Food and music are always good excuses for excursions, and you can combine them in an early summer trip to a hot destination in the heart of the continent. Kansas City, Mo., of course.
The 3rd annual 18th & Vine Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival is scheduled for the middle of June, and this year's scheduled headliners include Al Jarreau and Pat Metheny. "Ribs" is for the festival's barbecue competition, where amateurs can compete for $3,000 in prizes. There isn't a lot of detail here yet for visitors, but you can sign up for e-mail updates and "FAQ" has directions to the Historic 17th & Vine Jazz District in downtown KC.
To learn more about the city's jazz scene, go to the Jazz District and the American Jazz Museum where you can take in performances at the Blue Room and Gem Theater, listen to archived music and see films and photo exhibits. And if you need a little warm-up, the museum's Swing Shop will sell you CDs on line. And visit "About the Museum" for background details.
If it's summer, there must be baseball. Jazz shares the 18th & Vine museum complex with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum through the 1960s. After visiting the museum, go to Kauffman Stadium and watch the Kansas City Royals in action.
What about the barbecue side of the city? Barbecue Kansas City Style has a brief overview of the local style and big names. And the folks at About.com have a restaurant guide that includes a link to their choices for the city's Top 5 BBQ restaurants.
Can't make it for Rhythm & Ribs? Not to worry. The city has a big party on the last weekend of June and beginning of July called KC Riverfest with fireworks, music and their first Microbrew Fest for beer connoisseurs.
There's more to Kansas City than festivals. The visitors section of the official VisitKC guide has a "Special Features" category with 12 Summer Trip Ideas ranging from family fun to night life, 33 Free Adventures such as the Cave Spring nature park on the Santa Fe Trail or a tour of the Boulevard Brewing Co., a photo tour and Suggested Itineraries. Whether you're looking forward to BBQ or a good local steak, look under Summer Trip Ideas for No. 12, Food Connoisseur, for eating tips. VisitKC also has guides to the local hotels and hotel package deals, more attractions, videos and shopping (look for the Zona Rosa shopping and entertainment district). And be sure to click on "Order Discover KC Pass" for a free discount pass.
One of the items under Free Adventures is a link to the 1827 Log Courthouse, once the only courthouse between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean, which is located at the nearby city of Independence home of President Harry Truman and a classic Ford car show coming up on June 30.
Kansas City's restored Union Station is both a historic train station still used by Amtrak and a complex housing museums, theaters restaurants and shops. Just try to get the kids to leave the Science City or the KC Rail Experience train exhibits, including model trains.
And if the weather is hot during your visit, you can always stroll past one of the features that make this the City of Fountains boasting more than 200 around the city.