Every once and awhile a destination takes us by surprise. As we travel more throughout the US, we’re learning that the touristy, over-hyped cities and states aren’t always the coolest. Sure, NYC has a never-ending amount of amazing restaurants and the beaches in Maui are some of the best in the world… but everyone knows that. The word is out on those spots, and the prices for flights, hotels, and experiences reflect the tourism demands.
So what about the real hidden gems, the up-and-coming cities that haven’t become touristy or overcrowded yet? Those are what we’re after. These gems of cities are sprinkled all over our great country - and the first one on our list is Kansas City. Here’s why:
KC IS AFFORDABLE & ACCESSIBLE
Until recently, Kansas City has always been considered a “flyover city” - not necessarily a travel destination. Over the past couple of years they’ve worked hard to change that - and they’ve done a KILLER job. You’ll pay significantly less than other metropolitan cities, and chances are you’ll like it even better. Parking is easy, traffic is (usually) light, and the city is a breeze to navigate.
From stylish boutique hotels (stay at The Fontaine. We guarantee you’ll love it.), to free public transportation (the KC Streetcar was our favorite way to get around!), and shopping and dining options to fit everyone’s budget, Kansas City has it all. Which brings us to…
IT’S A FOODIE CITY
Oh, the food in Kansas City.
We should probably write a whole blog just about what we ate while we were there! When you think of Kansas City, chances are you think of BBQ. And rightfully so, there’s over 100 BBQ spots in the city - with new options popping up frequently. Two of our favorites are Joe’s and Q39. Joe’s is arguably the most iconic, as it’s located in a gas station, and its no-frills, hearty portions, and friendly staff brings in thousands of customers daily. Q39 is a little nicer than Joe’s, and takes reservations - which is always a plus in busy seasons. While we love the vibe of Joe’s, we’ll go out on a limb and say that the BBQ might be just a liiiiittle better at Q39 (we’ll probably offend some people)… Try both and let us know what you think. ;)
Although the BBQ was unforgettable (burnt ends were life-changing), we have to point out that there is SO MUCH MORE than BBQ here… There’s coffee shops that would put Portland to shame. Messenger Coffee (trendy vibe, insane baked goods) and Thou Mayest (they have a cereal bar… need we say more?) are two that can’t be missed.
And finally, if sweets are your thing (and if they aren’t, we’re worried about you), Betty Rae’s Ice Cream will have you in tears of joy. Alli had a scoop of Cereal Milk ice cream at approximately 11am one day, because cereal + milk = breakfast. Totally acceptable.
You’ll also want to hit up Christopher Elbow, Kansas City’s premier chocolatier. Their chocolates look like pieces of art, and they taste EVEN BETTER than they look. Trust us - we ate more than we should have!
ARTS, CULTURE, AND HISTORY… OH MY!
The creative arts scene in Kansas City is thriving - it’s sophisticated, eclectic, and brimming with history and tradition. They have some of the best museums in the country - many with world-famous art! The Nelson-Atkins Museum features several famous Monet’s, Van Gogh’s, and more.. and even the architecture of the building is incredible. Some of our favorite pieces of art were the giant shuttlecocks, strategically placed on both sides of the museum - making the whole property look like a badminton court, with the building being the net. Totally random, and totally cool.
Next time we’re in Kansas City we’re excited to tour the National World War One Museum and Memorial, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum! We definitely couldn’t do it all in 4 days…
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the stunning Kauffman Center to see the Kansas City Symphony. Words can’t describe how absolutely breathtaking the Kauffman Center is. The whimsical architecture and perfect acoustics make you feel as though you’re in a dream. We danced in our chairs to Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Symphonic Dances, and marveled at the sheer talent of the musicians. It truly was the ultimate date night.
JAZZ BARS & SPEAKEASIES
While we’re on the topic of date nights, let’s talk about the Kansas City night life.
Did you know that Kansas City is famous for jazz? New Orleans may be the birthplace of jazz, but KC locals like to say that jazz “grew up in Kansas City”. There are several epic jazz bars in downtown KC, but our favorite, hands down, was The Green Lady Lounge. Totally unassuming, you’d easily walk past the entrance and never give it a second thought. But the moment you walk in, it’s as though you’ve stepped into a different world… The lights are dim, the decor is elegant, and the music is grooving - every night of the week!! Oh, and did we mention it’s FREE? (Just be sure to buy a drink or two!)
While we were tempted to spend EVERY night at The Green Lady, we spent time exploring other KC local hotspots - like the Tikicat. An underground tiki bar that serves Aloha vibes and tropical drinks, the Tikicat is probably not the kind of bar you’d expect to find in the heart of the midwest… and that’s exactly what makes it awesome. We were smiling from ear-to-ear the entire time we were there!
We have this thing for speakeasies. There’s something about discovering a “secret” bar - it just makes us feel instantly cool. And one of the best speakeasies we’ve been to thus far is in Kansas City. Manifesto is located in the basement of the Rieger, that was originally a hotel built in the early 1900’s. It was ran as a speakeasy during prohibition - and was even frequented by Al Capone! Needless to say, this place is the real deal. And their award-winning cocktails, cozy atmosphere, and friendly bartenders have only elevated this historic little bar.
“Flyover city”? More like FLY-TO city! We honestly can’t wait to get back to Kansas City - our list of places to eat, things to do, and sights to see next time we’re there keeps growing… and we have a feeling this city is going to continue to evolve in new and exciting ways. Take our advice and experience it before word gets out. ;