Nestled in the heart of America, Kansas City is a beautiful amalgamation of old-world charm and modern innovation, resplendent with a history that is as colorful as its present. Its unique geographical location, being split across two states – Kansas and Missouri, sets the stage for a plethora of interesting facts and surprises.
Although it’s often recognized for its world-famous barbecue, Kansas City is much more than just a foodie’s paradise. From a vibrant music scene that pays homage to its jazz roots to an array of architectural marvels and historic sites, the city is a treasure trove of cultural wonders.
Known affectionately as the “City of Fountains,” Kansas City boasts a stunning array of over 200 water features, rivaling cities like Rome in this regard. Its jazz legacy still resonates in the city’s soul, and echoes of its Prohibition Era history, when it was referred to as the “Paris of the Plains,” continue to add to its allure.
Kansas City has been the birthplace of numerous innovations and cultural phenomena, and it’s home to various historical landmarks, museums, and art galleries, reflecting the city’s rich heritage and diverse cultural landscape.
The city’s charm is not just skin-deep. It extends to its people who are known for their friendly Midwestern hospitality. But did you know that Kansas City also has a labyrinth of caves beneath its bustling cityscape? Or that it was the testing ground for the first Happy Meal toy? As we delve into the lesser-known facts about Kansas City, it’s clear that this place is full of unexpected quirks and fascinating trivia.
In this article, we explore some of the lesser-known and surprising aspects of Kansas City. Each point we uncover adds a new dimension to the city, revealing a unique blend of the historic, the innovative, and the downright unusual. Let’s journey into the heart of Kansas City and discover a side of it that you might not have known existed.
#1. Two Cities, Two States
Kansas City is quite unique because it’s split between two states – Missouri and Kansas. What’s more, Kansas City, Missouri, is older and larger than Kansas City, Kansas. They are two distinct cities, separated by a state line but connected by a shared culture and history. If you’re located near the area, then this is common knowledge. However, most people in the country don’t know this about KC.
#2. Home of Jazz and Barbecue
Kansas City is famous for its rich jazz history and mouth-watering barbecue cuisine. The city was a hub for jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, and today, you can still enjoy live jazz performances at various venues. Similarly, Kansas City-style barbecue, known for its unique blend of sweet and tangy flavors, has become one of the city’s most significant cultural exports.
#3. The City of Fountains
With over 200 fountains, Kansas City is second only to Rome in the number of its water features. Its nickname, “The City of Fountains,” is well-deserved. The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, with its four heroic horsemen, is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.
#4. Paris of the Plains
In the 1920s, during the Prohibition Era, Kansas City was known as the “Paris of the Plains” because of its booming nightlife and jazz scene. Despite the national prohibition on alcohol, the city was awash with liquor, thanks to political boss Tom Pendergast, who turned a blind eye to the illegal activities.
#5. Happy Meal Toy Revolution
The first Happy Meal toy was introduced in Kansas City. The concept was first tested here in the early 1970s before being adopted nationally by McDonald’s.
#6. Walt Disney’s First Studio
The world-renowned animator Walt Disney opened his first animation studio, known as Laugh-O-Gram Studio, in Kansas City. It was here that he created the character of Mickey Mouse. Florida might be everyone’s first thought when it comes to places related to Disney, but now you will forever think of KC!
#7. Birthplace of Hallmark
Joyce Clyde Hall started selling postcards out of two shoeboxes in 1910 in Kansas City, marking the humble beginnings of what would become the Hallmark Cards, Inc. Today, it is the largest manufacturer of greeting cards in the United States.
#8. A World-Class Collection of Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City holds an impressive collection of Asian art, especially known for its array of Chinese antiquities. The museum’s sculpture park is also home to the iconic Shuttlecocks installation.
#9. World’s Largest Private Collection of Hemingway Artifacts
The city is home to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, housing the world’s largest private collection of Ernest Hemingway artifacts. This includes drafts of his works, photographs, and personal belongings.
#10. Innovation in Infrastructure
Kansas City was one of the first cities in the United States to install Google Fiber. In 2011, it beat over 1,000 other cities to become the first place to receive Google’s ultra-high-speed internet service.
#11. Home to the National WWI Museum and Memorial
Kansas City houses the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the only American museum solely dedicated to preserving the objects, history, and experiences of the Great War.
#12. Secret City Beneath the City
Kansas City has a hidden underground world known as the SubTropolis. It is a seven-mile long, human-made limestone cave used for business complexes. With its own water treatment plant and fire department, SubTropolis is said to be the world’s largest underground business complex.
#13. Pioneering Shopping District
The Country Club Plaza, opened in 1923, is known as America’s first suburban shopping district. Inspired by Spanish architecture, it features several exact replicas of structures in Seville, Spain.
#14. Largest Maker of Boxed Chocolates
Kansas City is home to Russell Stover Candies. Established in 1923, it is now the largest producer of boxed chocolates in America.
#15. Haunted Hotel
Kansas City is home to one of the most haunted hotels in America – the Hotel Savoy. It was built in 1888 and is known for various ghost sightings, adding a dash of mystery and intrigue to the city’s history.
#16. Riddle of the Sphinx
The Kansas City Public Library parking garage is a whimsical architectural delight. The facade is designed to look like a row of giant books, aptly representing the literary treasure within.
#17. A Star-Studded Baseball Heritage
Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues Baseball. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located here, preserving the rich history of African-American baseball.
From hidden underground cities to a rich baseball heritage, Kansas City continues to surprise and delight visitors and residents alike. Its unique blend of history, culture, innovation, and charm make it a fascinating city to explore and discover. Each of these fun facts adds a layer to the city’s multi-faceted personality, making it one of the most intriguing cities in America.