Summer is finally here.
Here are 26 Fun Things To Do in ’22, in Alphabetical Order.
WORDS MARTIN CIZMAR, ETHAN EVANS, MARY HENN, KIM HORGAN
PHOTOGRAPHY CALEB CONDIT, KIM HORGAN, JEREMEY THERON KIRBY, REBECCA NORDEN
ILLUSTRATIONS MAKALAH HARDY
A IS FOR
It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since Alicia Keys burst onto the R&B scene fully formed with Songs in A Minor. As with most artists whose debuts sell ten-plus million copies, she’s never transcended that success nor strayed too far from that formula. Keys, her new double album released back in December, opens with traditional “Original” arrangements before presenting most of the same songs with moodier, heavier beats on the “Unlocked” side.
Wednesday, August 28. 8 pm. Starlight Theatre.
B IS FOR
GO: Boulevardia is June 17–18 at Crown Center. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Dashboard Confessional headline. Tickets start at $40.
C IS FOR
Coconut cove, the largest pool at Oceans of Fun, has half a million gallons of water and is home to several slides, plus an obstacle course where swimmers can hop between lily pads and floating logs. The Cove is fully tricked out with geysers, rain umbrellas and floating animals.
Open daily through August 14. Oceans of Fun.
D IS FOR
When George Wallace ran for governor of Alabama for the last time in 1982, he got more than ninety percent of the Black vote. I only know that because of a Drive-By Truckers’ song, part of a suite that culminates with Wallace in hell, where he’s serenaded by a demon choir singing “Roll Alabama.”
The lyrics could be read as somewhat sympathetic, though it would be unfair to suggest the song’s author, bandleader Patterson Hood, is any kind of Wallace apologist. As Hood puts it in the opening of the suite, all of this “ain’t about excuses or alibis,” but speaks to the wider point that racism is a nationwide problem that’s ignored too many places because it’s “always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent.”
Like the rest of Southern Rock Opera, the double album that put the band on the map twenty-one years ago, the “Southern Thing/The Three Great Alabama Icons/Wallace” cycle is about less obvious but plenty insidious evil, and why the long life of his home state’s most infamous politician can’t be neatly summed up in a soundbite about segregation.
At a time when the telling of history has become politicized, early Truckers’ albums like The Dirty South and Decoration Day feel freshly relevant—at least to me, someone who spent about the middle-third of the pandemic obsessed with the band. The Truckers tell stories of the South that dwell with the moonshiners and aspiring stock car drivers and the deacon down at the Salem Church of Christ.
The early noughties Truckers’ records speak not only to NPR donor audiences who know the band as “the guys Jason Isbell used to play with” but also to the dudes who were across the parking lot at Coffee High School in 1978, blasting Skynyrd and tossing around footballs like Jeff Rutledge. To and for them, the Truckers retell regional legends like the Sam Philips gifting of a Cadillac to Carl Perkins and the story of Buford Pusser, the probably corrupt sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, whose autobiography became Walking Tall. (I was deep enough into Truckerland to have made a stop in McNairy County last summer. The people I talked to were of the opinion that the version in the song is closer to reality than the version on screen—the battle rages in the YouTube comments.) These songs humanize without offering excuses, providing context and nuance to society in short supply.
Like pretty much every one and thing else, the Truckers have become more direct and nakedly political in recent times. They’ve grappled publicly with changing their very nineties (admittedly, sorta cringey) name while telling opponents of gun control where to stick their “Thoughts and Prayers.” But they continue to talk about subjects like the “Lost Cause” myth in language that the people who need to hear it most understand in “Surrender Under Protest.”
I’ve driven to St. Louis and Tulsa to see the Truckers in the past year. The concert experience is always a little weird when you’re diving deep into a band’s back catalog, spending time with songs recorded twenty years ago while they’re touring new material. But they still play the old stuff, and to crowds that seem to appreciate the patina that these songs have developed over the years. It seems ridiculous now, but twenty years ago we weren’t far removed from a pop singer unironically declaring that we were “watching the world wake up from history.”
We know better now. History has a few fake endings, it turns out.
Saturday, July 16. Knuckleheads. 8 pm.
E IS FOR
One of the largest festivals of its kind anywhere in the U.S., this annual celebration takes over the large field on the west side of Swope Park with booths representing sixty nations and ethnic groups. Most booths offer food for sale, with some selling handmade goods. The large picnic shelter at the park houses a dance floor where group performances run back to back for most of the three-day event.
Friday, August 19–Sunday, August 21. Swope Park.
F IS FOR
The oldest existing fountain in Kansas City was erected at third and Minnesota in KCK in 1903 and is now at the Wyandotte County Museum. It’s made of marble and has little lions that spit water out of their mouths. Does it work? “It did until Covid hit,” says Jeff, a museum staffer. “Then we turned it off for Covid and haven’t turned it back on again. I can’t wait to get it going again.”
No, that’s not a waterfall on Cliff Drive—that’s the Carl J. Dicapo Fountain, which was dedicated in 1989. One of the most unique in the city, it’s made with natural rock and sits at the site of a natural spring.
It’s debatable, but for our money, the fanciest of all fountains in KC is the Meyer Circle Sea Horse Fountain, which includes statues made in Venice in the 1600s from the native Carrara marble.
Turn on any national broadcast from KC and chances are you’ll see B-roll of the city’s most photographed fountain, the Fountain in Mill Creek Park on the east edge of Country Club Plaza. It takes seventy gallons of dye to turn the fountain blue for big Royals games or red in honor of the Chiefs.
G IS FOR
When it comes to frozen milk fat, Kansas City’s got a little bit of everything, from drive-thru custard spots to small-batch artisan shops making creative flavors involving eclectic ingredients like smoked brisket or rosé wine.
But if you were going to point to a weak spot, it would be the very limited gelato offerings. The Italian form of ice cream—less fat and slower churning make for a treat that’s smoother, denser, creamier and typically served in smaller portions—is uncommon in these parts, which is a shame.
In Shawnee, Aunt Jean’s Cup & Cone (11210 Johnson Drive, Shawnee) has been making small batches of seasonal gelato for fifteen years. They recently got a new neighbor that also makes gelato in downtown Shawnee—but sells it in Westwood Hills.
Sheri Weedman of Annedore’s Fine Chocolates recently opened Flying Cow Gelato next to her shop at 5000 State Line Road, selling gelato that’s made fresh every day and stored in a “very fancy Italian batch freezer.” We swung by a few minutes after they opened for a cup of pink grapefruit with a wonderful snap of citrus, which was probably the best scoop we’ve ever had in KC. The name Flying Cow was chosen because it’s silly and Weedman wants people to not be intimidated by the perceived elegance of European ice cream. We’re hoping it works and that it inspires many imitators.
H IS FOR
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett is arguably the last, best hope for the slacker strain of jangly garage rock. This summer, she’s Lollapaloozing with her own touring manifest, dubbed Here and There, which features a rotating cast of like-minded acts including Overland Park’s own
Monday, August 8. 7–9 pm. Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.
I IS FOR
The Indian Creek Trail is the longest bike and hike trail in the metro area, connecting Leawood, Olathe and Overland Park. The trail is paved and runs wide, making it a favorite for cyclists, runners and walkers. It winds along Indian Creek, which flows east into the Blue River near the Bannister Federal Complex. It goes past many parks and playgrounds, weaving through residential and commercial areas as it slips in and out of shady stretches.
At an official length of 19.43 miles—credible sources differ online, so we contacted the OP Parks Department, which conducted extensive research to give us the distance between the trailheads at State Line in the east and 161st Street and Ridgeview Road in the west—the trail provides a calming dose of nature amid some of the city’s busiest sections.
Start your adventure at one of several trailheads, including Leawood City Park, Corporate Woods Park and Roe Park. It doesn’t matter where you hop on—the trail provides tree-lined segments and charming footbridges in every direction. Pack a lunch and stop at one of the many benches or picnic tables along the route. While there are a few sections with steep grades, they’re brief, and the majority of the trail is a flat, gentle ride, making Indian Creek a trail that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of fitness level. One thing to note is that on weekends the path tends to be very busy; be prepared to announce your presence as you navigate past strollers, dog walkers and joggers.
J IS FOR
It says something about Jack White that he’s had three wives and all three have released records on his label. The former White Stripe just got hitched for the third time—this time on stage at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, a few minutes after using his own song, “Hotel Yorba,” to propose. His two new solo albums, Fear of the Dawn and Entering Heaven Alive, are wide-ranging, swinging between driving arena rock (“Taking Me Back” may one day get the “Seven Nation Army” treatment at NFL games) and stripped-down acoustic (listen for “Love Is Selfish” in Napoleon Dynamite II). White’s date at Starlight is the end of a long tour that included his on-stage marriage.
Monday, August 29. 8 pm. Starlight Theatre.
K IS FOR
Put on the puka shell necklace, pull the straw cowboy hat down real low, and purchase one (1) case of White Claw per person. Set up in the parking lot of Arrowhead around noon and remove clothing until you’re comfortable. They say anyone who remembers more than a flash from a Kenny Chesney concert on a summer Saturday night wasn’t really there.
Saturday, July 2. 5pm. Arrowhead Stadium.
L IS FOR
Indie-rock dream team Lord Huron will deliver a cinematic sound experience under the stars this summer as they tour with their newest album, Long Lost. Critics have called the album transformative and atmospheric, with hits like “Mine Forever” and “Meet Me in the City” about lost love. Lord Huron has been looped in with that nostalgic northern Michigan vibe, along with artists like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who’s also playing at Starlight this summer—let’s just say, iykyk.
Sunday, June 5. 7 pm. Starlight Theatre.
M IS FOR
Margaret Cho’s recent sets have a bit about her groundbreaking mid-’90s sitcom, the first to feature an Asian American family, its ignominious end and the long wait until someone tried again. “I f***ed it up so badly that they had to wait for an entire generation of Asian Americans to be born and grow up without no memory of me whatsoever,” she jokes. Nearly thirty years later, her material plays on a lot of the same themes but feels very fresh and timely.
Thursday, July 16–Saturday, July 18.Various times. The Comedy Club of Kansas City, 1130 W. 103rd St., KCMO
N IS FOR
Downtown Shawnee’s night markets, also known as Moonlight Markets, will be hosted every third Thursday evening through October. You can shop for fresh veggies and local goods from market vendors while enjoying live music and cold beer—without the hot summer sun beating down on you and your produce.
June 16, July 21, August 18. Downtown Shawnee.
O IS FOR
A tradition with fifty years of history, Johnson County’s annual Theatre in the Park series at Shawnee Mission Park is always one of the most popular family events of the summer in KC. This year, as usual, they’ve scheduled five populist musicals, starting with an adaptation of the comedy Something Rotten from June 3-11 and continuing with Disney’s Descendants: The Musical, School of Rock and Zombie Prom before winding down with Spongebob: The Musical, which closes on August 6. A regular adult ticket for open lawn seating is just $10 and is good for the run of each show. Line up to get a prime spot on the lawn starting at 7:30 pm, or arrive for curtains at 8:30 pm.
Various days and times. Shawnee Mission Park.
P IS FOR
Percheron, one of the best rooftop bars overlooking the Crossroads and downtown KC, is launching its summer concert series this season, with ten live concerts to be held on a handful of Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. The concert lineup includes local acts like Madisen Ward on June 8, Lily B Moonflower on July 20 and The Grisly Hand on August 3. There will be a regular lineup of DJs on Friday and Saturday nights, too. Percheron will offer a special seasonal menu with cocktails and slushies made with market-fresh ingredients, plus Mediterranean-inspired bites like shrimp ceviche and pork rillon.
