Surprise! I went to Missouri. Which is no real surprise, I suppose, if you follow my Instagram or Facebook feeds. But it was a surprise to me, as I was only told about this particular trip a few days in advance.
Rewind. My last month has been a smattering of last minute projects that have cropped up—thus reinforcing that not going to Tanzania was the best decision I could have made from the perspectives of my career and bank account—which is how I went from Kentucky to Memphis to Missouri in a two-week span. And I’m off to Atlanta tomorrow, but that’s for purely personal reasons (girls’ weekend with my cousin/other sister Rebecca).
And for those of you who have asked, SVV never gives me crap about being gone so much. He’s the most supportive husband a girl could ask for (plus, I think he secretly covets his quiet time!). But not everyone lets me leave without piling on the guilt—or asking to come with me.
For this project, the client initially contacted me a few weeks ago, and after we fleshed out the scope, they asked: “So where do you want to go?”
“Um, like anywhere?”
“Sure…anywhere in the United States.”
Well, folks, I was bumfuzzled. Had it been June and not freezing in most of the country, I would have said somewhere in the Northeast. Or perhaps a city I’ve never visited but have an odd desire to see such as Milwaukee. But that wasn’t the case. It was mid-March and snowing in many places. Plus, it was only to be for two nights so that ruled out the West Coast—I didn’t want to spend the better part of that time in transit.
“Surprise me,” was my answer. “Though know that I prefer somewhere warm.” And surprise me they did…with Kansas City! Not exactly warm per se—rather, I don’t think it topped 30s while I was there—but I was happy to explore a place I wouldn’t normally choose to go on my own dime.
I was telling people that it was my first time in Kansas City, but apparently that’s not totally accurate. When my family took a cross-country road trip to Colorado when I was 12, allegedly we spent some time there. But if you don’t remember it, it doesn’t count, right? And all I remember from that trip is that my mom dragged my sister, my dad and me to countless Native American sites we couldn’t have cared less about. (To be fair, we all still give her attitude when she goes into uber-tourist mode, so I’m sure she’d still get the same reaction from all of us today, 18 years later.)
Luckily, I have a good friend Rachel who is from Kansas City and a blog-to-IRL pal Jenna who currently lives there (and is pictured below…isn’t she darling?). So they armed me with tried-and-true suggestions from real locals, and off I went to explore the artsy Midwestern corridor.
I was staying at the Hampton on Country Club Plaza, which I assumed would be the equivalent to Kansas City’s Times Square—touristy and tacky. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First off, the Plaza area was adorable. I hadn’t meant to spend much time there, but wound up killing a whole day walking around, appreciating the Moorish architecture, doing a little shopping and a whole lot of eating (always).
The first night, I arrived late and wandered down the street for a snack and a beer. The hotel GM pointed me in the direction of Tomfooleries, so I noshed on a hummus platter and had a local beer, Boulevard.
I know you’re really surprised that much of my time there was spent checking out Kansas City’s sweeter side. First up, a giant cookie and macaron at Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott that I paired with a caramella from Latteland.
Next, Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolate, which is just insanely delicious. (And lest you think I’m going to inflate like a balloon, this was the next day we’re talking about. And I skipped lunches in between to save my calories for treats.) My sister-in-law had given me some of the pop rocks dark chocolate for Christmas, so I brought a few bars home with me.
But I saved the best for last: Glacé Artisan Ice Cream (which actually uses Christopher Elbow in its products). I really wanted to try the root beer float, which was made with salted pretzel ice cream, but instead just got a scoop of the pretzel and paired it with fleur de sel caramel. I have never tasted anything so good in my life. I will return to Kansas City in the near future, if only for that ice cream. And I know you’re all shocked I didn’t order the butterscotch bourbon, and yes, I am totally regretting that temporary lack of judgment, too.
I also made use of the Hampton’s pool and did an impromptu underwater photo shoot with my newly upgraded GoPro. Because there’s nothing more awkward than photographing yourself while four complete strangers stare into the swimming area from their treadmills.
I am still shocked by my hotel experience itself. First of all, the parking was free. What? In San Francisco, whenever we’d spend a night in a hotel locally because I was reviewing it for Frommer’s, we’d still have to pay $60 or so. Per night. I didn’t know complimentary parking was even a thing. Secondly, WiFi was free. I’m so tired of every hotel trying to nickel-and-dime guests, so this was a pleasant surprise. I was able to get my Timberweek on while simultaneously planning some trips for clients.
Lastly—and I should have remembered this growing up spending all our family weekends away in Hamptons while on the road for sports tourneys—but Hampton has its ridiculous breakfast spread, which is also included in your stay. Even though I wound up not eating the waffle (I’m never really hungry in the morning…could be because I eat so many sweets in the latter half of the days!), I had to make one because it was there.
My foodie tour continued with dinner at Story with Jenna. And because she’s a local rock star, the chef—a James Beard finalist, I should note—came out and indulged us with a brief chat and a photo.
It’s always fun to eat with someone who’s an equally adventurous diner and not at all picky; as such, we pretty much ate every kind of animal on tap—from foie gras to ceviche to Arctic char to some decadent meat-filled amuse-bouche. Our bill was a little up there when you tack on the cocktails, but YOLO, y’all.
I have a lot more Kansas City tips and photos to share, but I’ll save those for a rainy day. In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised by how charming and friendly the town was. I’d definitely go back—and for fun next time, not because someone wants to employ me to.
Disclosure: This project is part of a greater ad campaign for Hampton. I was not asked to blog about it, nor did the company request that I say anything specifically about the hotel. In fact, the language in the contract says: “any testimonial or endorsement … shall reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs and/or experiences of the Guest.” (But for reals, Hampton hotels have always been the preferred Luna family brand when we travel for affordability alone; it helps that they’re owned by Hilton and you rack up the HHonors points!) However, I was compensated for signing over the rights to use my name and likeness in said campaign. This face is going to be famous among dozens.