Part 1: Whirlwind Tour in Kansas
If you’re goin’ to Kansas City (like in the song) you are headed to Missouri. However, if you ‘re driving in Kansas City, Missouri and cross State Line Road, you enter the state of Kansas, but not Kansas City, Kansas. That aptly named city lies across the river. Got it?
I was thoroughly confused until my recent trip to the area. I landed at Kansas City International Airport and then drove about 15 minutes into Kansas City, Kansas, aka KCK. I had been booked into Chateau Avalon, a 61-room boutique Bed and Breakfast where I found a tin man in my room. Why Aunty Em, am I really in Kansas or Oz?
Actually the tin man was a knight and my suite named Camelot, but I thought the coincidence was far too wonderful. The eclectic hotel, with a labyrinth of hallways, is chockful of posh rooms, some with kitschy themes like Egyptian, Hemmingway, Wild West and pirate. Couples find the Chateau a romantic getaway; a hotel where breakfast is always served in bed. As for me? The tin man didn’t say much, but it was nice to have the gallant fellow in my room.
During the 1980’s-90’s residents of Kansas City, Kansas found their hometown in a downward economic spiral. Luckily, they got a break. Plans developed to build the $208 million Kansas Speedway that eventually opened in 2000. The NASCAR track spun magic, the opposite of a tornado, and the surrounding county surged with new business. Today, Speedway racecar drivers zoom around a 1.5-mile oval track and new road course. NASCAR presents two main events per year, overfilling the 75,000-seat grandstands while creating lots of jobs to support all those fans.
For anyone who truly wants an enviable race experience, reserve a window table at Turn 2 Restaurant in the new Hollywood Casino. You’ll get an optimal view of the race with less noise. The restaurant serves American comfort food and features a heart-stopping dessert -phyllo encased brownies. Of course, gamblers can play the slots, blackjack tables and roulette wheels found downstairs on the casino floor.
Across the street lies Legends Outlet Mall with over 100 restaurants and shops. Statues and plaques honoring famous folks from Kansas are scattered throughout. These include former President Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart, basketball pro Wilt Chamberlin and of course, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. My favorite part of the complex was the yellow brick road, and yes, I followed it.
Should hunting and fishing be more your thing, visit Cabela’s. Even if hunting and fishing are not your thing, visit Cabela’s and don’t forget to take the kids. The store is an attraction on its own including a Mule Deer Museum, aquarium, exotic taxidermy safari animals and lots of other critters. The average shopper spends two and a half hours and won’t leave hungry. Anyone want a smoked elk sandwich? You’ll find one in the second floor deli.
Sports fans celebrated the recent construction of Livestrong Sporting Park, a soccer only stadium, and adjunct to the Speedway. The venue is the high techiest park in the US and KCK area fans are die-hards. Sitting in the “Cauldron” is like being engulfed in the student section at a major college football game. Watching their constant cheering and waving of flags, banners and arms was almost as entertaining as following the play on the field.
My whirlwind day in Wyandotte County also included a stop at the National Agriculture Hall of Fame, a spot I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but…was I ever wrong. They display a machine that normally sits out in the fields. Cows enter at will and somehow the machine mechanically finds and then attaches what I’ll call ‘milking hands’ onto a cow’s teats. The apparatus is programed to know how long to attend to each cow and then records the information. Very cool.
Kansas City, Kansas whirled such surprises, I felt my head spin like Dorothy’s house. It wasn’t quite time for me to click my heels and to go home, however. The next morning I was scheduled to follow the road back over the river to explore Kansas City, Missouri or KCMO.
Please return to read Part II of my Tale of Two Kansas Cities.