Kansas City defies expectations in every way. Most people assume it’s nothing more than a podunk cow town in Kansas. Wait, no, Missouri? (It’s both.)
Yes, barbecue brisket and KC strip steaks are a staple on local menus, but the cosmopolitan city is anything but unsophisticated. For a city of its size, “The Paris of the Plains” oozes culture, whether you’re perusing the art collection at the top-rated Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or listening to a performance by the Kansas City Symphony under the swooping roof of the state-of-the-art Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on. Kansas City recently made the list of National Geographic Traveler’s “Best Small Cities for 2018”. The town is trending in the “most artsy” category and you’ll see why when you stroll past some of the city’s famous fountains on Country Club Plaza, listen to live jazz at The Blue Room or explore the works of emerging artists in the Crossroads Arts District.
Kansas City is on a roll and not just thanks to the new streetcar systems zipping passengers for free up and down Main Street. There’s also a slew of new developments transforming the city’s hospitality options. That’s why I’m taking you to my native KC to revisit some of my favorite hot spots and the coolest hotels in Kansas City that are oozing with local appeal.
Coolest Hotels In Kansas City
Country Club Plaza
“The Plaza” has been the city’s swankiest outdoor shopping, dining, entertainment, and residential district for many generations. The neighborhood’s buildings are modeled after the colorful marketplaces of Seville, Spain — Kansas City’s sister city — with stuccoed buildings, ornate towers and courtyards decorated with tiled murals, mosaics, and fountains.
Power up with a cup of joe at Kaldi, then check out the stylish denim designs at Baldwin KC and shop for fashionable décor at Coveted Home. Later, soak up The Plaza’s atmosphere on Gram & Dunn’s cozy outdoor patio during happy hour or savor the flavor of hickory-smoked meats at Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ. While in the neighborhood, be sure to admire the whimsical shuttlecocks scattered on the expansive lawn of the highly regarded Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is free to visit.
The Fontaine: Chic and Affordable
Located at the western end of the Country Club Plaza, The Fontaine is arguably one of the chicest hotels in Kansas City, but it comes with a Midwestern price tag. From the moment you step inside, you are surrounded by sophisticated luxury from the gleaming marble under your feet to the Venetian-glass chandeliers dangling overhead. Snuggle under Egyptian cotton sheets in one of the 132 rooms outfitted in soothing blue, white, and gray tones.
The hotel’s newly-envisioned restaurant Parker, named after hometown jazz legend Charlie Park, has panoramic views of the city from its rooftop perch. It also opens up onto a pool terrace, which offers the perfect setting for a swanky L.A.-style soirée, complete with craft cocktails from the bar.View Hotel
The Raphael Autograph Collection: Exceptional Service and Warm Hospitality
Just south of Brush Creek at the corner of Ward Parkway and Wornall Road, The Raphael Autograph Collection occupies a nine-story brick building that came to life as an apartment building soon after the completion of the Country Club Plaza in 1925. Reborn as a boutique hotel in the 1970s, the space has continued to evolve while preserving its ornate Italian Renaissance Revival style and reputation for exceptional service and warm hospitality.
Guests can count on little luxuries like free valet parking, 300-thread count sheets, in-room massages, and live music every night at the celebrated restaurant and lounge, Chaz on the Plaza.View Hotel
Southmoreland on the Plaza: An Urban Retreat
Southmoreland on the Plaza is a 12-room inn is a relaxing urban retreat tucked away on a quiet street between The Plaza and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. All the rooms are named after famous Kansas Citians and the décor reflects the era in which they lived, something about their personality, or their interests. Guests can get to know Clara and Russell Stover, the confectioners who invented the Eskimo Pie, baseball legend LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, or artist Thomas Hart Benton. All the rooms have private baths and feature either a wood-burning fireplace, a Jacuzzi, or treetop deck.View Hotel
Downtown / Power & Light District
Like other downtown cores across the country, Kansas City has gone through extensive urban revitalization. The biggest catalyst was the development of the Power & Light District, located in the shadow of the namesake landmark skyscraper that bears the same name. It’s become a go-to spot in the city for nightlife and sporting events at the Sprint Center. The heart of the district is KC Live!, a city block of restaurants and nightlife surrounding a covered outdoor courtyard, where frequent live musical performances take place. Pair a beer from the city’s own Boulevard Brewing Company with a gourmet, ground-fresh burger at BRGR Kitchen + Bar. Afterward, explore the nightlife options, which range from dueling pianos to country line dancing.
