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My Favorite Places to Shop in Kansas City
Enjoy a nice bo' of Pho! Courtesy of Dirty Don's!
A great variety of unique shopping experiences are available in Kansas City.
For those of you who grew up in Kansas City or live in even bigger urban areas, this area may not seem like anything special. But for a girl like me who grew up in a town of about 25,000 people, Kansas City is a huge metropolis! Even now after living here for 4 or 5 years, I am still amazed sometimes at what is available around me. There is an endless smorgasbord of restaurants, shopping and unique experiences available here that is constantly changing. In the few years that I have been here, I've experienced a lot, but know there's still so much more. However, some of my favorite places to go are the unusual shopping spots you won't find in most small towns. Here's a rundown of some of the places I've found so far!
Dirty Don's Bargain Center
This may not be what one would think of as a big city attraction, but it's number one on my list! This place is exactly what the name implies; it's a bargain center, and...it's dirty. But that's all part of the charm! After all, what's a catfish joint without some peanut shells on the floor? This is a warehouse-like store that specializes in all sorts of merchandise, most likely collected from unclaimed freight and unsold goods from other stores. You never know what you will find. They have large quantities of food like chips in unusual flavors, foreign canned goods, bulk restaurant goods (think gallon size bottles of soy sauce and huge boxes of soft serve ice cream mix) , frozen slabs of beef, and the cheapest soda and drinks you'll ever see. They frequently have a quite a selection of gourmet and organic foods that would cost you your firstborn at Whole Foods or boutique grocery stores. Many goods from all over the world show up there, so dig in all you foodies! They even have a refrigerated section, but DO watch expiration dates--you buy this stuff at your own risk. Have an idea of what you're willing to consume expired and what you're not (for instance, can goods can often be consumed safely even if they're old).
Besides food, they also have a nice selection of toiletries and drug store products and a big "wall" of toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. Don't forget to check the back area for cleaning supplies, pet supplies and house goods. Oh, and I forgot the most important reason to go here: EVERYTHING HERE IS DIRT CHEAP! And when I say cheap, I mean it. Think of bags of chips for $0.35, $1.00 for paper towels, a box of CLIFF bars for $5...this list goes on. This stuff is priced to move and the fun of it is, you never know what you'll find. If you're an adventurous shopper and you love a great deal, you'll really dig Dirty Don's.
JCP 5-Star Outlet
Formerly known as the JC Penney Outlet, this mega store of discount department store goods is a God-send. The outlet has been in existence for years from what I've been told, but recently JC Penney decided to get out of the outlet business as their catalog sales diminish, so they sold this store along with about 10 others they operate across the country.
Though no longer formerly associated with JC Penney's, this outlet is still fantastic. They carry overstock, catalog returns and past season merchandise from a variety of department stores. I've seen items from not only JC Penney's, but Kohls, Zephora and even more high end stores dump their merchandise here. This place is filled with racks and racks of new clothes for everyone, all marked down to rock bottom prices. I've bought cashmere sweaters that used to retail for $60 for less than $10, a leather jacket for $19, shoes for $12, etc. They carry mens, women's, kids, housewares, linens, indoor and outdoor furniture, accessories, etc! And don't forget to sign up for their mailing list where you can find out about huge sales they have, making already cheap merchandise even cheaper! You can sometimes see pajama sets going for $5, 2 for 1 bras at $8, panini makers for under $20, etc. And don't forget the occasional coupon you get in the mail for 25% off the ENTIRE store...if you live in Kansas City, you can't afford NOT to shop here!
The great bonus with me on this place is it's right across the street from where I work! So needless to say, I'm always walking out of there on my lunch break every couple weeks or so with a new bag of bargain booty, laughing all the way to the bank.
(UPDATE: As of 12/29/13, the JCP 5-Star Outlet has closed. Sad, but the going-out-of-business sales were killer; I loaded up big time, but I think I died a little inside on the last day (tear!). A big bummer for Kansas City shoppers of all stripes, to be sure!
City Market - River Market
Although I haven't checked out many of the restaurants in this area, this is the main Farmer's Market in Kansas City and I've visited it a few times. I also love the Farmer's Market in my own neighborhood, but nothing tops this one. You will find dozens of vendors from all over the metro and beyond who come each weekend to sell a variety of produce as well as high quality, hand made products, all locally made.
One of my favorite vendors to visit are the Asian booths because they offer all sorts of unusual organic fruits and vegetables like super long green beans, unique types of cabbage and even purslane which is actually a common weed you might see growing out of pavement around here but is highly nutritious. I also love the more "permanent" shops around the perimeter who sell all sorts of spices and teas by the pound as well as wholesale "conventional" produce (best deal on lemons and limes ever!)
Plus, during the warmer months you will find great entertainment going on as area musicians perform near the entrance. There's also frequently some local folks just sitting out at end of the rows playing guitars or bongos with a hat out for tips; sometimes there's even a jazz flute player or two hanging around!
888 Market is awesome!
Okay, I know I talk a lot about Asian markets, but this one is the granddaddy of them all. This is the largest Asian market in the Kansas City area. It is literally the size of a Kmart, no joke. If you want to see some unusual food, check this place out! You will see all sorts of wonderful and strange produce, fungus, seafood and meats...some might gross you out, but it's still cool. They have a large herbal section as well as a big selection of teas. However, you might have to flag someone down to help you find things unless you know what you're looking for because many products have little or no English on them. They also have a deli where you can get bubble tea and a variety of cooked dishes.
They also sell lots of kitchen products and dishes like rice steamers, woks, "fobby" themed dishware and utensils of all kinds I have no idea what to do with. It's just an adventure to walk around in there and explore!
Another great place to shop in the KC metro is Cargo Largo in Independence, MO. This store is sort of like Dirty Don's, but cleaner. It is set up more like an actual department store with all sorts of discount merchandise from clothing and accessories to food to furniture. They carry a wide variety of high quality items for a fraction of the retail price. For instance, you can find lots of organic and specialty food products for at least 50% off what they'd usually be. Sometimes that means dealing with a dented box or two, but it's definitely worth the savings.
They also carry a large amount of housewares, office supplies, sporting goods, outdoor and automotive products and have a large selection of clothing. This is where they differ from Dirty Don's. Dirty Don's carries these products as well, but in a much more limited selection. Cargo Largo is also bigger and much more organized than Dirty Don's, however they do seem to be quite a bit more expensive as well, but the quality of products is also quite good.
These are just a very few of the places I love visiting and there is still so much in town I know I've never checked out. If you know of some unique or fun things to do in Kansas City, please leave me a comment. I'm always up for an adventure and would love to find out what I'm missing!