Finding the fun during an arctic blast in Kansas City

banner kansas city

I had imagined when I planned a late March visit to Kansas City, Missouri that the trip would be a reprieve from the brutal winter weather of Chicago. Oops! More than six inches of snow dropped on KC last weekend, as winter returned for one last blast.

But I embraced the challenge. It’s fun getting to know a new place in less than perfect conditions. If you’re going to let the weather get in your way, you’re not much of an adventurer!

The KC visit was a lot of fun despite the flurries. The snow provided some cool winter scenery and the indoor attractions had me hooked, from the unique museums to the famous barbecue.

The NCAA Tournament

It was the opening round of March Madness last weekend, which meant that basketball teams from across the country were in town. The North Carolina team stayed in my hotel, which led to a lobby pep rally featuring the team’s cheerleaders, mascot and band. I haven’t seen this much school spirit since my Beaver Falls Fighting Tigers won the high school state championship during my senior year. I had no particular rooting interest in this tourney, but I definitely had a soft spot for NC after this display.

north carolina pep rally hotel

Hundreds gathered in the Power & Light District for a fan experience with live bands, basketball hoops for kids, and a big screen to watch all the games.

ncaa fan experience

ncaa fan basketball

Barbecue lunch

For lunch, it was off to Gates BarBQ, one of the many barbecue hot spots in KC. The best way to experience a new restaurant is to gorge on everything, so the table was loaded with BBQ chicken, ham, shredded beef and ribs, with fries and beans on the side. The sauce had a nice kick without being too spicy. Great stuff.

Given that my last southern barbecue experience was not so good (sorry, Raleigh, North Carolina), Gates was a total winner in my book.

gates barbq chicken

kc bbq ham ribs

World War I Museum

There’s only one museum in America dedicated entirely to World War I. The structure began in 1926 as the Liberty Memorial and expanded in 2006 to include an underground museum. The Great War claimed the lives of more than nine million people worldwide, and the memorial tastefully documents the conflict with pictures, interactive touch-screen displays and artifacts.

The items on display included grenades from Austria-Hungary.

world-war-I-grenades

And submarine torpedoes from the war.

world-war-I-torpedo

The 217-foot high tower at the memorial can be seen throughout much of the city.

liberty-memorial

You can ride an old-fashioned elevator to the top of the tower, where you’ll find the best view of Kansas City and its skyline.

kansas-city-skyline

The Science of Rock & Roll

It always takes some time to return to reality after leaving a serious, emotionally-charged museum like the WWI facility. I walked around for a bit before ending up at Union Station to check out the Science of Rock & Roll exhibit.

The display featured separate cases highlighting each decade in music history. Bust out those 8-track players and let’s play some Meat Loaf!

case-of-8-tracks

This doll was signed by Alice Cooper, who gave it his signature eye paint. This is not creepy at all.

alice-cooper-autographed-ba

The Science of Rock & Roll allows visitors to record themselves playing an instrument and watch the video online after going back home. I was hoping to get a shot on the drums, but the drum kit proved to be especially popular on this day, so I settled for the keyboard. I sat down and worked out some sort of futuristic synth riff that was probably unconsciously inspired by Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” I now present the video of this winning one-finger composition:

If someone wants to take this music and lay a beat or a rap verse over it and turn it into a hit song, I’ll gladly accept songwriting royalties. Thanks!

The arctic blast

After emerging from Union Station the snow started to fall. The tower of the WWI Museum as seen through the flakes from a distance:

snow-kansas-city

The next morning, Kansas City was a winter wonderland.

power-light-district-snow

Fortunately, the city was able to clear the roads rather quickly. Well done, KC road crew!

snowy roads

With the roads perfectly drivable, I headed off to see some of Kansas City’s coolest neighborhoods, like Westport and Volker, stopping at the Kemper Museum of Modern Art along the way to see the giant spider statue out front.

kemper-museum-spider

And the giant badminton shuttlecocks outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

shuttlecock-nelson-atkins-m

Westport has a lot of history to its credit. It used to be its own city before KC took it over in 1897.

old westport wagon

Back then Westport was popular as a starting point for settlers heading off on the Oregon and Sante Fe Trails. Now it serves as a popular entertainment district with busy bars and restaurants.

jazz louisiana kitchen

You know you’re in a fun hipster ‘hood when you start seeing the bike shops.

volker bicycles

Unfortunately, not every business appreciates that clientele.

hipsters beware

Nobody was foolish enough to try to sit outside at the Mud Pie on this day, although the popular coffeehouse had plenty of customers inside.

mud-pie-kansas-city

When I finally replace my travel van, I want a VW just like this one, perhaps with a more elaborate color scheme.

vw-van-purple

Someone even constructed an actual igloo. I’ve seen halfhearted igloo attempts from time to time, but it’s been years since I witnessed a genuine, brick-by-brick winter igloo. Now that is how you enjoy a winter storm.

igloo-kansas-city-winter

Note: I was a guest of Visit KC in Kansas City.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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