Of all of the 1.5-mile cookie-cutter ovals, the Kansas Speedway is by far the best, offering great racing and a great location. Some of the closest finishes and best races in the IndyCar Series have happened at the Kansas Speedway. To be sure, Texas Motorspeedway and Chicagoland Speedway also produce great racing action, but the Kansas Speedway has the added benefit of being located on the western outskirts of town where access from the airport is a snap and traffic is at a minimum, yet right around the track is all of the shopping and eateries one needs. If you want to explore KC more, the Speedway is also right on I-70 which takes you straight to the heart of Kansas City. I’ll try to provide some basic direction from the airport to the speedway, and some info links about “The Legends” shopping district around the speedway, and I’ll give you some of my picks for the best places in KC for BBQ, blues and jazz, and other interesting things. Those of you from KC, feel free to post your thoughts. As we all know, BBQ is a deeply personal thing, and everyone is going to have a different opinion as to what’s the best.
Directions to the Track
Getting from the airport to the speedway:
- Merge onto I-29 S/US-71 S via the ramp to Kansas City – 4.0 mi – 4 mins
- Take exit 9B to merge onto MO-152 W toward Topeka – 5.5 mi – 6 mins
- Take the exit onto I-435 S toward Topeka Entering Kansas – 11.4 mi – 11 mins
- Take exit 12 to merge onto I-70 W/Kansas Turnpike toward Topeka – 1.2 mi – 1 min
- Take exit 410 for 110th St – 0.2 mi
- Turn right at N 110th St – 0.2 mi – 1 min
This is a fast way, but not really the easiest for people unaccustomed to KC. The easiest path would be to take I-29 N from the airport to I-435 W and straight down to the track. Its a little longer, but with a lot less traffic and less risk of getting lost.
The Kansas Speedway Homepage is at http://www.kansasspeedway.com/ and has a wealth of information. I’ll try to provide a summary of the more frequently requested pieces of info.
Good news! Parking is free! …bad news, its in a grass lot. If its wet, be prepared for a mud pit. Back to the good news, tailgating is welcomed at the track! The lots open at 6am, and the grandstands open at 8am. Plenty of time to fry up that camp bacon.
Some tracks are pretty restrictive about what you can bring into the grandstand area. The Kansas Speedway rules are a bit more relaxed than most, although not quite as liberal as IMS. You may bring in one (1) soft-sided bag into the grandstands. That bag may be no larger than 6″x6″x12″. Everything you have must fit either affixed to your person, or be contained in that one bag. My recommendation is that you have beverages and/or food in a soft-sided 6x6x12 cooler, hang binocs from your neck (no bag), and hook your scanner on your belt. Ladies (and some guys maybe) remember that your purse will count as your one allowed bag! I’d suggest switching to a wallet for the day and stuffing it in your pocket. As with most places, no glass is allowed. Cans or plastic only!
Only RV camping is permitted in specific locations. Contact the speedway to reserve a space. You cannot camp in the parking lot or in a tent.
Hotel space is at a premium around the track! The hotels around the track are booked, but there are many hotels in the KC metro area. I’d suggest looking for a place near Gladstone, MO if you want to stay close to both the track and the airport. There are a number of places near I-29 and Hwy 152. There’s ample shopping and dining in the area, and its an easy drive either down to the Speedway or to the airport. Staying in downtown KC will make for a longer commute to the track on Sunday morning, but if you plan to take in the Kansas City night life, it may be worth it. The better places will be found near The Plaza or near Crown Center. Personally, I’d avoid Kansas City, KS. We’ve stayed at a few places in KCK and were less than impressed.
For the money, we recommend Holtze Executive Village on College Blvd in Overland Park, KS. It’s 20 minutes from the Speedway, and an easy drive at that. Its primarily interstate all the way, although the hotel itself is a few blocks off I-435, so the noise level is down considerably. Holtze has suites and rates that one typically finds for mid-grade motels. If you don’t need to be right next to the track, Holtze is highly recommended. That’s where I’ll be staying!
While there’s most of what anyone will need at the Legends next to the track, you don’t really get a feel of what Kansas City is like or what its all about without venturing into town. Conveniently, most of the best places in KC can be found by simply taking I-70 east into downtown (enjoy the sky line!) and take the Broadway exit. Go north on Broadway to go deeper downtown or to the casinos, or go south to the Westport and Country Club Plaza areas.
