Jazz began in Kansas City during the 1920s and into the 1930s during prohibition. Kansas City’s Jazz District on 12th Street and (six blocks to the north) at 18th & Vine Street became nationally known for its jazz clubs, gambling parlors and brothels. At one time, 12th Street was home to more than fifty jazz clubs. The town’s image attracted “displaced musicians from everywhere in mid-America.” Even during the Depression, Kansas City bands continued to play. The District is just one of several that warrants a traveler’s visit.
In existence since 1857, the City Market today has more than six hundred thousand attendees each year. There are more than four hundred stalls that include fresh produce, meats, baked goods, flowers, specialty foods and other items from America, Africa, and Europe. The market includes: gift shops, authentic restaurants and the Arabia Steamboat Museum. The museum houses the largest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world that were retrieved from a sunken ship from near the Missouri River. Admission to the museum is: $14.50 per adult; $13.50 per senior; children $5.50 each; children under age three are free.
A walk through the Irish-flavored Westport District is an enjoyment to everyone. Once the site of historic Civil War combat, Westport now offers boutiques, galleries, and an array of restaurants and drinking establishments. Visitors can plan on enjoying some sort of special activity most every weekend. Antique and art shows, concerts, fairs, and special events in the streets are often on the weekend venue. The 1855 Harris Kearney House houses the area’s museum and the Westport Historical Society. Each continuing generation has experienced the nightlife in Westport. Future generations will, undoubtedly, continue the tradition.
Hallmark Cards’ Crown Center area includes more than sixty fun things to do including places to dine. Home to the international headquarters of Hallmark Cards, Crown Center offers much to the visitor. There are several free activities. There is the Visitor’s Center, Kaleidoscope, WWI Liberty Memorial, Money Museum, Union Station, Sea Life Aquarium, Discovery Center, and Legoland. Legoland can occupy a family, with kids from age three to ten, for at least two or three hours of family fun that is based on the long-time popular LEGO® brick. And, yes, there is a shop selling LEGO® toy products and a cafe where parents will find coffee and can buy light snacks.
The company inspiring today’s Crown Center is Hallmark Cards, Inc. The company now creates thirty thousand different designs in more than thirty languages that find their way to over one hundred countries. Joyce C. Hall’s inspiration grew from postcard communications and lead to the founding of Hall Brothers in 1913. Back in the day, when the brothers ran out of Christmas tissue paper, they invented — what we know today as — wrapping paper.
Page 2 of 3 - The company became the first in the greeting card industry to advertise their product nationally. Their first advertisement appeared in Ladies' Home Journal. In 1944, it adopted its current slogan, "When you care enough to send the very best." Their name changed from “Hall” to “Hallmark” in 1958. Hall sponsored a television program for NBC that gave rise to the Hallmark Hall of Fame, which has won eighty Emmy Awards. Hallmark now has its own cable television channel.
Anytime is a great time to explore the famous Country Club Plaza. There are now 150 shops, plus a variety of establishments to eat and/or dine at in the Spanish-styled shopping center. Original Kansas City stores like Halls and Tivol are only two examples of the fine shops on the Plaza. Built by J.C. Nichols, it was the exclusive shopping center for the newly developed prestigious Ward Parkway and Country Club home developments in south Kansas City. The Plaza is home to hundreds of fountains both large and small in keeping with Kansas City’s tradition of being known as “the city of fountains”.
Brookside was planned and built in 1920. It was the city's first suburban shopping area. “Designed to serve the automobile set, it boasted specialty, grocery and drug stores, medical offices, even a special community center, as well as the first south side police and fire stations.” There are more than seventy shops, restaurants, and offices, all “unique and in keeping with the original neighborhood charm and architecture” of the 1920s.
In 1841, Dr. David Waldo began with one thousand acres of land. Soon, the “farm became a bustling neighborhood. Being on the edge of the city, it was like a town unto itself. It had a general store and blacksmith shop and Methodist church, dance halls, and honkytonks.” As time progressed, the railroad bettered the district and then the railroad evolved into the Country Club Streetcar station. Waldo was known as the “end of the line,” streetcar line, that is!
Opening in 2004, Zona Rosa is quite an amazing upscale “district.” A whole shopping district (similar in size and concept as the Country Club Plaza) has been established in the Northland at Interstate 29 & Barry Road. The district transformed from farmland to a mega historical-influenced district. One thing in history past were the huge decorative and lighted crowns hung overhead on the streets of downtown Kansas City (from the 1940s to the 1980s) during Christmas and the Easter parade that used to be at the Plaza and the Christmas Fairy who “dazzled” children at the Kline’s downtown department store (appearing from the late 1920s to the 1970s) all have been re-created at Zona Rosa.
The owners have set up The Community Foundation to provide meaningful support to youth and families in the greater Kansas City area. The Foundation, funded by “parking meter proceeds and ticket revenues, offers significant support to area nonprofit organizations through the Change for Charity Meter Program, the Zona Rosa Scholarship Fund and Community Event Sponsorships.”
Page 3 of 3 - For more information about any of the Districts referred to in this article visit the website of VisitKC.com or the individual web sites of each District. VisitKC has recently launched its new Mobile website.