Nearly half a million people live in Kansas City, Missouri. The city hugs a curve of the Missouri River, and it’s close to the Kansas border, which makes things confusing for a tourist like me.
Riding in a shuttle from the Kansas City Airport, sometimes abbreviated as KCI for Kansas City International, or MCI, for… I don’t know, really, I watched the city grow in the view through the windshield. We went past railroad tracks with long freight trains, the cars gleaming with multi-colored graffiti. We went over the river and past some old brick buildings, some in use and some that looked abandoned. The shuttle took a freeway exit and drove through city streets. I was going to write “wound through city streets” because it sounded picturesque but remembering back, while there were a lot of right-angle turns, there was very little winding. Kansas City is not a city of curves.
And then we were in a square surrounded by spools, needles and boxes of glass. Between them, like decorated cakes, were much shorter masonry buildings festooned with trim; designs, mythical creatures, geometric (gasp! Perhaps… Masonic?) symbols, friezes, ginger-breading. There was a large plaza (there is a parking garage underneath it) with a fountain, a string of jets, water rippling down a set of steps. On one side rises the large Bartle Hall Convention Center. Diagonally across it, looking transplanted (maybe) from Las Vegas, is a huge block of a Marriott Hotel, whose face dances with colored lights at night. There is a skybridge to another Marriott, on Wyandotte Street. It’s actually the same Marriott. The Marriott Annex, perhaps? Actually, the less-flashy Marriott is the former Muehlebach Hotel, with a door onto Baltimore Street. It’s an older hotel with a storied history, known for a press conference given there in September, 1964, by a new British music group called the Beatles.
And on Wyandotte Street, next to the less-flashy Annex Marriott/Muehlebach Hotel is a sixteen-story spire of a building, the Holiday Inn Aladdin Hotel. My hotel. More about it, with photos, in a subsequent post.
The Convention Center is technically in the Library District of Kansas City (which I love) and the library, on 10th street, is both large and whimsical. The center, and the Aladdin, is close to a newish nightclub district called the Power and Light District, with the old Power and Light Building, with its sparkling prism centerpiece, as an icon. The Power and Light District has coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, and a Whole-Foods-like grocery store (locally owned) called Cosentino’s. There is a club called Kill the Devil, which specializes in “cane spirits.” Yes, it’s a rum bar. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. The district is mostly older architecture, and it is beautiful.
Within walking distance of the Convention Center (which boasts 800,000 square feet) there are at least three theaters, the library, numerous nightclubs and music venues, the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and an Episcopalian Cathedral. Downtown is clean, with wide sidewalks and crosswalks that talk to you. “Wait!” they cry when you first press the button. Then, “Walk sign is on across… 13th Street.” It’s not that they talk, that’s nothing new. It’s that every one of them works.
Downtown looks very gentrified. Here are some things I didn’t see during the day while I was walking around in between panels and WorldCon events; homeless people, trash, traffic. Here are some things I did see; the Missouri Jazz Bicycle run; people making right turns across crosswalks and ignoring pedestrians in those crosswalks; many people playing Pokemon.
If you venture out of the Power and Light District you start to see a different city. More about that in a subsequent post.