Touring a new destination is nice, but injecting a little levity into the day makes it even nicer. A
desirable source of humor and frivolity can be found in expected…or unexpected…places.
Come along with me to this quintet of cities where you will find art with a sense of humor.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: Forget mountains and beaches; forget cows and corn. When you
think of Kansas City, Missouri, think of art, architecture, food, fountains, and fun. This cultured
and comfortable city, plunked in the midst of America’s heartland, has been deemed “The
Barbecue Capital of the World”. With more than 100 outstanding barbecue restaurants, the
words “Kansas City” and “barbecue” have become synonymous. This city that makes a splash is
adorned with approximately 200 fountains (more fountains than any other city except Rome),
KC a has also earned a reputation as “The City of Fountains”.
Just for the fun of it: Check out husband-and-wife artist team, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje
van Bruggen’s, four giant shuttlecocks that span 17 acres of the Nelson-Atkins Museum’s lawn.
DALLAS, TEXAS: The “Big D” is an exciting big city with small town hospitality…a city where
ostrich- booted urban cowboys jostle their Jags and Mercedes between pickup trucks. All of
Dallas is studded with a kind of golden ambiance. Must-sees include: Dealey Plaza, the
location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the JFK Memorial; the Old Red
Courthouse (1892); and the Thanksgiving Chapel, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize
winner Philip Johnson. It has a unique spiral exterior and an interior spiral of 73 stained-glass
Just for the fun of it: Artist Keith Turman’s giant 20-foot-wide British Bowler Hat, weighing
close to two tons, is precariously hooked on a coat rack in a grassy Griffin Street lot at the south
edge of downtown. It was originally meant to hang on the corner of a British furniture store, but
it didn’t comply with the building codes. Hence, it became another piece of Americana. When I
looked at the sculpture, I saw more than a hat on a rack. I envisioned a haughty, nattily attired
DENVER, COLORADO: The “Mile High City” is the capital of Colorado. Its historic 19th century
buildings on Larimer Square are reminiscent of the old Wild West. Its University of Denver is
the oldest independent private university in the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. and it is
home to the restored Victorian home of Titanic survivor Molly Brown. The Denver Art Museum is
renowned for its Daniel Libeskind, designed Hamilton Building and its Indigenous Art of North
America Collection that contains over 18,000 objects by artists from over 250 Indigenous
Just for the fun of it: When your legs get tired from touring, you’ll find an inviting chair outside
the Children’s Wing of the Denver Public Library. However, you can neither plop down on it…or
climb up on it. “The Yearling” is a 21-foot tall, 10-foot wide, red painted steel chair with a 6-foot
tall, painted pinto pony standing atop it. It has been said that the size of this work is said to
recall that time in life when even everyday objects seemed monumental. Its creator, artist
Donald Lipski, commented: “If it makes people stop and feel something they haven’t felt before,
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Our nation’s capital is a clean, beautiful, beguiling city…not a stodgy,
smog-ridden city overshadowed by skyscrapers occupied by politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers.
The narrated Old Town Trolley Tour will orient you with some of the most important spots in the
Nation’s Capital. It features 15 optional stops, including the White House, the Washington and
Lincoln Memorials, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian Institution, where you may board or
disembark at your leisure. Trivia Alert: In the grand lobby of the Willard Hotel, President
Ulysses S. Grant coined the term “Lobbyist”. Grant often found relief from the pressures of the
office by sitting in the Willard lobby. As word spread of President Grant’s fondness for the lobby,
people would look for him to argue their individual cases. Grant was said to have called these
Just for the fun of it: Hop off the tour bus at The Smithsonian Institution Complex and head for
its Art Sculpture Garden, located on the National Mall between the National Gallery’s West
Building and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. Among its Pop Art
treasures are Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s whimsical “Typewriter Eraser, Scale
X” and Roy Lichtenstein’s playful “House I”. The Gallery description states that the latter
“exploits the illusionistic effects of a third dimension. The side of the house at once projects
toward the viewer while appearing to recede into space.” Fun is guaranteed!
NICE, FRANCE: Nice (pronounced niece) is nice! Not only is it nice, it is incredible! If a portrait
were to be painted of this reigning queen of the French Riviera (also known as Cote d’ Azur), it
would have to include sea, sun, art, history, culture, shopping, and some of the best museums in
the world. The Marc Chagall Museum is a sober structure, in a park-like setting surrounded by
live oak, cypress and olive trees. It houses the biggest public collection of works by Chagall.
Other not-to-be-missed museums include the Matisse, Museum and the Museum Of Modern
And Contemporary Art. The Hotel Negresco, the Grand Dame of the Riviera is like a museum.
This Belle Epoque palace, with its famous dome dominating the Bay of Angels, is a wedding
cake-like confection, iced in pink and green. The hotel’s elegant Restaurant Chantecler is
furnished in 18th-century, Regency-style decor. The refined carved wood panels date back to
Just for the fun of it: The Hotel Negresco’s Salon Royal is a must-see. With a glass dome
made in the workshop of Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), the Salon showcases a Baccarat
chandelier consisting of 16,800 crystals. It was originally ordered by Czar Nicolas II for the
Kremlin. The chandelier is juxtaposed with “The Nana Jaune”, a rotund, liberated, brightly
colored, revolving sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle. When you’re tempted to order a second
buttered croissant at your next French breakfast, it may help you think twice about that decision!
Janet Steinberg, winner of 55 national travel-writing awards resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.
Photo Credits: Janet Steinberg