Keith and Nancy Farrand have worked together operating one of the city's biggest nurseries since they married in 1989 — the same year that Keith Farrand purchased the family business. Keith's great-grandfather started out growing tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, lettuce, apricots and cherries on a 13-acre spread on the east side of town. "He would get up before dawn and drive to the city market and sell his produce and fruit directly to the grocers," Nancy Farrand says. This tradition continued until the 1960s, when the Farrand family built its first greenhouse and began propagating seedlings to sell as plants to home gardeners. In 1980, the focus of Farrand Farms changed from fruits and vegetables to a full-scale nursery, selling annual and perennial plants grown on a 30-acre spread. The business has since blossomed and is particularly busy at Christmas, when the greenhouses fill with thousands of poinsettias. "We traditionally grow 20,000 of them," Keith says, "but we're cutting back by 30 percent this year. It costs a lot to heat those greenhouses, and we're still a family farm."
When it comes to gyms, the more variety, the better. This is the land of short attention spans, and most of us need a range of classes and equipment to choose from in order to have any hope of getting that ol' momentum going. Which is why the North Kansas City Community Center is tops. For starters, the place is huge. There's a gymnasium equipped for both volleyball and basketball leagues, with a jogging track running along the perimeter. There's workout equipment galore, plus weights and treadmills and TVs. Fitness classes include cardio, body blasting and stretching. Still not enough to get you off the couch? How about a huge pool, aquatic classes and a 25-foot rock wall ready to be scaled? And best of all, membership is affordable and can be paid by the month.
It's easy to love The Big Lebowski — consider all those people shouting lines at the movie during the Screenland's midnight showings. It's not the detective novel plot that gets us but the gorgeously rendered bowling fantasies. If we know the Dude, a truly lazy man after our own heart, he'd go to Willie's for Wii Wednesdays instead of the local alley. Willie's bills itself as the bar that's locally owned and locally priced. It's the second part that gives Willie's the edge. From 8 p.m. to the 1:30 a.m. close every Wednesday, you can come in and roll the virtual balls while drinking $2 domestic drafts and PBR bottles. There's no charge for the controllers; just leave your ID with the bartender and open a tab, which you should be doing anyway. And you don't have to rent shoes. Use the cash you save to buy a few White Russians.
There's nothing wrong with the Trolley Track Trail. For the urban runner, it's a quiet place to tune out, turn on the iPod, and put in a few miles with fellow runners and the odd bunny rabbit nosing around in the manicured grass. But the flat terrain can get old quickly. Same goes for Loose Park or Brush Creek; nice to know you, but we're looking for more. Luckily for runners who really want to kick up their heels, there's Wyandotte County Lake Park. Be aware: These trails aren't exactly groomed — unless you count horse hooves and a few rugged volunteers who cut back the most monstrous growth with weed whackers. But that's the fun. This is the kind of trail where the sometimes steep, rocky path provides the kind of excitement — and distraction — that makes an iPod obsolete. Not that you'd want to tune out the cackling geese, the rustling of eagles and the blessed silence of being beyond earshot of the ever-present automobile. Sure, this 1,500-acre expanse is a two-minute drive from The Legends megamall, but along the rocky ridges and down in the forested ravines, it feels like authentic wilderness. And with more than 12 miles of dirt to explore, even the most promiscuous runners keep coming back for more.
For a year and a half, getting around downtown Lee's Summit sucked. Construction diverted traffic from main thoroughfares, and the detours made it hard to get to our favorite quaint boutiques and bars. But the temporary headache was worth it. The spring completion of a $13 million streetscaping project has left the area easier — and more enjoyable — than ever to traverse, especially on foot. Sidewalks are wider, pretty trees grow and streetlights burn bright. So at 5 p.m., when other downtowns are dead, Lee's Summit's still hops, often to the sounds of outdoor concerts and other events. And thanks to the power and sewer updates included in the streetscaping project, thousands can safely converge during local festivals. The dream of a revitalized downtown has been achieved!
Yes, we know that the Anschutz Entertainment Group hasn't made good on its promise to lure an NBA or NHL team to play in that giant glass radial tire that opened last October. And, yes, we're still a little sore about that. We want to see Kobe Bryant eat the Kansas City Whatever-They'll-Call-'Ems alive like a "Black Mamba." Screw it — we'd even take a hockey team. But even without an anchor sports attraction, the Sprint Center has been an undeniable asset, bringing people back to the city's previously flatlined downtown. The Big 12 men's and women's basketball tournaments would never have returned to the city in which they belong without the Sprint Center. In July, the live-music magazine Pollstar ranked the new arena 30th out of the top 100 venues worldwide and 14th in the country. Tina Turner chose our town to kick off her out-of-retirement tour (announced on Oprah), and without the Sprint Center, tours by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Van Halen, Garth Brooks and Elton John likely would have passed us by. Thanks, AEG! Now how about a team?
On weeknights, the Cheesecake Factory kitchen stops serving at 11 p.m. But on Friday and Saturday nights, customers can walk in as late as midnight for a moonlight nosh. At other restaurants, tired servers can barely disguise their loathing of late tables. But the staff at the Cheesecake Factory is amazingly effervescent and friendly. The kitchen crew must stay fresh and happy, too, because the entire menu — as thick as a novella — is available right up to the witching hour. So if you and three friends stumble, tipsy and ravenous, into the campy, neo-Egyptian lobby and one person wants huevos rancheros, another wants a luau salad, the third craves steak Diane, and you want fried macaroni and cheese with a side of chocolate-mousse cheesecake, it's all fair game. Just remember to be generous with the tip: Being so cheerful after a very long shift, your server has worked hard for the money.