Kansas City might just be one of America's best hidden gems. Located smack in the middle of the U.S., it's often an overlooked fly-over city. But it shouldn't be. Thanks to the world-class museums, a burgeoning food scene, and high-end shopping, it's one of the best locations to visit for a luxury trip for less. Here, our guide to a splurgy (but not outrageously expensive!) weekend in KC.
What to Do
Kansas City is home to the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which can easily fill a full day and happens to be free. Opened in 1933, the museum -- situated on 20 stunning acres -- is home to more than 30,000 works of art, and includes robust ceramics and Asian art collections. It's not far from the city's Country Club Plaza; modeled after the fountain-filled plazas of Seville, Spain, the area has more than 150 shops and restaurants, and is ideal for an evening stroll.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum ($10 admission) works to preserve the rich history of African-American baseball, and is another must-see in this sports-obsessed city. Come evening, continue the theme with a game at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. We found seats for as little as $9 each -- not bad for a major league park.
Where to Eat
Arguably the hottest restaurant in Kansas City right now is The Rieger. Situated downtown, it's housed in the former Rieger Hotel, which was built in 1915 and retains many of its original architectural details. Chef Howard Hanna, along with Ryan Maybee, a life-long bartender and restaurateur owner, opened The Rieger to offer heartland hospitality with classic dishes and hand-crafted cocktails. The menu changes with the seasons and highlights local ingredients. There's a happy hour menu with cocktails like the Horsefeather, made with the house J. Rieger & Co. Whiskey, bitters, and ginger beer for $5, and a French 75 for $6. Plus, there are plenty of snacks like a fried hominy ($5), warm pretzels ($7), and bison tongue pastrami ($9). But dinner is the shining star here. Start with a bowl of the Rieger pork soup: prepared like a classic French onion soup, this signature dish is made with pork confit, Gruyère, and chicharron for crunch. Starters include smoked trout toast, bison tartare, and nettle risotto. For mains, try the rabbit pie or KC strip steak. The best part? You're essentially getting a fine dining experience, with top-notch food, for around $100 -- an incredible value. Post-dinner, head downstairs to the speakeasy-style cocktail bar, Manifesto, which was opened by Maybee in 2009.
What to Drink
Take in happy hour, or what high-end KC restaurants call "social hour" at Stock Hill in the Country Club Plaza. We like this spot for its stunning decor -- marble and gold fixtures, rows of green velvet sofas, and beautifully etched glassware. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m daily, you can sip on a dirty martini (with black truffle and a blue cheese-stuffed olive) or the Kansas City Steakhouse Punch for $8. Get two orders of the tuna tartare tater tots ($8 per order) because they're both delicious and affordable. Gram & Dun, also on the Plaza, features a social hour menu with $6 cocktails, $3 craft beer, and $5 wine and bubbles. The beef fat fries ($4) and French onion dumplings at $6, are stand-out menu items. If the weather permits, there's a lovely patio with plenty of seating.
Where to Stay
For an upscale experience without the crazy price tag, book a guest room at The Fontaine. Located on the Country Club Plaza, the modern and chic rooms run about $190 per night, and there's an included European breakfast.