Sports columnist Vahe Gregorian shares his favorite KC sites. What’s on your list?

Your Guide to KC: Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian is changing uniforms this spring and summer, acting as a tour guide of sorts to some well-known and hidden gems of Kansas City. Send your ideas to

When we moved to Kansas City from St. Louis in May 2013, we arrived late at night. As soon as we started to unpack, we made the shattering discovery that one of our cats had died on the way.

So our first minutes here were spent crying on the back porch of our new home and feeling lost.

The next day, as my wife, Cindy, and I tried to work through our grief on a walk in our Central Hyde Park neighborhood, we encountered a statue formally known as “Man In Despair” — on his knees, with his head on the ground. We came to think of as the “What have we done?” monument.

As much as we’d relished the idea of our cool new jobs and the sheer adventure of the move, safe to say we were disoriented trying to navigate our new world.

I’d moved a lot as a kid: from Beirut, Lebanon, where I was born, to California and Texas and Pennsylvania. After going to grad school at Mizzou, though, I’d spent almost my entire adult life (25 years) in St. Louis and hadn’t realized how steep the transition would be even just 250 miles away in the same state.

Next thing you know, though, Kansas City started surging through us.

We quickly were soothed by how welcoming people were. Our jobs, Cindy’s as The Star’s House + Home editor and mine as a sports columnist, became built-in avenues into the community. And we soon felt the energy and imagination of a region so obviously on the move and diversely compelling.

To know it was to love it.

Eleven years later, we feel the same way … only more so.

And not simply because it’s been a sportswriter’s paradise: the Chiefs in four Super Bowls in the last five years, the Royals reaching back-to-back World Series, and the city being named a host for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

It’s because Kansas City is a dynamic and accessible and whimsically fun place, teeming with ideas and ambition and history and contradictions and troubles and quirks.

Like this one: I still don’t know why so many refer to Highway 40, for one, as 40 Highway. I’ve never heard it inverted that way anywhere else. Can anybody explain?

For all these reasons and more, I was intrigued (and, yikes, daunted) when The Star asked me to spend the next couple months as a sort of tour guide, writing about topics that are “Uniquely KC” or make for an “Inside Look” as part of our broader initiative.

While Kansas City now is considered a fashionable travel destination —so says Travel + Leisure’s 50 Best Places to Travel in 2024 and Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2024 — it also still feels like our own proud secret to share. That’s why I’m always pestering friends from all over to visit.

We want them to feel and see the essentials and the eccentricities of living here — perhaps befitting the rich jazz history we first experienced at The Blue Room soon after we arrived.

We want to immerse them in the obvious but also the less-familiar-yet-telling tales — like all the street art and initiatives such as a refugee soccer program and a distinct front-porch culture.

And we want them to understand the dilemmas of a progressive city still entangled with its racially polarized past.

We seldom, never, in fact, have time to do it all. But in our ideal few days, these are the sites and experiences we most want to share:

(To be clear, this isn’t intended as a rating or a comprehensive list. It’s just the places we’ve gotten to know for one reason or another and thus have been inclined to take people — a list we hope will expand through your help.)

CPKC Stadium, the new home for the Kansas City Current women’s soccer team, sits on the Missouri River near the Christopher Bond Bridge.
CPKC Stadium, the new home for the Kansas City Current women’s soccer team, sits on the Missouri River near the Christopher Bond Bridge.

Atop my list right now is CPKC Stadium, home of the National Women’s Soccer League’s KC Current and believed to be the world’s first stadium built for a women’s professional team.

That’s in part because of where it sits, on the Berkley Riverfront of the Missouri River, on the way downtown from the still-shimmering new Kansas City International Airport terminal — a much more appropriate front porch for a modern Kansas City.

But it’s mostly because the $120 project, almost entirely privately funded, embodies a forward-thinking community.

It makes me think of some of Kansas City’s iconic history perhaps to be further explored in these next few weeks.

Like the roots of the city on the river. And the do-it-yourself element that evoked the undaunted self-reliance and rolled-up sleeves of Norman Rockwell’s “The Kansas City Spirit.

There is no place I enjoy taking friends more than the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, still filled with the spirit of Buck O’Neil but now animated and amplified by NLBM president Bob Kendrick — my friend and a Kansas City treasure.

