Want to explore Kansas City's Westside neighborhood? Start with this beginner's guide
Just west of downtown, this neighborhood blends Victorian architecture and Mayan design, community gathering spaces, family homes, fine dining, manufacturing, and unparalleled views of the Kansas City skyline.
This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.
On the bluffs just west of Kansas City’s downtown core is the Westside, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, with roots that run deep thanks to the Mexican families who settled here and brought their love of family, food and traditions.
Leaving their homes at the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, families came to Kansas City for railroad jobs or work in the meatpacking stockyards in the nearby West Bottoms.
Today the Westside is a family-friendly place where multiple generations and income levels live side by side, where artists are given space to create, and where you can find homes, schools, a library, community centers, parks, churches, restaurants, retail, and manufacturing all co-existing in a colorful and close-knit way.
The neighborhood has always been self-sufficient; there are nonprofits that help with housing and provide medical services or job training, all while creating gathering spots like Sacred Heart, Guadalupe Centers, Mattie Rhodes Center and Tony Aguirre Community Center, all of which provide programming and community support for residents of all ages.
These centers also serve as the cultural heartbeat of the neighborhood, hosting many of the most popular Westside festivals like Dia de Los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico’s 1862 defeat of the French empire in the Battle of Puebla.
Like most neighborhoods, the Westside has its own unique architectural style, a blend of colorful Victorian homes, modest bungalows and brand-new modern boxes. The neighborhood enjoys views of the downtown skyline without actually being immersed in the hustle and bustle of the arts and entertainment options accessible by bus, car, bike, scooter or on foot.
The Westside is broken into two parts, north and south — and it is much larger than most people realize. Its boundaries are I-670 to the north and 31st Street to the south, Broadway Boulevard to the east and Beardsley and State Line roads to the west.
Any neighborhood guide couldn't possibly mention every single great business and restaurant in the area, so don't think of this list as exhaustive or definitive — just a way to get started.
There is plenty to explore, so let’s get started.
Take a walk
Bring your walking shoes and a bottle of water as you hike hilly terrain to see some of the neighborhood’s pretty parks, playgrounds, trails and fields. West Pennway is an almost 20-acre green space that runs through the north part of Westside, from West 17th Street and Beardsley Road southeast to West 26th Street. Sit under the shade trees on benches that line the boulevard.
Climb up the hill to Observation Park, and treat yourself to views of downtown and the Crossroads Arts District that will take your breath away. You can cross either the ”Flock” art bridge or the Summit Street bridge and see dazzling views of Kansas City up close.
The northernmost point of the neighborhood ends at Mulkey Square, where you can find “Bob,” the fiberglass and steel Hereford bull that sits on a platform high in the air. It was built in 1954 to sit on top of the American Hereford Association headquarters, before it was moved in 2002 directly across I-670 to the park, where it still overlooks the downtown skyline.
Tony Aguirre Community Center features a large indoor basketball court for those looking to shoot some hoops.
Legacy Skates is a best in class retail skate shop where you can purchase indoor or outdoor roller skates that will have you rolling into a nearby parking lot to try them out. Check out Boulevard’s Tours & Recreation Center to play regulation shuffleboard with one of Kansas City’s hometown beers in your hand.
Time to eat!
Starting with some classic, old school restaurants on Southwest Boulevard, enjoy a pork tenderloin sandwich at the Tenderloin Grill, birria tacos from Tacos El Gallo, or try a smattering of cheap and cheerful tacos from Rico's Tacos Lupe.
Panaderia de las Americas has a delicious tres leches cake. A few doors away is Palacana, a Mexican ice cream store selling paletas, bowls and fruit cocktails in traditional flavors. As a Westside rite of passage, get a margarita at Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen.
Finally, don’t miss the Mexican breakfast selections at Los Alamos Cocina, at the corner of 17th and Summit streets.
There are no shortage of locally owned places to sample on the Westside, including Fox & Pearl (with Chef Vaughn Good’s Night Goat BBQ available Sundays only), Chez Elle, Westside Local, Blue Bird Bistro, Clay & Fire, Seven Swans Creperie, Café Ollama (known for its Mexican café de olla), La Bodega, Rochester Brewing & Roasting Company, Alma Mader Brewing, Goat Hill Coffee & Soda, Minsky’s Pizza, and, opening soon for the season, Panther’s Place and Outpost Social Club.
Find it on the Westside
You can find plenty of retail shops dotting the Westside, each with its own unique vibe. Westside Storey is the place to get all your favorite KC T-shirts and vintage sports apparel, along with other local goods.
Shop rOOTS KC for their superior knowledge and selection of tropical plants, pots, accessories and gift items. Pop into Zero Zero Pasta for a box of freshly made pasta, lasagna or focaccia bread for dinner.
And browse MADI Apparel to find eco-friendly and ethical fashion made here in Kansas City. For every item purchased at MADI, a pair of underwear is donated to someone who needs it.
One final thing to note: Because of its location on the edge of downtown, the Westside produces some delicious, quintessential Kansas City staples.
Yoli Tortilleria (recently recognized as a James Beard Award semifinalist), The Roasterie coffee, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Perez Food Products corn chips and tortillas, Parisi Coffee, and Boulevard Brewing Company beer are all made in factories located on the Westside.