Straddling the Missouri River and the state line dividing Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is famous for its stockyards, jazz, barbecues, and juicy steaks. It is vibrant and diverse, a distinctly American city with a European flavour.
J.C. Nichols Fountain © Charvex
Established as a fur trading post in 1821, Kansas City served as a convenient point of departure for pioneer wagon trains heading west over the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. Railroads and the construction of the Hannibal Bridge across the Missouri River established the city as a bustling business community and a world leading cattle centre.
It has Parisian tree-lined boulevards, parks, Spanish-style architecture, and hundreds of fountains reminiscent of Rome, giving it its nickname 'The City of Fountains'. Almost all points of interest to visitors are on the Missouri side of the city, while a sprawl of suburbs occupies the section in Kansas.
People consider Kanas City the nation's barbecue capital, with more than 60 restaurants offering grilled specialities. After World War I, Kansas City became a centre for jazz music, with musicians like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington playing in the nightclubs of the 18th and Vine District.
Family theme parks include the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, harbouring live entertainment, water attractions, and hundreds of rides. The Country Club Plaza offers retail stores, fine dining, and nightlife.
Riverboat casinos are a popular diversion, and the restored downtown waterfront district hosts the colourful River Market with merchants offering a wide variety of produce and crafts. The city's frontier history is explored in Liberty, where the Jesse James Bank Museum is the site of the country's first daylight bank robbery.
St Joseph is the birthplace of the historic Pony Express, telling the story of the messenger riders recruited to face death daily. Associated with the 33rd US president Harry Truman, the neighbouring city of Independence offers more modern history.
See our separate guides to the following Kansas City holiday resorts: Branson