#6 Kansas City

This city split along state lines offers something for everyone: from stately houses to downtown lofts and world-class museums to barbecue.

What we loved: Pryde's Old Westport, a city landmark that sells kitchen gadgets, utensils and homemade pies. The ghostly diorama at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Talk about a split personality. On the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area, you get big houses, terrific schools, kid-friendly streets and enough soccer fields to smother Rhode Island. On the Missouri side, including the city proper, you'll find world-class museums, a booming arts district, historic buildings and a $3-billion downtown renewal. Even the local passion for ribs splits down the middle: You're either a fan of Gates Bar-B-Q or Arthur Bryant's.

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Kansas City offers something for everyone, at prices that coast-dwellers can only dream of. Young families often seek out Overland Park, Kan., a sprawling suburb where kids walk to school, bike in packs and generally rule the neighborhood. There, a four-bedroom house in a subdivision with a pool starts at about $250,000.

Young professionals and empty nesters gravitate to downtown lofts near the city's jazz clubs and hotels; those spaces start at about $150,000 and run into the millions. In Brookside, on the Missouri side, buyers can score a stately house on a tree-shaded street for less than $300,000.


Kansas City has its drawbacks on either side of the line, including low achievement-test scores in the city's Missouri schools and a flava-free atmosphere in some of the Kansas 'burbs. But states that otherwise compete with each other like rival high schools both take pride in the first-class collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the juicy steaks at the Plaza III, and the wide boulevards, ubiquitous fountains, tangy barbecue, raspy blues and smoky jazz that add up to greatness in this larger-than-life city.

-- Jane Bennett Clark