Halfway between Chicago and Dallas is a little big city that is swiftly becoming the coolest oasis in the Midwest. Kansas City—best known for its barbeque and World Series-winning baseball team—gained enormous cred this year when locally-owned Baldwin Denim became a front-runner for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund contest. Along with some A-list natives (Jason Sudeikis, Janelle Monae and Ellie Kemper all call it home), founders Emily and Matt Baldwin are doing their part to put KC on the map—but they’re not alone. A trickle-down effect is taking place. Young, hungry talent is leaving bigger cities and making its mark on every neighborhood in the City of Fountains, establishing tech startups, innovative bars and distilleries, avant garde boutiques and first-class art and theater. It’s all enough to make Dorothy and Toto wish they were still in Kansas (or Missouri, rather). Ready to visit? We’ve got the scoop.
Welcome To Kansas City!
Bypass the chain stores and fast fashion for one of KC’s locally-owned boutiques, such as Standard Style (owned by the Baldwins) and Birdie’s (amazing lingerie), or visit Halls, one of the last family-owned department stores in the country. It boasts a grand legacy and shelves stocked with niche brands and high fashion alike.
Kansas City, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas
Whether your style of interior décor skews more Southern traditional or steampunk, you will find everything you need to trick out your crib at one of KC's home stores. Nell Hill's has the preppy set covered, while Coveted Home (above) is ideal for those with a clean, modern aesthetic. Want it all? The West Bottoms Antique Stores are world-famous for their endless inventory of treasures from yesteryear.
West Bottoms Antique Stores
Kansas City residents take their brunch seriously, which explains the proliferation of midday menus throughout the area. Gram & Dun has a bustling bar never disappoints if you like a scene with your scones, and Port Fonda (above) has the best Bloody Mary bar in the Western Hemisphere. (We checked.) If you really tied one on last night, however, Barrel 31's menu is packed with super-rich plates that will cure any hangover.
Gram & Dun
Kansas City, Missouri
Sip a homegrown Rieger whiskey cocktail on the eponymous hotel's rooftop while watching the sun set; pop bottles of bubbly and dance all night at Ça Va; or get cozy with your better half in Julep's elegant bar (above). The dining and drinking scene in KC is all about fresh, farm-to-table food, complex drinks and sexy speakeasy vibes.
Ça Va Kansas City
Julep Cocktail Club
Rieger's Hotel, Grill & Exchange
A clutch of boutique hotels has just opened or is on the verge in downtown KC, making it easy to crash after a long day and night of fun. We're obsessed with the Ambassador. Its lobby bar is one of the chicest we've ever seen anywhere, and its restaurant makes it possible to stay here all night. Meanwhile, the Raphael is ideal for old-school elegance, and the Sorella is its contemporary counterpart on the always-fun Country Club Plaza.
Where To Get Cultured
Witness the world's best theater and musicians at the Kauffman arts center--its soaring architecture outside hints at the drama within. If art that doesn't dance, sing or perform is more your thing, the Kemper museum boasts one of the Midwest's best contemporary collections. And of course, the best view in the area can be seen from the hilltop at the National World War One Museum and Memorial--skyline, park and inspiration for miles.
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Kemper Museum of Contemporary
National World War One Museum at Liberty Memorial
If you can ever leave the resort-like pool at Woodside Health & Tennis Club, you'll notice their state-of-the-art gym and spa facilities, plus enough tennis courts to make Serena Williams weep with joy. Meanwhile, Pilates 1901 has the best Reformers in town (and the most knowledgeable instructors), while Fusion Fitness will sculpt your arms and abs to perfection at both locations.
Overland Park, Kansas, and Leawood, Kansas
Woodside Health & Tennis Club
Westwood, Kansas 66205