Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Local's Secrets (15) : Ellen's Kansas City

Kansas City has stopped apologizing for being a mid-size Midwestern US city, and has started celebrating everything that makes it awesome. A hidden gem in America’s heartland, it boasts an ever-growing list of museums, art hubs, barbecue restaurants, independent shops, breweries, cycling routes and more.

The Basics

What do people have to know about your city’s transportation? 
  1. Kansas City is becoming more transportation-friendly by the month, but it’s not always easy to stay out of a car. For most tourist activities, you can find your way around on the RideKC system, which integrates buses and the KC Streetcar. A 3-day visitors pass provides unlimited rides for $10.
  2. The only public transportation option from the airport is the 129 Bus from Terminal B to downtown. Cost is only $1.50, but the route only runs once/hour and takes at least about an hour and fifteen minutes to travel what is otherwise a 25-minute drive. Uber is now an option (around $25), as is a taxi (around $35), to get to your destination. Bus wins on price, but a car might win on convenience.
  3. Alternatively, Kansas City is served by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief (Chicago ←→ Los Angeles) and Missouri River Runner (KC ←→ St Louis). Union Station is in the heart of downtown KC, and very well-connected via bus, streetcar, and Bike Share KC to other locations throughout the metro area even beyond the city center.
  4. The Main Street MAX is the North/South bus connection between downtown and Waldo, a corridor which is full of fun areas and great restaurants, including Power & Light District, Westport, The Plaza, Brookside and Waldo.
  5. Bike Share KC is expanding its coverage of the urban core. This works like most cycle hire / bike share systems: buy a 24-hr pass online ahead of time, then use your credit card to check out a bike in 30-minute increments. A weekly pass is just $15, and the bike kiosks are strategically placed near the most popular attractions, from downtown all the way south to Waldo. 
    Bike Kansas City
    Nelson- Atkins Museum of Art with KC bike kiosk. 

If someone is new to the city, which website should he check for daily or weekly free events? 

One should log on to VisitKC.

Tell us about the food scene! 

Signature dish and where to get the best servings: 
  1. You can’t miss KC BBQ. Check out Joe’s KC, Char Bar, and Arthur Bryant’s.
  2. I freaking love tacos, and KC has an excellent selection of authentic options from Mexico and Central America. Check out Bonito Michoacan and Carniceria San Antonio for tacos muy auténticos.
  3. James Beard award winning chefs: Establishments such as The Reiger, The American Restaurant, Bluestem, Port Fonda, and Room 39 boast nominations in key categories from the James Beard Award.

Wackiest food in town and where to try them: 
  1. Longboards specializes in gigantic wraps — but their daily special has ranged from a mac n cheese wrap to a whole sushi roll wrapped in rice and a tortilla.
  2. Succotash has a unique breakfast experience: the Burrito of Love is actually a pancake wrapped around scrambled eggs and bacon, and the 8-layer rainbow cake is delicious (and perfect for Instagramming)

Everyday food that foreigners might find exotic? 
American breakfast food has a way of confusing the outside world. For Americana’s best biscuits and gravy, find your way to Happy Gillis Cafe in Columbus Park.
Happy Gillis Cafe, Kansas City, Columbus Park
Happy Gillis Cafe. 

Hidden Gems/ Ellen's Secrets! 

Sell us the one or two "things you should experience before you die” in your city. 
You’ll never know true happiness until a perfectly smoked burnt end cut of barbecue melts in your mouth.

Hidden gems in the city that tourists tend to overlook:
Happy Gillis Cafe, Kansas City, Columbus Park
Double Shift Brewery, Kansas City. 

  1. While everyone from KC can name their favorite Boulevard Beer, several smaller, more local breweries have sprung up in the last five years. Head down to East 18th Street to find Double Shift, Border Brewing, and Torn Label breweries. Saunter a little farther west to Tom’s Town Distilling — Kansas City’s first legal distillery since prohibition was lifted — to take a tour or sample a flight of local spirits.
  2. The Plaza shopping district is beautiful to walk through, but the stores can be found anywhere. For a mega-local experience, head to the Crossroads District, Brookside, or West 39th Street.
  3. If your goal is to get drunk on cheap beer and make out with random strangers, head down to the Power and Light District on a Saturday night. If you’re looking instead for a classy night out, find your way to 18th & Vine for jazz music and dancing.

Let’s talk about the best festival in the city, and how to participate! 
My hands-down favorite annual festival in KC is the Ethnic Enrichment Festival, held each year in the sweltering month of August. For three days, the Swope Park Pavilion is absolutely surrounded by dozens of booths representing food, crafts, and culture from countries all over the world. Sample Taiwanese boba tea, Ecuadorian ceviche, French nutella crepes, or Ethiopian injera while watching a Dragon Dance from Vietnam.

Tell us your favorite photo spots in your city and how to get there 
Kansas City Skyline, Scout statue
Kansas City Skyline view from the Scout.
There are two places to get great photos of the Kansas City skyline. My absolute favorite is from The Scout statue in Penn Valley Park. It’s kind of tricky to get to but the view across the city is worth it. It’s just north of the Penn Valley Skate Park. Park there (or cycle there!) and head away from 31st Street. You’ll see The Scout statue watching over the city. Go at sunset for an awesome glint off of KC’s many glass buildings. 

Kansas City Skyline, Liberty Memorial
Kansas City Skyline from the Liberty Memorial. 

The second spot is not-so-secret but is the most famous — the view of downtown from The Liberty Memorial. It’s an easy jaunt up the green to the top viewing deck looking out over Union Station and beyond. If you’re an overachiever you can climb the tower steps all the way to the top of the memorial for a bird’s-eye view!


Ellen is a cycling travel blogger with a terrible sense of direction. As she travels around Europe, she finds a bike — anything from cycle hire schemes to rentals to bike tours — and documents how you, too, can discover a city on two wheels. 
When she’s not travelling, Ellen spends her time getting lost in London on her green steel frame bicycle and convincing others to join her. Her Instagram feed is full of city skylines, bicycles, Prosecco and architecture. Check out her Blog, Ellen Says Hola and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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