I always get excited for work conferences. First, they always leave me feeling re-energized and extra passionate about the work I’m doing. And what’s more is, they usually call for some kind of travel. Even if it’s just a seminar across town, a change of scenery is always nice.
I was extra stoked that a conference I’ve attended for several years now (held in Nashville and Austin in the past) took place in Kansas City this year.
I was able to bring Jeremy along with me, and though we had considered flying, the cost was just too steep. So, we packed our bags and hit the road for a nine hour drive across the Midwest! Because we had to make the trek on wheels, we left a day early and scheduled in some time after the conference to stay and explore the city before heading home.
The drive was just about as smooth as it could be, and we only really got antsy about 100 miles outside of the city. Naturally, that portion seemed like it took ages.
When we arrived in the evening, we checked into our hotel (we stayed at the Aladdin Holiday Inn downtown), took a few minutes to shake off the motion sickness and freshen up, then grabbed a map and hit the town.
We started our evening at Yard House – which we initially thought was a local establishment but learned that it’s actually a chain. Even so, we were SO impressed. They had an entire section for vegan entrees and both of us ended up ordering from it! We basically polished off a pizza each. That long-drive-induced-hunger is no joke!
From there, we decided we were awake enough to do just a bit of exploring and enjoy a drink or two. We ended up at Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar located in the Power & Light District of the city, inside of a giant, two story, open-air building made up of bars.
We had a great time watching the band – who took requests from the audience, any song request at all, and would either play it on the spot or quickly learn it. While we picked up on a few of the tricks that allowed them to do so, it was still incredibly impressive and fun to watch!
I was practically passing out after about an hour there, so we made the walk back to the hotel and within minutes, crashed.
The next morning, we got a fairly early start and grabbed the car. Kansas City is walkable enough, but not the most condensed big city we’ve ever visited, so it was a huge bonus to have a vehicle. In addition, many of the areas of the city worth visiting are not within walking distance. Plan to have a car, or to use public transport frequently, if you want to explore outside of the immediate downtown!
We made our way to Heirloom Bakery & Hearth for breakfast and were swept off our feet by the charm of the place.
The food was delicious – we both got build-your-own breakfast sandwiches, enjoyed coffee (J) and tea (me), and shared a homemade pop-tart.
We took a few minutes to plan our day after our bellies were full, and decided that our next stop would be Second Best Coffee (yes, more coffee!) because Jeremy had heard about their nitro coffee and claimed we couldn’t go home until he tried it. I have to admit, it was totally worth it.
With some major coffee buzzes going on, it was time to head to 39th Street West (which I mentioned earlier this week here.)
I was so excited about this area of the city, based on Skunkboy’s trip, and it definitely won me over enough to say that I think it’s my favorite part of KC (with 18th Street coming in a very close second!)
It was a much quieter area, and seemed familiar in so many ways. I think it was a perfect mix between Fort Wayne, Nashville, and oddly, certain parts of England that I loved.
We parked the car about ten minutes away from the area and enjoyed the walk into it. Our first stop was a small donation and thrift shop (we did a quick photoshoot using one of its walls!)
It was starting to get a little warm and we both decided it was time for a break, so we ventured into Hi-Dive Lounge for a drink. We loved this spot because it had a covered, open-air area (quite popular throughout Kansas City) where you could sit and enjoy your drink while looking out into the street.
Once we were refueled, we walked across the street to Donna’s Dress Shop, which ended up being my absolute favorite of the day! Sadly, I didn’t buy anything, but I could have spent several more hours going through each dress and accessory one by one.
After Donna’s, we stopped into Blue Koi for a bite to eat. Can I just say… what have I been missing out on all of these years? I ordered the vegetarian pan-fried dumplings and whoa. Life changing. Probably my newest obsession!
After our late lunch, we decided it was time to head back towards downtown for a meet-up with my fellow conference-goers at Tapcade, a bar filled with arcade games! Jeremy was in beer-game heaven, and I was happy to catch up with some old friends.
