A Wine, Water and Barbecue-Filled Summer Getaway in Excelsior Springs
Located 30 miles northeast of Kansas City, Excelsior Springs, Missouri, draws city folk for luxe weekends away at The Elms Hotel and Spa. In the summer, the town of just under 11,000 people swells with festivals that celebrate its three calling cards—wine, water and barbecue.
Wake Up with Water
10 a.m. Start your day at the Hall of Waters—a 1937 building that distributed mineral water from the springs that fed it. Though the world's longest water bar is dry now (and currently undergoing renovations), the building serves as the visitors center and a museum.
11 a.m. Browse Excelsior Springs' Historic District, where you'll find eclectic works by a local artist at Molly Roberts Studio, custom woodwork at Campbell Wood Designs, and libations at Willow Spring Mercantile, which has the largest retail selection ofMissouri-made wines in the state.
Grab a Bite
1 p.m. Grab a burger at Ray's Diner, a family-owned and -operated restaurant that's big on honoring the town's history. Open since 1932, Ray's has photographs and vintage artifacts on its walls, as well as historic area newspapers under the glass countertop at the bar.
Have Fun at a Festival
2 p.m. Excelsior Springs hosts some of its most notable festivals in summer. June's Wine Festival showcases 85 wines from 20 wineries across the state of Missouri. Waterfest, held in late June, celebrates the mineral water heritage with activities, music, food, a parade and fireworks over the Hall of Waters. In August, more than 70 barbecue teams compete at the BBQ and Fly-In on the River, held at the Excelsior Springs Memorial Airport.
Relax and Unwind
5:30 p.m. In its early days, 134-year-old The Elms Hotel and Spa was a desired destination for its mineral water baths, lush gardens, exquisite parties and grand balls. The hotel still boasts posh accommodations and a spa good enough for a president—famous guest Harry S. Truman's favorite treatments included a salt rub and massage. End the night with dinner in the recently renovated restaurant or have a glass of wine in the new lobby bar before retreating to your well-appointed stateroom.
In the Know
Impress the locals with your knowledge of Excelsior Springs.
Excelsior Springs was founded on the discovery of natural spring water. In 1880, a farmer gave his daughter—sick with a form of tuberculosis—the water to drink, and she was eventually cured. From then on, the town became known for its healing waters.
Trolley tours of the area's wineries and breweries are offered year-round. Favorite stops include Four Horses and a Dog Vineyard and Winery (with live music) and Dubious Claims Brewing Company. The latter cheekily nods to the water's qualities by naming its beers Elixir, Relief and Therapy. You also can book private tours.
Dewey Defeats Truman
Or not! In 1948, Harry S. Truman fell asleep in Room 200 at The Elms thinking he had lost a close election, but woke up to a second term as president (and a legendarily wrong headline). The Truman Suite, by the way, is now Room 300.
The Elms has had a turbulent history since its opening in 1888. It has twice been destroyed by fire, has filed for bankruptcy, undergone numerous renovations and is even rumored to be haunted. (Don't worry—the spirits are friendly, hotel staff says.)