To tour the museum in the 18th & Vine district — especially with Bob — is to be entranced with that fascinating past and its relevance today as a civil-rights institution.

The Community Bookshelf runs along the south wall of the Central Library’s parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. Completed in 2004 when the library moved into the former First National Bank building, it showcases 42 titles suggested by Kansas City readers.
The Community Bookshelf runs along the south wall of the Central Library’s parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. Completed in 2004 when the library moved into the former First National Bank building, it showcases 42 titles suggested by Kansas City readers.

Virtually every time we take someone around, we head downtown to go by the Central Library parking garage and its glorious “Community Bookshelf” of 22 book spine replicas (with 42 titles) made of 25 feet by 9 feet of signboard mylar. Cindy was smitten with it from the first time she saw it; it took me longer to appreciate its scale and significance. But it’s now something I’m eager to point out … and have never seen the likes of elsewhere.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a must-see, from every angle. I’ve only been inside a few times, including to see Yo-Yo Ma, the brilliant cellist. But I am often struck by its magnificence from the outside looking in. When my friend Kathy visited earlier this month, it reminded her of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, an observation I’ve long felt, too.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial, marked from afar by the Liberty Memorial completed in 1926, is another world-class gem. It was one of the first places I took my parents when they visited and remains a moving reflection of a can-do civic pride: In 1919, the Liberty Memorial Association and Kansas City citizens raised more than $2.5 million to fund it in just 10 days.

Just opposite is Union Station, revived in 1996 via a bistate sales tax believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, according to the Mid-America Regional Council. It’s truly beautiful inside and out, whether you go for the NFL Draft or to catch a train or to see the “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing” exhibition last year (it was great). After the agonizing shooting there at the end of the Chiefs’ latest parade in February, it stands for something else now, too: the specter of gun violence underscoring the fragility of a community even on a day it was otherwise exhilarated and united.

Since I’ve used too many words for my top six, here’s a snapshot of other key places we’ve taken people — or would if we could:

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Remarkable.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, which, gak, I haven’t been to since the renovation and am eager to revisit.

Country Club Plaza, especially when the lights are on (why not all year?) — and because it’s a chance to talk about the matter of J.C. Nichols, the influential developer whose work was entwined with segregationist tactics that still loom.

Still-historic but now-complicated Westport, where Char Bar has become our go-to for barbecue with out-of-towners. For us, it’s as much a matter of loving its food as convenience and outdoor space. But I’ve been to many barbecue places here (like Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Jack Stack, Joe’s Kansas City, LC’s, Q39, Danny Edwards’ “Eat It & Beat It”) and have enjoyed each — and am looking to expand my game.

The Scout statue, a bit of a complicated topic in itself that I’m sure I’ll be writing about.

State Line Road itself as a way to get into the border history — and more than a few times to Hi-Hat Coffee, which became where one friend completed her quest to visit all 50 states.

Then there’s another traditional dividing line we feel is important to discuss: Troost Avenue, named for Kansas City founding father and slave owner Benoist Troost. As much of Troost is enjoying a vibrant renewal, the movement to rename it “Truth Avenue” has become snarled.

The River Market, especially on a weekend.

The Crossroads Arts District, albeit in my case that’s been less about the arts than going to Grinders KC for the most authentic cheesesteak I’ve had here (and also a great music venue) or The Brick to enjoy the food and company of ever-welcoming owner Sheri Parr.

Driving around the beautiful homes of Mission Hills.

Finally, of course, there’s the stuff of the day job: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kauffman Stadium and Children’s Mercy Park — not to mention the incredible Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

Each is a uniquely great experience, and I only wish I could bring friends with me to the press box and locker room.

There’s so much more to explore. And in the weeks to come, I’ll hope to drill deeper into some of these topics and check out new frontiers.

Like maybe, finally, seeing the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Or venturing into The Rabbit hOle, the massive interactive children’s museum that I once toured in its embryonic phase.

Speaking of interactive, well, that’s what we hope this project becomes.

We’d love to get your input and suggestions about where to go and who and what to see that you think helps make Kansas City what it is — our cherished home and a place we still want to learn more about every day.

Send me an email with your suggestions at You may have the opportunity to join me to explore what is Uniquely KC.