If you're goin' to Kansas City any time soon or have never been here, then you may be surprised to discover a creative renaissance, especially in the Crossroads District near downtown.
Join us for First Fridays on the first Friday of each month, and you'll be amazed to find crowded streets bustling with artists, performers, and patrons. The Crossroads District is one of the most concentrated art gallery districts in the U.S., and is home to more than 400 local artists and more than 100 independent studios. There are restaurants, shops, and galleries around every corner with plenty of original design created locally.
Be sure to check out Little Freshie, located on the Westside of the Crossroads. Founded by Lindsay Larricks, a former Willoughby designer, Little Freshie has a soda fountain, espresso bar, and serves snow cones and snow pops all made with Larricks' own syrups.
Other not to miss places in the Crossroads District include:
Christopher Elbow creates small batches of exquisite handcrafted chocolates, which demonstrate that the appearance is just as important as the taste. He first helped Emeril Lagasse open the Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian, and Jean Joho open the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Resort and Casino—both in Las Vegas—before mastering chocolate making and starting his own company.
Owner Brady Vest sells award-winning letterpress greeting cards, posters, art prints, and other paper goods that he designed and printed on his antique letterpresses.
Urban Mining brought the unique concept of First Friday vintage markets to KC. You can find antiques, furniture, and gifts from their extensive inventory of 99 percent recycled, repurposed, and renewed products. Get there as early as Thursday night of the first weekend of the month for the best pickins'!
Within a mile of the Crossroads district you'll find:
You're in for a truly amazing experience at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. This award-winning, state of the art performance hall was designed by architect Moshe Safdie with surfaces from pre-cast concrete to bead-blasted stainless steel. Check online for performances and schedules.
This is one of the best-kept secrets if you love history. The Arabia sank in the Missouri River just north of Kansas City in the mid 1800s. When the river changed course, the Arabia was buried beneath a cornfield in Kansas. The museum showcases the Arabia's cargo, including 200 tons of supplies for pioneers. As you walk through, you feel as though you're experiencing life in a pioneer settlement.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum tells another once untold story of our country. Kansas City's baseball pride extends to the Negro Leagues for many reasons, including Jackie Robinson, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs and became the first African American to play on a Major League Baseball team. Inside the museum you'll witness photos, artifacts, and multimedia exhibits telling the stories of a historical league. If you have the time, you can also check out the American Jazz Museum which shares the space.
Nearby is Arthur Bryant's Barbeque. Don't miss this world famous KC barbeque joint. Also be sure to wear non-slip shoes as the floor has a layer of grease collected over the past 80 years.
Ann Willoughby is founder and creative director of Willoughby Design.