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Kansas City’s Best Picnic Spots and Goodies for Your Picnic Basket

Grab your picnic basket and fill it with your favorite local goodies...it's picnic season in Kansas City! Guest blogger Diana Lambdin Meyer (@mojotraveler) shares a few perfect places to dine al fresco with your favorite people.

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5 Best Mexican Restaurants for Cinco de Mayo

Kansas City’s culinary delights span cuisines from countries across the globe! In honor of Cinco de Mayo, guest blogger Diana Lambdin Meyer (@mojotraveler) shares a few of her favorite spots at which to celebrate.

Manny’s Restaurant, 207 Southwest Blvd, is always a lively spot, on May 5, the party-goers line up around the block. Manny Lopez founded this restaurant in an old car dealership in 1981 and now the second generation of the Lopez family keeps the margaritas flowing. One of them is always in the restaurant. Juarez is the house tequila and with $5 drink specials May 1 -5, they’ll go through a lot of tequila. The band Trio Atzlan is scheduled to play May 2 and 5.

IMG_4880Just down the street at 2829 Southwest Blvd., Margarita’s Amigos is celebrating its 30th Cinco de Mayo in KC this year. With four additional locations that have opened around the metro, they have become recognized as one of the best Happy Hours throughout the year. They are renowned for deep-fried tacos, but if you choose to celebrate at home, make it authentic with Margarita’s many salsas, mixes and chips sold at local grocery stores throughout KC.

Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen, 2856 Southwest Blvd., consistently wins awards as the best Mexican restaurant in the city. They opened 40 years ago and are popular because of its Sonoran cuisine and the locally made reposado tequila. Margaritas are served on tap here and in regular drink glasses rather than traditional margarita glasses “because we’re just too busy and would be breaking those things all of the time,” according to one waitress. Ponak’s holds a significant place in Kansas City history: It was here that the first keg of Boulevard Beer ever sold was tapped on November 9, 1989.

cincodemayoIn Johnson County, Panzon’s in Lenexa has been serving up great guacamole tostadas since 1990. And if you’re vegetarian, there’s a special section of the menu just for you. On Cinco de Mayo, there will be a band outside if the weather’s cooperates, but inside, there will be lots of give-aways for t-shirts, key-rings, shot glasses and such. Interesting tidbit: The folks that own Panzon’s grew up with and remain good friends with the folks that own Ponak’s.

IMG_4884The fact that Cinco de Mayo this year falls on a Tuesday means it’s going to be crazier than ever at Rancho Grande Cantina in Parkville, where Taco Tuesdays fill the parking lot every week. Known for an incredible queso dip using pepper jack cheese, spinach and other secret goodies, Rancho Grande has been a Northland favorite since 1998. Two more locations in Liberty and Blue Springs spreads the goodness. Margaritas are mixed in 50 gallon drums and the experts at Rancho Grande anticipate they’ll go through more than 100 gallons of margaritas this Tuesday.

diana_meyer_2Diana Lambdin Meyer (@mojotraveleris a freelance writer based in Parkville and author of the travel app “Kansas City Uncovered.” She regularly writes about shopping and off-the-beaten path escapes on her blog www.mojotraveler.com.

Exploring the Lakeside Nature Center

Kansas City’s Lakeside Nature Center provides wildlife education programs for all ages! Your visit is FREE and includes a lovely hiking trail, picnic pavilion and native Missouri wildlife exhibit. Guest blogger and author Traci Angel paid a visit to the Nature Center.

Lakeside Nature Center deskA sure springtime hit for little explorers is a visit to the Lakeside Nature Center, which sets back from busy Gregory Boulevard in Swope Park. This often overlooked learning center, with surrounding hiking trails, is a quiet getaway from the crowds of the nearby and ever-popular Kansas City Zoo.

Inside is home to the glass aquariums and terrariums of regional amphibians, snakes and spiders. Natural light flows through the windows that highlight bald eagles, owls and hawks native to the Kansas City region that are perched on limbs within the outside cages.
Exhibits throughout the center allow for educational opportunities. See your “wingspan” compared to an eagle’s. Watch a tarantula tiptoe amid its display.

