One of my new favorite websites is Roadside America – an online guide to offbeat tourist attractions across America. It lists the quirky, odd, eccentric, and unusual attractions that usually don’t make it into the guidebooks. I first started using this website on my recent trip to Kansas City and have been looking up unique destinations everywhere I’ve been since.
When I don’t have much time in a city to experience the larger, more time consuming sites, visiting these quick roadside attractions offers a great alternative way to experience aspects of the city. During a brief weekend trip to Kansas City in which I spent the majority of the weekend working, I was able to sneak a few sites from Roadside America in as I made my way around the city.
My first stop on my self-guided tour was at Castle Northmoor, a residential castle built in the suburbs of Kansas City. The story goes that the builder, Harlan Shaver, was inspired by some of the other one-man castles around the country and began construction on his own. It is a three-story masonry tower with medieval paintings, massive wooden doors, a spiral staircase, and a rooftop patio, all guarded by a stately suit of armor.
The inside of the castle is private, but the outside and roof top patio are open to visitors. I climbed the spiral staircase on the backside of the tower to the roof. It was a little surreal to be looking down on a suburban neighborhood through the turrets of a castle. There was a treasure chest on top of the roof containing miscellaneous odds and ends and a laminated magazine article about the castle.
Community Bookshelf at the Kansas City Library
When the Kansas City Public Library wanted to expand public parking at its downtown branch, they opted for a striking design, rather than adding a typical parking garage eyesore. Sticking with the literary theme of the library, the external façade of the garage is adorned to look like a giant bookshelf with the spines of classic literature tomes facing 10th Street in downtown Kansas City.
The books’ spines are 25 feet tall and the titles were chosen based from a variety of reading interests suggested by Kansas City readers. Titles such as Charlotte’s Web, Truman, Catch 22, and To Kill a Mockingbird grace the side of this larger-than-life bookshelf.
World’s Largest Shuttlecocks
Ever since I saw Suzy Guese’s post about the world’s largest easel in Goodland, Kansas, I have been intrigued by these oft-forgotten world’s-largest roadside attractions. When I saw that the world’s largest shuttlecocks were in Kansas City (thanks, Roadside America) and were less than a mile from my hotel, I knew I had to go check them out.
I was surprised to find that the shuttlecocks are not a tacky tourist attraction but actually an impressive art installation on the finely manicured lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Initially, I thought they looked a little out of place in front of the beautiful neoclassical building. But after poking around for a few minutes and photographing them, they grew on me. They add an element of whimsy to the grand lawn.
Before I ever knew what the Kauffman Center was, I saw it from the highway while passing through Kansas City on another visit. All I could see was this spectacular structure that resembled two abstract seashells in the Kansas City skyline. On my return visit to Kansas City, I was determined to not only find out what it was, but to see it up close.
The Kauffman Center is a performing arts complex that holds two separate venues – one theater and one concert hall. It is an architectural wonder and an incredibly beautiful building. The architecture is minimalistic and modern, and the acoustics are phenomenal.
Unfortunately, I visited during the day before catching my flight back home so I didn’t have a chance to take in one of the shows here. Consider it added to my list of things to do next time I’m in Kansas City.
Every city has its own unique, larger than life attractions. What are some of your favorites?