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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Welcome to Kansas City, Taylor Swift! We made you a guide for getting to know our city

Taylor Swift in a red Chiefs sweatshirt cheers next to Brittany Mahomes and child.
David Eulitt
/
Getty Images
Taylor Swift celebrates a touchdown during the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers game at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 22 in Kansas City, Mo.

Of course Taylor Swift is spending more time in Kansas City: This place is the coolest city on Earth. But even if you don't know burnt ends from a tight end, here's a (brief!) introduction to our metro and what makes it so enchanting.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Taylor Swift — international superstar, the most-streamed artist of 2023, recently-namedTIME Person of the Year, and one-time New York City tourism ambassador — is apparently now a Kansas City resident.

At least temporarily. During a scheduled break in her Eras Tour, Swift reportedly moved into the mansion of her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

And we know what you must be thinking: Of course she's living in Kansas City now. This place is the coolest city on Earth, she's going to love it here.

But Kansas City also can be a confusing place to move to if you haven’t spent much time here before. I learned that personally just a few years ago.

At KCUR, we’ve been working on putting together resources for newcomers to learn how to navigate this city, as well as for longtime residents to discover new things to love.

So Taylor, don’t feel overwhelmed — KCUR has got you covered.

Even if you don't know burnt ends from a tight end, or think that Kansas City is a city in Kansas (you're only half right!), we put together this brief introduction to understanding Kansas City and what makes it so enchanting.

You Belong With KC

Swifties film TikToks in North Kansas City at the Honorary Cornelia Street and Honorary Swift Street (Taylor’s Version) signs in July 2023.
Channa Steinmetz
/
Startland News
Swifties film TikToks in North Kansas City at the Honorary Cornelia Street and Honorary Swift Street (Taylor’s Version) signs in July 2023.

Whether or not your Traylor narrative turns out to be a PR stunt, or this whirlwind romance ends up more "Sad Beautiful Tragic" than "Paper Rings," you’ve certainly put Kansas City "at the center of the universe" more than even our most recent Super Bowl win could.

Dear reader, get out your map. We are actually three different Kansas Cities spread across two states. You might know about Kansas City in Missouri (KCMO) and Kansas City in Kansas (KCK).

The Missouri one is the 37th most populous city in the U.S., with about 510,000 residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

KCMO is where the Chiefs currently play, next door to their currently-much-less-successful Major League Baseball equivalent, the Royals. And once it's completed next year, KCMO will also have the world's first stadium built specifically for women's soccer.

That's great timing because in 2026, even more of the world will get to experience Kansas City when it hosts matches for the FIFA World Cup. KC is the smallest U.S. host city to take part in the international event, and it's scrambling to get ready — our new airport just opened earlier this year, and the KC Streetcar is in the middle of a long expansion project.

(Unlike your previous residences in NYC and London, Taylor, Kansas City has no subway system, and our lack of expansive public transit remains a problem as more big events come to town. So you may have to keep relying on Kelce's getaway car to get around.)

Oh, and we can't forget to mention that Kansas City is also the "City of Fountains," with more than 200 dotting the metro — a larger number than anywhere else in the world other than Rome.

Just across the Kansas River is Kansas City in Kansas, which consolidated with Wyandotte County in 1997 to become the Unified Government. It's only the third largest city in Kansas, with about 150,000 residents. Nearly a third of KCK residents are Hispanic, and the city has a real claim to being the "true taco capital of the United States."

Closeup photo of a plate of soft tacos with a lime wedge.
Carlos Moreno
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KCUR 89.3
There are hundreds of taco vendors throughout the Kansas City metro area, especially in Kansas City, Kansas.

To add some confusion, there's also North Kansas City in Missouri (NKC) which is — you guessed it — north of KCMO, and much smaller than the other two. But that's where you'll find Swift Street, which the city temporarily renamed in June to "Swift Street (Taylor's Version)" and equipped with a "Cornelia Street" sign, in honor of your Eras Tour stops.

The Kansas City metro stretches across the ancestral lands of the Osage, Kaw/Kansa, and Otoe-Missouria people. Just driving around the area, you'll find locations that reflect the traditions and influences of the Shawnee, Wyandot and other Native American nations, who were forcefully relocated away from the region by white settlers.

(Now is a good time to remind you, although the Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl champions and arguably now one of the world's most well-known sports franchises, they're still widely criticized for their name and appropriation of Native American imagery and traditions. Many people are wondering if you will help change that!)

While crossing the border between the two states is often as easy as crossing the street, the divisions between Missouri and Kansas run deep. As you might remember from the "Bleeding Kansas" portion of your U.S. history class, Missouri joined the Union in 1820 as a slave state — one of the few places in the Louisiana Purchase territory where the practice was legal — but abolitionists fought to maintain Kansas as a free state.

Finding Kaw Point Park can be tricky, but you'll be rewarded with fantastic views of the city and river.
Emily Standlee
/
KCUR 89.3
Seen here from Kaw Point Park, the Kansas River divides the states of Missouri and Kansas — a separation that, until the end of the Civil War, meant for African Americans the difference between slavery and freedom.

You can find remnants of those Civil War-era tensions across much of Kansas City's geography and politics: for example, KCMO is the only major city in the country that does not control its own police department, despite decades of protests and lawsuits from residents.

And that's not even getting into the other ways in which Missouri and Kansas — both of which are run by deeply Republican legislatures, although the Kansas governor is a Democrat — are politically at odds with these deep-blue cities and purple suburbs.

If you’re staying with Travis Kelce (in his recently purchased mansion), you’ll technically be in the suburb of Leawood, Kansas.