Lakeside Nature center displaysOngoing events, including Saturday morning story times, make it a perfect learning adventure for a rainy day. Or, peek at the inside animals before exploring the outside trails on foot that cut through prairie grasses, forest and a limestone glade. The trail offers a variety of terrain rare for such an urban hike.

One of the most inspiring features of the Lakeside Nature Center is its dedication to wildlife rehabilitation. The center assists wild animals that have been injured or displaced. They also educate people on how to live in harmony with wildlife and what to do when animals live near our homes.

Lakeside Nature Center is located at 4701 East Gregory Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64132.

T.Angel.headshot.squareTraci Angel (@100ThingsKC) is an independent writer, longtime journalist and is the author of 100 Things to Do In Kansas City Before You Die from Reedy Press. Her favorite areas in KC are the River Market, West Bottoms and the 18th & Vine District. 

Zoo Animals Go BLUE for the Kansas City Royals!

Grab your Royals gear and head to the Kansas City Zoo! Saturday, April 4 will be a day-long celebration for our boys in blue before the big home opener!

The animals will be enjoying special enrichment items like t-shirts, cups and scarfs donated to them by the Royals as well as their favorite foods decorated like baseball gear! Different animals will be showing their team spirit throughout the day.

The schedule for all of the animal antics is as follows:

  • 9:30 am: Tropics Animals
  • 10:00 am:  Gorillas & Lions
  • 11:30 am:  Elephant
  • 12:30 p.m. Rhino
  • 2:00 p.m. Polar Bears

PicMonkey Collage

“What do you miss about KC?”

Guest blogger Greg Franklin is a Kansas City lover living in Seattle. When the occasion arises for a return visit (like his beloved Royals return to the World Series!), he hits up as many of his favorite things as time allows. Have you moved away from KC? What do you miss the most?

Things I Miss Most About KC:

oklahoma_joesJoe’s Kansas City and Woodyard BBQ: I live in Seattle, which has just recently caught wind of the barbecue craze. I’ve sampled the wares of the city, and it’s…well, it’s not good. When I come back to Kansas City, my first destination after dropping off my bags is usually Joe’s Kansas City, whose Z-Man I did my best imitation of for dinner at my wedding. I’m drooling right now thinking about those ribs. If waiting in line at Joe’s isn’t your thing, I recommend soaking up a plate of ribs on the perfect patio at Woodyard BBQ in Merriam.

McCoy’s Public House: There’s something about this place that feels so perfectly Kansas City to me. It’s elegant in its simplicity, and never tries to be something it isn’t. Great beer and perfect burgers served in a warm, spacious wooden room. A lot of things in this city come and go, but McCoy’s patio on a muggy summer evening is a welcome tradition that looks to be around for a long time.

11017130_922852224413004_2363140524000755899_nO’Malleys Pub (Weston): When I brought my wife to Kansas City from Seattle for the first time, this was one of the first things I planned for. Enjoying some Celtic music and a frosty cream ale in a cool, dark basement that’s been around for over 150 years tastes even better in the middle of a scorching summer. If you can’t take the time off work for a trip to Ireland, O’Malley’s is the next best thing.

Worlds-of-Fun_067_AA - CopyWorlds of Fun: If you think you’re too old for roller coasters, you don’t sound like a lot of fun. While the loss of the Zambezi Zinger still stings, the rest of the park more than makes up for it.

Twin City Tavern: Something about this little dive is absolutely perfect. I love that it sits right on the corner of a state boundary. I love the tacky faux brick wall texture. I love the absolutely unnecessary amount of neon signage. When you just need to catch up with an old friend without a ton of distractions, the Twin is one of the best little nooks in the city.

Waldo Pizza and Minsky’s Pizza: Aside from barbecue, Seattle still hasn’t really perfected it’s pizza game. Sure, they make a decent product out of a lot of fresh local ingredients, but I’ve never had a “WHOA” pizza moment. Waldo Pizza and Minsky’s are both at the top of their game, and always provide the “WHOA”.

