First established as a fur-trading center in the 1820s, Kansas City, Missouri, is situated at the point at which the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet, and it straddles Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties. As the city became a major railroad hub and processing center for the Midwest during the 1800s, it grew rapidly. As of 2005, the city's population was roughly 444,965. Once a manufacturing and meatpacking center, the city is now both a financial and regional center for the federal government, which is the largest single employer in the area.
Kansas City's meat-packing economy changed after the 1990s, as the city began to diversify its industries. Kansas City is now among the top cities in the United States for small business and is considered one of the best places to start a new company. The city is also home to Sanofi-Aventis, one of the largest drug manufacturing plants in the United States. Of late, the city is developing a number of academic and economic institutions related to health sciences. Research on animal related diseases is also conducted in the city through the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.
Major manufacturing employers in the city include Hallmark Cards, which was founded in Kansas City in 1910, and Harmon Industries Inc., which was founded in the city in 1946. Other major businesses include Kansas City School District, University of Kansas, Ford Motor Company and Sprint.
Kansas City arts and culture, including the jazz music scene, has helped the tourism industry to thrive as well.
Kansas City is organized into a system of more than 250 neighborhoods each having its own distinct identity and features. Some of the city's prominent neighborhoods include:
Kansas City offers several options for higher education:
At 1,769 acres, Swope Park is one of the city's largest and most picturesque parks. It contains two golf courses, several shelter houses, a number of picnic areas, the Kansas City Zoo and Starlight Theatre. Lakeside Nature Center, which is nestled within Swope Park, offers wildlife education programs with live animals, a hiking trail, picnic area and wildlife exhibit.
Harley-Davidson Vehicle and Powertrain Operations was built in the late 1990s to increase production of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A free tour features a series of displays that covers the various manufacturing and assembly processes necessary to produce each motorcycle. A gift shop features tour-related souvenirs.
First opened in 2001, the Kansas Speedway is one of the most popular motorsports venues in the United States and plays host to NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series. The speedway seats about 82,000 people.
In operation since 1857 and situated in the Downtown/Cony area, City Market is the largest farmers market in the region and is attended by more than 170 vendors. Market merchants offer a variety of meats, fresh produce, seafood, specialty foods and other items from around the country and the world. The market also features gift shops, restaurants and the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which is home to the biggest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.
Kansas City celebrates a number of annual festivals and events:
National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial features one of the most expansive collections of World War I artifacts in the world and interactive technology to enliven the experience.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, located northeast of the Country Club Plaza, features more than 34,000 objects, two restaurants and a gift shop. The museum store offers a selection of art and design books and other unusual gift ideas.
Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, named in honor of the political and social activist, is included as part of the Cultural Mall complex in the southwest district and features stage performances, films, exhibits, classes and workshops.
Situated in the eastern district of the city, the 1827 Log Courthouse is Jackson County's first government building. The original building was constructed using slave labor. The two-room log structure was the venue for controversial westward expansion, land dispute and slave trade issues.
Metropolitan Kansas City is home to the Royals Major League Baseball team and the Chiefs National Football League team.
Locals can obtain their news and entertainment from a variety of sources: