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.
If 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.
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.
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.
Hey, I have a new baby (as in creative project — geez)!
Are you a history nerd? A traveler? A lover of wandering curious places? Perfect — you’ll fit right in. I’m launching a new project — If Walls Could Talk is a weekly(ish) newsletter/posting/project exploring incredible places around the world and the stories behind them. The posts will go up weekly (ok, when I manage that) on Twitter, IG, and via newsletter. Follow me on Instagram/Twitter and sign up for the newsletter here for more (you know you want to)!
(Psst… here’s a sneak peek at the first posting location. Quite a beaut, isn’t she?)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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!).
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 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.
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.
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.
An ancient castle, perched on top of a rocky island surrounded on all sides by the sea — sounds like a fairy tale, right? And really, Mont Saint-Michel is a bit like something out of a fairytale. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go Google Mont Saint-Michel — I’ll wait. Stunning, isn’t it? I took a day trip from Paris, and I would highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.
Located in northern France where Normandy and Brittany meet, this ancient island settlement dates back over a thousand years. As the story goes, the Archangel Michael told Aubert, bishop of nearby Avranches, to build a church on the island in 709. A community of Benedictines settled on the mont in 966, and the Romanesque abbey church and first monastery buildings were built in the 11th century. In the following centuries, the spot became a great spiritual and intellectual center and a major pilgrimage site. The monastery and surrounding town were built up throughout medieval times, including protective ramparts added during the Hundred Years War. It was even used as a prison during the French Revolution! Today, the monastery is once again a working religious community, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site that welcomes over 2.5 million visitors a year.
As you might have guessed, the only caveat is that by these days, this site is a big tourist attraction. That said, it’s still spectacular, and I would highly recommend it. I went in the off-season — in October — and while it was definitely full of tourists, it wasn’t nearly as packed as it would have been in the summer (though prepare for rain if you’re there in the fall). In any case, the crowds really didn’t dim the magic of the place. The trick is to get off the beaten path of the little town (after you’ve grabbed your crepe and souvenirs) and up into the winding paths of the upper town and monastery. The village is mostly one narrow cobbled path lined with bustling souvenir shops and restaurants — like something straight out of Harry Potter (think Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley). All around this area, quaint little homes and hotels perch on the hillside, all the way up toward the monastery at the top.
But as charming as the town is, the real magic is in the narrow cobbled paths that snake up the cliffside toward the monastery. Pick a path and start exploring — I can guarantee you’ll get lost, but that’s the fun of it. Wander past charming little homes with colorful shutters, peek into an ancient graveyard, say hello to a meandering cat, and the next thing you know, you’ll be standing on top of ramparts looking out over the steely grey ocean. It’s a maze of unexpected discoveries, and while you’re likely to bump into fellow explorers, the entire area is surprisingly peaceful.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of wandering, climb to the monastery at the very top of the island (you’re likely to end up there anyway if you keep heading upward). Honestly, I almost skipped this part, reluctant to pay extra to get in. Luckily, I went for it anyway — don’t miss this. Yes, I have a penchant for turning everything into a Harry Potter reference, but I promise, this looks just like Hogwarts. You wander through a maze of vaulted stone ceilings, spooky corridors, and a stunning church, all nearly a thousand years old (some of it older). Even with other tourists around, the entire place is hushed and almost haunted, like stepping back into history. You half expect a monk to amble past or a medieval knight to be waiting in the knight’s hall. At the end, you emerge from the dim corridors onto a platform overlooking all of the village and surround ocean — the highest point visitors are allowed to go — with only the bell tower looming above you. It really was spectacular, and definitely worth the 10 euros to get into the monastery.
If you’re feeling adventurous on the way out, you can actually venture out into the ocean at low tide. The entire mont is surrounded by a flat plain of grey muddy sand at low tide that you can wander across. In all honesty, this was a little too messy (and cold) for me, but many people were pulling off their shoes and doing it when I was there. I’m not sure how high the water rises at high tide, so it’s worth checking the tide times before heading out, but if climbing the mont doesn’t quite satisfy your adventurous streak, it’s definitely worth a try. Just only go if you don’t mind getting a bit muddy!
How to Get There
In the art of full disclosure, I should mention that this journey wasn’t what I would call stress-free (in my experience, at least). The trip itself isn’t complicated, but in my experience French train and bus stations aren’t always the most clearly marked. I certainly wouldn’t consider this a reason to forgo this trip, but I would recommend giving yourself plenty of extra time and not being afraid to ask for help (even if your French isn’t perfect).
