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Best Shopping Center 

Zona Rosa

The father of the modern shopping center, Kansas City's own J.C. Nichols, created the Country Club Plaza as the world's first suburban shopping mecca in 1922. The Plaza was a welcome alternative to the crowds, dirt, noise, bustle, and lack of convenient automobile parking downtown. It wasn't just closer to home. It was clean, quiet and well-manicured. When Zona Rosa opened off Barry Road and Interstate 29 in 2004, the new shopping-and-entertainment complex was fashioned after Nichols' Plaza, with storefronts that faced winding streets, fountains and green space. The stores and restaurants are up-to-date, but the ambience is a throwback to a simpler, less complicated time. There's a "Town Square" in the heart of the shopping district where jazz bands play on Thursday nights, and fresh produce can be purchased at the farmers market every Tuesday. At Barnes & Noble, a writers group meets twice monthly and the Christian Women's Book Club meets once a month. Oh, and the center's Web site (www.zonarosa.com) posts bargains for shoppers who need an extra nudge to drive north of the river.

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