My sister lived in Kansas City, MO as a medical student at UMKC over 15 years ago. I always thought I knew what the city was like through my visits. But now I know that I only scratched the surface. Visit KC invited me to experience the “Paris of the Plains” last weekend and I discovered why almost half a million people adore Kansas City so much that they decided to call it home.
If you’re traveling from St. Louis, MO, I highly recommend driving as it’s only a 3.5 hour trip. Last Friday afternoon I arrived at the Raphael Hotel, whose charm is only surpassed by its impeccable service. The staff is bursting with enthusiasm, as if each member was waiting eagerly for your arrival. The hotel is directly across from the Plaza and is an absolute gem. More on that later.
Travel blogging is a delightful opportunity to meet fascinating people in your field. Not only do you not need to explain why you’re on social media half the time, but you may also feel free to stand over a table to snap a shot of your meal, or ask each other to take photos while trying multiple poses in front of the same wall. No eyebrows raised or questions asked! I had the pleasure of meeting four other talented bloggers: Meg Biram (our gracious host), Sarah of Life on Virginia Street, Erin of Her Heartland Soul, and Diana of Mother Soul (who also happens to live in St. Louis!) Check out their blogs for other unique perspectives on Kansas City.
Halls on Grand
Did you know that Hallmark (started by the Halls family) is part of a larger company, which is based in Kansas City? Halls on Grand is a glamorous department store under the Halls umbrella. It stocks some killer brands like Milly, Kate Spade, Jo Malone, Rebecca Minkoff, Gucci, Oscar de la Renta and more. The Halls company also happens to be a top employer in the city in case you’re looking to relocate 😉
When we visited, the store had tremendous sales in every department, which meant major scores for me! You know that feeling when you’re not looking for anything in particular and you find a ton of great stuff? That’s how I felt in every section of the store. I seriously had to control myself. This year is the store’s 100th anniversary so it has many surprises up its sleeves such as celebrity visits, fashion shows, exclusive discounts and more. If you’re a shopaholic like me, I highly suggest you stop here on your next visit to Kansas City.
Last weekend in Kansas City was a hot one. To cool off, our host blogger Meg (who also grew up in KC) suggested we take a break at Snow Co. Most of us were famished, so we ordered almost everything on the menu and of course the signature snow cones. There are both adult snow cocktails and mocktails for those who don’t drink. I wish we had something like this in St. Louis. It’s a great place to hang out with friends, grab a bite and gab for hours. (And also cool off — we probably needed to be hosed down, but a snow cone did the trick!)
Crossroads Arts District
I absolutely had no idea of this area’s existence from my previous time in Kansas City in the early 2000s. Now that might not be my fault as I learned that this neighborhood’s popularity exploded in the last few years. The Crossroads Arts District is known for its eclectic mix of unique shops, restaurants, businesses and art galleries. I think of it as an incubator for creative minded folk. (For the record, I was seriously tempted to sing Bone Thugs n Harmony while I was here, but I controlled myself.)
Walking around, it almost feels like part of Brooklyn transplanted into the Midwest and then given its own local flair. For one thing, it’s much cleaner. Also, the people are incredibly nice. There is that creative startup mentality with its contingent of small businesses, cafes and local artists peppering the area. I was most in awe of the sheer amount of street art surprising you between alleyways, along boutique walls, on garage doors and front and center on the sides of brick buildings. This particular sign below is popping up all over social media. So I was excited when I accidentally came upon it. Perfect Instagram opportunity.
If you know me, food controls a large part of my brain. The first thing I do on any trip is look up restaurants and then read the menus. The menu at The American was the first thing I researched when I saw the itinerary. I was sold at three course menu.
When we arrived at the restaurant (more like architectural marvel), I was in awe of the 70s style design. Built in 1974, the eatery has sweeping views of downtown Kansas City with its sky high windows. I immediately thought the restaurant had a lounge like atmosphere and was only missing a lounge singer — the perfect complement to a classic night out in the 70s. Well, ask and you shall receive. We were entertained by an amazing singer and piano player who performed a moving rendition of Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley.
The service, of course, was impeccable, the plating beautiful and the food exquisite. From the root vegetable appetizer to the lobster tail and finally the mochi cake with chocolate mousse, I was a happy camper. The food didn’t stop there though. Between courses the award winning chefs treated us to several small tastings, which kept our palettes primed for every course. Do visit this historic establishment before the kitchen closes at the end of the year. Special pop-up events with its chefs will continue through next year. And the restaurant will eventually transition into an event space.*
Before the night was over, we headed to Tom’s Town. We were given a private tour of their very own distillery and speakeasy as well as a generous dose of Kansas City mafia history. Did you know in the 1920s the mafia had a large hand in government operations, effectively sidelining Prohibition and allowing the liquor to flow freely in the city? This was just a sample of the fascinating and colorful city history we learned about on the tour. If you’re truly intrigued by KC’s mafia past, apparently there is a gangster bus tour you can take. Another trip to Kansas City, anyone?
The Raphael Hotel
By the end of the night I was ready to sink into bed. If you can tell by the wrinkles in the bed below, I could not help myself and had a bit of a lie down before I took this picture. The bed is pure heaven. Visit KC provided us King Size suites at the Raphael so that we could truly get the full experience. Let me tell you — it’s pure luxury. There was a massive dining table in the main suite and I sat there for a few minutes just taking it all in: the gingham wallpaper, fluffy bathrobes, granite countertops, boutique bath salts, subway bathroom tile and of course the chocolates on my pillow. A girl could get used to this kind of lifestyle. Now I know why Eloise lived in a hotel.
That was only day one of our trip to Kansas City. Stay tuned for next week’s recap of the rest of the trip and more reasons to love the BBQ Capital of the World.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Visit Kansas City. I was paid to attend a weekend tour of Kansas City, MO in exchange for a review of the trip. All opinions expressed are my own.
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that The American would close in August. The current chef will actually leave in August and the kitchen will close at the end of this year. The restaurant will transition into a special events space.