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25 Things You Should Know About Kansas City

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There's more to the City of Fountains than just barbecue. (Although the barbecue is legendary.) Study up before your next visit to the midwestern metropolis of 467,000.

1. Kansas City spans two states: Missouri and Kansas. The international airport, baseball stadium and football stadium are all on the Missouri side. The professional soccer team and the NASCAR race track are found on the Kansas side.

2. And you can be in both states at the same time if you stand on State Line Road, which runs north-south along the border of Missouri and Kansas.

3. However, the two states have not always been on friendly terms. During the Civil War, violence erupted across Kansas between abolitionists and fighters from slave state Missouri over whether or not Kansas would allow slavery. The state during this time became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

 

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4.
Much of the city’s early economy was based on the Kansas City Stock Yards, which traded cattle, hogs, sheep, horses and mules.

5. In 1899, breeders established the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show, which, at the time, was the only livestock show in the country. The event is still held annually in the city.

 


6.
Speaking of cows, Kansas City is home to some great barbecue. In 1908, Henry Perry started his stand of smoked meats that catered to workers in the Garment District. He shared his secrets with Charlie Bryant, whose brother, Arthur, took over the eponymous restaurant after Charlie’s death.

7. A more recent addition, Joe’s Kansas City, was voted the best southern barbecue in the country by readers of USA Today.

8. The city is home to 200 fountains and claims that only Rome has more. Early architects of the city are said to have wanted to create an urban landscape with “more boulevards than Paris, more fountains than Rome.

 

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9.
Notorious outlaw of the late 1800s Jesse James was born north of Kansas City and began his criminal career robbing banks, stagecoaches, and trains in the area. James and his gang once raided the Kansas City Fairgrounds.

10. In the early 20th century, the city was controlled by political boss Tom Pendergast who ran the local Democratic Party. Pendergast directed the flow of illegal alcohol during Prohibition and rigged elections to keep his friends in power, including hand-picking Harry S. Truman as the next U.S. senator from Missouri.

11. Jazz lives at 18th and Vine. The area around the intersection became popular during the 1920s for its music and nightlife.

 

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12.
Speaking of great jazz, Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City in 1920.

13. The area is also home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a privately-funded museum filled with memorabilia and exhibits about African-American baseball in the U.S. The roster of the Kansas City Monarchs, the Negro league's team in the city, boasted legendary players such as Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neil, and Jackie Robinson.

14. If you’re looking to go shopping in Kansas City, the place to visit is the Country Club Plaza. The fifteen-block area is filled with shops, restaurants, and a movie theater. During the Christmas season, the buildings are lined with Christmas lights that turn on at sundown every evening.

15. Walt Disney’s family moved to Kansas City when he was nine years old. While in elementary school, Disney took drawing classes on the weekend at the Kansas City Art Institute.

16. Union Station in Kansas City opened in 1914, and during WWII, an estimated one million travelers passed through the station. It was closed in the 1980s, but was renovated and reopened in 1999.

 

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17.
Across from Union Station sits the Liberty Memorial, home to the only World War I museum in the United States.

18. Boulevard Brewery on Southwest Boulevard is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest.

19. As part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area, the Power and Light District, a shopping and entertainment neighborhood, was opened in 2008. Eight blocks of the area are exempt from the city’s open container laws.

20. GPS company Garmin and mobile phone provider Sprint both call the Kansas City metropolitan area home.

21. In 1998, Sprint built a massive 200-acre headquarters campus in Overland Park, Kan. At the time, it was the largest corporate headquarters in the Midwest.

22. In 2011, it was announced that Kansas City would be the first city in the country to receive Google Fiber, the company’s broadband internet service that boasts speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

23. Sporting KC, the area’s professional soccer team, was one of the founding members of the MLS (under the name the Kansas City Wiz). The team has won the MLS Cup twice. 

24. The Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL team, has only won the Super Bowl once, but that didn’t keep fans of the team from breaking the world record for loudest NFL stadium by creating 142.2 decibels of noise at a game in September 2014.

25. The number one rival of the Kansas City Royals baseball team is the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals. The team not only made the World Series finals for the first time in 29 years in 2014, but singer Lorde is said to have been inspired to write her single “Royals” after seeing a photo of the team’s former third baseman George Brett

 

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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