Hotel Indigo: Designed by the Neighborhood
Hotel Indigo eschews the generic hotel experience by drawing design inspiration from their surrounding neighborhood. Housed in the Brookfield Building, which at one time held administrative offices for the local airport and several railroad companies, the hotel’s first entry in the Kansas City market features a transportation theme throughout the space from the train route map on the ceiling to large murals on each floor. The 118 rooms feature different blown-up versions of vintage postcards sent from Kansas City along with all the modern comforts, including spa-like bathrooms.View Hotel
Ambassador Hotel Kansas City: Refined Elegance
The former Gate City National Bank building, a 1920’s-era neoclassical structure, went from ruin to refined elegance thanks to an extensive renovation that made way for the Ambassador Hotel, Autograph Collection. The 43-room boutique hotel retained some of the historic elements, including the original marble floors. A ballroom was converted into two-story loft-style lodging with the decorative corbels and the original windows with city views.
While there’s plenty of restaurants and nightlife options within walking distance, the hotel’s shuttle offers complimentary door-to-door service within a five-mile radius and a KC streetcar stop is only two blocks away.View Hotel
Crossroads Art District / Crown Center
Anchored by the Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to the north and Crown Center and the repurposed Union Station to the south, the Crossroads Art District is home to one of the largest concentrations of art galleries in the country. Once-vacant warehouses are filled with independent, locally-owned galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants.
The area really shines during First Fridays, when jugglers, musicians, and artists mingle with art enthusiasts late into the night. There are plenty of other options the rest of the month, though. Shop for cards at Hammerpress, a letterpress print shop, fill up on the never-ending pasta trio at Lidia’s Kansas City, and play classic arcade games at the 21-and-over bar Up-Down.
Home2 Suites: A Convenient Home Away From Home
Home2 Suites by Hilton recently opened this 114-suite, extended-stay property with spacious one-bedroom units that come with a king- or queen-size bed plus sofa-sleeper and a fully-equipped kitchen. Other amenities include free breakfast, a combined fitness and laundry area, and a heated-indoor saltwater pool that overlooks Main Street.
Located on the KC Streetcar route, the hotel is convenient for walking to nearby spots in the Crossroads or zipping north to the Power & Light District.View Hotel
Hotel Phillips, which first opened its doors in 1931, makes for a stylish and comfortable stay in the P&L District. Following a $20 million renovation in 2017, the 216 rooms have been updated with all the modern touches from bath fixtures to comfortable beds with fresh linens. But it’s the hotel’s restored public spaces that impress the most. The dark walnut paneling, elaborate bronze and nickel metalwork and light fixtures drip with glamorous Art Deco style. Soaring above the lobby stands an impressive eleven-foot sculpture of the Goddess of Dawn created by local artist Jorgen Dreyer in 1931.
When the hotel originally opened, the prohibition era was in full swing, so the hotel speakeasy P.S. pays homage to that time period. Guests will find it tucked away in the basement in what was once a mail-sorting room. As you wander the hotel, you’ll notice other special touches, like pop-up exhibits and performances. The pet-friendly hotel also pampers four-legged friends with doggy beds, food and water bowls, and treats from Three Dog Bakery.View Hotel
One of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, Westport was called the “Gateway to the West” by early settlers who loaded up on provisions in the frontier village before making their way along the Oregon, Santa Fe, and California wagon trails that all passed through on present-day Westport Road. While very little remains of the original village, Westport remains a vibrant and eclectic enclave boasting avenues lined with old-timey lamp posts and historic buildings now filled with live-entertainment venues, craft breweries, and fashionable boutiques. Check out an independent film at Tivoli Cinemas, bite into some burnt ends at Beer Kitchen, a gastropub with an impressive beer selection, and listen to emerging artists at The Riot Room.
816 Hotel: Themes For Every Traveler
The story of Kansas City is told room by room at the 816 Hotel, owned by a KC-based developer who took over a former Holiday Inn Express four years ago. Twenty of its rooms feature unique designs and one-of-a-kind furnishings with themes ranging from wild animals to music to mob history. The aviation-themed TWA room features airline seats from a McDonnell Douglas MD-80, a beverage cart, and a headboard designed to look like captain’s wings.
Pet lovers will appreciate the Wayside Waifs pet-friendly room, which even has complimentary dog treats waiting for your four-legged friend. Little extras for humans include complimentary passes to a local gym, free breakfast, and free drinks during cocktail hour, plus a lift to other spots in the city within four miles.View Hotel
*All photos from trivago unless otherwise noted.