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I am a little biased since I grew up north of Kansas City and now spend the holidays there, but I really like this city, its beauty, its arts and its people. It has recently been getting some great press which describes it as becoming a hip, foodie destination.

Make sure you see or visit:

The Country Club Plaza: This was the first shopping center built by J.C. Nichols in the 1920’s in a Moorish style similar to the buildings you might see in Seville Spain. It is not enclosed but is a 15 square block area filled with fountains, restaurants, cafes and great shopping. Many of the local stores have been replaced by national specialty stores. If you can see it at Christmas, the Plaza is at its best with colored lights outlining every building and covering every tree. It is a magical place to visit at this time of year with one of the most festive holiday traditions in the country.

Westport: Kansas City was started in this area in 1833 as Westport. Today it is a small area of bars, movie theaters, restaurants and shops. I like Tea Drops, at 4111 Pennsylvania, for its selection of teas. Prydes of Old Westport, just east of Westport at 115 Westport Rd., is a gourmet housewares and kitchen and home accessories store. The Upper Crust, on the second floor, is a small family-owned bakery specializing in made-from-scratch pies, cookies and quiche.

Crown Center: This is the area surrounding Hallmark’s headquarters between the Plaza and downtown Kansas City. It has refurbished Hall’s store along with others that appeal mainly to children. Just east of Crown Center is the Filling Station, at 2980 McGee Tfwy, which is a really fun spot that I recently discovered. A great place for lunch or a break for tea or coffee.

Crossroads Arts District: Just north of Crown Center is a newly emerging arts district. Here you will find several galleries and restaurants. Lidia’s Kansas City, which was opened by Lidia and Joseph Bastianich from New York, in an old railroad house, is one of my favorites in town. On my last trip, I enjoyed their Sunday brunch with a large buffet including gnocchi with duck ragout, spaghettini squash, pears, walnuts and endive, arugula salad, and dessert selections. I always loved the warm, old warehouse with exposed brick walls and glass chandeliers in the shape of grapes

There are art walks in this area the first Friday of every month as well as the second Saturday.

18th  & Vine: I recently explored this area west of the Crossroads Arts District, for the first time, where Kansas City jazz is the focus. There are several jazz clubs including the Blue Room at 1600 E. 18th and the American Jazz Museum, which has great exhibits on Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and others as well as the history of jazz. The Museum has a jazz series, Jammin ‘ at the Gem. Also in the same building is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which is really interesting. I was not aware of this part of sports history.

Explore 39th Street between State Line Road and Topping Avenue. Here d’Bronx Deli, at 3905 Bell, is a great deli that has been there for years. It also serves great pizza. The street has a number of bars, restaurants, shops and bookstores like Prospero’s, at 1800 W. 39th, for a huge selection of used books. Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffee, located in an old house at 1615 W. 39th, is a fun, local’s spot for coffee and a vegan or gluten free treat.

Harry S. Truman Library and Museum: The short drive east to Independence MO to see Truman’s Presidential Library is well-worth the effort. The displays and exhibitions are excellent which include a recreation of his Oval Office in The White House. 500 W. US Highway 24. His home a few blocks away is open for visiting and is a National Historic Site.

For history buffs, The National WWI Museum and Memorial is located in Kansas City at 100 W. 26th at the Liberty War Memorial. It is an exceptional museum with wonderful displays. Make sure to see the 12 minute introductory video which sets the stage for what caused the war.

Power and Light District: This is a new eight block area on the southern edge of Downtown where you will find many restaurants and the Sprint center.

River Market: This area along the Missouri River, just north of Downtown, is now a growing residential neighborhood with new condos and lofts, new restaurants like Farm House, specializing in farm-to-table, home-style cuisine and the recently opened Quay Coffee at 412 Delaware, Suite B.

The anchor of the neighborhood is the City Market. There are many food options in the market from Kansas City Barbecue, Chinese (Bo Lings) and Vietnamese. There is an Italian grocery, a great bakery and vendors selling local produce. I had no idea that this even existed and was really excited to find it. I really enjoyed my brunch with family at The City Diner at 301 Grand. It was casual and fun.

Other options include Cascone’s Grill, a local’s diner featuring breakfast or lunch with American and Italian specialties. It is at 15 E. 5th, across from City Market. A few doors over is Opera House Coffee House & Food Emporium, where you will find multiple options or contemporary food court in one location featuring a restaurant, coffee house, bar, bakery and music venue. 500 Walnut.

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