The Red Balloon: This is the bar that inspired my love of karaoke. I have plenty of Midtown friends who don’t ever want IMG_4195to leave Midtown, but offer them a night of painfully loud karaoke with the townies at The Red Balloon, and suddenly the drive to Shawnee doesn’t seem all that far.

WhirlyBall at Power Play: I love my friends so dearly, but sometimes, you just need to ram them with a bumper car while playing a weird hybrid of lacrosse/jai alai. Thanks to WhirlyBall for making passive aggression a lot more fun.

visitkc

Kauffman Stadium: Home of the Kansas City Royals, and the sixth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball. If there’s anything better than grilling and enjoying a beer with friends in the parking lot before watching the American League Champion Kansas City Royals play, I’m not aware of it. The renovations to The K have actually made it the sort of stadium where there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I personally recommend standing in front of the outfield fountains on a hot day, catching some of the mist (and maybe a homer, too).

The People: The caliber of friends I’ve made in this city amazes me. I don’t know if it’s the Midwest in general or Kansas City in particular, but people here are the friendliest, most sincere and loyal folks I know. There’s some sort of bond that comes from living in Kansas City that doesn’t happen anywhere else, and I’m thrilled to have that bond both with the city and with so many of its residents.

Honoring Black History Month in Kansas City

Several area attractions pay tribute to the contributions of African-Americans this month and all year long. Below is list of special celebrations for the month and ongoing exhibits that commemorate KC’s black history.

Since 1976, every U.S. President has officially designated February as National Black History Month. In Kansas City, area neighborhoods like the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District provide a who’s who of some of the greatest African-American legends in jazz and baseball. All around the city, area attractions pay tribute to the contributions of African-Americans this month and throughout the year. Below is list of special celebrations in February and on-going exhibits that commemorate KC’s black history.

Special Exhibits/Performances

Black Archives of Mid-America

  • February 25: “Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series”–Named after one of KC’s most outstanding African-American poets, this poetry series focuses on the work of those who use poetry as a vehicle to correct distorted depictions of African-American history or shed light on otherwise overlooked African-American figures or events. The inaugural session will feature Frank X Walker, Kentucky’s first black Poet Laureate. Reception starts at 6 p.m., followed by program at 6:30 p.m.
  • February 28: Marva Whitney Listening Party–This program will include an informal presentation of the R&B star’s life and contribution by friend and musician Eugene Smiley. The program will also include a discussion of Whitney’s memoir, God, The Devil, and James Brown and a listening party of Whitney’s music. Whitney, a Kansas City native, built a name for herself singing background vocals for King of Soul James Brown and went on to become one of funk R&B’s most revered divas. 2 p.m.

All events listed are free and will be held at The Black Archives of Mid-America.

Kansas City Public Library

This month, the Library will host a “Black History Month Book-to-Film Series.” Each program begins with introductory remarks by one of the four experts in the field: Adrienne Walker Hoard, director of UMKC’s Black Studies program; Delia Cook Gillis, director of UCM’s center for Africana Studies; Veronica N. Wilson-Tagoe, teaching professor in UMKC’s Black Studies program; and Suzetta Parks, principal at Parks & Pennington. Unless otherwise noted, receptions start at 6 p.m., and are followed by the program at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP, go to kclibrary.org/blackarchivesfilm.

  • February 17: “Malcom X,” Plaza Branch. Reception held at 5:30 p.m., followed by program at 6 p.m.
  • February 19: “Devil in a Blue Dress,” UMKC Miller Nichols Library
  • February 24: “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Plaza Branch
  • February 25: “Meet The Past with Crosby Kemper III: Zora Neale Hurston”–The latest installment of the Library’s Emmy Award-winning series spotlights one of the preeminent figures of 20th century African-American literature. The presentation will be taped by KCPT for later broadcast.

