The road less traveled in unforgettable Clay County, MO

North Kansas City: a True Original

The road less traveled led us to an unforgettable place

By Faith Bonaventure

I guess you could say that I hate predictability. The road less traveled is always the road I take, which makes for a life of unexpected experiences.

Luckily, I’m not alone in sharing these memories. Ever since our college days, my group of girlfriends has always searched for new adventures. Vanessa, Jen, Theresa and I love exploring together and are always on the lookout for new experiences. So for my 26th birthday, I made it my mission to find something original. Somewhere neither my friends nor I had ever been—and wouldn’t forget.

And that’s how we ended up in North Kansas City—what the locals call “North of the River” (the Missouri River). Just a few minutes from downtown Kansas City, North Kansas City is its own city, full of old meets new, big city meets small town adventure waiting to be discovered.

Road trippin’

We were thrilled that this getaway wouldn’t break the bank, but where we were staying certainly felt rich. Jen had found the Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City when googling hotels. Photos showed some of the glitz of Vegas, with bright and elaborate chandeliers, regal decor (lots of gold and embellishment), and every slot and table game imaginable. What a treat for this birthday girl. We unanimously agreed that this would be our one extravagance. Turned out to be a wise move—it was even more fun in person.

Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City

Plus, the property has nine restaurants ranging from casual to posh, a video arcade, an 18-screen movie theater and plenty of shops. Enough to keep us busy if we decided to stay put.

But there’s more than one amazing casino in town, and we were on a quest to make some memories. So on our first night, we headed to check out the vibe at the Voodoo Lounge at Harrah’s Casino.

Voodoo Lounge at Harrah's Casino

We’d thought of hotel/casino nightclubs as being a bit exclusive—not for us. But as soon as we walked in, we realized that we felt right at home. And almost immediately headed to the dance floor. With each bass beat felt through the floor (in a good way, I swear), we danced like there was no tomorrow. Naughty by Nature had performed here a few weeks ago, and I could only imagine how great it would be to listen to a concert here.

Cinderblock Brewery

Callin’ all ballers

Figuring out our plan for the following afternoon was easy, courtesy of a new friend we’d made at the concert. We’d asked for a great place to try some local beers, and were pointed to Cinder Block Brewery.

The eye-catching open concept layout at Cinder Block Brewery provided a cool, sort of “behind the tap” look at what went into the brews we were sipping on. The perfect thing to discuss with our fellow bar-mates, a mix of other out-of-towners and locals alike.

When one local guy suggested Chicken N Pickle, which was just west of our hotel, Vanessa couldn’t help but chuckle. “What is that?” she asked. To sum it up: It’s a sport (“don’t let any serious player hear you call it ‘game,’” our friend warned) where two to four players use paddles to hit a specialized ball (similar to a Wiffle ball) over a net. It’s sort of a combination of badminton and tennis, and we were so in.

Chicken N Pickle

We rented a court at Chicken N Pickle, and proceeded to laugh and dart wildly about. Some friendly regulars next to us decided to help us and we ended up forming teams. The regulars won, but it didn’t matter. We challenged them to another competition and crushed them at bocce ball on the outdoor lawn.

When night fell we retired to Chicken N Pickle’s living room, complete with a bar, TV screens and fire pits where we cracked up recalling memorable plays (if you could call them that).

Putting the good in good sport

For dinner, we headed to Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum. Named after local, staunch sports enthusiast Jim Chappell, voted one of the Top 10 Restaurants and Sports Museums by USA Today, and named among the 25 Best Sports Bars in America by Sports Illustrated (and they would know!), “museum” is just as significant a description of the place as “restaurant.”

It took a few minutes for my brain to grasp the magnitude of the more than 10,000 objects here, recognized as the largest personal collection of sports artifacts in any bar in the country. From iconic black-and-white team and significant sports moment photographs to signed memorabilia from sports legends of today and yesteryear, as well as an abundance of pro and college football helmets hanging upside down from the ceiling. Jen pretty much freaked out seeing the Oakland A’s 1974 World Series trophy. And that was all before we’d received our menus. The food was good, too—lots of apps, sliders, burger, fish and chicken sandwiches and wraps, steaks and sides. But I most remembered the Snicker Bar Ice Cream Pie the table ordered as a celebratory birthday “cake.”

“Nice job picking this place for your birthday,” Theresa told me between hot fudge-covered bites.

“For sure,” Jen said. “But, we got so many recommendations from people we met—I feel like there’s a ton we missed.”

Good thing for birthday #27.

Explore more of Clay County’s best attractions.

Explore more of Clay County’s best historic sites.

Produced in cooperation with the Missouri Division of Tourism.

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