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Autumn Bucket List

September 22, 2021
autumn bucket list kansas city fall

It still feels like summer in Kansas City, but it’s officially fall, and I’m in full autumn mode (admittedly, I’m pretty much always in autumn mode, but now I can really go unapologetically fall-crazy). Mid-September to November for me is all about burying myself in anything and everything that conjures up that aura of crisp, misty days; brilliant fiery colors; earthy charm; and of course, all the spookiness. Even if it’s not exactly crisp outside yet, I’ll be channeling that October spirit — bring on the autumn bucket list.

 

Explore the fall colors

The stunning reds, yellows, and oranges of fall might be my favorite part of the season. While KC isn’t exactly known for its fall colors, there are a number of spots where the season shows off its hues in spectacular fashion. I’m going to do a full post about finding the best fall foliage around KC, so stay tuned!

 

Cook something pumpkin

What screams autumn more than pumpkins? There are an embarrassing number of pumpkin-related recipes saved on my Pinterest — here are a few I’m eyeing for this season (sorrynotsorry, no PSLs here):

 

Enjoy ye olde English autumn at the Renaissance Festival

Weekends through October 17, Bonner Springs, KS

Huzzah! It’s time for pirates, princesses, mead, jousting, and even a touch of magic. Every fall a Renaissance village comes to life in Bonner Springs, Kansas. And yes, I realize that I’m a history nerd, but honestly, there’s a little something for everyone. Food, artisans selling everything from jewelry to beauty products to real swords, costumed performers, music, games, and yes, a jousting tournament. The village looks like it was transplanted from medieval England, and it’s honestly worth a visit simply to see the colorful characters wandering around. You might even run into the queen and her retinue meandering about.

 

Peruse the Plaza Art Fair

September 24-26, Kansas City, MO

The Plaza Art Fair is essentially a KC institution by now (this is its 90th year!). Every September, artists take over the Country Club Plaza, displaying every type of art you can imagine — painting, sculpture, pottery, illustration, mixed media, jewelry, photography, and more. There’s a taste of everything, from traditional landscape paintings to funky found object sculpture to tongue-in-cheek graphic art. Even if you (like me), can’t afford to buy fine art, it’s worth it to peruse the beautiful array of works, and there’s always a fun crowd, plus live music and food vendors from Plaza restaurants.

fall apples kansas city applefest autumn bucket list

Celebrate Weston Applefest

October 2-3, Weston, MO

I just got a flashback from one of my favorite childhood movies, Prancer: “We got apples. We’ll eat applesauce and apple cider and apple pie, stewed apples and baked apples and dried apples. And apple butter.” While I can’t promise Weston Applefest has all of those applecentric delights, it does offer a quintessential fall fest, with artisan vendors, live music, a parade, and food (including, obviously, lots of apples) along historic Weston Main Street. With its storied old buildings and kitschy little shops, Weston alone oozes fall charm. The town dates all the way back to 1837 and is nestled along the Missouri River, and there’s plenty to explore as you munch your apples.

 

Visit Louisburg Cider Mill

Apple cider donuts. Need I say more? We visit Louisburg Cider Mill every year to pick out pumpkins (usually the lazy way, from the already-picked selection, but you can also venture into the pumpkin patch to pick your own). From a charming general store with tasty local goods to a corn maze to scrumptious homemade cider and donuts, everything about Louisburg screams “fall.” You can even watch the apples going through the cider press (it’s oddly mesmerizing watching hundreds of apples tumble about).

 

Carve pumpkins

Halloween without jack-o-lanterns is just wrong. And to anyone who dare suggest carving pumpkins is only for kids: I’m sorry your life is so bereft of joy. (Kidding, but seriously, you’re never too old for jack-o-lanterns.) Though I don’t exactly have the patience for extremely intricate designs, I love an excuse to fall down a rabbit hole of fun designs on Pinterest (one year I did Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter). I usually pick out pumpkins at Louisburg, but you can also find them at most grocery stores, and then I put on a spooky movie to set the mood while carving my jack-o-lantern masterpiece.

halloween haunted kansas city autumn bucket list

Venture to a (real) haunted house

It’s that time of year again: everything is getting a bit darker, a bit colder, a bit more mysterious and uncertain, and the boundary between the living and the dead is a little hazy. Or at least, it’s the perfect time for a haunted house. I don’t mean a sensationalist horror house where people lunge out at you from the shadows. I mean a real haunted house, in the spirit of gothic horror tales. Old mansions and buildings with bizarre or tragic backstories and an eerie aura that makes you think that — just maybe — some of their residents have never quite moved on. These places probably won’t make your heart pound, but they are likely to make your spine tingle and your imagination run wild.

 

For my ghostly adventures, I’m heading to Vaile Mansion, an opulent Gothic-style 31-room mansion in Independence, Missouri. Built in 1881, the mansion has witnessed a family scandal, a tragic death, and a period as a sanitarium. Ghost tours take place throughout October. Let the chills commence…

 

A few honorable mentions near the KC area: Pythian Castle, an imposing fortress built as an orphanage in 1913 by the fraternal order the Knights of Pythias (does that sound sketchy to anyone else?) with later incarnations as a hospital for WWII veterans, a prison for German and Italian POWs, a social services agency, and a private home. Plenty of scope for ghostly goings-on there. Belvoir Winery in Liberty, MO, which was constructed from 1900 to 1923 by the fraternal organization — and self-proclaimed secret society — the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (don’t ask me how they came up with that name) and served as a residence for the elderly, indigent, and orphans; a hospital; and a school. It now hosts events, including murder mystery dinners and paranormal investigations. And Majors House, a KCMO homestead built in 1856 by entrepreneur Alexander Majors and now apparently home to the ghosts of a restless blacksmith and a caretaker who refuses to leave.

 

Visit a historic cemetery

Gothic spookiness doesn’t get much better than a historic graveyard. Is it a little odd that I love wandering around cemeteries and looking at old gravestones? Maybe, but in this instance it fits the Halloween spirit. One of my favorites is Union Cemetery, a beautiful hilly, tree-filled space built in 1857 and housing many famous Kansas Citians. Laurel Hill Cemetery in Weston (established circa 1840) is also gorgeous, and I might have to check out Elmwood Cemetery (est. 1872) in Northeast Kansas City as well. To really amp up the creepy vibes, the Coterie Theatre is performing live renditions of Edgar Allen Poe‘s The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tomb of Ligeia Thursday/Friday/Saturday nights amid the tombstones of Union Cemetery.

 

Ghost story galore!

To fully set the Halloween atmosphere, I like to go all-out on ghostly tales in October. Disclaimer: horror and gore is not my thing. As with haunted houses, the October/Halloween mood for me is all about spookiness, gothic horror, and eerie mystery. In other words, no slasher flicks or exorcisms (instead, think Dracula and haunted castles). As usual, I went a little overboard in investigating ideas here, so I’m writing a separate post in a couple of weeks with all the books, movies, and podcasts to fill your spooky gothic October.

autumn kansas city bucket list

Image credits: Evgenia Silaeva (pumpkins), Alina Osadchenko (haunted house), Marina Ermakova (Halloween icons), Anna Kuzmina (tombstone), Daria Ustiugova (apples)

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Outta the Blue

September 5, 2021
outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe

Anyone still out there? I am, in fact, still alive (I know, you were dying of suspense wondering).

Obviously unnecessary to state, but it has been A YEAR (or two? What is time anymore?) Everything has been a little topsy-turvy for everyone since about 2019, I think, and between public spaces being closed and life just plain being crazy, I’ve completed neglected my little corner of the web over here. In all honesty, the past couple of years have been very rocky in my personal life — I’m not going to go into detail, because that’s not really the aim of this blog, but suffice it to say, I’ve been out of the loop, and for anyone who has been feeling lost and/or hopeless lately (or ever): I feel you. With that said, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, and it has been way too long since I’ve done some wandering.

So: I have new coffee shops to check out, new places to explore, yada yada. A lot of life/the world is a chaotic mess, but there’s still coffee and getting lost in colorful city streets and discovering hidden gems of art and humanity. I, for one, could use some of all that. Let’s see if anyone is still around to read about my shenanigans, eh? (If not, at least I have an excuse to drink lots of coffee).

First up: a cheery spot in Leawood to grab a java (or cocktail).

*****

Coffeeshop Love: Outta the Blue

5291 W. 116th Place, Leawood, KS

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe

Despite the fact that I’m currently bemoaning the hot, sticky weather and longing for fall, I have to admit that I love the beach (who doesn’t?). Of course, there are no (ocean) beaches in Kansas, but I’m all for places that let me pretend I’m in a tropical cabana. Outta the Blue dubs itself “KC’s Lil’ Oasis,” and really, the flip-flop fits. There’s (sadly) no ocean and (probably thankfully) no sand, but they do have palm trees, rattan furniture, and colorful surfboards on the wall. With plenty of windows, light colors, and modernistic furniture, the entire place is hip and cheerful. Did I mention there are swings? Probably not conducive to sipping coffee, but they sure are fun.

A recent addition to Leawood’s Park Place shopping center, Outta the Blue is a Made in KC outpost (though interestingly, I didn’t see anything that said Made in KC in the actual café). It’s usually quietly bustling, busy with everyone from people tapping away on laptops to friends catching up to families corralling kids. While I’ve been there, the soundtrack has ranged from mid-2000s nostalgia (think Hillary Duff) to 1960s-80s oldies. It’s a friendly, fun atmosphere, calm enough to get work done yet active enough for good people-watching and a welcome dose of gaiety. A little bit granola-crunchy, quite a bit hip, the café fits into the clean-cut environment of suburban Leawood, but it also adds a touch of style — and a laid-back beachy vibe — in an area mostly filled with a lot of chain restaurants and shops.

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe interior

If you’re hungry, they have snacks and breakfast sandwiches from Parisi Coffee, pastries from local Scratch Bakery, and vegan breakfast sandwiches from Mattie’s Foods. (Major points, in my humble opinion, for having almond croissants, which are annoyingly difficult to find and obviously the best.) For sips, there’s the usual lineup of espresso beverages and (quite tasty) drip coffee, as well as a selection of teas and cold-pressed juices. And if you need something a bit stronger — or feel like really leaning into the tropical cabana spirit — they have a full bar menu of cocktails, beer, and natural/organic wine.

All in all, it’s not actually the beach, but Outta the Blue is a fun place to work or hang out. As much as I like offbeat, slightly shabby coffee shops, it’s hard not to fall in love with this bright little café. After all, who doesn’t love palm trees and swings?

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe interior

Kansas City/ Musings

Current Obsessions: March

March 3, 2020
skillshare kansas city ballet nespresso susanna kearsley

Currently Reading: The Winter Sea

I recently discovered Susanna Kearsley’s books, and I’ve been moving through them at record speed since. As with the rest of her books I’ve read so far, I couldn’t put The Winter Sea down. A beautiful story flipping between modern-day and early 18th-century Scotland, it transported me across oceans and back in time (and quickly boosted Scotland to the top of my travel bucket list). I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good love story, but this one didn’t feel cheesy at all, and the writing itself paints a stunning portrait of the story and setting.

Currently Creating: If Walls Could Talk newsletter

Ok, so this one is slightly cheating (but if you don’t promote your own projects, who’s going to, right?). If you hadn’t guessed by the above recommendation, I’m a bit of a history nerd. Since I don’t have school anymore, I needed an excuse to dive into centuries past — so voilà, a new project. Essentially, If Walls Could Talk blends my wanderlust, obsession with Pinterest, and inner history nerd. Each week(ish), I dig into the history behind a cool place or building and post the story on social media and via newsletter. (Hint, hint: Follow @javajournalist on Instagram and Twitter and sign up for the newsletter here).

Currently Watching: the Kansas City ballet

As a kid, I was obsessed with the cartoon movie The Swan Princess. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that this was actually based on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake — or for a more likely reference, the movie Black Swan. Anyway, I recently saw the Kansas City Ballet‘s performance of Swan Lake, and it was incredible. Though this particular show is over, I highly recommend checking out the KC Ballet if you’re in the area — I make it a point to see nearly all their shows, and they’re always amazing. It kind of makes me wish I hadn’t quit ballet in third grade …

Currently Sipping: Nespresso espresso

This one should be more like: item I can’t survive without. At one point, I spent a rather mortifying amount of money on lattes (which also speaks to my coffee addiction, but that’s another story). I’ve since upgraded my home espresso machine to the Nespresso Evoluo, which creates a surprisingly delicious espresso for a home maker. It’s also ridiculously easy — pop a pod in, press start, and you have espresso in a few seconds — which suits my lazy self perfectly. Mine came with a milk frother, so I can even make my own lattes at home. Not exactly the gorgeous latte art of the pros, but it saves me a fortune in coffeeshop runs.

Currently Learning: Creative Transformation with Skillshare

If you want to learn a new skill, chances are Skillshare has a class on it. I recently signed up for a monthlong free trial (kind of cheating, I know) and tried to cram as many classes in as I could. All the ones I tried were interesting, but I especially enjoyed Mari Andrew’s “Creative Transformation: 9 Exercises to Draw, Write, and Discover Your Future.” Sounds a bit woo-woo, but I promise it’s not. Even if you’re not trying to launch a creative career, the lessons were enlightening and inspiring, sparking the type of introspection that I think everyone needs.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Messenger Coffee Co.

February 25, 2020
messenger coffee kansas city

If you’re in the Kansas City area and haven’t been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of Messenger Coffee. Honestly, I’m a little late to the party here (this one has been lingering on my coffeeshop list for a while), but seeing as how it’s in my neighborhood and I go there fairly frequently, I couldn’t pass up mentioning it here. Messenger has become something of a KC darling and gotten a lot of hype in the last few years, and for good reason. Though the roasting company was established in 2013 and supplies many local coffeeshops, they opened their flagship roasting facility and café in 2017 in the Crossroads district. As such, they’re first and foremost a roaster, focusing on farm-direct beans roasted right here in KC (in other words, they know their coffee). That said, the café has become a hotspot in its own right.

messenger coffee kansas cityIf hip and sleek is your coffeeshop jam, then Messenger has you covered. Their Crossroads café is hyper-cool and modern — think clean white palette, chic minimalist furniture, soaring ceilings, and lots of light. The décor is unfailingly hip. As an added bonus, there’s an open kitchen with views into the bakery and coffee roasting areas (so you know both your croissant and your java are fresh and homemade). And unlike many coffeeshops, there’s plenty of space and seating here, in the bustling first floor area or upstairs in one of the more studious enclaves. There’s even a much-Instagrammed rooftop patio with amazing views of the downtown KC skyline. The only downside to this is that it sometimes gets a bit loud — it’s never not been busy when I’m there — though there’s enough room that you can usually find a private corner.

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city

For all the hype about Messenger, the baristas know their stuff. The coffee is always delicious, and they’re particularly on-point in the latte art game (even when it comes to my almond milk lattes). I have photographic proof — I’ve never received a less-than-gorgeous latte, and they taste as good as they look. And thanks to Ibis bakery, the menu is worth drooling over as well. The amazing baked goods are all made in-house (in fact, you can see them coming out of the oven in the open kitchen), and the menu is actually fairly extensive, which isn’t a given for coffeeshops. Good luck choosing between the range of carefully handcrafted breads, both classic and creative pastries, and a hot menu of toasts, tartines, eggs, and other breakfast yummies. Sacrilegious though it is, I’ve yet to test the pastries — though they always look incredible — but I can vouch for a decadent chocolate truffle. Considering Ibis’s rising fame, it’s probably safe to say the food is awesome.

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city ibis bakery

All in all, I have to admit that smaller, slightly shabby cafes are more my style, but there’s no denying that Messenger Coffee is a cool spot, and definitely worth a visit. You know you’ll get a great cup of coffee (and likely a killer bite to eat as well), and really, it’s worth going just to check out the space. You’ll feel cooler just stepping into the café.

messenger coffee kansas city

Kansas City/ Wanderings

5 Things To Do in KC When It’s Freezing

February 14, 2020
kansas city to do winter cold

We’re getting to that point of the year when the snow and chilliness has ceased being charming and magical and started to be … well, just cold. Or is that just me? After single-digit temps and negative wind chills this week, I’m officially ready for spring. But in true Kansas City fashion, the weather will probably flip-flop between balmy and frigid until May, so I’m gearing up for weathering more wintery days. Luckily, Kansas City has some excellent foul-weather friends — I rounded up my top five picks for passing the chilly days. Bring on the winter weather (I’m kidding, please give us spring).

Wander the Nelson-Atkins Museum

You’ve probably gotten the memo by now that I’m a tad bit obsessed with the Nelson. But hey, it’s justified. And when you’re itching to get out of the house but it’s frigid outside, wandering the grand halls of the museum is a perfect option. Whether you’re into Asian artifacts, classic medieval paintings, or a slice of ancient Greek life, there’s a little something here for everyone. And when you’ve exhausted your wandering, there’s the lovely Rozzelle Court restaurant or cozy Quay Coffee for an extra bit of yummy fuel.

Visit the Kansas City Aquarium

If you can’t actually take a trip to the beach, why not at least pretend you’re somewhere exotic? With everything from vibrant tropical fish to sharks to a starfish petting tank, the Kansas City aquarium is a great way to transport yourself to the sea (even better when it’s decidedly less than tropical outside). And trust me, it’s not just for the kids. The aquarium is surprisingly impressive and entertaining for ocean-lovers of all ages. Wander through and pretend you’re on a snorkeling expedition — you may not get a fruity cocktail in a coconut at the end, but I promise you’ll have a good time anyway.