National World War I Museum

  • February 19: “Birth of a Nation: Reigniting Civil Rights & America’s Civil War”–Author Dick Lehr reintroduces one of the most significant episodes in the 20th century in this lecture and discussion with moderator Dr. Delia Gillis. Free, but RSVP required. 6 p.m.
  • February 23: “True Sons of Freedom: African-American Soldiers and World War I” –Dr. Jennifer Keene, chair of the history department at Chapman University, details African-American soldiers’ experiences as civil rights activists, symbols of black manhood and veterans. This presentation is part of the University Spencer Cave Black History Month lecture. Free, but RSVP required. 7 p.m.

Events will be held at the museum in the J.C. Nichols Auditorium. For more information, go to www.theworldwar.org.

All Year Long

CaptureAmerican Jazz Museum

  • Located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, this is where jazz masters such as Charlie Parker, Count Basie and hundreds of others defined the sounds of the 1920s, 30s and 40s in Kansas City. The museum includes interactive exhibits and educational programs.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Best known for his portraits of jazz performers, fellow artists and other creative individuals, Frederick James Brown created the Kemper Museum’s monumental work The History of Art” (1994/2000), a series of 110 paintings that lines the walls of Café Sebastienne. The exhibition features paintings from the Kemper Museum’s permanent collection, a significant holder of the artist’s works.

mmfMutual Musicians Foundation

  • Located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, the Foundation was originally home to the Black Musicians’ Protective Union Local 627 American Federation of Musicians. This national historic landmark hosts fierce late-night jam sessions on Fridays and Saturdays.  

National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial

  • The permanent exhibit showcases African-American men serving in cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer and artillery units, as well as serving as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists and intelligence officers and African-American women who were employed in a number of war industries, including munitions production.
negro-leagues-baseball-museum_024_la

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

  • The 10,000 square-foot multimedia exhibit is the world’s only museum that chronicles the history and heroes of the Negro Leagues from their origin after the Civil War to their demise in the 1960s. Later this year, the museum will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Nov. 14 with a gala.
11quindero1

Photo: KansasTravel.org

Quindaro Ruins

  • Located on the Missouri River, Quindaro began as a boomtown and evolved into a stop on the Underground Railroad. Artifacts are on display at the Wyandotte County Museum.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

  • A new addition–“Goodnight Irene,” a Charles White painting that once belonged to legendary performer and activist Harry Belafonte–has been acquired for the permanent American collection. This acquisition highlights The Nelson’s seminal works of African-American art.
  • The museum’s acclaimed African collection comprises approximately 300 objects that are diverse in form and in media. Masks, sculptures, hair combs, headrests, textiles and vessels are among the many types of works represented; media include fiber, metal, wood, beads and clay.

Love Locks in Kansas City

locks2Kansas City is full of beautiful, romantic and delicious spots to share with your favorite person. If you’re one that likes long walks in the park, take your valentine down to Minor Park and “lock your love” in KC on the Old Red Bridge! Share in this sweet tradition that started with a single lock attached to the bridge in 2013. Today, over 400 locks hang on the bridge.

On Valentine’s Day night, the area will be lit from 6-10 p.m. so you can leave your love lock before or after a romantic dinner! Be sure and take a picture and post with the hashtags #kcparks, #redbridgelovelocks and #LoveKC!

Read more about the history of the Old Red Bridge and follow along on Twitter as @KCMOparks shares sweet tweets.

Kansas City Restaurant Week: Yelp KC Style Part II, the Latest Buzz

Only a few days of 2015 Kansas City Restaurant Week remain! Guest blogger Adam Schaumburg of Yelp Kansas City returns with his list of still-can’t-miss spots before #KCRW2015 comes to a close.

We are well into KC Restaurant Week and the buzz has cranked up to 11 for some spots around town. Once again, a big thank you to the 160 restaurants participating for providing us with a fun, explorative week in mid-January. It’s wonderful to constantly explore our city and support our own.

