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First Fridays... for Teens!
Hannah Schuh looks at our KC Crossroads tradition from a recent high school grad's perspective—with good advice for visitors of every age
One of my favorite Downtown Kansas City traditions are the First Friday celebrations. What first began as a small collection of businesses in the Crossroads holding onto a community spirit after 9/11 (read more about the beginnings of the monthly tradition here) has now grown into a city-wide party, celebrating art, music, and community.
Of course, jumping into this scene may seem overwhelming, especially for teens! I remember worrying that the First Friday events would be more targeted towards those older than me, and that despite my love for the arts, I would end up having a bad time. However, never fear! I am here to make sure you have a great time each month, as the whole day will be jam-packed with activities for everyone.
First things first: parking!
Although it may seem that parking should be the least of your worries, finding a good parking spot close to the crowds in the Crossroads can be difficult. Here’s a little trick: find a good spot close to the River Market and start your day with some local artists within the historic City Market.
This summer the market was filled with music, fun food, and plenty of young artists. Having the booths so close together makes it easy to check out a wide variety of art in a short period of time, not to mention how every booth is under a pavilion, keeping you shaded and cool on an otherwise very hot day.
After the City Market you can hop onto another Kansas City staple, the KC Streetcar!
Using the streetcar is free and fast, meaning you can get to the Crossroads easily without having to find a new parking spot as the day continues.
Once you get off at the Crossroads stop (19th Street), you can typically follow the crowd to your next stop: dinner at the food truck plaza! If you lose track of the crowd, look for signs that will point you in the right direction.
Although there are many good restaurants at which to eat around the Crossroads, I recommend checking out the Food Truck Plaza to get a real bang for your buck. Not only will you find a wider variety of foods, assuring that everyone in your party enjoys their meal, but you will also get your food quick enough to have plenty of extra time for the rest of your First Friday activities.
Next up, it’s time to head to some galleries! Art galleries are a key part of the First Friday experience, mainly to remember how the Crossroads was founded on celebrating the arts. One of my favorite galleries to visit is the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, as it often shows a wide variety of artists. The last time I visited, they were celebrating the life of the late Jim Leedy himself, as well as a few other artists.
As you walk between the galleries and shops, it’s not uncommon to come across a few small pop-ups. It’s always fun to stop in these shops, as many of them hold hidden gems that you won’t find every month. Oftentimes these pop-ups are relatively small, so you don’t need to worry about wasting too much time at each one. My friends and I were lucky enough to stumble onto a vintage pop-up clothing sale, with a wide variety of vintage clothes for cheap. Make sure to keep your eyes open for any signs pointing you toward a fun shop!
Finally, the part of First Fridays that most teens look forward to is the Art Alley. The Art Alley is, as the name suggests, an alley filled front-to-back with local artists’ booths. This backstreet experience is similar to the City Market’s sale in that it is packed with tables and many different art styles. Just like finding the Food Truck Plaza, you can look out for signs pointing in the right direction, or follow the map found here.
Art Alley was probably my favorite part of my last First Friday! To me, Art Alley had a wider variety of art styles and products than the City Market. They have booths for all ages and for many different interests. By the end of the night I had found a finger-puppet, a self-defense keychain, and a new poster for my dorm. Everyone in the Alley brought great energy to the night, and it was a really fun way to wind down before heading home.
Remember that First Fridays are always jam-packed with activities and opportunities for everyone to have fun. There is so much more that can be done than just what I listed in this article! I will always recommend going with the flow, and being prepared to wander around and stumble across all the wonderful things the Crossroads has to offer. The next First Friday event is this week—August 5! Have fun!