Sweet Foodie Experiences You Gotta Try In Kansas City

Kansas City, and the surrounding communities, is a foodie paradise, especially if you have a sweet tooth. After many years of visiting, I’m sharing my favorite KC restaurants for ice cream, cookies, and other sweet treats.

Disclosure: Some of these restaurants or shops I’ve visited while being hosted by a visitors bureau; others I’ve visited and paid my own expenses. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

If you go to Kansas City for food, include dessert on the list! Here's a guide to sweet foodie experiences in the KC area (Kansas and Missouri sides). Find tasty treats from ice cream and cake to pastries and candies.

I chose restaurants and shops that aren’t necessarily in Kansas City, Kan., or Kansas City, Mo. Instead, these restaurants are in the “greater Kansas City area.” It’s a broad term, sure, but just hop on the interstate and you’ll be getting your sweet treat fix in no time.

COVID-19 UPDATE: I highly recommend following up on local protocols for the pandemic. Some Kansas counties require masks indoors, for instance. Also, check with the business to determine if they are open at this time before visiting.

Ice Cream in Kansas City

We tend to get ice cream on every road trip. The most memorable ice cream stop was at Sylas and Maddy’s in Olathe, Kan.

Mint chip ice cream cone with homemade waffle cone at Sylas and Maddy's in Olathe, Kan.

This family-owned ice cream shop has a ton of homemade flavors. So many, it’s hard to choose. So maybe go ahead and get yourself that five flavor sampler.

Cake and pastries in Kansas City

Hands down, the best cake I’ve had was the cream cheese coffee cake at Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan. I don’t know where it’s been all my life, but I’m so glad to know about it now. 

Cream cheese coffee cake from Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan.

Be sure to keep the cake chilled. It gets rather crumbly, otherwise. Not that I’ve tried sneaking a slice in my car or something.

While I’m partial a savory breakfast, I sometimes sample the sweet pastries my family orders. And in Kansas City, they’ve ordered some doozies.

For more creative spin on a pastry, go to Black Bear Diner in Olathe and try the Bear Claw French Toast. The bear claw is so sweet, you really don’t need much syrup, if any.

Cinnamon roll at Corner Cafe in Kansas City, Mo.
Four people couldn’t finish this cinnamon roll on top of regular breakfast orders. Plan accordingly.

For a more traditional pastry, try a giant cinnamon roll at Corner Cafe (there are a few locations). We tried to split it between four people and couldn’t finish it. Granted, we all had ordered our own breakfast entrees, but still. It’s that big.

Cookies in Kansas City

The French macarons at Kate Smith Soirée are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We found a way.

Assortment of French macarons at Kate Smith Soiree in Lenexa, Kan.

We came across Kate Smith Soirée while having lunch at The Public Market in Lenexa. I tried a lavender and honey macaron, and it was as delicate as it sounds. 

Sweet breads in KC

Ever heard of a povitka (pronounced poh-va-teet-sa)? Me neither, but I learned all about the hand-rolled bread on a recent visit to the Kansas City area.

Povitka from Strawberry Hill Bakery

It’s a Slovakian bread and Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan., has spent decades making this homemade delicacy. Try the most popular povitka, the English walnut. It’s delish. 

Candy in Kansas City

For gorgeous candy that’s more of a work of art than a treat, go to Christopher Elbow Chocolates in the Crossroads District of KC. This is definitely splurge chocolate. It does taste as good as it looks.

Assortment of chocolates from Christopher Elbow Chocolates in Kansas City, Mo.

For a less spend-y candy treat, I have a few suggestions. If you’re on the Kansas side of Kansas City — you know, The Sunflower State—be sure to get yourself some candy with sunflower seeds in it.

Assortment of dummies and chocolate covered sunflower seeds from Sunflower Food Co., based in Lenexa, Kan.

Sunflower Food Co., based in Lenexa, Kan., sells two kinds of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. My whole family settled on the milk chocolate ones over the dark chocolate.

Sweet drinks in Kansas City

Whether you want hot or cold sweet drinks, I found some great ones in KC. Since it’s summer when I’m writing this, I’ll start with the ice-cold drink of choice for me.

Melanie Gieringer serving a strawberry lemonade slushee from her farm in Edgerton, Kan.

This one’s a bit of a drive outside of the KC metro area, but it’s worth it. Head to Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm in Edgerton, Kan., and try the strawberry lemonade slushee. After picking berries in the summer sun, you’ll want to gulp down this drink, but beware: Brain freeze is real.

Related post: 10 Awesome Things To Do Outdoors In The KC Area

For a grown-up hot drink, I’ll have to admit to buying (and loving) the expensive alcoholic hot chocolate that’s available at Worlds of Fun during Winterfest.

Alcoholic hot cocoa drinks at Winterfest at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.

It warms you up, no doubt about it. But, buy it only if your budget allows because, whoa.

Related post: 15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

20+ Awesome Road Trips From Omaha

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? You don’t have to go too far from Omaha to have a fun getaway. I’ve collected some of my favorite Midwest destinations for this post to give you a variety of options near and far. All road trips from Omaha on this list are within a day’s drive, and most are much closer than that. Happy travels!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

COVID-19 update: Please check current CDC guidelines prior to travel. Double-check your destination to make sure 1) you’re not traveling to a hot spot; 2) it’s even open and what the new hours may be; and 3) what the local mandates are.