That night, we joined a former colleague and ate at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and called it a rather early night since the conference started bright and early the next morning.
I spent the next two days mostly at the Alamo Drafthouse for the conference. I didn’t get to experience a movie there, but even so, I’d highly recommend that, if you find yourself in Kansas City with the time to go, you should. You can order food and drinks while enjoying incredibly comfy seats and a beautiful setting!
Jeremy did some exploring on his own while I was in the conference both days, and he’ll be sharing his stories with you soon!
After day one of the conference, we enjoyed dinner at McCoy’s Public House (get the mac and cheese!) and that’s about all we did.
After day two of the conference, I had way more energy and we did some walking around downtown since I hadn’t gotten to experience that area yet. We stuck mostly in the Power & Light District, which is such a visual experience! So many old, traditional brick buildings contrasted with bright, sleek, and modern glassy ones.
My must-see was the city’s library and it did not disappoint! The main wall is painted to look like a bookshelf, with several classic book spines carefully recreated, and the steps and benches surrounding the library are made to look like giant books, too!
From there, we started for 18th Street, where the city was celebrating First Fridays with lots of art, entertainment, and food trucks.
We walked in step with thousands of other people, trying to get a feel for this artsy area of the city, and decided we’d make a quick trip there the next day since it was so crowded and hard to take in.
Luckily, we were able to find an empty booth at The Brick, a kitschy little dive with a focus on really great food (it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.) We shared a serving of fried provolone sticks and I practically inhaled the best portobello sandwich I’ve ever had, while Jeremy savored a meatloaf sandwich.
We really wanted to stop into Grinders for drinks afterwards because they, apparently, have the best Bloody Marys in all of KCMO. But it was so crowded that it was impossible to even get inside, so we went next door to Thou Mayest instead. If I’m being totally honest, I’m actually really, really glad that’s where we ended up. Thou Mayest is a coffeeshop similar to Old Crown here in Fort Wayne, as it’s also a cocktail bar.
We grabbed a couple of drinks and sat out on the patio, which looked out into the city and over a stage where a live band was performing.
It started to get a little chilly and we were ready to call it a night, so we started back for the hotel. The walk back was slow and calm and I’m thankful we got away from the crowds enough to experience the city (and its many beautiful lights) in that atmosphere.
Our last morning started with breakfast at the hotel. Once we checked out, we headed for the WWI Memorial because I’d done some research on where we should go for the best skyline views of the city and it was highly recommended. The photos at the beginning of this post were taken there – and those who suggested it were so right! Breathtaking.
After catching our breath, we drove back to 18th Street because I’d said the night before how much I wanted to revisit Thou Mayest for a coffee.
We did a quick photoshoot just down the street and then popped in for our caffeine fix. Can I just have every little detail of this place recreated in our home, please?
Coffee in-hand, we drove to River Market Antiques, by far the biggest antique mall I’ve ever stepped foot in. It had three huge stories and a basement filled to the brim with vintage items – all so reasonably priced!
We wanted to make sure we left at a reasonable hour to make the nine hour drive home, so we cut our time at the antique mall short and headed for our last couple of stops. First up, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Nearly every postcard or snapshot I’d seen of Kansas City included the shuttlecocks that live outside of the museum, so naturally it was on my list of must-sees! We didn’t stop inside, but we spent a good chunk of time on the lawn taking in all of the outdoor displays.
We fell in love with the giant faces pictured here. Each one represents a season. They’re so intricate and so HUGE!
Slowly, we made our way back to the car, knowing we only had one more stop before leaving for home… and we just weren’t quite ready to come to terms with that.
Lunch at Beer Kitchen was the last item on our agenda for Kansas City. Weirdly, we both ended up getting the same thing – the avocado and tomato grilled cheese. So. so. good!
We sat a little too long, not wanting to say goodbye, but Fort Wayne and reality were calling our names. Once again, we found ourselves back in the car and made the long, long journey across Missouri, through Illinois and, finally, into Indiana… until we reached home.
Thanks for everything, Kansas City! We’ll be back again one day.