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(Not Actually) 12 Things To Do During the Big 12 Tournament

A worker cleans a basketball court floor Big 12 basketball returns to Kansas City this weekend. (Orrin Wagner | AP file)
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3 minute read

If you are in town for the men’s Big 12 Tournament, even if you’ve only come from as far as Lawrence, Kansas, welcome. While you’re watching the games, this Official Big 12 Media Guide might come in handy. While you’re not watching the games, or should your team get unexpectedly trounced, we’ve got a few ideas for how to have fun. Because it’s the Big 12, we were going to list 12 things to do. However, despite the name, the conference actually has only 10 teams. Thus, here’s Flatland’s list of 10 things to do (besides watch basketball) this weekend in Kansas City.

1. In addition to the games themselves, there will be a ton of activities at the Miller Lite Fan Fest across the street in the Power & Light district. Make sure, for instance, to stop by the pep rally for your team. The schedule is here. Or bring a bunch of different hats and go to every pep rally. Team loyalty shouldn’t get in the way of a good time. You will also find free, kid-friendly fan activities like competitive pop-a-shot and a faux broadcast booth where you can pretend to call a game. You may find it’s harder than it looks. Or sounds.

2. Do you like to participate in athletics as well as watch them? If so, check out Saturday morning’s Big 12 Run. The course begins and ends downtown, runners can choose from two distances, 12K or 5K, and strollers are welcome for the 5K race. Runners of all experience levels are welcome and can register here.

3. After a nice, long run – or perhaps instead of one – you might want to go drinking in Westport. Power & Light, let’s face it, has all the heart, charm and authenticity of the food court at your local shopping mall. If you want to drink like a local, get to Westport. Check out Harry’s or the Westport Cafe. The latter has a legendary brunch.

4. For a slightly older crowd, and a dark, sultry atmosphere, catch some (reasonably) authentic Kansas City jazz at Green Lady Lounge. If you really want to get authentic, though, get down to the 18th and Vine District and check out the legendary Mutual Musicians Foundation. That’s right up the street from the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Every Friday and Saturday night since the 1930s, musicians have gathered in the foundation’s hallowed halls for late-night jams that swing until dawn.

5. Basketball isn’t the only Big 12 battle waged this weekend. Carnivores will adore Kansas City’s Big 12 Big Q. The contest will pit, pun intended, teams from every school in the league against each other for the ultimate in barbecue bragging rights. Find it at the northeast corner of 13th Street and Grand Avenue, just north of Sprint Center. The contest, which runs through Saturday, includes four competition categories: Chicken, Ribs, Pork and Brisket. The Kansas City Barbecue Society is sanctioning – and those people take their meat incredibly seriously. The event is free and open to the public. And, yes, there will be samples.

6. There is a chance, however, you might want more than samples. You might want to gorge. Rest easy. Barbecue is Kansas City’s signature cuisine, and dozens of places serve the smoky delights. Three, however, seem to hog (another pun intended) all the attention. They are Gates, Bryant’s and Joe’s. Don’t misunderstand. Those places are great. If you are looking for something different, though, hop on the “bistro barbecue” or “bistrobecue” trend.

Bistrobecue basically means the same down-home cooking, but served in a slightly more upscale setting. Like, say, on plates that aren’t plastic and by servers who don’t yell at you when you walk in the door. Among this new breed of ‘cue, the tops might be Q39, recent winner of KCPT’s Best Burnt Ends contest.

7. KC does, in fact, have sustenance beyond barbecue. Cafe Gratitude and Eden Alley are great for the vegetarian set. Port Fonda serves nouvelle Mexican cuisine that’s unique enough to be written up by the New York Times. Bluestem, Justus Drugstore and Capital Grille are also worth your while for fancier fare.

8. Once you’ve fed your head, you might want to feed the soul. Start with the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which just happens to be having one of the biggest weekends in its history. March 11 marks the opening of the Bloch Galleries – about 10,000 square feet of newly renovated space designed to showcase more than two dozen recently donated Impressionist masterpieces. Admission is free, but you still need tickets to get in. Grab those here.

While at the Nelson, be sure to also check out Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet, an extraordinarily unique sound installation of 40 speakers arranged in a large oval and turned inward. The nearby Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is also worth a visit. An exhibit that opened last week, “In the Palm of Your Hand, My Word and My Thoughts,” explores portraiture from the museum’s permanent collection. The kiddos might like the National Toy and Miniature Museum, open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., although they (and you) unfortunately aren’t allowed to touch the toys.

9. Union Station, a true architectural landmark, is definitely getting in the Big 12 spirit. Every two minutes, all weekend, the facade of the station will be lit up with a different team’s school colors. If you also show up in your team colors, you’ll get a little bonus. You and the kids can get discounted admission to Pompeii: The Exhibition. The show explores life before and after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and features nearly 200 artifacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum. They include mosaics and frescoes, a gladiator’s helmet, furniture, jewelry and all sort of kitchen implements and tools.

10. While you are at the station, also be sure to check out the all-new Gottlieb Planetarium, recently refurbished with a world-class 4K projector system, booming surround sound and cushy new seats. Admission for non-members is $7. After contemplating the infinite size and mystery of the cosmos, nobody would blame you if you didn’t care one whit about basketball. But you will.

— Follow @FlatlandKC on Twitter and like us on Facebook

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