Road Trips From Omaha

These getaways are just a car ride away. Read on for destinations to consider for your next overnight or weekend trip.

Find more inspiration for road trips

Sky’s the limit on these bucket list for Midwest destinations:

Nebraska Bucket List

Iowa Bucket List

Missouri Bucket List

South Dakota Bucket List

Kansas Bucket List

I pin a lot of road trip ideas so if you don’t already, please follow me on Pinterest! I have boards for each Midwestern state, plus a special board just for family trip tips.

Inspiration for day trip and weekend getaways in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas! All  trips are less than a day's drive from Omaha. Summer vacation is just a car ride away. #Midwest #FamilyTravel #RoadTrip

35 Things To Do In Kansas City With Kids

My family has visited Kansas City so many times for weekends and even one-day getaways. We’ve discovered there is a lot to do in Kansas City with kids – way more than you can fit into two days. If you’ve yet to plan a weekend trip to KC, or you’re just looking for something new to do for the next visit, this list is for you!

Plan a family trip to Kansas City!  Here's a list of fun things to do in Kansas City including kid-friendly museums, must-see attractions and restaurants. This post includes some of my favorite holiday events in KC, too! #Missouri #KC #Guide #familytravel #USA

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

Kansas City attractions for kids

American Jazz Museum – The American Jazz Museum is one of those KC gems I discovered pre-kids. It’s on my list to bring the kids to one of these days, because it’s a great museum with interactive exhibits.

City Market – The City Market has a year-round farmers market that’s heated and indoors in the winter. Browse shops and visit the FREE Steamboat Arabia Museum. On our last visit, there was a mini train for the kids.

Mini train ride in the City Market in downtown Kansas City

Country Club Plaza – If you have young shoppers, this is a charming destination with unique architecture and high-end stores to choose from. This would also be the place to reserve a carriage ride.

Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead – Learn about farm life and get up close to animals at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, near Kansas City. The farm offers hands-on experiences like bottle-feeding goats and milking cows.

Great Wolf Lodge – While technically a hotel, Great Wolf Lodge does offer day passes for families to enjoy the indoor water park without staying overnight. Plan your next family getaway now at Great Wolf Lodge. Save up to 25% on your stay of two nights or more with Promo Code WOLF2019.

Hallmark Visitors Center and Kaleidoscope – This Crown Center attraction allows kids to make art using materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing processes. Sessions last 50 minutes, and it’s FREE, so simply pick up tickets the day you visit.

Kansas City Zoo – This is one of the few zoos I know of that has a boat ride, but obviously, there are more reasons to visit the Kansas City Zoo. The 200-acre zoo includes exhibits featuring African elephants, penguins, kangaroos, and the awesome Polar Bear Punnel.

Photo courtesy Visit KC

Kemper Museum of Contemporary ArtKemper features modern works of art that may entertain or challenge your kids. This FREE museum also has a Instagram-worthy collection of outdoor sculptures.

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Historic Farm Site – Just outside of Kansas City is Olathe, where you’ll find the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop. A living history museum and the last working stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail, a stagecoach ride is in order when you visit. Plus, a big draw for kids will be the animals on the farm.

Related post: Love dessert on vacation? Check out my favorite sweet treats and sweet shops in the KC area!

Museum at Prairiefire – There’s one particular room in Museum of Prairiefire that I guarantee your kids will love: The Discovery Room. Well, unless they love dinos

LEGOLAND Discovery Center – This place will be a hit with your LEGO-loving kid. It’s important to note that while there are two rides, LEGOLAND Discover Center is NOT an amusement park. Don’t confuse it with LEGOLAND.

Kansas City attractions for kids - Racing cars at LEGOLAND Discovery Center

There are a lot of opportunities to build and a fun climbing structure, though. Do not skip the 10-minute 4-D movie. It’s next door to SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium.

Check out this guide to Crown Center to see what else you can do there beyond LEGOLAND Discover Center!

Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank – Heads up, when you visit this museum, you receive a complimentary bag of shredded currency there as a souvenir – worth $165.

National Museum of Toys and Miniatures – This museum featuring toys from different decades will be more of a trip for you than your kids. The building is huge – more than 70,000 items are on display!

National World War I Museum and Memorial – This World War I museum is not so much a museum of war, but a reminder of a war that was declared “the war to end all wars.” It includes interactive exhibits, as well as several displays of weapons, uniforms and trenches.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – For baseball fans, this museum provides insight into the sports unique Negro leagues.

Nelson Atkins Museum – Those famous shuttlecocks on the lawn you see in photos? Those are at the Nelson Atkins Museum. But you’ll want to venture indoors, too, and see the impressive permanent collections. Kids will particularly like the medieval area with a suit of armor. Best part? It’s FREE.

Summer things to do in Kansas City with kids - Oceans of Fun is a popular summer attraction in KC

Oceans of FunOceans of Fun is a seasonal outdoor water park connected to Worlds of Fun (so two theme parks for the price of one admission!). My strategy in the summer is to ride popular roller coasters at Worlds of Fun in the morning and when things start to get hot in the afternoon, we cool off at Oceans of Fun.