Now that we’re getting into the heart of Restaurant Week, reviews, conversations and opinions are starting to pile up. Are you a traditionalist who wants to go to the places you frequent, or are you branching out there to try those newbies in town? Whichever way that you prefer, you’re going to keep eating well this week.

I wanted to check back in with a few updates and to share the pulse on some of KC Restaurant Week’s can’t miss spots so far, just in case you need to make another reservation or two:

Jax_4966_FBJax Fish House & Oyster Bar (Plaza) Fresh oysters, fresh fish, fresh lobster. Those are all things you think of when you think of Kansas City, right? Maybe I should start thinking that way based off of what I’m hearing about this hip new spot on the west side of the Plaza. If you’ve already made your Restaurant Week plans and Jax Fish didn’t make the cut, I hear their happy hour is a fantastic alternative.

Q39Q39 BBQ (39th Street West) If you haven’t heard the buzz building behind Rob Magee’s Q39, you might want to claim residence beneath a rock when you file your taxes. The new kid on the block continues to establish quite a name for themselves. I’ve always wondered if KC could support another big BBQ spot in town, and judging by the rave reviews of Q39, I have my answer.

Char Bar Smoked Meats & Amusements (Westport)  For those of you who are attached to your New Year’s Resolutions, please skip over this section. You’ve been warned! There’s simply no willpower when it comes to taking lighter side Char Bar, another great new BBQ concept from James Westphal. The endless, tasty offerings help take the pressure off of choosing because you simply can’t go wrong. The early favorites are cheesy hushpuppies and a smoked burnt end sandwich topped with sausage.

LidiasLidia’s (Crossroads)  To the surprise of no one, Lidia’s is channeling Lorenzo Cain and absolutely knocking KC Restaurant Week out of the park. This Italian gem in the Freight House area of the Crossroads epitomizes reliability. Delicious reliability. Try the ravioli of wild boar, the signature tableside pasta and the coconut blondie.

Blue Moose (Prairie Village) I see you, Blue Moose. Blue Moose is the restaurant that is sporting the perfect tux, got the best haircut and is dropping witty one-liners during Restaurant Week. Their expansive menu is full of sophisticated pairings, ambitious offerings and choices for everyone. Plus, they’ve got a few locations so it makes it more likely that you’re going to be able to snag a reservation before KCRW is over.

AdamAs the Community Manager for Yelp Kansas City, Adam Schaumburg knows a thing or two about good food. Follow him on Twitter at @yelpkc, where he and some select KC social media superstars will live-tweet their lunch experience throughout Kansas City Restaurant Week 2015.

Kansas City Restaurant Week: Yelp KC Style

Over 160 restaurants are preparing special menus as locals and visitors alike prepare their palates for Kansas City Restaurant Week! Celebrating its 6th year of showcasing the wildly diverse and delicious food scene here in KC, #KCRW2015 is shaping up to be the best event yet. Guest blogger Adam Schaumburg of Yelp Kansas City takes a moment to share 5 spots that have made his most delicious, must-hit restaurant list.

Kansas City is dishing out bonuses lately. Instead of an abrupt ending to baseball season, we were treated to a bonus month of highlight reel baseball from our boys in blue. That led us into the holiday season full of lights, festivities and a handful of bonus days off of work. Perhaps best of all, right when it feels we might be in for a humdrum stretch of winter, we are in for the bonus of over 160 awesome Kansas City restaurants rolling out top-notch $15 lunches and $33 dinners during Restaurant Week. And getting out and enjoying these spots benefits local charities along the way? Double bonus!

Kansas City Restaurant Week is a time, no, it’s THE time to get out and try some of those spots you’ve bookmarked but have yet to venture out to. For me, it’s a chance to layer up and set out past the comfy confines of my neighborhood for a culinary tour of Kansas City. Our local food scene is no doubt one of our crown jewels, so here is a select list of places, both newcomers and veterans, that I’m counting down the days to try or revisit during Kansas City Restaurant Week 2015:

Trezo-Mare

Trezo Mare

Trezo Mare (Briarcliff Village) An Italian restaurant that supports local farmers and feels like an adventure to go to? Count me in. I’ve yet to make the short drive up to Trezo Mare, and my mind and stomach are already battling it out over the Boulevard Chicken Salad or the Lobster Mac and Cheese.

