816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Don’t sweat the details of showing off your city

Feed your mind and take in historical treasures at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Steamboat Arabia Museum.
Feed your mind and take in historical treasures at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Steamboat Arabia Museum. FILE PHOTO

“I’m coming to see you,” he wrote on my Facebook page, which made his arrival very public. I could almost hear the BOINGING eyeballs of my friends.

The first private message rolled in just a few minutes later: “Who is Pierre?”

Pierre is that guy from college, the one you thought you should date because he was a really great guy and laughed at all your jokes but called you out when you were being a jerk and you didn’t hate him for it. But you and he just didn’t have that … whatever it is that makes people date.

I married, and he married. We both had kids, careers and lives, but despite time and distance, we remained pick-up-where-you-left-off friends. And now baseball junkie Pierre was traveling from Maine to Missouri for a Royals game.

He posted again: “I am hoping to spend all day Saturday with you and Carol seeing the sites of Kansas City.”

This is when I learned that another college friend lived in Overland Park. At graduation, it was hard to imagine completely losing track of people I had lived with and became adultish with. But it happened; life happened.

Carol and I reconnected and shared more than our missed years — we shared angst over the challenge: How do we show off our wonderful city in mere hours?

Do we appeal to Pierre’s baseball fan-side and take him to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum? His history interest with the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial?

Do we take him on a driving tour of the area to see it all? On your right you will see the Boulevard Brewing Company…

Do we take him to the towns where we live or to the big city we only visit?

We fretted and fussed and finally had a plan.



City Market: In a twist of locals-who-stick-close-to-home fate, neither Carol nor I had been there on a Saturday when farmer’s market vendors join full-time merchants to sell their wares. Finding parking took time and patience, but the entrance sign provided an easy meet-up spot.

Out-of-Towner thrill: The honor boxes for parking fees.

Bonus: The location was new for all of us, so we explored like tourists.

Steamboat Arabia Museum: As a History Nerd, I find that this place, anchoring one side of City Market Square, to be one of my oft-visited favorites. My companions were dazzled by the volume and contents of the world’s largest pre-Civil War artifact collection.

Out-of-Towner thrill: A barrel of the same cognac that he drank with his wife on their honeymoon in Europe.

Bonus: Most of the tour is self-guided and can be adjusted for interests of the group.

Driving Tour: Our target was the Country Club Plaza, but between there and the River Market is a whole chunk of city worthy of showing off. Carol and I guided our friend past the famous art on the parking garage of the KC Public Library downtown, the Power & Light District, Bartle Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Crossroads District, Union Station, Westport and a whole lot of fountains. Then we explored the Plaza.

Out-of-Towner thrill: No traffic, the cost of parking, and varied architecture.

Barbecue: We had our burnt ends and Boulevard beer on the Plaza, but the options for serving this to out-of-towners is worthy of a themed tour of its own.

The day reminded me of when I fret and fuss over details before people come to my house. The sites were secondary to the real reason for Pierre’s trip: Visiting with us.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.