DAY 2: Kansas City, MO
If you hop on Interstate 70 West and drive for about 3.5 hours, you’ll end up in Kansas City, MO. If you want to break up the drive, try staying halfway between the two cities overnight and finishing the drive in the morning. Columbia is a fairly large city (home to the University of Missouri) that lies directly in the path of the highway and has many options for hotels or Airbnb.
Due to our itinerary, we are going to be staying on the Missouri side of the border and not actually venturing into Kansas. However, the vast majority of the Orthodox community lives in the Kansas suburb of Overland Park, KS. There you can find a minyan at Congregation Beth Israel Abraham & Voliner (BIAV). There are also a host of Chabad shuls in the area that service smaller outlying communities. Much like St. Louis, kosher food is available in expanded kosher sections in a few local supermarkets, but restaurants are limited.
One thing that Kansas City was famous for in the sports world was its having been home to NCAA headquarters from 1973 to 1999. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has since moved on to Indianapolis, but the NCAA continues its presence in Kansas City by maintaining the College Basketball Experience there. The building is actually divided into two areas, with the majority of the building being devoted to the interactive parts of the experience and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame being located on the ground floor.
The interactive experience is one of a kind. It looks like a hybrid of a Pop-A-Shot machine and a rec center. Sure, there’s a full court and a half court, but you’ve seen those before. What you probably haven’t seen are machines that can measure your wingspan, standing reach, and vertical leap. Or full-size machines for shooting drills, a wall of hoops that get progressively higher to test your dunking abilities, or interactive targets for passing drills or buzzer-beaters. It’s a paradise for basketball fans of all ages.
The museum downstairs features tributes to the greatest players and coaches throughout history. You can see a diagram of a coaching tree that stretches back to the beginning of college basketball, get a look at the national championship trophy, or check out the plaques of all the legends of the game.
If we are allowing one non-sports mention per city, it should be noted that the College Basketball Experience is in the new Power and Light District of the city. It’s a nice place to walk around, but you can also climb aboard the free KC Streetcar and ride it down to River Market and check out the great selection of shops and stores. You’ll find a bunch of locally crafted items that might make for great souvenirs.
Next stop on our tour of local sporting attractions is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It’s located in the 18th & Vine District of the city which was the center for African American life in Kansas City in the first half of the last century. It actually shares a building with the American Jazz Museum, so take advantage of that if you have the time and desire.The Kansas City Monarchs were probably the greatest Negro League franchise of all time, so it made sense to put the museum here.
The museum highlights the different leagues and eras of segregated baseball, as well as everything that went into ending the discrimination. There’s so much history packed into the museum that they are currently fundraising to build a much larger building in the future. Honestly, I could see spending hours upon hours here just reading all the materials and looking at all the photographs and artifacts. The abundance of items and the quality of their current condition will astonish you.
The museum concludes at an indoor baseball diamond with statues of the greatest Negro League player at every position, replete with an umpire and a manager. Walking up to the statues and thinking about what these men would’ve thought if they had known that there would be statues of them one day was a moving experience.
Speaking of baseball teams in Kansas City, it’s time to visit the Royals and Kauffman Stadium. “The K,” as the stadium is often referred to by locals, opened 50 years ago and is possibly in danger of being replaced. This is mostly due to its location outside the city center and a need for luxury boxes, not necessarily the current condition of the ballpark. (It shares a parking lot with the Kansas City Chiefs’ famous Arrowhead Stadium… go grab a picture if you have a minute.) Though those are valid points, I really enjoyed the park and some of the specific attributes.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Royals built their hall of fame and museum inside the ballpark. In terms of internal museums, it’s certainly one of the best in baseball. You can find all sorts of great stuff that pays tribute to the more than half-century of Royals baseball. Make sure that you stop there as you walk to the outfield to get a look at the famous fountains that are Kauffman’s calling card.
But the most extravagant part of the ballpark is the pavilion behind center field. The Royals call this their Outfield Experience and it’s certainly that. The area features a large playground for kids so that the youngsters who can’t sit still can let off some steam. For those under four feet tall, there’s a mini field where sluggers in training can try to hit a ball over the fence and run the bases. If you’re over four feet tall, there’s a batting cage with your name on it. Other attractions include a full-size carousel, a timed home-to-first base running challenge, a radar gun to measure your fastball, and a nicely constructed five-hole mini golf course. Even when the stadium isn’t full, there are plenty of people at the Outfield Experience making the ballpark feel like a kind of county fair.
YeahThatsKosher’s Dani Klein with Nati Burnside, the author of this and numerous other YTK articles – enjoying a Royals game in KC
With so much done in so little time, you’re going to have to get some sleep before catching a flight home. But don’t schedule that flight too early because you want to give yourself time to pick up breakfast (and why not lunch too for the plane) from Meshuggah Bagels. Not every location is kosher, but they do have a couple of kosher ones including one that’s in Missouri, south of downtown. They’ve got an array of bagels and schmears, as well as whitefish and lox.
- Note A: 2 of the 3 Meshuggah Bagels locations in the KC area are kosher-certified by Vaad KC. The one downtown is not.
- Note B: Their hours are limited to breakfast and early lunch. Do not expect to have an evening meal from here.
If you have a sweet tooth, their menu can accommodate that trendy avenue (chocolate chip or cinnamon raisin bagels with cinnamon sugar, oreo cheesecake, strawberry, or blueberry cream cheeses). I personally grabbed a bialy with whitefish and tomato for breakfast (the dough was perfect and the fish tasted wonderfully smoky and fresh) and an everything bagel with jalapeño cream cheese, red onion, capers, and pastrami lox for lunch (the spicy cream cheese went really well with the lox and onions, while the capers brought that perfect salty punch).
It might not be close to the airport, but KC traffic isn’t exactly as bad as other cities you’ve probably been to. Having a real lunch for the plane back is always preferable to landing and needing food when you don’t know how much traffic there is between you and home.
With the whole trip barely eclipsing 48 hours, this isn’t exactly a long road trip. But there’s so much to do when considering the various sports attractions that Missouri has to offer.
Two great baseball stadiums, multiple halls of fame and museums, some nice kosher bites, and one amazing national monument that you just have to see in person to really appreciate…
It sounds like Missouri is the gateway to a great vacation.
Guide courtesy of Nati Burnside