Hidden Gems of the Heartland
The Midwest may be known for expansive, wide-open spaces, kind folks and farm towns, but dotted across the plains lay some truly special cities. The heartland of the United States holds all kinds of unexpected entertainment, mouthwatering dining, and the midwestern hospitality that makes this region so welcoming. Join us on this seven day excursion across Kansas City, Des Moines, and Omaha, and get ready to rethink everything you know about the American Midwest.
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas
Kick off your tour of the Midwest in “the heart of America,” Kansas City. Split between Kansas and Missouri, KC (as it’s colloquially called) lives at the crossroads of small-town charm and big city attractions across both Kansas and Missouri. From the bustling nightlife, vibrant art scene, world-class museums and unbeatable barbecue, this town truly has something for everyone. Make sure to bring a roll of pennies, and make plenty of wishes in Kansas City’s over 200 fountains!
Where to Stay:
- Part boutique hotel, part contemporary museum, 21c Kansas City is a one-of-a-kind experience in the Midwest and has recently been named a top hotel in the Midwest by Condé Nast.
- Experience amazing Art Deco design at Hotel Phillips Kansas City, where guests can enjoy intricate metalwork and unique fixtures while sipping a craft cocktail at P.S. Speakeasy, an on-site underground speakeasy.
- Get a restful night’s sleep at Ambassador Kansas City, then take on the town. Here, guests are close to local attractions like Sea Life Aquarium, T-Mobile Center and the WWI Museum and Memorial.
What to Eat:
- Barbeque is very much a way of life in the Midwest, and many say Joe's BBQ in Kansas City does it best. What began as a gas station BBQ stop turned into a popular local favorite with three locations today.
- Indulge in comfort foods at Sarah’s on the Hill, with tasty sandwiches and create-your-own pizzas topping the menu.
- Barbeque isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! Visit Pirates Bone Burger’s for some of the best vegan burgers in the Midwest.
What to See:
- The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art celebrates and welcomes all walks of life through its collection of work that spans over 5,000 years of humanity. Don’t miss the iconic Sculpture Park.
- Let the music move you at the American Jazz Museum, where interactive exhibits tell the story of soulful tunes. Catch a live performance at the Blue Room – you may find the newest jazz band or a seasoned performer take the stage.
- Traverse on horseback through the Midwest with Saddle Creek Stables and Vineyards, and after your exploration, enjoy a rich glass of red or sweet white wine with views of the Missouri River.
Des Moines, Iowa
Next on your road trip, take a scenic drive across the heartland to Iowa’s state capital, Des Moines. (Quick tip: it’s pronounced duh-moyn!) Far and away from the rolling, scenic hills of surrounding farmland, Des Moines prides itself on a vibrant and bustling downtown scene and culture to boot. And whatever you may have thought about Iowa, think again: On this trip, you’ll uncover surprises around every corner, like the epic gold dome state capitol building, progressive and undeniably hip neighborhoods, and even a zombie-themed restaurant.
Where to Stay:
- Situated in the heart of Des Moines, the Des Lux Hotel is close to all the action in one of the fastest growing and most dynamic downtowns in the United States.
- Located just outside the city lies one of the world’s finest historic boutique hotels, Hotel Pattee. The 100+ year old hotel recently went under a $12 million renovation to include upgrades to their 40 rooms, a bowling alley, full service dining room and luxury spa.
What to Eat:
- Serving fast food with a culinary edge, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab transforms your typical burger and shake into a walking dead-inspired meal.
- Start your morning at the aptly named Breakfast Club, with brightly colored walls and locally sourced dishes that are fresh and simply delicious.
- Committed to bringing good things together, Confluence Brewing serves craft beer with bold flavors in a friendly atmosphere. Their dog-friendly outdoor deck and beer garden is the perfect hangout.
What to Do:
- The iconic High Trestle Trail Bridge is a favorite at night in Des Moines when it illuminates blue. The decommissioned railroad line was converted into a multi-use rail trail that welcomes visitors from near and far. During the day, hike or bike along the 25-mile trail and stop to read the informational panels along the way to learn even more about the area’s history.
- The library located inside the Iowa State Capital is a wondrous and enchanting place you can easily spend hours in. A must see when visiting Iowa!
- Named the second best in the United States, the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market is a can’t miss event that connects you with local produce as well as the perfect spot to pick-up handmade crafts from Iowa.
Rooted in pioneer history and built on midwestern values, Omaha, Nebraska is the perfect final road trip destination. Kick off your adventure with a tour through the largest indoor rainforest in the United States, found in Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Here, you’ll learn about their world-class conservation work, see some interesting animals, and feel the surrounding tropical jungle environment, all right here in unsuspecting Omaha. Then, walk the cobblestone streets of The Old Market, Omaha’s arts and entertainment district. You might just wander into a fun shop or find a fantastic local restaurant - steakhouses are top quality and aplenty here in Omaha. Finish it all off with a trip to Coneflower Creamery, and enjoy a decadent scoop of their “farm to cone” ice cream.
Where to Stay:
- The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel in Omaha is an experience in and of itself with upscale on-site dining options and comfortable accommodations in the historic boutique hotel.
- The Midwest is known for its hospitality and it’s perhaps best exemplified at Magnolia Omaha, a hotel close to local attractions and entertainment. Named to the National Register of HIstoric Places, Magnolia Omaha combines historic furnishings with modern flair.
What to Eat:
- Inspired by Latin America’s diverse cuisine, The Hunger Block’s diverse menu celebrates Latin American culture in its flavorful dishes.
- Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse and Winery has been voted one of the top-ranked restaurants in Omaha and is known for its juicy steaks and extensive wine selection.
- Named after the native wildflower that paints the prairies, Coneflower Creamery serves handcrafted ice cream made from local ingredients.
What to Do:
- Walk through the U.S.’s largest indoor rainforest, the Lied Jungle Botanical Garden at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, and find yourself in an entirely different world.
- Visit The Old Market, Omaha’s most historic and entertaining neighborhood, and find eclectic shops, local restaurants and taverns -- even cobblestone streets!
- Fontenelle Forest is one of Nebraska’s oldest conservation organizations and provides guests with opportunities to get up close and personal with native wildlife.