Historic Sites

Every city has its own unique feel and vibe, which is determined by a number of things. The local historic sites are no doubt one of the largest contributing factors to the aura that surrounds a city. When in Kansas City, users recommend paying a visit to Union Station, in the Downtown area to get a feel for what truly makes up the city.


Originally the rail terminal for 12 main lines and 30 subsidiary lines, this circa-1914 building was renovated in 1997 as a $188 million entertainment center. The gorgeous facility was treated to an historically accurate restoration and now shines with dramatic turn-of-the-century architecture. Other station attractions include an interactive children's science center, shops and restaurants, an exhibit on KC's railroad history, movie screens, a live theater stage, and even the return of railroad service, thanks to Amtrak. In addition, a covered walkway connects Union Station to Crown Center (a retail venue) and the Hyatt Regency.

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Sited about 60 miles north of Kansas City, historic St. Joseph was formerly the starting point for Pony Express riders heading west to Sacramento. In town, visitors can see stables where "Wild Bill" Hickok and "Buffalo" Bill Cody saddled up for the daring, 2000-mile trip across the plains. Among the community's other attractions are the Jesse James Home, where the infamous gunslinger was shot and killed in 1882; the Patee House, once an elegant 140-room hotel; and the St. Joseph State Psychiatric Hospital, home of the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

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East Side

Originally part of the Santa Fe Trail (a route used by pioneers for trade and transportation), Cave Spring, in its latest incarnation as an urban nature center, offers recreational and educational opportunities. Learn about the history and ecology of the area at the interpretive center, pack a picnic lunch for an outdoor meal, take a short hike, or enjoy the cave and the wildlife habitat pond. Cultural history programs outline Native American practices for both school kids and adults.

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Visitors to City Hall are in for a treat, twice over. First, they can marvel at exquisite Art Deco architecture and detailing, which lend one-of-a-kind, Depression-era grace to the structure. Decorative, elegant lines and indulgent materials like Italian marble and hand-pressed oak veneer paneling adorn the interior. Next, they can take the elevator to an open-air observation deck on the 30th floor, which, on a clear day, affords stunning views of the city's outlying suburbs and the Missouri River. Best of all, visits to City Hall and the observation deck are free.

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Dating back to the 1890s, the Truman Farm Home in Grandview was built by the 33rd president's maternal grandmother. Located in the center of what was once an expansive 600-acre farm, this quiet prairie home was the stomping grounds for a young Harry S. Truman, who worked the farm into his late teens. Guided tours of the house are free. Tours are limited to six people, and are offered every half hour. The grounds are open year round for self-guided tours.

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September 15, 1806. On this date, explorers Lewis and Clark stopped in what's now downtown Kansas City on the way back from their famed journey to the Pacific Ocean. Pausing at the spot now known as Clark's Point, William Clark noted that the location is "the perfect commanding situation for a fort." Views of Kansas, Missouri, and the area's complex waterway system still amaze visitors; educational panels about the expedition – along with a bronze statue depicting the two explorers with their guide Sacajawea and dog Seaman – are other highlights of the spot.

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This two-and-a-half-story, late-Victorian house was home to the state's most significant contributor to 20th century art, Thomas Hart Benton, from 1939 until his death in 1975. The home and carriage house were then converted into an art studio and now contain 13 original paintings, as well as many of the artist's personal belongings.

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This historic site offers a glimpse at the 33rd president's life and career. The white, Victorian-style home looks much as it did in the early 20th century, complete with period antiques and family heirlooms. During the Truman presidency, the home was referred to as the "Summer White House." The site also features the homes of Bess Truman's two brothers and the home of the president's aunt (on nearby Delaware Street). Tours are limited to eight people, and tickets are time-specific, issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Westport Landing dates back to the 1830s, when wagon trains heading west on the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails stopped for supplies and repairs. Nowadays, the rough, red-brick buildings house trendy boutiques and specialty shops, along with hip bars and upscale restaurants, making the Landing one of the hubs of Kansas City's social scene.

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18th & Vine Historic District

During the roaring '20s, this swanky neighborhood, defying Prohibition's mandates, would swing and groove nightly to the smooth sounds of Charlie "Bird" Parker, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald at places like the famous Blue Room. After an extensive reclamation process, the neighborhood has again become a thriving part of the city, especially following the opening of the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

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