Places to Visit in Kansas City: The Elms Resort and Spa, Smithville Lake and Liberty Square

This is the follow up to last week’s post about my 20th wedding anniversary because I want to share some of the awesome things we did, saw, and ate on our staycation. While we were #NotinNapa, Kansas City is a pretty neat place to spend time as well. Let’s take a little drive, shall we, and explore what’s just down the road.

Our first stop–hiking at Smithville Lake. My husband and I love to hike but we never think to do it here in the midwest. We love hiking in the mountains and we tend to compartmentalize it into “things we do on vacation” only.  We love getting out in nature so we did a little searching on the site AllTrails and found some fun looking trails on the north side of town by Smithville Lake. They were the only ones labeled moderate because most of the trails in a 100 mile radius are listed as easy. The Smithville Lake Trail (in Camp Branch Park) like a really fun walk in the woods but fun nonetheless! It took me right back to when I was a kid and I would explore the hills outside Homer, Nebraska where we would go to get firewood for the winter.  Maybe that’s why I love fall so much–the crisp air, the scattered leaves along the path, and the bluebird sky–it’s the perfect time travel combination for me.

The next stop was food. By now it was about 2:30 p.m. and it was definitely going to be a late lunch. I had researched places to eat between Smithville and our final destination, Excelsior Springs, and the choices were pretty limited. If you know anything about small midwest towns, it’s either fast food or Grandma’s Greasy Spoon. The healthy choices are few and far between, however, historic downtown Liberty, also known as Liberty Square, came up with a winner. I found a little diner called Morning Day Cafe that the perfect place for post-hike sustenance. First off, the place is colorful, eclectic and exudes major personality. It features local artists work along the walls with mismatched and colorfully painted furniture and exposed brick walls. We bellied up to the bar and while my husband ordered a microbrew, I enjoyed an iced chai latte.

Pulled Pork Poutine

The menu was perfection. A little bit of breakfast and a little bit of lunch mixedwith lots and lots of flavor. We learned from our bartender was that it was a one cook kitchen and the ingredients are all locally sourced. It was not all necessarily considered super-healthy, like the pulled pork poutine (made with sriracha lime fries) but it was fresh, delicious and all made in house. If you find yourself there, the poutine is a must. It’s a large portion and almost wish it came in a smaller bowl because it’s so good you’ll have a hard time pushing it aside to save room for the main course.

Garden Grilled Cheese with side salad

I chose the Garden Grilled Cheese (caramelized gouda cheese, house-made walnut pesto spread, tomatoes, avocado & spinach on a torta roll, topped with microgreens) and Kipp got the Bohemian Wrap (Vegetarian sausage, cremini mushrooms, roasted red peppers, avocado, quinoa and breakfast potatoes, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and grilled.) They were both amazing but we had to save half of our food because the poutine was too hard to put down. Sorry not sorry.

Bohemian Wrap

After lunch as we walked to our car, we saw a little coffee shop, Hammerhand Coffee,  just down the street and being  that we are suckers for locally owned businesses so we strolled down for a visit. We ended up get a couple of cups of half caf’s which were pour overs and worth the wait. The space is very cool and there is even a loft space available for rent. If I lived in Liberty or near the area, I would totally be a regular.

Our next stop was our hotel, The Elms Hotel and Spa. We bought the “Fall Into Relaxation package” which included a night stay in a suite, two Grotto (the spa) passes, two hydrotherapy baths, and two Ghost Tour passes. I’m not sure how the Ghost Tour falls into the relaxing part but I’m a fan of the paranormal so we went with it. Excelsior Springs is a small town a few miles to the northeast of Liberty and we took the more scenic county road H into town. It’s a slower go to get there but very scenic! The Elms Hotel has been around for 125 years and has burnt down twice (they finally rebuilt it with limestone the last time around!). Many famous guests have stayed here from Al Capone to Harry S. Truman. You can read more about its history here.

The hallway leading to the Grotto in the spa.

We checked in around 4 and quickly made our way to the spa. The Grotto is part of the spa which includes a dry sauna, steam sauna, hot tub, cold plunge shower, exfoliation bar, and steam shower. It’s co-ed and but we basically had the whole place to ourselves because it was a Tuesday afternoon. There were curvy lounge chairs which we took fool advantage of before we went back up to our room. The spa offers lots of services like facials, manicures/pedicures, massages, body treatments and much more. Our hydrotherapy baths were scheduled for the next morning so we could take advantage of the Grotto again after our baths.