 

Story_Fish

Story

Story (Prairie Village) The awards keep pouring in for local chef Carl Thorne-Thomson for this sophisticated, popular neighborhood restaurant. I don’t need to wait for them to make another “best of” list to try them out, it’s time for me to get in there and and try beef short ribs with potato gnocchi or the mahi mahi.

 

 

Port-Fonda

Port Fonda

Port Fonda (Westport) Ever since my first experience here, I’ve been a Port Fonda fan. Their eclectic menu is always evolving and makes each visit feel like a new experience. Whether it’s carnitas tacos, warming sopas or one of many artfully crafted margaritas, this spot is a surefire winner during Restaurant Week.

Summit

Summit Grill & Bar

 

Summit Grill and Bar (Waldo) I could probably live off of the starter menu alone at the new Summit Grill and Bar. Poutine and pot roast nachos? Yes please. I’m excited to correct my snacking ways and go all in with a full multi-course lunch in this cool, new spot.

 

 

JJ's Paco Shrimp

JJ’s Restaurant

JJ’s Restaurant (Plaza) A Kansas City classic is back with the support of the entire community. Owner Jimmy Frantze has done an amazing job of getting back up and running in the new, nearby spot. While some people around the country can only dream of a medium-rare, local Kansas City steak, we have that opportunity at our fingertips. I’m ready to take advantage of it and raise a glass of wine to this Kansas City institution.

Check out KCrestaurantweek.com for all the tasty details of other participating restaurants throughout the Kansas City-metro area.

AdamAs the Community Manager for Yelp Kansas City, Adam Schaumburg knows a thing or two about good food. Follow him on Twitter at @yelpkc, where he and a some select KC social media superstars will live-tweet their lunch experience throughout Kansas City Restaurant Week 2015.

 

Holiday on the Hill: Strawberry Hill Museum Shines During the Holidays

There’s certainly no shortage of holiday events and celebrations throughout the Kansas City metro area. One place in particular deserves special recognition not only because it’s steeped in history, but also because it is home to some of the most beautiful holiday decorations in the city. Welcome to the Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center.

photo-2Perched on a hillside in the aptly named Strawberry Hill neighborhood in downtown Kansas City, Kan., the museum is inside a Victorian home that dates back to 1887, when it was built by 21-year-old John G. Braecklein for John and Mary Scroggs. According to information provided by the museum, “it was one of the most outstanding examples of the Queen Anne style to have been erected in Kansas City, Kan.”

The Scroggs family lived in the home for 32 years, after which it was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, who ran an orphanage out of the home for 69 years. In 1988, the orphanage closed its doors due to what the museum called “changing social needs.” A number of Strawberry Hill residents and other community stakeholders, led by Msgr. John W. Horvat, feared the home would eventually be destroyed, and instead created the Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society, which acquired the home and transformed it into the museum that stands today.

womens-Parlor-2014Each year, a staff of hardworking volunteers (at least one of whom has been with the museum since it opened) spends nearly a month decorating the immaculately preserved interior for the holidays. Step in the onsite chapel, for example, and marvel over a number of nativity scenes, including one that’s in miniature. Upstairs, you’ll find several bedrooms whose “inhabitants” are preparing for a Christmas celebration—you’ll almost feel like you’re intruding on a special family tradition!

A sizable portion of the museum is also dedicated to showcasing the rich ethnic heritage of the neighborhood, and during the holidays, an Ethnic Traditions exhibit highlights the festivities and celebrations of several countries and cultures. Stroll through the museum and you’ll be instantly transported to Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the Ukraine, to name a few.

And while you’re there, be sure to stop at one of the museum’s most treasured exhibits: a bed used by Pope John Paul II during his TWA flights.

“When Msgr. John Horvat, a Catholic priest, heard that items used on the Pope’s Papal visits to the U.S. Read more

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