We’ve all been there: Someone’s trying to give you directions by describing 10 lefts, 20 rights, and a jumble of cardinal directions. Isn’t it easier to just point out a landmark?
That’s exactly what we’re doing. We have 10 of the most recognizable Kansas City landmarks — from bright signs in the night sky to beacons of stone and metal. Not only are these local icons easy to remember, but they’ll also get you where you need to go in a jiffy.
Western Auto Sign
Address: 2107 Grand Blvd., KCMO
Nearby: Washington Square Park, Crown Center, Grand Coffee Co.
It’s hard to miss this giant marquee-style sign, especially when it’s lit up at night. Fun fact: it used to be a Coca-Cola sign until Western Auto bought the building and replaced the sign in 1952.
Address: 30 W. Pershing Rd., KCMO
Nearby: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Boulevard Brewing Company
One of the crown jewels of modern-day Kansas City, Union Station opened in 1914 after a flood wiped out the Union Depot in the West Bottoms. Did you know? The bustling building we know today was abandoned in 1989. It reopened in 1999 thanks to a bi-state effort.
WWI Museum and Memorial
Address: 2 Memorial Dr., KCMO
Nearby: Union Station, Penn Valley Park
Finished in 1926, this iconic KC landmark is visible from most areas of downtown. The Liberty Memorial Tower rises 217 ft above the Observation Deck, which provides arguably the best view of the Kansas City skyline. And yes, you can go up to the top.
Address: 114 W. 10th St., KCMO
Nearby: Mildred’s, Kansas City Club, John’s Big Deck
Consisting of 22 book spines that list 42 titles, this 25-ft-tall sculpture is part of a parking garage built in 2004 to create additional downtown parking. Did you know? The KC Public Library hosts events on the top level, like summer movie nights.
Mill Creek Fountain
Address: 47th Mill Creek Pkwy., KCMO
Nearby: Mill Creek Park, Country Club Plaza, Winstead’s
One of the most photographed water features in the City of Fountains actually consists of sculptures made 50 years prior to its installation. The statues first adorned a mansion in New York circa 1910 before they were purchased by the Nichols family and installed in Kansas City in 1960.
Address: 4525 Oak St., Kansas City, MO
Nearby: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Frank A. Theis Park, Winstead’s
With a highly recognized local shape, the giant badminton birdie is part of the classic KC iconography. These 19-ft-tall sculptures were crafted in 1994 and adorn the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s grounds. They’re thought to be the “world’s largest shuttlecocks.”
Address: Broadway Boulevard + 14th Street
Nearby: Music Hall, Folly Theater, Barney Allis Plaza, Kansas City Marriott Downtown
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… hair curlers? No. These 40-ft-tall adornments on top of the KC Convention Center’s pylons are actually sculptures, completed in 1994 and lifted into place via helicopter. They were inspired by the 1930s Art Deco style, which is pervasive around town.
Buck O’Neil Bridge
Address: The Missouri River, where 169 Highway meets Broadway Boulevard
Nearby: Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, City Market, Betty Rae’s
This steel truss-style bridge was built in 1955 at the intersection of old-school construction methods and the advent of modern “superhighways” — roads built for going over 50 mph. Even its construction bridges time, combining construction techniques from different eras. Today, a new bridge is under construction, and this iconic span is at risk of demolition.
The Scout statue
Address: Penn Valley Park, north of the tennis courts
Nearby: Penn Valley Off Leash Dog Park, Just Off Broadway Theatre, National WWI Museum and Memorial
Apart from the National WWI Museum’s observation deck, this is one of the best spots for a view of the KC skyline. “The Scout” was originally made in 1915 in San Francisco and depicts a Sioux Native American. It arrived in KC on a temporary exhibit — but locals loved it so much, they raised $15,000 to buy it. This “mascot of the city” was officially dedicated in 1922.
TWA Moonliner IV
Address: 18th Street + Baltimore Avenue
Nearby: Find the hot spots in our Crossroads neighborhood guide
Inspired by the Apollo missions to the moon, Disney put together a passenger rocket concept in the mid-1900s. KC-based Trans World Airlines (TWA) originally sponsored a ride based on the rocket in Tomorrowland, and it sported a replica at its headquarters from 1955-1962. That HQ building now hosts Barkley, which in turn hosts the fourth version of the rocket — and has even adopted the rocket and colors in its logo.