Residents of greater Kansas City sometimes apologize for their area’s lack of mountains, ocean beaches and world-famous theaters or wine regions. This Midwestern modesty is based on a realistic assessment of our geography.
Quality of Life
But this collective personality trait of realistic modesty almost ranks as a regional amenity in itself. It’s refreshing not to be bombarded with “world’s greatest” at every turn. And, frankly, our humility is increasingly tempered by growing recognition of the area’s strengths. Although local residents have for years enjoyed their small-town lifestyle amid big-city benefits, they are realizing just how rare that combination is, and are working hard to maintain it even as they add attractions that are world class.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | Kansas City’s
“World-Class” Museum recently completed its newest
addition—The Bloch Building.
Low crime and clean air might be the motto for many locales in greater Kansas City. However, that would-be slogan would have to compete with equally accurate slogans such as “family friendly” and “affordable.”
The area’s cost of living is famously low, with groceries, trans-portation and other costs among the least expensive in the nation. Although some affordability varies county-to-county metro wide, total living expenses are consistently ranked in the lowest 25 percent of the nation’s states.
This is consistently true in housing, where costs are sometimes jaw dropping in their economy for those moving from other markets, especially those on the East or West Coast. New residents transferring from other markets can sometimes find the sale of their previous home will purchase as much as 200 or 300 percent more house here. One result is that homeownership, an acknowledged measurement of overall quality of life, is accessible to a greater percentage of residents in metropolitan Kansas City than in most similarly sized metro areas in the country. Likewise, families in the middle-income range can aspire to own more home here than in many other American cities.
Education, health care and other critical services are also affordable here in both quality and quantity. The area’s status as the economic and cultural center for a multi-state, largely rural, regional area of the country has tended to nurture development of these services.
The region’s enviable quality of life actually begins with some things that are even more basic, however. The Kansas City region is a not unlike Baby Bear’s soup: not too cold, not too hot, but just right. Located on the edge of the Great Plains, the area can see extremes in cold and heat, but those rarely last for extended periods. Snowfall here is a scant 20 inches a year and commuters usually experience only a few days annually that offer serious driving problems. July and August can be warm, but nothing like the Southwest or Southeast, which can give new meaning to the euphemism Sunbelt. Spring and fall here can be spec-tacular, with 70° days and seasonal changes that draw tourists for miles to see fall colors and spring blooms.
The area may lack oceans and mountains, but it does have more than its share of natural amenities, including many that are literally in the region’s backyard. County or local state lakes and parks are plentiful, and some are surprisingly large. Two hours from Kansas City in mid-Missouri is the Lake of the Ozarks which has possesses more shoreline than the state of California. The Ozarks and several other sizeable lakes in the region make this region of the most abundant in natural resources and recreation in the nation.
These more rustic features blend, combined with man-made attractions, create an environment that offers something for everyone.
KC is a truly Major League town, with the Truman Sports Complex home to professional baseball’s Royals and the NFL’s Chiefs, as well as a range of other sporting and entertainment events.
Kansas Speedway | Wyandotte County’s economic anchor, the Kansas Speedway, hosts the region’s third “major league sport”—NASCAR auto racing.
A relatively recent addition to such offerings is on the western side of the metro-politan area, where Wyandotte County’s Kansas Speedway has brought the region’s third “major league sport,” NASCAR auto racing. Even newer is Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, which is seeking either a basketball or hockey franchise, and is already home to top-ranked college sports. An outdoor stadium has been proposed in south Kansas City to host the city’s professional soccer team.
The region is also home to worldclass
museums, galleries and libraries,
and these are not limited to just Kansas
City, either. Warrensburg’s University of
Central Missouri or the University of
Kansas in Lawrence are among the institutions
that bring real quality of life
benefits to those communities.
Best for Last
No review of quality of life here would be complete without a nod to the least tangible assets of this area: its slower, more relaxed pace.
Kansas City has more highway miles per capita than any city in the country. As a result, the lack of congestion makes for few traffic areas that could be called congested by East or West Coast standards. Even in greater Kansas City’s densest areas, a 45-minute commute can often mean the driver starts in the country and ends up in the middle of town, accessing a quality of life diversity that is rare in most parts of the nation.
Perhaps best of all, this area is known for its friendliness. Kansas City residents sometimes startle visitors by opening doors or offering a good-natured “Hi!” to complete strangers. It’s something else that can rarely be found on the East or West Coast, and residents of greater Kansas City can take real pride in that.