By Katy Ryan
The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are changing and the smell of barbecue wafts over downtown from the annual American Royal celebration, which means only one thing: it’s fall in Kansas City!
And although I maintain that Kansas City  is a destination for all seasons, I have to admit that fall is my favorite time of year in KC. You’re likely to enjoy idyllic weather during your visit, especially if you like warm days and chilly nights. Plus, during the fall season, Kansas City offers no shortage of things to do.
Whether you’ve never been to Kansas City or consider yourself a KC veteran, now is the ideal time to visit. Need some extra convincing? Consider these top five reasons to move Kansas City to the top of your fall travel list.
5. The American Royal: Even though Kansas City has emerged as a culinary mecca, the city fondly known as “Cowtown” will never shake its roots as a barbecue powerhouse. And if you love all things saucy and smoked, fall is the best time to visit Kansas City to partake in the annual American Royal  exhibition. Part barbecue contest, part rodeo and part good ol’ fashioned partying, the American Royal is one of Kansas City’s most beloved traditions. The World Series of Barbecue runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 2 and is a great opportunity to sample barbecue from competitive teams that flock to the city from around the nation. Some words of advice? Come hungry and wear comfortable shoes!
4. Sporting Kansas City: Our MLS team is making quite the splash. After a name change and a move to the team’s newly finished stadium at the beginning of the season, Sporting Kansas City  has quickly become one of the favorite sporting events for Kansas City residents and visitors. Enjoy the action-packed matches in the newly built Livestrong Sporting Park, a state-of-the-art facility that features an innovative design, WiFi, and an enviable view from every seat in the house. Tickets are reasonably priced, too, making this a great option for a family-friendly outing. Sporting Kansas City plays into October, so be sure and coincide your Kansas City trip with a match!
3. Festivals a-go-go: Whether you want to stroll through an authentic 16th century village, get a headstart on your holiday shopping or browse art from some of the nation’s top artists, Kansas City has a festival for you. The fall season is an especially busy time for festivals as Kansas Citians opt to spend as much time outside as possible before winter’s chill grips the city. If you’re coming to Kansas City early in the season, try the Plaza Art Fair (Sept. 23-25), Grunauer Oktoberfest (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) or the Rhythm & Ribs Jazz & Blues Festival (Oct. 2). Opting for a later trip? Consider the Renaissance Festival (now-Oct. 15), Holiday Mart (Oct. 20-23) or the Plaza Lighting Ceremony (Thanksgiving). Because most events occur outdoors, be sure to check the weather before your visit and make sure you’re dressed appropriately.
2. Haunted houses: Seeking some spooky Halloween fun? Kansas City hosts some of the country’s largest -- and scariest -- haunted houses, most of which can be found in the city’s industrial West Bottoms district, adjacent to downtown. Attractions like The Beast  and The Edge of Hell  immerse visitors in room after room of frights, including carefully made up actors and actresses that lurk in dark corners, ready to jump out and give you a truly terrifying scare. You’ll also find elaborately decorated rooms, animatronics and, in some cases, live animals. Depending on which haunted houses you opt to visit, combo passes may be available, giving you more bang for your buck. Just make sure you bring a friend -- or five. After all, there’s safety in numbers … or is there?
1. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: If you do nothing else while you’re in Kansas City, make a point to see the newly opened Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts . The state-of-the-art performing arts center, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, opened in mid-September and is now the home of the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet and is downtown Kansas City’s newest crown jewel. The awe-inspiring structure, which began as a napkin sketch, includes the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre, Helzberg Hall and Brandmeyer Great Hall. Even if you opt to not stay for a performance, simply viewing the architectural marvel is a memorable experience. Twenty-seven cables, anchored by the weight of pre-cast walls, support the mostly glass lobby. And a carefully designed acoustic joint ensure sound separation between the two adjoining halls, meaning simultaneous performances can be held without fear of interruption or sound dilution.
Katy Ryan is author of Moon Kansas City . When she’s not writing, she spends time exploring her favorite Kansas City haunts and trying to decide the undisputed barbecue champion. Follow along with Katy’s Kansas City adventures at her blog, girl about KC  or on Facebook .
Photo © Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts