Century-Old Estate with European Spa and Gourmet Dining
Built in 1912, the stately Elms Hotel & Spa was a haven for those visiting Excelsior Springs for the soothing effects of its natural mineral waters. Over the years, the elegant health resort has hosted several noteworthy guests, including Al Capone, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and President Harry Truman, who stayed at the hotel on the night of his memorable “Dewey Defeats Truman” re-election in 1948. A $16 million renovation in the late ’90s restored the Bavarian-style limestone building to its former grandeur, and today the Elms Hotel & Spa draws guests looking to unwind at The Elms’s updated European spa. Here, you can take it easy inside a secluded grotto with steam showers and a bar stocked with exfoliating herbs and sea salts.
The hotel’s interior decor also exudes a stately European vibe. In the guest rooms, you’ll sleep on signature memory-foam mattress amid several contemporary amenities, including Keurig coffeemakers and iPod docking stations.
At the hotel’s restaurant, Eighty-Eight at the Elms, chefs use locally sourced ingredients and seasonal produce grown onsite to craft the entrees on a gourmet dinner menu. Pink peppercorn butter adds a zesty touch to the 12-ounce grilled rib eye ($33), and sour-cherry gastrique gives the pan-seared duck breast ($27) a pleasantly tart bite. The restaurant also serves peanut-butter-and-jelly french toast ($11) for breakfast and lighter entrees and sandwiches at lunch./
Excelsior Springs, Missouri: Historic Mineral-Spring Town Outside Kansas City
Excelsior Springs lies about 35 minutes northeast of Kansas City, along the banks of the East Fork Fishing River. The town made a name for itself after a natural spring unexpectedly spouted up near the river. Admission is free at the Excelsior Springs Hall of Waters and Cultural Museum, which delves into the area’s past. Housed in an art-deco-style building hung with brilliant chandeliers, the 1930s bathhouse is home to one of the world’s longest water bars and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Outside the museum, in downtown Excelsior Springs, are craft shops, boutiques, and florists inside vintage redbrick buildings. Since Excelsior Springs sits in a riverside valley, there are several wineries in town and wine tastings are popular with tourists.
If you’re visiting the region for the first time, consider a side trip up to Kansas City, where the ratio of fountains to barbecue joints is roughly 2:1—as in, 200-plus public fountains and more than 90 restaurants where you can order the city’s signature slow-smoked meat.. Add a die-hard sports community and a downtown area named one of America’s best by Forbes magazine, and the at-times overlooked Kansas City has all the makings of a memorable getaway: culture, Midwestern charm, and an endless supply of sauce-slathered ribs.