Powell Gardens – Located southeast of Kansas City, Powell Gardens is the city’s botanical gardens, covering more than 900 acres.

Science CityScience City is a science center meets children’s museum that’s fun for all ages. If the weather cooperates, don’t miss the outside space, Simple Machines At Play.

Outdoor play space at Science City at Union Station in Kansas City

Tip: Science City is part of the Association of Science & Technology Centers, and if you have a membership to Omaha Children’s Museum, you receive admission for up to four people into Science City!

Learn more about reciprocal membership benefits here.

SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium – Get up close to sharks, sting rays, an octopus and other sea life at this attraction in Crown Center. Due to the proximity to LEGOLAND Discovery Center, you can get a combo ticket to visit both.

Shoal Creek Living History MuseumShoal Creek is a FREE outdoor living history museum in Hodge Park that celebrates Missouri history (on select weekends you can find reenactments). Beyond historic buildings, there’s a bison enclosure.

Related post: 10 Awesome Things To Do Outdoors In The Kansas City Area

Union Station – Science City is located inside Union Station, so you can explore both in one outing. Union Station has an escape room, a virtual reality game, and usually some pretty unique traveling exhibitions. Don’t skip the model train room. 

Worlds of Fun – Worlds of Fun appeals to a wide range, with youngsters enjoying all the rides at Planet Snoopy and the big kids enjoying the variety of roller coasters. This park can easily occupy a full day, if not two days.

Kansas City's popular amusement park for families, Worlds of Fun

Kansas City sports and families

If yours is a sports-watching family, Kansas City is probably already on your radar. The city has three professional sports teams — the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs and Sporting KC — and a few minor league teams, as well.

Here’s a bit more on the three pro teams:

Kansas City Chiefs – There are certainly fewer home games when it comes to football, so if you can’t catch the home team playing, you can still tour Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City Royals – Time your visit right to take in a home game for this baseball team or, at least, tour Kauffman Stadium.

Sporting KC – For soccer fans, the Major League Soccer team Sporting KC is a hot ticket. Matches are at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Restaurants in Kansas City for kids

Kansas City restaurants for kids - Eggtc near the Country Club Plaza

There’s a great food scene in Kansas City, especially if you’re a barbecue fan. We’ve visited frequently, but have yet to have a big list of restaurants that were both hits with us adults and the kids, so that’s why this KC restaurant list is rather short.

Blue Bird Bistro – This charming breakfast spot is admittedly one I’ve only been to with Mr. Wonderful, but I loved it so much, I want to bring the kids there (though, from what I can tell, there is no kid’s menu). It’s farm-to-table goodness.

Corner Café – This North Kansas City restaurant serves ginormous cinnamon rolls, along with hearty breakfasts. 

Eggtc – This was one of my favorite breakfast spot discoveries in Kansas City. One bonus is they gave us some coffee to go after our meal. It’s like they know me so well.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ – This Kansas City institution has five locations. We tried the one near Union Station. It’s a great kid-friendly place to try if you’re looking for barbecue.

Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant – How can a family resist this: A model train delivers the meal to your table? It’s a hit with kids. The menu includes hamburgers, sandwiches and fries.

Family-friendly restaurant in Kansas City - Fritz's Railroad Restaurant

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – We went to the Leawood location, not the original in a gas station. It was smack-the-table good, and I recommend ordering the Z-Man Sandwich.

Looking for ice cream? Of course you are. Here’s a post on the best locally-owned ice cream shops in Kansas City.

Kansas City archives button

Holiday events & holiday activities in Kansas City

Christmas is our favorite time to visit Kansas City! I wrote an entire post featuring 15+ things to do during the holidays in KC. Here are a few notable events: 

Crown Center Ice Terrace – The Ice Terrace is a popular seasonal, outdoor ice skating rink at Crown Center open November through February each year. For more Kansas City holiday inspiration, check out my Kansas City Christmas Bucket List.

Mayor’s Christmas Tree – Crown Center not only has the ice skating rink, it has a wonderful, FREE, holiday display centered around the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. There are wooden structures set up around the Christmas tree for kids to climb and play in.

Holiday events in Kansas City - Visit Crown Center to see the holiday decorations surrounding the Mayor's Tree

City Market at Christmas – We timed one of our visits to see City Market’s Whoville experience at Christmas time. It’s FREE, and extremely popular (read: expect a wait).

Christmas at Worlds of Fun WinterFest is an annual holiday event is at Worlds of Fun, and visiting the park when it’s decorated so brilliantly was a lot of fun. This is an evening event, and many of the rides are open, so it was a hit with every age in our group.

Holiday lights at Planet Snoopy inside Worlds of Fun

Christmas not that big of deal for you? Planning a visit sometime other than November or December? Got it.

Here are great annual events celebrating different holidays in Kansas City:

Halloween at Worlds of Fun – There are two sides to Worlds of Fun at Halloween. The daytime amusement park is full of playful activities and photo opps for the Great Pumpkin Fest. At night, it’s a massive haunted house. Of course, there are rides to enjoy, as well. 

Halloween in Kansas City - Worlds of Fun has the Great Pumpkin Fest by day and at night, the amusement park becomes a lot scarier.