As for the nitty-gritty details, the trip is about three to four hours (depending on your connections) each way from Paris by train and bus. There’s no train station actually in Mont Saint-Michel, so the last leg of the trip will be a bus ride. Visit raileurope.com and search for tickets from Paris to Mont St.-Michel. There are usually several time options and various price options — most tickets are around 70-100 euros round-trip. I left from Paris Gare Montparnasse in the morning, took a shuttle bus, a train, and another bus to get to Mont Saint-Michel around noon for 78 euros (obviously, the more flexible you are with times and the more you’re willing to pay, the better connections you can get). Both the buses and trains are actually quite comfortable, and the trip isn’t difficult. Again, I would just recommend you give yourself plenty of time, especially if you’re leaving from a major Paris train station.
Once you get to Mont Saint-Michel, you can either take a shuttle or walk the 30-minutes or so on the bridge out to the island. Remember that the buses out of Mont Saint-Michel leave from where they drop you off, so pay attention to where you are when you arrive and leave plenty of time to get back to the bus stop from the mont (I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything here…).
I have a confession: I have a bit of an obsession with doors. Not your average everyday door necessarily, but colorful doors, intricate doors, eccentric doors. Have you ever noticed how many different types of doors there are out there? (No? Just me?) And it just so happens that Paris is particularly up on its door game. There’s a vast array of colors. There are intricate designs and incredible art. There are knockers in every design imaginable (Paris also has — pardon my French — great knockers). Some are ancient and a little worn, some are polished and shiny new, some are amazing Art Nouveau works of art — you get the picture. As a result, I became that crazy tourist stopping every few steps to take a picture of yet another door. What can I say? I’m obsessed.
I don’t actually know the stories of these Paris doors, which in a way maybe makes it more fascinating. How old is the door? What lies behind it? Who chose that lion or hand door knocker, and why? I’ve heard enough histories of specific doors and buildings in France to know that every flourish has a history and a meaning.
The one I do have some context for is the stunning Art Nouveau creation at 29 Avenue Rapp (first image, third row, first from left). Built in 1901 and designed by Jules Lavirotte, this intricate doorway tells an erotic tale of Adam and Eve, including peacocks, bulls, reptiles, and insects symbolizing sin (not to mention several other erotic motifs). It’s a gorgeous building teeming with symbolism that shocked viewers of the time.
Likely not every door in Paris packs such a metaphoric punch, but I’m positive they all have their own tales. Unfortunately, I’m no tour guide. I wish I could write an entire post about the stories behind these doors, but most remained closed to me. So we’ll just have to imagine, create histories and characters for them. All I know is, I took pictures of 39 doors in Paris, and no two looked alike, and I wandered by many more that I forced myself to keep walking and not snap a photo of.
If you’re wondering, “Why is she still talking about doors?” — well, I’m surprised you made it this far. If, like me, you enjoy a little quirkiness and mystery, then take a look at the collage of all my Paris door photos, enjoy the art and color, and create your own version of the stories they tell. And I’m positive they have many — it is Paris, after all.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
When you think of city street art, Kansas City may not immediately spring to mind. But it turns out KC is a veritable canvas of murals. A mural tour has been on my bucket list for a while, but it was only recently that my friend Emily (shoutout to my always-game wandering buddy!) and I found a free — and not 100-degree — day to do it. And we had to do it right, obviously — full mural madness. Electric scooters required.
Actually, Kansas City has way more murals than I expected, and we didn’t nearly make it to all of them. However, I think we made the rounds pretty well, and the results were pretty darn cool in any case. Follow along with us!
Generally, maps are a no-no for legit wandering. However, Kansas City is a spread-out city, and I love a good list, so I had a detailed list and corresponding map for our mural tour. Obviously, you can follow whatever path you want to see any (or all) of these. Our escapade started in River Market, then went down to East Crossroads, plus a few extra in the Crossroads, Brookside, and even Independence. And, of course, we stumbled across at least a few unexpected gems. As with any wander, the best discoveries are always the ones you find by accident.
*A full list of the Kansas City murals we visited, with addresses, will be at the end of this post.
Our first stop was the kooky and colorful Betty Rae’s Ice Cream mural. This was by far the hardest to get pictures of, as there was the usual crazy line of people bursting out of Betty Rae’s. That said, the vibrant, cartoonish ice cream drippings are definitely worth a look. And hey, you can always stop for a cone while you’re at it!