Enjoy a Cozy Brunch

I’m not sure if the brunch craze has quite hit KC the way it has NYC and Philly, but it’s getting there. In any case, what could be better on a bone-chilling winter day than a cozy cup of coffee and fluffy pancakes (or whatever yummy treat floats your boat)? Plenty of restaurants in KC could satisfy this craving, but I highly recommend Blue Bird Bistro or Our Daily Nada (or both — go wild). It might be due to a snow day mother-daughter brunch in high school, but I’ll always associate Blue Bird with snowy days. The Westside eatery is part rustic, part hip and thoroughly charming, with scrumptious organic, locally sourced food. If you’re a bookworm, Our Daily Nada serves up homemade bites and creative drinks to enjoy as you peruse a carefully curated selection of books in a warm brick-walled River Market spot. The best part of winter is cozying up inside, right?

Explore Crown Center, Union Station, and the Link

When it’s freezing out, you want to minimize your outside time. Luckily, with the Link — a glass walkway — you can walk all the way from Union Station to Crown Center without ever setting foot outside. On top of that, Union Station and Crown Center are both definitely worth visiting in their own right (and offer plenty of warm inside fun). Built in 1914, Union Station is worth visiting simply for the Art Deco grandeur of the old train station, but it also offers Science City (again, not just for the kids!), a planetarium, a movie theatre, restaurants, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (enough said). Then make your way over to Crown Center for shopping, theatres, and more yummy eateries (did I mention there are multiple candy shops there also?). You can have a full day of wandering without risking frostbite.

Go Ice Skating at the Crown Center Ice Terrace

Ok, so this one doesn’t exactly keep you out of the cold. It’s undeniably festive, though, and a not-to-be-missed winter activity. When you’re finished perusing Crown Center, stop by the ice rink out front, rent a pair of skates, and spend a while gliding away. There’s always music playing, and when it starts to get too chilly, you can grab a cup of hot chocolate at the snack bar to warm up.

Kansas City/ Wanderings

Wandering Recap: A Night at the Museum

February 6, 2020
nelson-atkins museum party arty egypt kansas city ballet

It’s probably the history nerd in me, but I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt. The storied history, the incredible achievements, the mysticism — something about it captivates me. Unsurprisingly, Egypt is high on my travel bucket list. I haven’t made it there yet, so haunting the Egyptian exhibits at museums in my second best option. Given this Egyptian obsession, it’s probably not surprising that when I heard the theme for this year’s Party Arty was the current Queen Nefertari exhibit, I knew I had to go. I’m not an especially big party person, but I am a big museum person, and well, I mentioned the Egypt obsession, right? The Queen Nefertari exhibit in of itself is worth visiting (if you’re in the Kansas City area, definitely check it out), with an astonishing array of artifacts and information on Egyptian tombs. But I digress — we were talking about a party. Party Arty is an annual gala hosted by the Nelson-Atkins Museum for its Young Friends of the Museum, and it’s a go-all-out sort of deal. This year, the theme followed the Queen Nefertari special exhibit, so it was an Egyptian extravaganza. I happen to be a Young Friend of the Museum (and clearly an ancient Egypt nerd), so I obviously couldn’t pass this up. A party might not exactly be wandering, per se, but it was definitely an experience — and great people-watching — so I’m calling this a wandering recap of sorts.

First of all, and most importantly, as I noted before, anything goes at Party Arty. People were decked out in everything from ball gowns to full pharaoh costumes to gold lamé dress suits. Think lots of gold and glitter, fancy headdresses, ankh and eye of Horus accoutrements, even an Anubis head. Add to that the Quixotic dancers weaving through the crowds in their slinky gold outfits, and it was quite a scene. As with all wanderings, people-watching is a must, and this definitely didn’t disappoint. It was an eclectic, artsy set, and simply observing was enough entertainment in of itself.

Now, to set the scene. The Bloch building lobby (the new-ish modern addition to the museum) became an energetic dance area full of club-like beats and moody colored lights, a DJ spinning tunes throughout the night. Set against the stately columns and Art Deco grandeur of the museum itself, the entire scene was somehow a bit surreal. In the main hall of the museum, exotic Egyptian music from a live band echoed in the grand columned hall. Throughout the night, Kansas City Ballet II (the junior ballet troupe) put on performances in the hall. With heavy drum beats, trippy lights, and dancers in foamy white gowns, the spectacle was all a bit like a (very graceful) sacrificial dance, which added even more exotic gravitas to the scene. (If you’ve ever been in the main hall of the museum, you’ll understand how this created quite a dramatic setting — if not, visit the museum immediately).

And of course, we mustn’t forget the refreshments. In keeping with the Egyptian theme, the museum’s Rozzelle Court restaurant served gyros and little Egyptian date cookies (a 1000-year-old recipe, we were told). The open bars also had themed drinks going, courtesy of Tom’s Town distillery — slightly wicked ones, to my taste, but then I’m a booze wimp.

All in all, it was a night to remember. Perhaps a bit different from a true trip to Egypt — we’ll keep that on the bucket list — but the Nelson certainly knows how to throw a party. I’m not sure what the Nelson Party Arty theme is for next year, but it’s safe to say that will be quite the affair as well (I would highly recommend going if you can). In the meantime, the Nelson museum is consistently on my list of top-recommended things to do in Kansas City, so if you’re in the area, don’t miss it. The Queen Nefertari exhibit is showing until March 29, 2020 and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re an Egyptophile like me (yes, I made that up). As always, happy wandering!

Javaholic/ Kansas City

Coffeeshop Love: Quay Coffee

January 25, 2020
Coffee Kansas City Quay

When it comes to coffeeshops, quaint and a bit quirky is my sweet spot. Hip, sleek and modern is all very nice, but give me a funky hole-in-the-wall any day. Though it’s gaining a name as one of the mainstay local coffee sources in KC — hardly a hole-in-the-wall — Quay Coffee somehow manages to be both hip and homey. Named for the River Quay, the former name of the River Market, Quay (pronounced “key”) is a cozy, brick-walled spot in the heart of the eclectic River Market district. (If you’re strolling through the Nelson-Atkins Museum and in need of a caffeine fix, they also opened a location in the museum, but I highly recommend visiting the original.) Small but with plenty of seating, the place is always bustling with people working or chatting over a cuppa. In short, it’s a friendly, festive spot. It seems like sometimes it’s difficult to find beautiful latte art and a smile (thus the snobby barista trope), but Quay truly manages to do both. They definitely know their coffee, but I’ve never been greeted by anything less than genuine cheer and friendly banter.

Coffee Kansas City Quay Coffee Kansas City Quay

But of course, the main draw: the coffee is good. Very good. Quay puts fastidious attention into choosing top-notch direct trade roasters, and the coffee never disappoints. With housemade syrups in scrumptious flavors like Old Overholt Caramel and Spice Brown Sugar, inventive seasonal drinks, and fresh local baked goods, the menu is classic but never boring.

Coffee Kansas City Quay

River Market in of itself is worth exploring, and my go-to is fueling myself with a good caffeine dose from Quay as I do my wandering. Then again, it’s worth making a trip there just for the coffee and warm atmosphere. Bring a book, some work, or a friend and settle in with a delicious latte — you won’t want to leave.

Coffee Kansas City Quay

Kansas City/ Wanderings

Where to Shop Local in Kansas City for Holiday Gifts

December 13, 2019
Shop local Kansas City holiday gifts

It’s that time of year — the manic dash to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Frenzied shoppers, mile-long to-do lists, packed stores … it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Ok, actually, it is my favorite time of year, and I have to admit I even love crazy holiday shopping (though my wallet doesn’t as much). But I always get stressed out trying to find that “just right” gift for each person (what can I say — I’m a perfectionist) and part of that is that so much out there is so generic. When I’m looking for a gift, I want something unique and special. Luckily, the local and craft market is booming these days, and there are an increasing number of sources to find decidedly un-basic gifts. I’ll admit it: I’m a craft market addict. In case you’re still on the prowl for gifts, I rounded up a selection of the best spots to shop local in Kansas City (some also have online stores, if you’re not in the KC area). With local and handmade items, these are the perfect places to find outside-the-box gifts for that special someone (and maybe a treat for yourself as well).

Made in Kansas City

Made in KC is essentially the Mecca of local KC goods. They now have several locations across the city, each a marketplace stuffed with local foods, clothes, accessories, and more. Each item comes from a local maker or small company, and with a variety of different makers in one market, there’s a little something there for everyone. From jewelry and clothes to candles, plants, and liquor, you can find nearly everything here. The Plaza location even has a coffeeshop, beer on tap, and an ice cream counter inside, so you can sip or munch as you shop!