St. Patrick’s Day in KC – The family-friendly side of St. Patrick’s Day is typically a parade, and Kansas City has its fair share of them. The big one is Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which begins at Linwood & Broadway and finishes in Westport. Westport has road races that day, including a three-block dash for youngsters.

If you’re in KC the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, Snake Saturday Parade kicks things off in North Kansas City.

Find 35+ fun things to do with kids in Kansas City, plus kid-friendly restaurant suggestions! #Missouri #familytravel #USA

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

My Missouri Bucket List

Missouri is a state I feel like I’ve only just started to explore – though I’ve spent a great deal of time in Kansas City and St. Louis. I’ve started thinking about a road trip through the state – where I’d stop if I had no time limit, no money limit, and let’s be real, no day job. That’s how I’ve come up with this Missouri bucket list.

You may think I’ve left off some key things, and that’s cool. Let me know what shouldn’t be overlooked!

COVID-19 UPDATE: Double check local health and safety ordinances before traveling the state, as well as check if your destination is open to the public.

You won’t find much St. Louis and KC items on this bucket list, because, well, I’ve made those lists already. Same with Excelsior Springs (if it’s not on your Missouri bucket list, add The Elms right this minute).

Missouri Bucket List - 25+ amazing places in Missouri including diving through a mine, spotting wild horses, and sliding down a natural waterslide. This list is all the things to do in Missouri if time and money were no obstacle! #Missouri #BucketList #Midwest #VisitMO #MidwestIsBest #DiscoverMidwest

Dive through a mine

For this bucket list item, I’m going to have to learn to dive first! The Bonne Terre Mines look like a surreal experience – you’re pretty much scuba diving through an old mine. National Geographic Adventure named the diving experience one of the top 10 adventures in America.

If I never learn to dive, there’s always an option of a boat tour.

Feed big cats

The National Tiger Sanctuary, just north of Branson, is home to rescued large cats. There are different types of tours to help the public learn more about the animals, but the one that sounds like a bucket list item is the chance to feed one of the cats.

There’s also a behind-the-scenes tour that I could see my daughter loving.

Go into a cave (or 5,000)

Inside Meramec Caverns, Missouri's largest commercial cave.
Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri. It’s located in the heart of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has more than 5,000 caves, with the most “show caves” in the country. Some that I think merit a visit: Onondaga Cave (claims to have the largest cave living room in the world); Fantastic Caverns in Springfield (home to the only ride-through cave in the U.S.); Marvel Cave (located inside Silver Dollar City and is said to have been discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500s); and two caves in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Robber’s Cave and the Counterfeiter’s Cave (rumored to have been hideouts for outlaws).

The largest of the commercial caves is Meramec Caverns.

Step back into time

My son is fascinated by historic sites, so a trip through Missouri wouldn’t be complete without stopping at a few historic homes. In Diamond, we can set George Washington Carver’s birthplace and see where nature first inspired him as a boy.

Independence might be another stop for us in order to visit the Truman Home, a small home of Bess and Harry S. Truman. I’m on the fence about that one since you can only see it by guided tour, and my kids have a 50-50 track record of dealing well with guided tours.

Chase some waterfalls

I’m obsessed with waterfalls (probably because we have so few in Nebraska). Some of the Missouri waterfalls I’d love to see include Rocky Falls near Eminence, Mo., and Crooked Creek Falls in the Ouachita National Forest. Both of these are in the Ozarks.

Missouri Life has some of the most picturesque waterfalls here.

Try a natural waterslide

And while I’m on the topic of waterfalls, let’s talk about a natural waterslide. Water flows over smooth boulders at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, making it a perfect place to cool off. Because of it, it’s one of the most popular state parks in the Ozarks.

Canoe the Current

Two kayakers floating down the Current River, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway
The Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

My husband planted the idea in my mind that we should canoe the Current River long ago, and I still think about it. Its crystal clear water and gorgeous scenery sound great. The Current River is just one of a couple rivers that are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The other rivers are the Eleven Point and the Jacks Fork (so I guess I have some options). Together they are Missouri’s largest national park. There’s a hidden swimming hole that I’d love to see called Bluff Hole, located where the Jacks Fork River widens.

Go to the drive-in

They’re a dying breed, aren’t they? 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage is seasonal and said to be the last on this famous highway. This isn’t the only drive-in in Missouri, FYI.

I could go to Sunset Drive-In Theater in Springfield and feel like I’ve stepped back in time to the 1950s. 

See some ruins

An overhead drone photo of the castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri
The castle-like ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park are the remains of a mansion that was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Photo courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Near the Current River, there are for-real ruins. Apparently, there isn’t a good address for Welch Spring Hospital Ruins, so I found this post that gives some good directions (just scroll down midway through the post). Ha Ha Tonka State Park, near the Lake of the Ozarks, is home to castle-like ruins, too. Ha Ha Tonka sounds totally amazing.

According to “Missouri Off The Beaten Path,” “The complex of caves, underground streams, large springs, sinkholes, and natural bridges at Ha Ha Tonka State Park makes it one of the country’s most important geological sites.”

Stay in a treehouse

The River Of Life Farm is a resort in the Ozarks with treehouse-like cabins. The beauty of the place is it is in the heart of the Mark Twain National Forest. I personally want to go hiking or canoe, but they are also known for having excellent fly fishing.