After that, we headed on to the Lewis & Clark mural around the corner at River Market Antiques. As far as I know, this is one of the older murals in KC, and it doesn’t have the graffiti vibe of a lot of spots on our list — it’s more like a classic painting. It fits in perfectly with the storied brick buildings of River Market, a little slice of Missouri history.
At this point, we hit the scooters — mostly, in truth, to get to our chosen coffee spot before closing time. A separate Coffeeshop Love post will be coming on that, but suffice it to say, we made it, and the coffee at Thou Mayest’s newest home, Thee Outpost, is not to be missed (also shoutout to the friendly barista who didn’t even give us an evil eye for coming in two minutes before closing). If you haven’t given the electric scooters many cities now have a try, do it — now. I’m not sure I’d use them for a regular commute, but they’re a fun and speedy way to get around, and worth it for the nostalgia trip back to fifth grade alone (I suddenly wish I hadn’t sold my electric scooter…)
East Crossroads might just be the Mecca of murals in KC. The grittier sister of the Crossroads Arts District around 19th and Main, this neighborhood has true street art — and it’s everywhere. We hit a few preplanned spots (I’ll list the addresses), but my best advice is to go to about 18th and Oak and start wandering. From Art Alley (a long passage covered street to roof in graffiti and murals) to a Kansas City Royals wall, there’s a splash of paint around almost every corner. Just be sure you don’t miss the vibrant Production Wall, in the Made in KC lot, and eclectic Art Alley, between 17th and 18th around Locust and Cherry Streets. Meander around east of Oak Street from about 17th to 19th, and you never know what you’ll stumble across.
Crossroads and Beyond
Fully caffeinated and a little high on art, we headed west to the Crossroads. Just past the Kansas City Star building, the lovely rainbow of the “Love You Like A Summer Night” mural hides behind Messenger Coffee (also a good stop if you’re not already java-ed out). Then on to Main Street, to Tom’s Town Distillery and Gallup Maps for a little Art Deco and antique flair, respectively.
We couldn’t pass by the Strong Women Empower mural, of course (cheesy selfies are a must). For those who know the area, this spot, across from Up Down bar, used to house the Kansas City I’m So In Love mural. Never fear — that classic has been relocated. We hit it next, incorporated into the Imagine That art at Imagine That (a lovely tribute to this arts organization for developmentally disabled adults). Along the way, we stumbled across the KC skyline splashed across the Spira Care building, another beautiful surprise. You see why I wander?
Full disclosure: I cheated a bit on the Damn Fine and Love the Square murals — I had already visited and snapped pics of those, so I included them for good measure. Maybe a little outside the downtown mural tour track, but they were too good to not throw into the mix!
Obviously, this was a whirlwind tour! To do the art full justice, you’ll really have to go take a look yourself. And while you’re at it, you’ll probably discover even more we didn’t hit. Check out SpraySeeMo and @grafittikc for more Kansas City mural moments (plus more detailed info).
**If you want to follow our tour, here’s a list of the murals we visited and their locations. I included the artist when I could find it. Most titles, however, are just my own descriptions.**
Betty Rae’s (412 Delaware St.) @jtdaniels_art
Lewis & Clark (115 W 5th St.)
Production Wall/Made in KC lot (18th & Locust St.)
Art Alley (between 17th & 18th, near Locust & Cherry Sts.)
Rainbow Faces (1822 Cherry St.) @rifrafgiraffe
Ten Hundred (19th & Cherry St.) @tenhun
Until the Rave Summons (around 17th & Locust St.)
Retro Noir (501 E. 17th St.) @sikestyle & @lucidflows
Revilo Octopus Panda (500 E. 18th St.) *This building is unfortunately now partially collapsed*
Vulpes Bastille Fox (1737 Locust St.) @sabertooththomas
Sebastian Coolidge Woman (1608 Locust St.) @sebastiancoolidge
Tropical Starry Night (17th & Oak) @pyramidguy
Pyramid Girl (446 E. 17th) @tylercoey
I Love You Like a Summer Night (1624 Grand Blvd) @abbyyemm
Tom’s Town (17th & Main St.)
Gallup Maps (1733 Main St)
Strong Women Empower (1919 Baltimore)
Spira Care KC skyline (1916 Grand Blvd) @rifrafgiraffe & @amiayars