Percheron is open Sunday–Thursday 4–11 pm, and Friday–Saturday 4 pm–midnight. Showtimes vary.
Q IS FOR
June 3 and 4 in Marysville, Kansas, 160 miles northwest of KC. It’s a small-town festival that includes a concert and car show.
June 3 and 4 at Rockhurst High School in KCMO. The competition is in honor of a Rockhurst alum who passed away in a car crash and funds a scholarship in his honor.
June 17 and 18 in Liberty. It’s hosted by the Clay County African American Legacy Inc. at the historic Garrison School, which was known as the best school for African American students in all of Missouri.
June 24 and 25 in Lenexa. This big-time fest is the official state championship for Kansas and the second-largest barbecue event in the KC area after the American Royal.
July 22 to 24 in Osceola, south of KC on the edge of Ozarks. There’s a car show, live music, a beer garden presented by the VFW and, on Saturday, a community barbecue meal where tickets are just $10.
August 5 and 6 in Warsaw, on the Lake of the Ozarks. If you’re going to be fishing anyway, might as well stop by for some barbecue.
August 26 and 27 in Paola, thirty miles south of KC. Billed as Kansas’ “East Central State BBQ Cook-Off,” this long-running music, crafts and ’cue fest is headlined by electric bluesman Bernard Allison and has several streets of vendors.
August 26 and 27 in Baldwin City, south of Lawrence. Organizers promise music and a beer garden.
R IS FOR
A dozen pairs of glittery heels will clack and clamor across the Uptown Theater stage on August 14 when some of the most illustrious alumni of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race twirl through Kansas City on their Werq the World Tour.
An experiment gone wrong has sent the audience careening backwards through space and time, and it is up to the performers—a lineup featuring season eleven winner Yvie Oddly, recently crowned season fourteen winner Willow Pill and finalist Daya Betty (a native of Springfield, Missouri) to guide the crowd back to the present day by taking them on a journey through iconic periods of history.
This is just one performance on the latest leg of the Werq the World Tour, which began in 2017 and has made its way through cities in North and South America, Europe and Asia. A ten-episode docuseries, also titled Werq the World, was released in 2019 and gives a behind-the-scenes look at all the work and drama that goes into producing such a tour starring a revolving battalion of larger-than-life, creative personalities. (The series is streaming on the platform WOW Presents Plus).
The tour and the docuseries are just a couple of installments within the Drag Race empire that began in 2009 with the premiere of Drag Race. What started as a low-budget, largely underground competition-based reality show has gone on to win several Emmy Awards and has spawned international spin-offs in Canada, the UK, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia and Thailand—with more expected to crop up.
Sunday, August 14. Uptown Theater. Tickets start at $25 and go up to $250 for VIP Meet and Greet.
S IS FOR
Sugar Creek, a small town just north of Independence, celebrates Slavic culture in a big way with its annual Sugar Creek Slavic Festival. This year is the 35th anniversary of the tradition, which is a two-day celebration of Slavic heritage with foods like sarma, kolache and kielbasa, and performances of kolo or polka. There will be traditional dance groups like Ukraine Dancers and Sugar Creek Ethnic Dance Troupe alongside musical groups like the Brian McCarty Band and the Baric Brothers. Toast with a shot of Slivovitz and watch a cabbage roll contest—which you’ll just have to see.
Friday, June 10, 5–11 pm and Saturday, June 11, noon–11 pm. Mike Onka Community Hall, Sugar Creek.
T IS FOR
Food trucks, that is. And there are a few hot spots around the city where food trucks flock, like The Food Truck Plaza at 20th and Grand in the Crossroads on First Fridays and the West Bottoms every first Saturday of the month. You might also be familiar with the trucks at KC Wine Co, which will host a handful of local food trucks every Thursday–Sunday throughout June, along with live music, trivia or bingo (depending on the night).