Catch a throwed roll

I confess to already doing this, but it’s on this list since I feel my kids should experience having a hot roll chucked at their heads, too. Lambert’s Cafe is in two towns in Missouri (the original is in Sikeston, the other is in Ozark). Expect huge portions along with a wait if you go.

Bike the Katy Trail

A biker on the KATY Trail in Missouri
The KATY Trail is a 237-mile trail that runs through Missouri. This photo was taken near
Cooper’s Landing Campground and Marina. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

One of these days, I’m going to plan a weekend trip along the KATY Trail with my husband, stopping for a winery or brewery along the way. It’s flat, it’s scenic, and at 237 miles long, it’s the nation’s longest “rails-to-trail” project. So, um, maybe we’ll just bike part of it.

This post in Southern Living has inspired me, though, especially about the B&Bs along the route. One that sounds great is the H.S. Clay House (it even has a pool and hot tub). And we’ll need to eat while we’re doing all this biking. Apparently, bikers in-the-know know to stop for some grub at Cooky’s in Golden City.

Find Charley’s Buffet

Hidden somewhere in a Mennonite community in Lake of the Ozarks is Charley’s Buffet, home to Mennonite-cooked and -served food that has people lining up every Friday and Saturday night.

Explore Route 66

Route 66 passes through Missouri including through the entire Ozarks. I read about a few places to visit just off the historic highway. There’s the scenic Devil’s Elbow, with nearby barbecue joint Elbow Inn and 40-foot-high wooden railroad trestle bridge. Then, there’s Lebanon, where the Route 66 Museum and Research Center is located.

Wine & dine in Missouri’s Wine Country

People having a picnic at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Mo.
Stone Hill Winery was built in 1847 in Hermann, Mo. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has a lot going on, in terms of wine, in the southeastern part of the state. This includes towns of Defiance, Marthasville, New Haven, and Hermann. Hermann has 10 wineries in the area as well as a couple microbreweries and distilleries.

The town has several popular festivals like and Wurstfest and Maifest in the spring and Octoberfest in the fall. It is home to Stone Hills Winery which was built in 1847 and, up until prohibition, it was the second largest winery in the U.S. My friends in St. Louis tell me Hermann is the place to go but I wonder if the smaller down they might have overlooked are with visiting too.

Stay in a caboose

Staying in a caboose is going to keep popping up on my bucket lists for states until I stay at one. I’ve come across a couple in Missouri. Cozy Caboose is located at the St. Louis West KOA campground on Route 66. And this one isn’t your ordinary caboose. It’s decked out with a kitchen, queen bed and bunk bed, and more importantly heating and Wi-Fi.

There’s also a place off the KATY Trail called Cruces’ Cabooses B&B with two cabooses for lodging. They come fully-equipped and are nestled in the woods.

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill in Rolla intrigues me. Even though I’ve heard there is no actual roadkill on the menu at the restaurant, I feel like I have to go and see for myself. And then by the T-shirt.

See mastodon skeletons

Mastodon State Historic Site has a pretty interesting story behind it: The first evidence of mastodons were discovered there. And it almost didn’t become a public park – it took a group of persistent housewives to stop the archeological site from being sold to developers.

According to the book “Missouri Off-The-Beaten-Path, ” four women fundraised and pestered state officials until it became a state park. 

Walk on a swinging bridge (or two)

Southwest Missouri is home to two swinging bridges that are just about 1,000 feet apart from each other. Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge and Mill Creek Swinging Bridge are near Brummell. There are two near Osage Beach as well, though I read they were rather rickety.

Like my fascination with caves, I’ve got an inexplicable interest for swinging bridges.

Have a phosphate at the soda fountain where Truman used to work

Clinton’s, located in Independence Missouri, is a legit old-timey soda fountain complete with the marble counter the uniformed soda jerks. This is where Harry S Truman got his first job. I think I’ll order a malt when we’re there.

Have a 19th-century meal by candlelight

Fort Osage National Historic Landmark is known for historical re-enactments. I could see visiting the fort during the day with the kids and then at night, return for an authentic 19th century dinner and entertainment hearthside in the factory’s dining room.

See the wild horses

Wild horses at Echo Bluff State Park in Missouri
Missouri is home to herds of wild horses who roam Shannon County. These horses were at Echo Bluff State Park. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

I’d heard about wild horses of North Carolina, but I’m surprised to know that there are herds in the Midwest, too. Missouri is home to herds of wild horses in Shannon County. They been roaming for more than 100 years and include the Broadfoot herd, Grassy herds , and Shawnee Creek herd.

Experience Ozarks circa mid-1800s

The Ozarks are is home to several festivals throughout the year, including the Hillbilly Fair in Laurie. The one that intrigues me the most is the Osage River Rendezvous and Mountain Man Festival held the third weekend in September.

Here people dressed in period clothes re-create what it was like when fur traders and other early pioneers would gather to socialize, barter, trade and, perhaps, throw a knife or two. 

Buy the monks’ fruitcake

There is a group of Trappist monks in an abbey deep in the Ozarks near Ava. The Assumption Abbey has a bakery where they make more than 30,000 fruitcakes annually. I’m not a fruitcake fan but I hear they’re delicious (and also 2 pounds each). 

