Straddling the Missouri River and the state line dividing Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is famous for its stockyards, jazz, barbecues and juicy steak. It is vibrant and diverse, a distinctly American city with a European flavour. It has Parisian tree-lined boulevards, parks, Spanish-style architecture, and hundreds of fountains reminiscent of Rome that are incorporated into the design of nearly every commercial building, giving it its nickname 'The City of Fountains'. Almost all points of interest to visitors are on the Missouri side of the city, while a sprawl of suburbs occupies the section in the state of Kansas.
J.C. Nichols Fountain © Charvex
Established as a fur trading post in 1821, Kansas City served as a convenient point of departure for pioneer wagon trains heading west over the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. Railroads and the construction of the Hannibal Bridge across the Missouri River established the city as a bustling business community and one of the world's leading cattle centres. Fittingly, considering the ranching legacy, the city is now considered the nation's barbecue capital, with more than 60 restaurants offering grilled specialities. After World War I Kansas City became a centre for jazz music, with musicians like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington playing in the nightclubs of the 18th and Vine District.
For family entertainment the adjacent theme parks of the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, with hundreds of rides, live entertainment and water attractions, are popular, while the Moorish-style architecture and dazzling fountains of the Country Club Plaza are home to America's first shopping centre and offer a host of retail stores, fine dining and nightlife. Riverboat casinos are a popular diversion, and the restored downtown waterfront district hosts the colourful River Market with merchants offering a wide variety of produce and crafts.
The city's frontier history can be explored in Liberty, where the Jesse James Bank Museum is the site of the country's first daylight bank robbery, or in St Joseph, the birthplace of the historic Pony Express that tells the story of the riders who were recruited to 'face death daily'. More modern history can be traced in the neighbouring city of Independence, associated with the 33rd US president, Harry Truman.
See our separate guides to the following Kansas City holiday resorts: Branson
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