Representing 20 years of mehwidge!

We had dinner at 88 at The Elms, which was dark and perfectly suited to the vibe of the hotel. I had an amazing plate of salmon served with brown rice and chargrilled salmon. My husband had the stuffed avocado (smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, asparagus tips, and egg sunny side up). Both items were from the Spa Inspired Selections section of the menu. We ordered the sweet potato cheesecake (all about the balance!) for dessert but saved it for after the ghost tour!

The ghost tour commenced at 9 p.m. (actually 9:15 because of a tardy guest which turned out wasn’t me!) and was led by a former Elms maintenance worker turned Ghost Tour guide. Jay has worked for the hotel for over 10 years and has seen and witnessed lots of incidents. While he could use a little training in storytelling, he had lots of experiences to share. The downside of the tour was the intoxicated guest who was responsible for the late start of the tour. He kept trying to make jokes and was distracting to the guide. It was only us and another couple so by the end, we basically ignored him and he finally got the hint. While we didn’t experience anything during the tour, I do believe I may have had a little encounter the next day at my hydrotherapy bath.

I chose Juniper essential oil for my bath for it’s detox and soothing properties and Kipp chose eucalyptus. I really wanted the Moroccan but they were out of some of the ingredients for that particular treatment. Next time! So these baths are basically giant one person tubs with jets and bath salts. The instructions on how to run the tub were a little complicated, like turn the knob this way for more water, this way for hot, that way for cold, lights, no lights, how to let water out…lots of things to remember. I just wanted to relax in a warm tub of bubbling water. However, my water wasn’t warm enough. I had to turn on the light to see the knob, I managed to get it hotter but then it was filling up too much. Then I had to let out water and I was nervous that the water was still turned on and I kept watching the side of the tub. So basically not relaxing at all. This is where my ghost story comes in.

Exhibit A: Only a few minutes into my tub experience, my plastic glass of water slid into the tub. It was placed on the edge of the tub near my right shoulder and initially I assumed the condensation on the glass caused it to slide down. However, that side of the tub was flat and my tub water was nowhere near hot enough to cause condensation. So my luke warm tub was now even colder. This is when I tried to turn the water on and get it hotter. I was able to lay there for a bit, always one eyeball on the side of the tub and adjusting the temp on the knob to the best of my ability.

Exhibit B: After a little bit, I heard a knock on the door which is what the concierge said she would do to let us know our time was up. You know how when you are having a spa treatment and you swear it felt like only a few minutes rather than 60? Well, in this case, it was. Right after I heard the knock, my tub started draining. (Exhibit C) I thought, “Damn, I was just getting comfortable!” I assumed that the drain was on some sort of timer so I got up, dried off, and went out to the quiet room to wait for Kipp. I happened to look up at the clock, and sure as shit, my tub time had only been 15 minutes! It was supposed to be 30! I went to find someone and told them my tub drained too early. The concierge explained to me that I must have bumped it (the drain is controlled by the knob on the side of the tub) but I distinctly remember having my arms in the water relaxing. I wasn’t moving at all. The knock happened then the drain went. I was going to lay there as long for a few more moments before getting out so I know I didn’t bump anything.

The concierge said I could refill it and finish my time but it took about 15 minutes to fill it so it was completely a waste. I was a little pissed but we went to the Grotto and blew it off. Later, as we were checking out, the concierge found me and gave me a jar of juniper bath salts to take home with me as an apology for the short bath. The glass and the shortened bath may be my clumsiness or it may be a ghost but I like the ghost story better. It just didn’t add up to be completely my doing unless I’m a complete hydrotherapy tub ignoramus who is in denial of my lack of fancy tub skills.

Before we headed home, we stopped by Morning Day Cafe again for breakfast. Again, it was spot on. I had the Farmer’s omelet and had her add the vegetarian sausage (it’s homemade and I have no idea what was in it but it was soo good) and topped with microgreens along with a matcha frozen smoothie. Kipp had the egg sandwich with a greens smoothie. Again, spot on! All of these places are within 30-60 minutes of the Kansas City area, depending on what part of town/suburb you live in.

It was a great 24 hour getaway and highly recommend visiting these Kansas City spots when you get the chance!

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