Hike by the Elephant Rocks

Hikers pass by the large boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
The granite boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park were formed more than a billion years ago. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Just look at that picture of the boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview! Don’t you also want to see them in real life? These huge granite boulders that were formed more than a billion years ago. The largest rock in the park is 25 feet high.

Be a cowgirl

One of these days I’m going to stay at a dude ranch. Blame it on “City Slickers.” Missouri has an option – Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch. Families to stay here and do hands-on work at the horse and cattle ranch.

See Dogwood

I’ve read about Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Lampe. This nature preserve in the Ozarks is the work of the founder of Bass Pro Shops. I’ve seen pictures and it’s quite picturesque.

I’d love to take a bike tour around it, though there are also options of taking a guided horseback or tram tour.

Huge list of things to do in Missouri including obscure festivals, adventures and outdoor pursuits to add to any bucket list. #bucketlist #Missouri #USA

Get more Missouri Bucket List Inspiration

I’ve been pinning ideas I’ve found for months, more than could fit on this list. Check out my Missouri Road Trip Board for additional travel inspiration for the Show Me State:


Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

Things To Do In Excelsior Springs

A trip to Excelsior Springs, Mo., was a long-time coming for me. I’d first heard about the town in reference to the famous historic hotel, The Elms Hotel & Spa. It seemed to be a destination in itself, an epic Midwest spa destination. I knew friends and in-laws who went as a couples getaway. So, I wanted that kind of getaway, too. But, I also knew there were other great things to do in Excelsior Springs, so we ventured out into town.

If you’re curious, here are things to do in Excelsior Springs as well as a few things to do just outside of tow:

What’s there to do in Excelsior Springs?

Excelsior Springs is a town of about 11,000 people, and it’s a shell of a town it once was. It used to attract tourists seeking the supposedly healing spring waters. The spring water wells are no longer flowing into bath houses, and now it’s a lot quieter in Excelsior Springs. There is a lot of potential and as we walked around, I couldn’t help but wonder why this place didn’t have even more shops, what with the proximity of The Elms.

The Elms Hotel & Spa is an easy walk to downtown Excelsior Springs, Mo.

I could see a hint of a comeback downtown, though. There was a cafe, a few restaurant and bars, a few boutiques, as well as thrift stores.

If you stay at The Elms, you can easily walk to the downtown area and all of the things I’m going to tell you about in this post. First up, is the new kid on the block: Dubious Claims Brewing Co. We got a tip to visit this brew pub from a hotel employee.

Dubious Claims Brewing Co. opened in April 2018 in downtown Excelsior Springs.

Dubious Claims opened in the spring of 2018, and got its name from the history of the city and poking fun at the “health properties” of the spring waters there. We went to Dubious Claims for dinner (try the Final Gravity Chicken) and some beer. There were seasonal brews and their standards. I recommend the popular Kolsch there. 

I tried a beer flight at Dubious Claims Brewing Co. My favorite, by far, was the kolsch.

Another fun place to visit for food and, if you luck out, live music, is Wabash BBQ and Blues Garden. The restaurant is in an old train station. In the summer and into early fall, there’s live music on some Saturday nights. We caught the last concert of the 2018 season and it was a packed event outdoors.

Wabash BBQ on a live music night.

We saw some kids there, in case you were wondering if it was kid-friendly, but it was primarily an adult audience enjoying the beer garden atmosphere. The barbecue was pretty good, too, incidentally.

We picked up a complimentary, self-guided walking tour brochure from The Elms front desk to learn about Excelsior Springs’ past and see some of the sites where spring water wells once stood.

The Hall of Waters was once a water bar where people could sample different “healing” spring waters.

One of the big stops on that tour that I’d recommend taking a look at is The Hall of Waters. It’s now the visitor’s center for the town, so you can double up on the stop to learn about the history of the town and what’s going on there now. 

Hall of Waters & Excelsior Springs Visitor's Center
The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from The Elms Hotel & Spa.

It’s a beautiful art deco building with a fascinating history behind how it got built. Go inside to see the well-known water bar (no water to be sample there now, alas).

The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from the hotel.

The tour took us down the main strip of downtown Excelsior Springs, and that time of morning, there weren’t a lot of shops open. Actually, there wasn’t a lot of retail going on at all downtown. I stopped in a cute women’s clothing boutique called Style By Ry.

Storefront of the clothing boutique Style By Ry.

Things to do near Excelsior Springs

It was a gorgeous fall weekend when we visited, so my husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors. You’ll need a car to get to these places from The Elms.

Our first stop was Watkins Mill State Park. The park has a scenic lake to walk around or bike the paved trail. If you bike, it’s a quick loop around the 100-acre lake with a large portion of it shaded. 

Taking a break from our bike ride at Watkins Mill State Park to check out hte scenery.

There were quite a few families there fishing and enjoying an easy bike ride.

There is a beach that’s open seasonally there, but to be honest, it didn’t look appealing to me compared to other Midwest lakes.

Watkins Woolen Mill is a national historic landmark located near Excelsior Springs.

Adjacent to the state park is the national landmark, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, is an interesting visit if you’re into ag history. The historic site is actually a national historic landmark.