A Very Cherry Holiday Pop-up

605 E. 31st St, KCMO

If you’re looking for a unique gift, Cherry Pit Collective has you covered. Cherry Pit Collective, a communal workspace for women artists, makers, and creatives in KC’s Tower East district, is getting merry this year with a special holiday pop-up shop at the nearby Objects space. Check it out weekends through December 23rd for one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, ceramics, fine art, vintage goods, and more, plus pop-up eats like Swoon Cookies and Dead Beet Tacos (hey, shopping requires fuel!).

Local Artisan Holiday Pop-up

4419 W. 119th St, Leawood, KS

Pleasant as they are, the suburbs aren’t exactly known for their unique, non-chain shopping (hey, I can say this — I grew up right in this neighborhood). That said, Leawood is getting a little extra local flair this holiday season with an artisan pop-up in the Town Center Crossing shopping center. Stop by on weekends until Christmas for fine art, jewelry, and more from a selection of local makers. If you have a creative or art lover on your list, this is the perfect stop. And don’t forget to treat yourself as well: yummies from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and Midnight Espresso Coffee Liqueurs are available as you shop!

Strawberry Swing Maker Marketplace

Strawberry Swing leads the pack when it comes to craft fairs — each season they host a pop-up extravaganza of handmade, local, and vintage goods in a spot around Kansas City. These fairs are perfect for gift-shopping (or, ahem, treating yourself), but they only happen a few times a year. Never fear — the Internet is here. In case you missed the holiday craft fair, Strawberry Swing now has an online marketplace to shop many of its creative goodies. Clothing, jewelry, home and bath goods — you name it, they likely have it. It’s not exactly the same experience as visiting a cute little shop, I know, but it is local, handmade, and a plethora of unique gift possibilities.

CollectiveEX

519 E. 18th St., KCMO

Kansas City’s artists and makers have another home base in CollectiveEX, a workshop and store for local artisans to create and sell their work. You’ll find a host of locally made items here, from clothes and accessories to fine art. For a little extra shopping fuel, stop by Thee Outpost, the latest coffee creation from Thou Mayest’s Bo Nelson, also located inside CollectiveEX.

Westside Storey

1701 Summit St., KCMO

Venture into the eclectic Westside neighborhood for this funky little shop housed in an old 1920s dry goods building. With over 20 local artisans and makers, plus vintage goods, you never know what you’ll find in here. Cheeky enamel pin? Check. Classy handmade candle? Check. Vintage sword? Check. On top of that, Westside is its own little adventure in of itself, so it’s well worth making an afternoon of this one. Stop by the cheerful Bluebird Bistro for a scrumptious organic brunch, grab coffee at the charming Goat Hill Coffee & Soda, and wander around the wonderfully bizarre medley of houses in the area after you do your shopping.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: PT’s Coffee

October 27, 2019
PTs Coffee Kansas City coffeeshop

Well hello there! Yes, I know I’ve been a little AWOL around here — but all in the name of research! (sort of) I’ve been off doing some wandering (grand old Paris, in fact), so you better believe there will be plenty of fresh content coming soon! In the meantime, I thought I’d pop back with a little coffee recommendation closer to home (my hood, actually) to tide you over: PT’s Coffee in Kansas City. Stay tuned!

PT’s Coffee Roasters

310 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, MO

Full confession: I have a type. A coffeeshop type, that is. (What, do normal people mean something else by that?) Well, two types actually — urban hipster and lovably shabby hole-in-the-wall. PT’s Coffee conveniently bridges the two criteria.

Tucked into an old brick building in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts district, the KC outpost of Topeka-based grassroots roasters PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. definitely qualifies as urban and hole-in-the-wall. (Complete with my favorite urban reno hallmark: brick walls and an exposed tin ceiling.) Inside, though, the space is open, airy, and both funky and minimalist. The artsy Crossroads spirit definitely edges in with a young hipster clientele and local art lining the walls, while the open space and minimalist furniture add an retro urban vibe. My favorite touches, though, are the reclaimed wood tables — mod-looking pieces made from over 100 wood pallets that carried coffee to PT’s roasting facility — and the giant marquee “coffee” sign. Very retro, admirably resourceful, and of course, entirely appropriate for true javaholics. Even better: they just opened a brand new location at 1310 Baltimore St. More modern than the funky Crossroads spot, the new outpost is equally charming (and, of course, delicious).