The Legends Shopping District
One of the best things about the Kansas Speedway is the fantastic development surrounding the track. Although the track itself is on the edge of Kansas City, there is a very nice shopping district immediately adjacent to the track called The Legends. Most of the shops and eateries there are generic chains that you can find most anywhere, but there are a few excpetions. Arthur Bryant’s BBQ is the best of the big chain BBQs in KC. There are some hole-in-the-wall places that are better, but you’ll not find them so conveniently located. There’s also Jazz a Louisiana Kitchen which has the BEST blackened catfish, I guarantee! (wonder if Justin Wilson’s ever been there…) In addition to a multitude of eateries both of the night club variety and of the family-friendly variety, there’s also abundant shopping. If there are any necessities that you forgot to pack, no worries. There’s a Target right near by. Books? Got that covered times A-Million. About the only thing they don’t have is a hardware store. I can’t possibly run through everything that is there, but there’s a nice directory and map on their website. They also have a handy restaurant guide.
We have four casinos along the rivers, the Argosy, Isle of Capri, Harrah’s, and the Ameristar. The Argosy is the closest, and its very nice. The Ameristar is my fav, but its also on the opposite side of town as the Speedway. All but the Isle have poker rooms with the common games being 3/6 hold’em, 4/8 Omaha H/L, and 1/2 or 2/5 NL hold’em.
The Country Club Plaza
If gambling isn’t your thing, there are three main entertainment districts where you can have your pick of jazz and blues clubs: The Plaza, Westport, and the new Power and Light District. The CountryClub Plaza is an open-air shopping area, but not of the modern style like the Legends. The Plaza built in the 1920s using Spanish-style architecture in honor of our sister city Seville, Spain. This is also where you can see the most famous of our many fountains. There are a few jazz clubs in the Plaza, but if you want to hear the best, go to Jardine’s. Good food and GREAT jazz! As for restaurants, most of what the Plaza has to offer will be upscale and decent, with the exception of KC Masterpiece. Avoid this place. Its a nice place, but NOT for true BBQ fans. There are much better places. Just off of the plaza is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Admission is free, although donations are gladly welcomed. My favorite exhibit in the museum is the Buddhist temple and all the fighting cricket pottery. Trust me, its cool.
For blues, there’s no place better than Blayney’s in Westport. Its a basement blues club with some of the best acts in town. The Westport area has a number of small eclectic shops and is a great spot for people watching. If you want the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, head over to the Broadway Cafe and Rostery. The locals were extremely upset when Starbuck’s put in a shop right next to the Broadway Cafe, but just a couple years later, Starbuck’s waved the white flag and closed down. There’s just no comparison to the excellent cup you’ll get there. Not too far away from Westport, at the corner of 39th and Bell, one block away from State Line Rd, is the best pizza joint in town d’Bronx I know, I know. This is a matter of opinion. Many feel that Minsky’s is the best, but I’m going to recommend d’Bronx. GREAT New York style pizza and awesome sandwiches. What’s great about this 39th & State Line area is that whatever you’re hungry for, there’s a restaurant to sate you palate. Saigon 39 has the best spring rolls in town, the Blue Koi has great noodle dishes, Jazz is the best cajun/creol restaurant in town, and there are several other excellent places of varying international flavors all within a couple blocks.
Dowtown: Power and Light District
The newest place in town in the revitalized Power and Light District right next to our new downtown arena. (btw, don’t bring this up in conversation with the townies. The arena is still a touchy subject with some.) This being a new place, I can’t offer much in the way of recommendation regarding eateries, although I have heard that the Irish pub there is quite good and has live music at night. Around downtown, you can find some of the best places for BBQ. Just keep in mind, the nicer the place looks, generally the worse the BBQ. Look for the hole-in-the-wall if you want the good stuff. There’s many clubs around downtown, but for jazz and blues. The Phoenix, the Majestic Steak House are two of the better places, but I’m still going to recommend Jardine’s. The KC Jazz Ambassadors Magazine (JAM) has a good review of the various jazz clubs in town, including the Majestic and the Phoenix.
Other Locations and Activities
For a more laid-back experience, there’s Parkville, MO just north of the track. Take I-435 north to Hwy 45 East into Parkville. Nice antique shops and small specialty stores line the main drag. There’s a park right along the riverfront, and a few good restaurants including Piropos, an excellent Argentinian place.
Going in the opposite direction, you can hop onto I-70 and head west (have $1.35 in cash for the toll) to Lawrence, KS, home of the Kansas Jayhawks! Rock chalk Jayhawk, KU!! Turn off on the East Lawrence Exit, and turn left (south) onto N 3rd St. Right before the bridge, you’ll see the best place in Lawrence to get a burger, Johnny’s Tavern. Go across the bridge, turn left onto 6th street, and right onto Massachusetts St. (or just Mass St.) One block south on Mass you’ll find the best microbrewery in the area, Free State Brewery. They also have the best fish-n-chips! All along Mass there are some really neat shops and a wide variety of restaurants. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend going much deeper into Lawrence. The traffic is a mess!