The visitor’s center dives into the area’s agricultural history as well as the significance of the mill.

The visitor’s center is a good place to start to learn about the significance of the family that once lived there.

Then take the short walk to the family’s home and the mill. It’s a peaceful place.

Posing by the Watkins house at the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site. If you take the tour, you can enter the house and learn more about the Watkins family.

There’s an option to take a guided tour for a small fee. I heard it was worth the small fee, but we had a winery to get to. 

The treelined path to the mill at the historic park.

Before heading to the winery, you may want to stop at a nearby waterfall. But, word of advice, if it’s a dry season, it’s going to be disappointing. I’ve seen pictures of Tryst Falls and knew it would be a small waterfall, but when we stopped to look, it wasn’t a waterfall at all. Don’t make a special trip just for the waterfall.

Anyway. Back to the winery. There are three wineries in the area to choose from. We opted to go to Van Till Family Farm & Winery in Rayville, Mo., after a hotel guest told us about their delicious wood-fire pizza. It sounded a lot like my experience at Luna Valley Farm in Iowa, so I wanted to check it out. 

The garden patio is adjacent to the tasting room at Van Till Family Farm & Winery.

We sample some wine first inside the tasting room and then ventured to the outdoor wine garden. It was a busy place that afternoon. Luckily, it was a beautiful place for a leisurely-paced lunch with some chilled wine.

We ordered the chef’s pizza special that afternoon – pork belly and fig pizza. It was so good, there were no leftovers.

Where to stay in Excelsior Springs

I’ve written all about a stay at The Elms, including what their famous spa experience is like and dining at the hotel. You can’t beat the location and beauty of this hotel.

The Elms was first built in 1888, though this current structure is the third incarnation of the historic hotel. The first two suffered fire damages. This building opened in 1912.

You don’t have to be a guest to explore the hotel’s first floor. It’s also a stop on the walking tour for the natural springs.

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

Weekend getaway to Excelsior Springs, Missouri - Fun things to do including bike ride, visiting a national historic landmark, trying local beer and wine, and seeing The Hall of Waters
Guide to a weekend in Excelsior Springs - Where to eat, where to try local beers and wine, and details on a mineral springs walking tour and a scenic bike trail

The Elms: Perfect Couples Getaway Near Kansas City

Excelsior Springs, Mo., is home to the historic Elms Hotel & Spa, a charming hotel that was like a beacon to couples. My husband and I were there this fall for our anniversary, and while the goal was just to relax and reconnect, we may have fallen in love with the hotel, too. I think you might be surprised at why we loved this hotel so much.

The historic Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, just outside Kansas City, is a great getaway for couples. Go for the spa services & Grotto, and then stay for the food, friendly employees & history. #Missouri #USA #romantic #getaway

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by The Elms Hotel & Spa. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

About The Elms

The Elms is designed to make an impact at first view. It’s grand and there is no other structure in Excelsior Springs that looks so lovingly restored. But, that lovely building is the third incarnation of The Elms.

Entrance to The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri
The Elms was first built in 1888, though this current structure is the third incarnation of the historic hotel. The first two suffered fire damages. This building opened in 1912, and it’s designed to be fire-proof.

The original Elms Hotel opened in 1888 to provide luxury lodging to visitors streaming to Excelsior Springs to visit the towns newly discovered mineral springs. It was a grand wooden structure and suffered fire damage twice, so in 1912, it was redesigned in the Tudor Revival style in 1912 using fireproof native limestone.

Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs
The Elms Hotel & Spa at sunset.

Famous guests include Al Capone – who I read used to run some gambling in the basement. My favorite story is about Harry S Truman, who the hotel says was staying there the night he was elected. That famous photo of him holding up the Chicago Tribune with the erroneous headline? That was taken shortly after he checked out of the hotel to claim victory.

But, enough about famous guests. The stars of this story are the employees of The Elms. I sincerely think the employees are a big reason The Elms has so may repeat customers. We met a couple from Omaha who has been visiting for 35 years. Another couple from Kanas City started going for their anniversary but decided one year wasn’t enough and now they go every 6 months.

Everything is pretty grand when it comes to The Elms, including the service.

My encounters with the staff, and those I observed with others, were genuine and warm. I especially commend the two women working at the Royal Treatment Lounge on the weekend – Deby and Jenny. More on that experience below.

But first, let’s talk about the relaxation and escaping from obligations – what every parent wants, right?

The Spa At Elms

The Elms’ spa is one of the largest in the Midwest, when you count the indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, and (my favorite), the Grotto. You can make a day of it, really. Many people do. 

My husband and I started our day off bright and early with a couples massage.

If you’ve booked a spa treatment, it’s a good idea to arrive at least an hour ahead of time, as your personal concierge will give you a tour of the spa and locker room. After you change into your comfy robe, you’re led to the Quiet Room to wait. 

Quiet room at the spa in The Elms Hotel & Spa
I dare any parent to rest in the Quiet Room at the Elms spa and not doze off.

The Quiet Room is a slice of heaven for a parent who is used to constant chaos. There’s a small snack and drink bar with organic food, locally-sourced coffee, and a delicious coconut milk drink. You hang out in this room until your appointment. 

