City Life

10 Memories of Growing Up in Kansas City, Missouri

No, I am not talking about the state of Kansas. If you grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, you will most definitely have these 10 memories. Remember when we could play in the fountain? Yeah, me too.

1. Having to explain that you’re from Kansas City, MISSOURI and not Kansas City, Kansas

First comes the city, then comes the state. If you aren’t from Kansas City, Missouri it’s almost incomprehensible as to why it’s such a huge deal if someone were to mistake you as being from Kansas and not Missouri. Consider this a rivalry so intense, it’s comparable to the East coast—West coast rivalry. It is one city that ended up being both physically and metaphorically divided between two states.

When you think of all the fun things to do in Kansas City — event centers, the downtown area, popular BBQ restaurants, sports teams— these things are all located on the Missouri side.

Ironically, the state of Missouri incorporated Kansas City as a town known by the name of ‘Town of Kansas’ back in June of 1850, then later establishing it as a city when they also renamed it to ‘City of Kansas’ in March of 1853.

The Territory of Kansas (est. 1854), now known as the state of Kansas, came *after* the city of Kansas City, Missouri. The reason we refer to it as ‘Kansas City’ instead of ‘City of Kansas’ is so that the city will not be confused with the state of Kansas.
Missouri > Town of Kansas (Kansas City as a town and not a city) > City of Kansas (Kansas City) > Territory of Kansas (Kansas). Got it?

2. Going to Crown Center

Crown Center sounds just as extra as you think it is. This mall is three stories tall, located in mid-town, and is full of family-friendly activities. The entire front side of the building is glass. Which makes so much sense when you’re located in the heart of tornado alley, right? Right.

I don’t trust anyone who says they grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and has never spent an entire day in the mall. While, of course, everything is over-priced and restaurant selections are limited, that never stopped any of us from wasting our lives and dollars away here. In the summer, children used to be able to run through the 48, 60-foot jet/water shooters that cascade to synchronized music recorded specifically for Crown Center by our very own Kansas City Symphony. In the winter, Santa’s Workshop creates a line that stretches from here to next Tuesday, but don’t underestimate a midwesterner’s willingness to wait in a line for over two hours just to place their kid on a stranger’s lap for the sake of a “cute” Christmas photo.

The mall had souvenir shops, a restaurant where a train delivered your food to the table, three theaters, ma-and-pa shops, two hotels, a train station, and all of it connected by glass walkways that hover above the city’s main streets. Today, the mall is a lot different than it was 10 years ago, but the one thing you can always count on is for the Einstein Bros. Bagels to be out of whipped cream or asiago bagels if there is a convention in town.

3. Visiting the Kansas City Zoo

A lion, a tiger, a peacock — oh my!

The Kansas City Zoo is no extraordinary place where dreams are created nor where they come true. However, it is one of the few places in this city where families can take their children for a day of fun that, hopefully, keeps everyone happy and out of trouble. Also, seeing a peacock for the first time is pretty life-altering (depending on your view of peacocks).

This was one of the typical primary-school-aged field trips. If you were raised anywhere near the city, it was likely you took at least one school trip to the zoo. A day where mom packed you a sack lunch, told you not to stray too far from the adults, and to keep from sticking your hands inside any of the cages — except that last one is basically inevitable and a right of passage. There’s even a theatre inside the zoo where they would air movies like The Lion King for entire groups of children. Imagine sitting through a 90-minute movie in that scenario.

4. Going to Science City in Union Station

Good ol’ Union Station. The station that used to be the place where upwards of 271 trains a day was passing through the station, primarily taking soldiers home after WWI. As the airline industry grew, the need for trains became less and less necessary and the station ended up closing to the public. However, in 1996, local counties bid to reopen the station and even budgeted to add a science museum. It was another local field trip necessity. There are dinosaur exhibits and let’s get real…who doesn’t love Jurassic Park related exhibits?!

Children have all sorts of activities and exhibits available to them. There are restaurants, exhibits, theaters, and loads of history to be seen. One could easily spend an entire day in Union Station without seeing everything it has to offer.

5. Spending a day at WOF or OOF

Sun, sweat, and tears. Welcome to a day of physical exhaustion.

If you don’t immediately recognize the acronyms for Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, you might not be from Kansas City, Missouri. For those of us who are, there are a few cringe-worthy thoughts that come to mind when thinking of a day in one of these places. In the Midwest, we have pretty harsh summers and for those of you who are from here, you can probably feel it just by hearing someone talk about it. One word: HUMIDITY.

