I just came back from a work trip to Kansas City and this blog is less about my trip there and more about my perception of the trip before and after. Kansas City is an interesting one on the map, half the city is in the state of Missouri and the other half is in the state of Kansas. I don’t think I or many others knew about this until we looked at a map on our trip. We were in Kansas City, MO for a trade show conference and spent 4 days working and a little bit of exploring.
When I first found out I was going to Kansas City for work, I looked at my boss in a slightly “Are you serious? 😐” sort of expression. My first trade show and in such a Podunk place! No one even knew where it was on the map, and quite frankly I wasn’t excited. I was going to meet my team who works remotely out of their own locations and this was probably the exciting part of the trip. As the trip got closer, I felt wearier because not only was I going to be incredibly busy on the trip but putting in all that effort to fly to a town I literally called Po-dunk Town was not exactly thrilling. I mean, this isn’t New York or Louisiana or San Francisco or Chicago or any other lively town in the US that I’d love to visit (even on a busy work trip). This was a city I had to look up on a map before I was going there, and most people would also probably have to look up on the map to figure out where exactly in the US it is. And as a travel blogger (or someone aiming to be one), this wasn’t exactly a cool, social media savvy place I could write about!
Well…as I neared the end of my 4 days, my perception had changed. And a bit dramatically. Firstly, I no longer saw KC as the Po-dunk town I had long imagined it to be. And that’s because it wasn’t! Kansas City, on the Missouri side, is quite quaint and has its own old school, new world charm. It’s a small city and we were in the financial district. When I managed to notice the city, I realized it was clean and the architecture was beautiful. They’ve perfected the art of having new buildings right beside renovated old buildings from the turn of the last century. Red brick with statues, next to tall shiny glass panels. An empire state lookalike with a big cake topper sculpture on top. The architecture of this town was its most striking feature and one thing I appreciated about the town. They had managed to keep the old with the new and make it look beautiful. I also felt safe and never worried about anything, even if we were walking around past midnight.
Kansas City’s greatest surprising feature was probably how little traffic there was on the streets we were staying. At one point, I told my coworker it felt like the Venice of the US, since there are no cars in Venice. About 4000 people had descended on the town because of the conference, yet city traffic was nowhere to be found, at 9 am or 5 pm. Perhaps there was traffic in other parts of town, but it’s hard to imagine because we got used to crossing the road even when the lights were green. And this was such a refreshing change than the crazy downtown Toronto traffic I’m used to (or still not used to)!
Despite the heat (one day it was +45 with humidity), the city itself is very picturesque. There are lots of parks and open spaces, there are fountains in many places (KC is the City of Fountains in the US with over 200 fountains across the metropolitan area). And they are lovely – looking at them you wouldn’t know if you were in a plaza in Italy or a modern-day city since the fountains are so historical looking and decorative.
Before I left, I’d thought Kansas would be a city with few people, and certainly no young ones. Once again, I was wrong. The City was teeming was young men and women, students and young professionals, all enjoying the music and the food scene the city has to offer. We spent a lot of time hanging out in the Power and Light District, where nightly concerts took place in the Sprint Center across from a cool open-air plaza we visited, and where old warehouses had been turned into restaurants. You went in and saw lofty ceilings, silver pipes and old stained windows, but in fact it was a modern restaurant you sat with pop music blasting and people enjoying beer, BBQ (of course) and tapas and canapes.
All in all, I was surprised by the time I made my way back to the airport, and in a good way. About all 14 of my coworkers felt the same – they’d all come thinking KC was a small town with nothing but the likeness of tumbleweed to offer, located somewhere in mid-US.
I guess the adage applies to travel also – if you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a place before visiting it. I now see traveling to smaller cities in the US as something that offers an opportunity to explore (and self-explore), rather than as a time-wasting chore. Hopefully if you happen to pass by this town on one of your travels, you stop to appreciate all the big and small it has to offer and check out one of its many fountains.