Good and relaxed, you have your massage or treatment, and then, the really good part starts. You’re free to enjoy the other spa amenities. Head to one of the pools, indoors or outdoors, if you want.

The indoor lap pool at The Elms is pretty uniquely designed.

But my recommendation? Make a beeline to the Grotto. The Grotto has hot tub, steam sauna with eucalyptus infused steam, a steam sauna, and a steam shower – which you’ll want to pick out your own salt scrub from the exfoliation bar to take into the shower first. And, when the heat gets a bit much, cool off in the cold plunge shower. It’s 42 degrees and feels fantastic.

The hot tub in the Grotto is spacious.

Tip: You might not be a morning person, but I recommend that first-of-the-day time slot because then you just might get the Grotto to yourself.

Hotel guests and the public can pay $55 to have access to the spa if they don’t want to purchase a treatment. I have a list of treatments I want to try, so I think I’m more likely to schedule a massage or water treatment than just the access to the spa. Here’s their list of packages. But, I see how just relaxing poolside and hanging out in the Grotto could be relaxing enough, too. 

Grotto at The Elms
Four of the Grotto’s features are pictured here. From left is the dry sauna, steam sauna, hot tub, and steam shower. To the right, just out of view, is the cold plunge shower.

Stay tuned: I heard from the spa’s manager that she anticipates some great updates to the spa in January 2019. The hydrotherapy rooms will get a makeover and some of the seating will be updated.

The Rooms At Elms

The rooms at the hotel underwent a $20 million renovation a few years ago. They retained some of the historic charm, but they’re all completely modern now. 

A king-size bed room at The Elms Hotel & Spa. Our room was on the fifth floor, where we had access to the Royal Treatment Lounge.

Our room had a king-size bed, and modern amenities like a Keurig machine. It was located on the fifth floor (for you ghost hunters – that’s rumored to be the haunted floor). There are several room types, including suites, to choose from.

Now, the perk of the fifth floor is what The Elms calls the Royal Experience. This, my friends, is worth the add-on. Available Thursdays through Sundays, the Royal Experience includes a Welcome Reception each night with complimentary wine, beer, and appetizers. You get to meet Deby, who brings in her famous poundcake on Saturday nights (don’t ask her for the recipe – she’s not telling). 

The breakfast spread on a weekend morning at the Royal Treatment Lounge, located on the fifth floor of The Elms Hotel & Spa.

The Royal Experience also includes complimentary continental breakfast with fresh fruit, pastries, juice and coffee. Throughout the day, you can stop in to grab pop or a snack, too. 

The appealing thing about this lounge is that it gets you talking with your fellow guests. We were tipped off to where the live music was (Saturday nights, June through September, you can walk to Wabash BBQ for a band). And, we found out about Dubious Claims, the new brewery that’s also an easy walk from the hotel. 

The Restaurants At Elms

We were pretty spoiled with the reception and continental breakfast that was included with the Royal Experience, so we didn’t do a whole lot of eating in the hotel’s three other dining areas.

The pastries display at The Cafe located just near the main entrance to The Elms.

The Cafe in the lobby was a nice option for a quick snack before our early morning massage, though. We got coffee and some pastries. 

We had a late breakfast at 88, the more upscale restaurant at the hotel, too. Of all of our dining experiences, this one was the least memorable. We tried the buffet, and while the omelets were superb, much of the rest of the items were not. 

The Elms’ main restaurant, 88, features a more upscale menu for lunch and dinner, as well as a brunch.

The other restaurant, The Tavern, could not fit into our short time there, so I guess we’ll just try it out next time. It look like a cozy place for a drink and pub food.

Tours and more

A lot of my readers seem to be into ghosts, as a few told me to look for ghosts while we were there. (No thanks) But, if you’re into that sort of thing, The Elms has you covered. There is a nightly ghost tour that’s $15 per person. I overheard a few people talking about it, and they loved it and said the guide was an excellent storyteller. 

Hall of Waters & Excelsior Springs Visitor's Center
The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from the hotel.

If you’re more into the mineral springs history of the hotel and the town, there’s a self-guided walking tour. The front desk attendant gave us a map, and we visited a few within walking distance (there’s one in the parking lot of the hotel). None of the wells are open any more, but at one point, there were 40 of them. Their healing powers may have been a bit dubious (side note: that’s what the new brewery in town named itself after). 

Elms Hotel pool at sunset
Just beyond the pool and the gazebo is a great lawn to stroll, where you’ll find the chef’s herb and vegetable garden, a few tables and horseshoes.

And if tours aren’t your thing, just take a walk on the grounds of The Elms. 

If you go

Elms Spa & Spa

Where: 401 Regent St., Excelsior Springs, Mo.


Looking for a romantic or relaxing couples getaway? The Elms Hotel & Spa in Missouri fits the bill - A large spa, attentive employees, and the Royal Treatment - all packaged in a historic building #Missouri #USA #ExcelsiorSprings #hotelreview

Read more about Excelsior Springs

Check back on the blog soon for a post about things to do and places to eat at in Excelsior Springs, Mo. We spent a weekend there and biked, went to a winery for wood-fire pizza, found a local brewery, visited a historic site, and went to a concert, among other things.

Dubious Claims Brewing Co. is located within walking distance of The Elms Hotel & Spa.

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.