That puts you squarely in Johnson County, where more than half of the metro's residents live (about 620,000). And you’ll be in good company: While Kansas City's urban core has been shrinking in population, those Kansas-side suburbs are growing quickly.

What's there to do in KC? I know places

Kansas City Chiefs players during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVII victory parade earlier this year.
Jay Biggerstaff
/
Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs players during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVII victory parade earlier this year.

You’ll be happy to know, Taylor, that there are certainly a lot worse places to spend the winter! Kansas City has a pretty mild and dry cold season, especially compared to other Midwest cities, but it has a whole lot of holiday cheer and winter traditions.

(P.S. You should check out our recent Adventure rounding up all Kansas City’s holiday lights and events this year!)

And that's not even taking into consideration how wired the city gets when the Chiefs are on a Super Bowl-contending run, which might happen again this year. (The team has held five straight AFC Championship games at home, an NFL record, and they're doing pretty well again this year too — at least when you’re in attendance.)

But enough about football. Let's talk barbecue.

As a new Kansas Citian, you'll need to develop a taste for smoked meats if you don't have one already, or at least fake your way through it. Don't listen to Texas, or anywhere else for that matter: This is the home of burnt ends, and the best BBQ in the country.

Two of the juggernauts in town are Arthur Bryant's and Gates, and Ted Lasso (aka Kansas City native Jason Sudeikis) and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Heidi Gardner (perhaps you met during your recent surprise appearance?) both recommend Joe's Kansas City (which is over on the Kansas side of the state line).

While they're all classics, many of us at KCUR would point you to LC's Bar-B-Q over near the stadiums (run by one of the city's few female pitmasters) or Slap's in KCK — those who know, know.

For a primary on KC barbecue, you'll want to listen to this James Beard-nominated podcast episode from A People's History of Kansas City.

Customers leave Town Topic Hamburgers, a white building with a half brick facade.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Town Topic is the type of retro diner that makes you feel like you are stepping back in time. The first Town Topic opened in 1937.

Another great Kansas City institution is Town Topic, a 24-hour burger stand with an onion-covered patty that was named one of America's essential hamburgers. You know it's great because that's where Cardi B went for a bite after the Renaissance Tour in October.

If that wasn't enough of a recommendation, the Palestinian deli Baba's Pantry — located on Troost Avenue — was named one of the best new restaurants in the U.S. by Bon Appétit Magazine.

How about a drink after dinner? The national publication Punch just named Wild Child — a low- and no-alcohol bar in the Johnson County suburb of Shawnee — as one of the five best new bars in the country. Next door is its sister bar, the James Beard Award finalist Drastic Measures.

Despite attempts by Missouri lawmakers to restrict drag shows, Kansas City has a long and celebrated history with the art form, and across the week you'll be able to find drag performances or other events at the city's LGBTQ+ bars like Missie B's and Hamburger Mary's.

Kansas City is one of the great jazz cities in America. Charlie Parker and Julia Lee are from here, Count Basie made his career here, and the American Jazz Museum and the area's many jazz clubs carry on that legacy today. You can hear live jazz every single night of the year at The Green Lady Lounge, which will really make you feel like you've transported back to the flapper days.

A large fountain spews many towers of water into the night air. The water varies in shades of pink to purple and are reflected in the surface of the pool that surrounds the fountain.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
One of the 200+ fountains in Kansas City, the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain is located at Pershing & Main Streets between Union Station and the Liberty Memorial and provides a variety of colors, reflections and sprays for visitors to enjoy.

Since you’ve got a literary inclination, Afterword Tavern & Shelves is a combination bookstore-bar in Kansas City's Crossroads neighborhood where you can pick up a new novel while sipping on a cocktail. Speaking of bookstores, not too far away is the Kansas college town of Lawrence, where you'll find The Raven, which was named the country's best bookstore just last year.

Of course, you’re more than acquainted with the University of Kansas — after all, you dropped into a journalism class in 2009 that your best friend was attending at the time. Maybe you might stop through again for the final exams of "The Sociology of Taylor Swift," an honest-to-goodness class taught at KU this fall by Prof. Brian Donovan.

Two great places to escape the winter doldrums are the neighboring Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which are both free to attend. In the historic 18th and Vine district, don't miss out on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Dozens of skaters glide across the ice rink at Crown Center Ice Terrace.
Crown Center Ice Terrace
Ice skating at Crown Center's outdoor Ice Terrace is a tradition spanning generations of Kansas Citians and holiday travelers.

At the edge of downtown is the National WWI Museum, which also boasts an incredible view of the skyline. For another romantic view, Kansas City also has a brand-new downtown Ferris wheel that is set to open sometime soon.

On the southeast end of the city, the Kansas City Zoo just opened a massive new aquarium featuring Tortellini, a green sea turtle who suffers from some "buoyance problems" but is an absolute champ about it.

Considering that the Eras Tour is picking up again in February, we can't possibly expect you to check off every item on this to-do list — which only scratches the surface of KCUR's recommendations.

But two months is certainly more than enough time to start exploring what Kansas City has to offer, even beyond "the guy on the Chiefs." Plus, you never know: This city has a way of convincing visitors to stick around a while. All you have to do is stay.

Welcome to Kansas City, Taylor. It's been waiting for you.

As KCUR’s Audience Editor, I ask the questions: What do people need from us, and how can we best deliver it? I work across departments and projects to ensure our entire community is represented in and best served by our journalism. I help lead KCUR’s digital efforts to make our station more responsive, more competitive and more engaging. Contact me at gabe@kcur.org.
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