Imagine standing in line for a ride and getting heat exhaustion before you even reach the front. Or how about being elbow to elbow with strangers while trying to navigate your way from one end of the park to the other. This is no Disneyland-day-out. There is no shade ANYWHERE. Although, nothing beats waiting in line to buy a $5 water bottle and $4 piece of meat mystery meat slapped between two buns. Whoever said Missouri amusement parks disappoint? Hint: EVERYONE. I’d rather find fun, air-conditioned activities with an ample supply of free water so that I do not pass out from dehydration before the sun even goes down. Even with all of the water buckets and water slides at Oceans of Fun, there’s still plenty of ways to get wet and wild around the city which leads me to my next point…

6. Running through the city fountains

Splish, Splash — I jumped back in the (unsanitary) bath.

Let’s get back to those 60-foot fountains I mentioned earlier… I mean, who wouldn’t feel so inclined to run through a shooting jet stream of water? The Crown Center Square fountains used to be open to the public and it’s where most of us created great sunny day memories until 2012 when they banned people from running through them. The cause for concern was focused on public safety and the sake of good sanitation…or so they say. They even built an attractive barricade around the fountains to ensure that nobody would enter the area.

Adults and children alike are familiar with the concept of running through our major city fountains. There are 48 city-owned and over 200 fountains total around the metro area. Kansas City, Missouri has added “City of Fountains” to their repertoire as well as the unofficial title “Paris of the Plains.” I mean, the Parisi Cafe does make a mean croissant…so we aren’t going to argue with the facts. (side note: the “Paris of the Plains” title is related to the prohibition era and not the fountains, but a person can dream)

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7. Going to an event at the Sprint Center

Okay, I am going to show my age here. I remember being 10-years-old and in the fourth grade when the Sprint Center opened in 2007. The first show I went to was the Jonas Brothers in 2008…back when shows could be announced a month before they were going to happen. Oh, how the times have changed.

A lot like my own personal experience, most of my friend’s first shows were the Britney Spears tour or Disney On Ice shows. Before the Sprint Center, Kansas City only really had the capability to house smaller shows in local theaters or that one outdoor amphitheater south of the city that opened in the 50’s.

Today, the Sprint Center is home to many of the biggest shows this city has seen. It’s more likely than not that someone who lives in this city has been to at least one show here. And trust me when I say that we don’t go solely for the terrible views, crowded restrooms, expensive drinks, or the impossible parking but for the chance to say, “Yeah, I saw her perform LIVE.”

8. Taking a trip to Kaleidoscope

To walk into Kaleidoscope is to walk into another dimension. A kaleidoscope, to anyone not from the Kansas City area, is likely just a tube that creates optical illusions for your entertainment. To someone from Kansas City, Missouri it’s like stepping into another realm for a day. Kaleidoscope is a children’s amusement center that is completely free to the public. All materials are from Hallmark’s manufacturing processes located right next door. Children use the materials to create art and to complete projects in each station. There’s even a blacklight room where children can paint glowing pictures, or for troublemakers like myself, just throw it all over your clothes and shoes for a very tres chic look.

Elementary school is hard and the trends are constantly changing…you have to find some way to keep on serving looks. And let’s just admit it…there’s nothing like running around a building with glue and marker stains on your hands while perusing the area to steal paper shreds from a random kid so you can complete your Picasso.

9. MALLS

Alright, alright, alright. I KNOW that our spread of malls has never been more than impressive nor have they all succeeded, however, we, as children, saw all of it as the holy grail. There was the Metro North mall followed by Zona Rosa for the northlanders, the Independence Events Center, which has a Puppy Land (translation: this mall is for everyone), the Oak Park Mall and the Great Mall in South KC and then, of course, our beloved Country Club Plaza in midtown.

When I was a kid, a day at one of these malls was about as fun as a day out got. Now, most of these malls have either gone under or turned into a ghost town. I mean, the first sign of a failing business is when the mall removes the Orange Julius.

10. Spending a day at a Royals or Chiefs game

This, of all the things listed, is probably the most relatable for truly passionate Kansas City, Missouri residents. No matter which side of the border you reside on. I’m not saying our city is full of bandwagon fans (yes, I am), but the push in passion for the Royals saw a significant incline when the boys took home the good stuff in the 2015 World Series. Before this, fans were stuck between “YES! Day one fan right here!” and “wake me when they win a game.” This hurts to hear, but it’s true. *wipes tear*

For about as long back as I can remember, going to one of these games has been considered a treat. Whether your team won or not, you were amongst (mostly) loving fans who prayed for a win while throwing back their cracker jacks. Sure, parking was a million dollars and so was everything else between the lot and the field, but it was sure worth it to say you spent a day at the K. The only thing cooler than getting on the big screen is catching a foul ball… in baseball specifically. A football to the face, to me, is a little more intense. Then again, it’s not like baseballs are made of marshmallows.

What do you think of these memories of growing up in Kansas City, Missouri? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image source: weheartit.com
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