Upscale, downtown, and affordable? You're not dreaming. You're in Kansas City, the heart of the heartland, where you can stay in the lap of luxury without paying through the nose. The folks are friendly, the living is easy, and the season is sublime.
Friday--On a Roll in the Plaza
Sashay into the Hotel Phillips with a victory jig, because you're living large for an unexpected price. Rates start at $119 at this swanky boutique hotel, which will dazzle you with its sophisticated atmosphere, upscale rooms, and happening restaurants. You'll love the hand-dyed silk pillows made by a local artist and the way the rooms feel like suites. (Tip: You might be able to get rooms for as cheap as $99 on their Web site, www.hotelphillips.com.) Now put on your most comfortable shoes, because you're in for one wild ride.
No one should come to Kansas City without a visit to Country Club Plaza, a shopping and dining district whose creamy stucco walls and red tile roofs were inspired by Seville, Spain. You're going to see it the coolest way possible--on a Segway. These Jetson-esque two-wheeled people-movers are powered by gyroscopes, kinetic energy, and your own personal mojo. All you need is a 10-minute lesson, and you're off on a 90-minute tour of the Plaza's outdoor art: statues, fountains, friezes, and murals imported from around the world. It's well worth the $60--and the curious looks you'll get from envious pedestrians.
If you come on the first weekend of the month, you're in for a treat. Head to the Crossroads Arts District for First Fridays, one of the biggest art walks in the country. Get here early to park, or take a 15-minute walk from the Hotel Phillips. Galleries and other businesses open from 7 to 9 p.m. and offer complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres. Grab a First Fridays map at any gallery for a list of participants and nearby restaurants. Better yet, call ahead for a table at Lidia's, an Italian trattoria in an old railway warehouse, run by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. Try her homemade pastas (around $15) or the Zuppa di Pesce ($19), a jumble of scallops, shrimp, calamari, littleneck clams, and fish fillets in a heavenly broth.
Saturday--Where the Locals Go
Resist the urge to linger in bed because early birds get the sunniest tables at Succotash, a charming little open-air cafe that provides a front-row seat at City Market, the bustling local bazaar. Grin back at the Cake and a Smile breakfast ($5.25), an anthropomorphic pancake with a bacon smirk. After breakfast, stroll to Dutch Flowers to buy a fresh-off-the- waffle-press stroopwafel, an authentic Dutch sweet that's hard to get outside of Holland.
You'll probably desire more shopping at the Plaza, but swing by a few local gems on the way. Head down Grand, and look for the wall-size mural that welcomes you to Bob Jones Shoes, a sole-searcher's paradise. You'll find dozens of bags, 100,000 pairs of shoes, popular brands marked down at least 20%, and a whopping clearance rack. Your next stop is Pryde's Old Westport, a kitchen store overflowing with must-have gadgets, painted stoneware, specialty bakeware, and pretty linens. The friendly employees will offer you a complimentary mug of fresh coffee or tea. We dare you to leave empty-handed.
Wander around Westport, a charming neighborhood full of antiques stores and little shops. You might find a first edition Hemingway, a 100-year-old map, or a personal note signed by JFK at Spivey's Rare Books, Maps, and Fine Arts. For lunch, pop into Cupini's, a little Italian deli with an ample selection of hot panini sandwiches, homemade pastas, and spinach pies--all for around $6. Get a good whiff of the olive bar, and shop for imported goods in their market next door.
Spend the afternoon shopping at the Plaza; then stroll over for an aperitif at The Lounge at The Fairmont, an upscale place that's classy but not stuffy. The nightly live jazz starts at 5 p.m., and there's no cover charge, so you can splurge on a chocolate martini. They have enough specialty drinks for you to try a new one every day of the year. Plus, you can order sushi for $1 a piece--a steal! It's a fun, affordable way to enjoy the city's fanciest hotel.
Head a few blocks south for wining and dining at Joe D's Winebar-Café and Patio. You gotta love a restaurant with a one-page menu and a four-page wine list. A local favorite, its changing menu features pastas, seafood, and entrées with a European flair ($14 to $25), not to mention plenty of vino (50 selections by the glass, 200 by the bottle).
Sunday--Sit Back And Slow Down
Go ahead, sleep in. The big brunch at The Cup and Saucer will be waiting. If you want something lighter, try the herbed waffle, a savory twist with mixed greens, smoked salmon, a bit of goat cheese, and a drizzle of crème fraîche ($7). Take a leisurely stroll through the outdoor sculpture garden at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (admission is free), followed by a nap on the gallery's soft green lawn in the shade of a giant shuttlecock sculpture.
Now dream of your next return.
This article is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.