With $7 billion being poured into a massive revitalization project, Kansas City is throwing its hat into the ring as a major attraction, competing with cities like Minneapolis whose success stories have been lauded far beyond its Midwestern borders. In particular, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak St. (tel. 816/561-4000; www.nelson-atkins.org), which opened in 1933, is more than doubling its space, part of which will be a new Steve Holl-designed wing, as well as the Ford Learning Center, which will triple the classroom space devoted to art education. New on the scene is the National World War I Museum, 100 W. 26th St. (tel. 816/784-1918; www.libertymemorialmuseum.org). The site is part of an addition to the city's Liberty Memorial, which was completed in 1926 to honor those who fought in the Great War. The new museum will be the second largest one in the world dedicated to WWI (Britain's is the biggest), and is being designed by Ralph Applebaum, the man behind Washington's phenomenal Holocaust Memorial Museum. And while this may be old news, it bears repeating: If you go to Kansas City and don't eat the hickory-smoked barbecue, you may as well have just stayed home. Check out Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue, 101 W. 22nd St. (tel. 816/472-7427; www.jackstackbbq.com), in the recently renovated Freight House, a 119-year-old brick warehouse with great views of the Kansas City skyline in the Crossroads Arts District.
While there are tons of great outdoor options in Missouri, one of the most unique is Elephant Rocks State Park (tel. 573/546-3454; www.mostateparks.com/elephantrock.htm), a billion-year-old set of massive, granite rock formations that actually look like elephants. The biggest one, aptly named Dumbo, soars 27 feet high and weighs 680 tons. And in one of the coolest moves ever made in a park, the 1-mile trail through the 129-acre park has information plaques in Braille, describing this amazing natural wonder. Serious hikers should be sure to hit the Ozark Trail (www.ozarktrail.com), Missouri's answer to the popular Appalachian version (without the teeming mass of other hikers, they like to tell you). The trail is a hefty 550 miles long with another hundred and change still planned, and stretches from St. Louis all the way into Arkansas. A 30-mile section overlooks the lovely Current River, while the rest the trail traverses through tall pine trees, spring-fed creeks, and the ridge of Stegall Mountain, as well as touches on the highest point in the state, Taum Sauk, where the views of the Ozarks are nothing less than stunning.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.