But there are a few other summer events where you can get your food truck fix, too, like the Summer Food Truck Series in KCK, found in the Turner Recreation Commission parking lot every Thursday evening throughout May, June and July with yard games and music. There’s also the Food Truck Frenzy in Old Town Lenexa on Saturday, June 4, with live music and more than ten trucks, including Barbwire BBQ, Coco Loco Grille, Ragusa’s Italian Cafe and Taste of Brazil. And the PARKED festival in Shawnee on Friday, June 24, will host several food trucks, local vendors, a beer garden, a live band, fireworks and bounce houses.
U IS FOR
For the first time in the U.S., the mysteries of the Maya—the sophisticated civilization buried in the rainforest—are being displayed by Dr. Nikolai Grube, an epigrapher who is leading a project that aims to decipher the Maya glyphs. The Maya studied the stars and developed a calendar more accurate than any other, discovered the number zero and introduced the world to chocolate. With more than three hundred artifacts, this new exhibition at Union Station reveals the intricacies of Maya as astronomers, mathematicians and inventors.
Opens June 3 and runs through October at Union Station.
V IS FOR
The Nelson-Atkins’ annual Party Arty is returning with a roaring ’20s theme. The Vitality & Vice soiree was inspired by the museum’s new exhibition, American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1919-1939. For this glam fundraiser (non-member price is $150), the museum is transformed to evoke a jazz den or speakeasy. There will be bites, beverages and entertainment, including an art deco-inspired, multi-sensory performance by Quixotic and specialty cocktails from Tom’s Town.
Saturday, July 9. 8 pm. The Nelson-Atkins.
W IS FOR
Midway through the first series of the season, Royals fans were getting frustrated. The problem wasn’t the play—the team had a hot start, though the momentum has slowed since—but with how to cheer. “Witt and Whit is too damned confusing,” one fan yelled. “We need to come up with something to call him! Bobby? Should he just be Bobby?” It’s a legitimate problem when you’re talking about the team’s best player, sometimes-second baseman Whit Merrifield, and its most taunted prospect, third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. Our advice is to just go with it. Just yell for W(h)it(t) whenever you’re at the K this season. If one guy needs a nickname, it’ll attach itself in good time. Right now this Whit/Witt thing is kinda fun!
X IS FOR
Mexican-American artist Hugo Ximello-Salido has a series exploring the Muxe (moo-shey) community in Oaxaca, where gender fluidity has been part of the local culture for many generations. The panels on display at InterUrban ArtHouse in June and July were created by Ximello-Salido in Mexico using traditional textiles. “The work represents the discovery of gender fluidity as a journey and the awareness that gender can be perceived through many lenses, including through the history of the Zapotec culture that still resonates today,” Ximello-Salido says.
On display in June and July at InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton St., Overland Park.
Y IS FOR
In Kansas City, the best yard sales come in bunches. Across the area, many communities plan whole neighborhood events where you can rummage through old video games and kitchen utensils for treasure. Here are some of those sales coming up.
Fairway, June 3–4
Lea Manor Neighborhood
(in KCMO, north of I-435
next to Old Leawood), June 4
Smithville (in the far Northland), June 4
Embassy Park Estates (in Merriam), June 10–11
Southmoreland (around the Nelson-Atkins Museum), June 11
(north of Westport
and south of Westside),
Hyde Park (midtown KCMO), June 11
(in KCK), September 10
Z IS FOR
Local new wave cover band The Zeros are opening Zona Rosa’s summer concert series in the open green space right behind Bravo Italian Kitchen. On Friday and Saturday evenings this June, you can bring a chair or blanket and camp out with family and friends to enjoy free concerts. Every Friday, Hereford House will have a tent for burgers and brews. Others in the lineup include The Uproot, Steven Bankey & The Flatlanders and Lily B Moonflower.
Fridays and Saturdays in June and July, 6:30 pm. Zona Rosa Central Park.