Published: July 2009
Good-time Kansas City
Long Weekends Midwest Museum
Lively Cafe Sebastienne is part of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
By Douglass K. Daniel
Photo courtesy Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Vibrant but unheralded destinations like Kansas City make the Midwest a true find.

The American Midwest is flyover country to some, but others have discovered its wealth of centrally located—and eminently affordable—weekend getaways.

Kansas City, Missouri, for example, known for its barbecue and jazz, combines classic attractions—a top art museum among them—with a new emphasis on nightlife in a revitalized city center.

Kansas City's shiniest new attraction is the Power & Light District, an $850-million downtown development of restaurants, bars, stores, hotels, and theaters. It features a renovated convention center and KC Live!, a block of music and entertainment venues on a covered outdoor plaza. "Everything you're looking for is right there," says Dan Wehmueller, an architect who lives downtown. Most restaurants and bars are open until 3 a.m.

Get a great view of downtown from atop the 217-foot-tall Liberty Memorial Tower. It's the centerpiece of the National World War One Museum, where "life-size figures and sound effects of exploding artillery shells give you a real sense of trench warfare," says local history buff Dave Walterscheid. Nearby, the Arabia Steamboat Museum displays a remarkable collection of artifacts recovered from the wreck of a steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1856.

Across the street is the cavernous Union Station, scene of the infamous Kansas City Massacre, a 1933 shoot-out between gangsters and police. The station, still attached to an Amtrak depot, now houses the kid-friendly Science City, vintage rail cars, a planetarium, and live theater at City Stage.

Get a doubleheader of baseball and music in the city's old jazz district at 18th and Vine. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the black stars of the segregated sport. Next door is the American Jazz Museum with exhibits that recall the swinging days of Count Basie and Fats Waller. A top venue for live jazz and cocktails is the museum's Blue Room, evoking a 1930s hot spot.

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