Cultural and Performing Arts Center . The clubs still swing, sway and sizzle into the night. Call (816) 221-1920 or (888) 221-6526 for more information. The web site is www.nlbm.com.
Just north of downtown at 400 Grand is the Steamboat Arabia Museum . The Arabia headed for the west in 1856 loaded with goods and passengers. Along the way it sank and rested on the bottom of the Missouri River until 1988. The Hawley family excavated the boat and rather than sell more than 200 tons of everyday and exotic treasures, they opened the Steamboat Museum . I recommend watching the short film that explains the excavation and restoration of china, jewelry, hardware, and even food. For admission information and hours, call (816) 471-4030. The web site is www.1856.com.
One of the great joys for kids is The Toy and Miniature Museum , located at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The museum is more than 33,000 square feet and contains 33 rooms filled with antique dolls, doll houses, cast-iron toys, trains, and miniatures. There are more than 85 furnished doll houses, each at least 100 years old, many scale-model miniature rooms, and more. If you have children, or if you have never quite grown up, this is a must see. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. For admission information call (816) 333-2055 or visit the web site at www.umkc.edu/tmm.
Once I get the kids out of the Toy and Miniature Museum , I head for Crown Center and more fun for both adults and kids. As recently as 1968, the area occupied by Crown Center was a part of Kansas City ’s decaying core. Today the area is a dining and entertainment center thanks to Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards and his son, Donald Hall. One of my favorite stops is the Hallmark Visitors Center . I enjoy the hundreds of historical artifacts, the classic artwork, and the 300 Keepsake Ornaments. Crown Center also offers several unique places to shop. Also be sure to “walk the Link” between the Hyatt Regency and the renovated Union Station. The Station, second largest in the country, was completely restored and is now home to Science City and three theaters. I normally spend a day enjoying the Crown Center and Union Station area and its shops and restaurants. The Hallmark telephone number is (816) 274-3613 and the web site is www.hallmarkvisitorscenter.com. Contact Crown Center at (816) 274-8444 or on the web at www.crowncenter.com.
No trip to Kansas City is complete without a visit is The Country Club Plaza. The “Plaza” was the country’s first suburban shopping district. A walk on the Plaza is like strolling the streets of Spain with its fountains, ironwork, elegant towers, and tiled red roofs. It was, in fact, designed to mirror the sister city of Seville , Spain . I enjoy the unique romantic architecture of this delightful area. Visit the web site at www.countryclubplaza.com or call (816) 753-0100.
A trip to Kansas City must include a visit to one of the many barbecue restaurants. They are too numerous to mention and I leave you to explore and discover some for yourself. However, a few of the oldest are Rosedale Barbecue, Arthur Bryant’s and Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q. I am a big fan of family-style dining offered by Stroud’s. Here I can enjoy the huge platters of veggies, rolls, and chicken…all served family style. If you like Mexican, Cajun, French, Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean, or New York style deli… .Kansas City has them plus more. My food recommendation is, don’t try to diet in Kansas City
Before meeting anyone at the corner of 18 th and Vine you might wish to contact the following for additional information: Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City, (816) 221-5242 or (800) 767-7700. Their web site is www.visitKC.com. They are always willing to provide information concerning lodging, other dining opportunities, and information on other attractions, including sports activities.
Have fun in Kansas City , MO.