PT’s Coffee Crossroads Kansas City coffeeshop

PT’s is one of those cafes that manages to be bustling without being chaotic. Every time I’ve been in there (yes, the tally is rapidly adding up), it’s been busy enough that finding a table can be a bit of a challenge. It’s a comfortable background din, though, a happy medium fit for chatting with friends or studying (both of which there are always people doing). The last time I was there, a friend and I sat at the bar lining the front windows, providing a perfect view onto the (always colorful) street traffic of downtown Crossroads. Luckily, PT’s doesn’t fall short on this point either — from students to funky artists to the occasional … eccentric urban character, there are all sorts of caffeination-seekers at the cafe. After all, people-watching is a crucial part of the true coffeeshop experience.

Last but most definitely not least: the menu. Obviously, the coffee hits the mark, or I wouldn’t have added it to my regular haunts list. Every time I go there, I plan on trying something new, but I’m afraid I’ve become rather addicted to one particular drink: the lavender-caramel latte. The idea of applying to coffee a scent usually found in soap and soothing eye pillows might seem a bit odd, but trust me on this one: the lavender-caramel syrup is to die for. PT’s makes its own delectable syrups (honey vanilla and lavender caramel are the current options), which I would 100% recommend. On top of that, their latte art game is top-notch (hey, sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover). If you’re feeling peckish, they also have a tasty selection of sandwiches and pastries, as well as smoothies and various teas.

Bottom line: if you’re ever in downtown Kansas City, definitely stop by PT’s Coffee for a java pick-me-up and a good dose of eclectic KC charm.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Nomads Coffee & Cocktails

September 20, 2019
nomads coffee kansas city

In my mind, anything that mentions travel, exploration, and/or wandering (obviously) is immediately worth an investigation. A tribute to explorers — literary and literal — worldwide, Nomads Coffee in Kansas City exactly fits that bill. It would be easy to walk straight past it, nestled in a subtle brick shopfront on eclectic 39th Street. It certainly isn’t the most colorful or eye-catching spot on the street. But that would be your loss. This charming café has become my go-to coffeeshop work spot, and it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Bar interior

To fully capture the atmosphere of Nomads Coffee, it’s really best to imagine yourself as a slightly disaffected nineteenth-century writer or a gruff world traveler (or at least following in the footsteps of one). The entire café is a bit dim, with dark wood floors and furniture and deep blue walls. Sophisticated, in an ever-so-slightly gloomy way. Take a spot at the dark-wood bar, curl up in a cushy armchair, or pick an intimate café table and get settled in. My spot of choice is at the bar along the front windows, with a perfect view out onto the goings-on of quirky 39th Street.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee bar interior

To complete the travel theme, shelves throughout the café are stocked with books with a global explorer bent (think Jack London, vintage travel memoirs, old issues of National Geographic). The walls are lined with photos of Alaskan dog races, mountain explorations, maps, suitably gruff explorers, and people and places around the globe.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Interior

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Bar photo wall

It’s the type of place where you might expect to come across a grumpy older Hemingway ordering a cocktail or a grizzled old explorer recounting tales of his latest expedition into the jungle or Arabian deserts (though in reality the clientele is more on the young and hip side, thanks to students from the nearby KU Med Center and the vibrant culture of 39th Street).

All that said, in reality the café isn’t at all gloomy. Despite the somber (if charming) aura, the staff and customers are always friendly, and the café is usually bustling, classic and peppy oldies tunes playing in the background. (Just absorb the old-world vibes and be glad no one there actually acts like a grumpy old mountain man).

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Cocktails

No literary or global enclave would be complete without drinks, of course! The coffee menu here is classic — none of that foufy frappuccino business — but the lattes are delicious. Plus, there’s also a full cocktail/beer/wine menu (this is an extra plus in my book because it means they’re open late, unlike many coffee shops). If you’re feeling peaky, they have a tasty selection of pastries and cookies, plus quiche, classic and hearty sandwiches, and breakfast burritos. Café fare, but the type you actually want to eat.

Full disclosure: I only tested the ham and cheese croissant, but it was scrumptious — buttery and perfectly flaky, with a subtle spike of Dijon mustard inside — and the rest of the menu looks quite tasty. The quiche is definitely next on my list!

So the next time you’re around 39th Street, wander over to Nomads Coffee for a coffee or cocktail — who knows, maybe you’ll actually run into that rugged world explorer I keep expecting to see.