To celebrate the summer, I’m writing about the City Market, my favorite summertime spot in Kansas City. Psst, there’s a bonus giveaway at the end!
It’s August in Kansas City. For me and other moms and dads that means getting ready for the kids to go back to school. However, most of the city seems to also think that means the end of summer. It was barely the end of July before I started seeing stories about the last days of summer. Well, the rest of Kansas City may act like we’ll be stuck in three feet blizzards in the next couple of weeks, but not me. For me, summer is still in full swing!
The Definition of Summer
How do I define summer in Kansas City? The days are long and scorching hot. Nights are for sitting on the front porch eating picnic dinners with Lily. There are festivals, concerts, movie nights under the stars. And my favorite, weekends at the City Market.
The City Market is open seven days a week, all year long, but it becomes almost magical during the summer. There’s just something about the thousands of people who visit each weekend that seem to make it come alive. I can spend hours just watching the crowds go by on leisurely Saturday afternoons. It has been said that once you taste your first bite of a ripe peach you won’t forget it. Well, that is the truth. Mine was at the City Market in July of 2014.
History of the City Market
The City Market has a rich history dating back to 1857 when it began as a site for market commerce, horse trading, political rallies, revival, medicine shows and circuses. It has been approximately in the same location since its inception when the City of Kansas City granted a lease to Jacob and Fred Scheibel for $50 per year. From this beginning, the City Market and its surrounding area became the focal point for people making their way westward. By 1878, activity in the area began attracting legends including Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody and Jesse James.
During the 1920s life around the City Market was thriving. At this time it stood near City Hall, the Gillis Opera House, the Jackson County Courthouse, two newspapers and a number of other businesses. After City Hall and the Jackson County Courthouse moved to their present locations, the City Market benefitted from extensive renovation with a massive public works project in the 1930s. New buildings were constructed through the job creation initiatives of the Roosevelt Administration. The Market’s west building built during this reconstruction currently stands today.
The Dawn of a New Era
In the 1960s the City Market was predominantly a produce-only destination. As the City Market and the surrounding River Quay area (as it was once known) entered the 1970s, it became a popular district with bars, restaurants, and other businesses. The late ’80s and ’90s marked a $14.5 million publicly and privately funded period of investment to re-energize the area. Structures were modernized in 1986 and rehabbed in 1990, resulting in over 100,000 square feet of restaurants, food-related shops, retail and museum exhibit space. With the addition of the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the City Market took a major step forward leading the way toward downtown redevelopment.
Since 2000 the City Market has received national acclaim and numerous awards. In 2002, the Market received a Great Markets/Great Cities Award of Distinction from the Project for Public Spaces, an internationally known advocate for farmers’ markets. In 2007, the City Market celebrated its landmark 150th anniversary season. With a record attendance of more than 700,000 visitors, it was listed as Kansas City’s 6th Top Area Attraction in the Kansas City Business Journal. In 2008, a Farmers’ Market of the Year award was given by the Missouri Farmers’ Market Association and AgriMissouri. The City Market continues to be a hub of activity and an enduring community landmark. The farmer’s market is open on Wednesdays 4-7 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 7 am – 3 pm.
A City Market Education
Did you enjoy the history lesson? Do you feel smarter? Good! The City Market is so much more than a place to buy locally grown produce. Although, that is amazing! As a mother, I’m always looking for opportunities for Lily to learn outside of the classroom. The City Market has an abundance of them. She learns about botany and horticulture at Dutch Flowers. The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a great way to explore historical artifacts from the pre-Civil War era of the 1800s. Buskers in the City Market provide plenty of exposure to musical education.
Good Times all Year Long
The City Market celebrates Valentine’s Day with the annual free Tie the Knot private wedding ceremonies in February. 12 couples are invited to take part in this unique and romantic way to unite in marriage or renew their vows. Live acoustic music, twinkle lights, sparkling hearts, a red carpet, and an elevated ceremony platform set a lovely scene in the square heated glass pavilion as each couple says “I do’ or “I still do”.
The Busker Festival dazzles with freaky fun and free entertainment in June. The event showcases uni-cycling, juggling, fire twirling, aerial arts, stilt walkers, dancers, comedy, hula hooping, circus acts, magicians and more. The City Market’s motto is “where the locals go,” and in keeping with that tradition, all performers are local to the area.
The City Market presents the annual Grub Crawl in September. It’s like a pub crawl only tastier. Grub Crawl Passport holders will experience a culinary adventure in the historic market. Each stop on the Grub Crawl walking tour offers samples or small plate from participating restaurants. Between bites, Grub Crawlers can enjoy live music from local performers stationed along the route.
The City Market is all about creating a fun, fresh healthy community through good-for-you foods and positive lifestyle choices. Through a partnership with Sundown Naturals, the City Market focuses on balanced wellness with proper supplements, nutrition, and exercise. Every Saturday at 10 am, certified instructors from The YMCA of Greater Kansas City provide a rotation of classes including Cardio Kickboxing, Zumba, Bootcamp, and Body Combat. KC Yoga Center brings Yoga in the Park starting at 10 am on Sundays. Come with your own mat or blanket for this mind and body boosting workout. These 60 minute classes are free and for all ages and levels of fitness through the first week of October. Get your body moving then keep up the momentum and head to the farmer’s market to find what you need for healthy and delicious meals.
With the sights, sounds, and flavors of fall comes the October Harvest Celebration. You’ll find plenty of autumn produce including apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, and more. Children will receive vouchers to redeem for free produce from Farmers’ Market vendors. There are also fun giveaways. Festivities for the Harvest Celebration include a pumpkin patch, hay rides, arts and crafts, pumpkin themed games, and music.
Enjoy the joyous Christmas season with Whoville Holidays on Saturdays in December. Bring your camera to get a picture with the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who in the warmth of their Whoville home. Little Whos will enjoy the Whoville activity area where they can make Whoville themed tree ornaments, a Grinch mask and more! Whoville Holidays is free with your “Help a Who” donation of three canned goods for Harvesters or a new unpackaged toy for the Salvation Army.
Back to the Food
What I like most about buying from local farmers at the City Market is knowing that I’m getting the freshest produce possible. Plus, I save so much money compared to shopping at a grocery store. The range of what’s available may surprise you. City Market farmers provide a huge variety of produce every week. Eggs, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, meats, and breads. Not to mention the culturally diverse mix of shops and restaurants as well. Dining at the City Market is like a mini instant passport to whichever country I want to visit on any given day. If I’m in the mood for Indian food than Tikka House is there to satisfy my taste buds. When I want a taste of Brazil, I can literally have one at Taste of Brazil. If I crave something Italian, I just head to Carollo’s Grocery & Deli. In addition, several of the restaurants carry imported goods from their countries.
The City Market is also home to many small pop up shop businesses selling everything from hand crafted jewelry to homemade soaps. From caricature portraits to fashions for men, women, and kids. From home and garden decor to trendy hairstylists. Now, here is your chance to get to know them better. As a celebration of the ultimate Kansas City hotspot, I’m hosting a giveaway featuring products from City Market shop owners and farmers. Valued at over $250, this giveaway will introduce you to goods sold in City Market and the people behind them. Stay tuned for stories about each participating business. To enter, subscribe to Kiara Loves KC then follow the link below.
Thank you for reading and I hope you’re having a fabulous summer!