American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Exploring Kansas City with a Longtime Expert, Part 1
Ever since fellow Moon author Katy Ryan shared her top five reasons to visit Kansas City, Missouri, I've longed to make another trip to the “City of Fountains.” After all, journalist Walter Cronkite spent his childhood in KC, President Harry S. Truman once owned a haberdashery there, and Ernest Hemingway formerly wrote for The Kansas City Star. Today, it's home to Hallmark Cards, H&R Block, and the World Series of Barbecue, among other impressive entities.
Of course, as my colleague (and fellow member of the Society of American Travel Writers) Diana Lambdin Meyer recently reminded me, “There's a great jazz connection between New Orleans and Kansas City. During the days of Prohibition, when alcohol was shut down most everywhere else, we had a crime boss that kept it flowing openly here, and jazz musicians followed the alcohol to KC. They say that jazz was born in New Orleans, but it grew up in Kansas City – the story told at the American Jazz Museum at the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District.”
As a New Orleans native, I'm intrigued by the cultural connection between my hometown and Kansas City – not to mention the fact that Southwest Airlines has recently added a daily nonstop flight between these two music-loving towns.
So, inspired by previous conversations with my fellow travel writers and SATW members – such as Smokies enthusiast Katy Koontz and Cincinnati expert Betsa Marsh – I decided to interview Diana about her take on Kansas City. After all, she and her husband, photographer Bruce N. Meyer, have been exploring KC for decades, and together, they've created the Kansas City Uncovered mobile app ($2.99) for Sutro Media. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, the Meyers' app is chock-full of photos, maps, and recommendations on what to see, do, and eat in Kansas City, Missouri – a place they've called home for more than 25 years.
Curiously, they've also created the St. Louis Uncovered mobile app and contributed to several periodicals, including Log Home Living, AAA Living, Home and Away, Show-Me Missouri, Where to Retire, Cowboys & Indians, and the Dallas Morning News. Diana, who chronicles her adventures at MojoTraveler.com, has also written for My Midwest Magazine, Southern Living, AOL Travel, Buckettripper.com, and FamilyVacationCritic.com. Her travel-related books include Day Trips from Kansas City (2012), Myths and Mysteries of Kansas (2012), Nebraska: Off the Beaten Path (2010), and A Kid's Guide to Kansas City (2005). Still, although she's covered a wide array of places around the world, she definitely has a passion for the City of Fountains. So, naturally, she was happy to chat about one of the country's most curious towns. In fact, she had so much to share about Kansas City's best aspects, attractions, and activities that I've decided to present my conversation with her in three parts.
Here, then, is the first part:
American Nomad: From your author bio, I know that you and your husband have lived in Kansas City for more than 25 years – and that you've been covering KC's local news, sports, etc., for a long time. So, I'm wondering... what do you love most about Kansas City?
Diana Lambdin Meyer: Oh, there are so many things. I'm passionate about our historic Union Station and the National WWI Museum. I love the fountains. We have more than 200 beautiful fountains. It's often been said that Kansas City has more fountains per capita than Rome, but who's counting? We have lovely public art everywhere. I love that The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is always free. I think because of the Kansas City Art Institute and Hallmark Cards, we have a very creative community of musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs. Our dining scene, beyond barbecue, is quite exciting. People in much larger cities would be blown away if they could just spend a week eating in Kansas City.
AN: I realize that you live in Kansas City, Missouri – not Kansas City, Kansas – but could you briefly explain the difference between these two towns?
DLM: It's really not that difficult, but visitors are often so confused about the state line, the difference between KCK and KCMO, that I put an entry about it in the app.
Basically, Kansas City was founded in Missouri, and as the population grew, people moved into Kansas – before Kansas was even a state. That the Missouri River makes a big bend here (and runs east into St. Louis to the Mississippi), and the Kaw River converges here makes things a little complicated. So, in part of the city, the Missouri River divides Kansas from Missouri, but in other places, you can simply cross the street. The river also divides the Missouri side of Kansas City in north and south. I live north of the river on the Missouri side. And that's what everyone here calls it – “north of the river.” And the fact that the official name of the Kaw River is the Kansas River doesn't help. I don't know anyone here who ever calls it the Kansas River.
Most of the major attractions are on the Missouri side – the art museums, concert venues, the performing arts center, the zoo, the sports stadium, and the airport. But the Kansas side has the NASCAR track, the Sporting KC soccer field, and some authentic ethnic communities.
AN: What made you and your husband decide to create a mobile app for visitors to Kansas City?
DLM: Basically, it was one of those hot things everyone was doing, and I had worked with the editor before. It's been fun, and I learned a lot of things about Kansas City and St. Louis that I didn't know before.
AN: As someone who often works on projects with her husband (who, like Bruce, also happens to be a photographer), I just have to know... what's it like to work with your husband?
DLM: On some days, it's just great, like when we take a day to explore the growing number of antique shops and restaurants in Kansas City's West Bottoms. It's fun to have time to explore and share a passion for the same things. But then, when we're at our desks, it's not always as much fun. It's just work, but fortunately, his office is on a separate floor in the house from me, so we have distance when we need it.
AN: You've mentioned some of KC's more impressive museums, but beyond exploring its many fountains, which activities would you most recommend for outdoor enthusiasts?
DLM: Swope Park is a fabulous park for anything to do outdoors, and most visitors would be surprised to know that it is bigger than NYC's more famous Central Park. Here, you can golf and play disc golf, ride horses, row a boat and fish, and play tennis. This is where we have cricket fields, soccer fields, and baseball fields, along with mountain bike trails and – gosh – just about anything you want to do outside. We even have a company called Tree Climbing Kansas City that will help you climb a tree.
If you're still curious about Kansas City, stay tuned for the second part of my interview with Diana. In the meantime, you can consult Katy Ryan's Moon Kansas City guidebook as well as her informative author Q&A.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of a Kansas City fountain courtesy of Bruce N. Meyer / Text © 2013 Laura Martone