It may sit in the shadow of its larger sibling across the Missouri River, but make no mistake, Kansas City, Kansas – KCK to locals – is its own town. Err, city. After all, it’s the third largest city in Kansas, and a true melting pot, as no one ethnic group is a true majority. Exploring KCK is a hodgepodge of attractions, ranging from the first farm in Wyandotte County to amazing Latino food.
Grinter Place Historical Site
Moses and Annie Grinter farmed the land on hills near the Kansas River, offering great access for river traffic. The oldest farmhouse in Wyandotte County – an 1857 Gregorian Vernacular style made of brick – is an interesting spot to visit. A look inside Grinter Place Historical Site shows a hint of wealth with furnishings resembling those of the Grinters, along with unique items from the area. Moses Grinter ran a river ferry and trading post, where he traded with and sold items to the Lenape (Delaware) Native Americans. Annie was a Lenape.
Wyandotte County Museum
County museums offer a unique look at an area because locals have donated most items. From an impressive historical perspective on Native Americans who lived in the area to the city’s first fire department – along with firefighting gnomes – as well as the plant that churned out more than 6,000 B-25 bombers during World War II, the Wyandotte County Museum showcases the county’s story in an entertaining, yet informative style. Black and white photos give a look back at key spots or events, such as Quindaro, a city near the river created by former slaves. All but a few foundations have disappeared from the once-thriving community.
Quindaro Ruins Overlook
A memorial and overlook acknowledge the city of Quindaro, once a haven for freed and escaped slaves during the mid-1800s. The town was at the bottom of bluffs, with a school, newspaper and other businesses. People eventually moved away, the twin fell into ruins and buildings collapsed, covered by vegetation and trees. The ruins were found in recent years and have become an area of interest for hikers and history buffs. Visitors can pay their respects at the overlook, and also learn more at the Old Quindaro Museum in the Quindaro neighborhood, a few blocks from the overlook.
Rosedale Memorial Arch
Resembling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Rosedale Memorial Arch overlooks the Missouri River, allowing amazing views of the skyline of neighboring Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO). Bearing the names of Kansas Citians who have given their lives for the United States during the war, the Rosedale Arch features smaller monuments under its Arch.
Korean-Vietnam War Monument
Honoring the men and women who served during two of America’s wars, the Korean-Vietnam Veterans Monument offers a distinct difference in the conflicts. The Korean War statue shows a soldier in typical military combat attire, with the war starting less than 10 years after the end of World War II. The Vietnam sculpture displays the jungle fighting that dominated the second-longest war in the country’s history. Situated next to the city’s largest lake and park, it is a beautiful location to honor the military.
Wyandot National Burying Ground
Between 400-600 Native Americans are buried in a sacred cemetery in downtown Kansas City. Most of the graves at the Wyandot National Burying Ground are unmarked – with some headstones only listing Unknown – while others identify key leaders and tribal members, such as Eliza Burton Conley, the first Native American lawyer to argue before the United States Supreme Court (she lost the case, but developers dropped plans to move remains to a different location) and Henry Jacqouis, who served as Head Chief. Formerly known as the Huron Indian Cemetery, the 2 1/2-acre burying ground was named as a national historic landmark in 2017. Huron was a derogatory term used by French traders to describe the Wyandot.
Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point
The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition up the Missouri River, through the Rocky Mountains and eventually ending where the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet in Washington, has long been ingrained in the minds of any kid from Missouri northwest. While learning about the historic operation is one thing, but to witness locations, where the Corps camped and met with local Indigenous people, is even better. Kaw Point, named for the Kansa Native Americans, who were also called Kaw, sits at the spot where the Kansas River flows into the Missouri River. A marker, using a well-known image of the two military leaders standing and one pointing northward, stands near the confluence. It almost appears as though they’re pointing toward the KCMO skyline.
Tip: Kaw Point is a stop on the KC History Trip. It’s one of over a dozen different historic sites you can find in the Kansas City region. Download the Otocast App and track your historical journey around the area.
The park honors the region’s Native Americans with a display highlighting each tribe’s history and location. An amphitheater near the shoreline features rock benches bearing the names of each member of the Corps of Discovery, including Seaman, the black Newfoundland dog that belonged to Meriwether Lewis. The park is excellent for hiking enjoying wildflowers and a launching spot for boats, kayaks and canoes.
We’ve visited KCK a few times before, including viewing the downtown murals. But, the block-long Anthology of Argentine mural depicting the history of immigrants in the city was a breathtaking first for us. From Native Americans to Latinos and others, the mural displays life in the city including boxing, marching bands and architecture. Known for seven downtown murals highlighting the history and cultures of Kansas City, the Avenue of Murals recognize the local newspaper, as well as ethnic groups, such as Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and Hmongs.
KCK Taco Trail
The original purpose of our visit was to tour the city’s Taco Trail. With more than 80 restaurants and shops, Latinos influence Kansas City’s culinary scene. We dined at five classic spots, ranging from the Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio, where you can not only enjoy delicious street tacos but also watch fresh tortillas being made, to fried birria tacos and dipping sauce at El Menundazo.
Kansas City, Kansas, has lots to offer, including Legends Outlets, an outdoor shopping center. We enjoyed exploring the area and spent a lot of time checking out the murals around the city. Between its historical attractions and great food, KCK rocks!