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36 hours in Humboldt, Kansas: Where to go, what to do for a weekend getaway

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 8/7/2022 David Hudnall, The Kansas City Star
Damaris Kunkler, right, takes a friend on a tour of a century-old church building that’s being renovated into Revival Music Hall, a concert venue slated to open next year. © Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS Damaris Kunkler, right, takes a friend on a tour of a century-old church building that’s being renovated into Revival Music Hall, a concert venue slated to open next year.

Kansas is low on “weekend getaway” type of places: small towns with enough going on to entertain and satisfy visitors between Friday after work and Sunday morning when it’s time to drive back home. A Bolder Humboldt, a civic group that has been hard at work revitalizing the southeast Kansas town since 2016, aims to fill that gap.

“One of our guiding principles is that we are trying to build Humboldt into a place where you can visit for 36 hours and there’s never a point during that time where you don’t have anything to do,” said Paul Cloutier, a founding member of A Bolder Humboldt.

The town is well on its way there. Several new options for bars, restaurants, lodging and recreation have opened in the last few years, with more on the way. Here is a guide to what to do in Humboldt — and what to expect in the future from this suddenly booming town.

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Where to stay

▪ Base Camp Humboldt. Three modern-rustic Scandinavian cabins sit on a 21-acre property near the trailhead of the Southwind Rail Trail, which connects Humboldt to Iola. Guests can paddle and canoe in the on-site quarry pond or ride around on the BMX skills course. Five pull-through sites for RVs to park and camp are slated to be open to the public by September. Beth Works Barlow, who manages Base Camp, also operates a two-bedroom Airbnb located above Bijou Confectionary, her downtown sweets shop. Status: Open, but plan ahead; the cabins are booked months in advance.

▪ The Bailey. A five-room boutique hotel located right off Humboldt’s town square. Status: Opening in late August.

If everything’s booked up, consider hotels in Chanute or Iola, each just a 10-mile drive from Humboldt.

Where to eat

Honeybee Bruncherie. Breakfast and lunch spot serving classics (biscuits and gravy, eggs Benedict) alongside more modern fare (chilaquiles, “Broke Millennial Avocado Toast”). Status: Open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Frost Bite: A commissary kitchen located in the Life Is Fine Plaza off the square pumps out ice for this “yeti-style” shaved ice food truck. Another slot in the plaza features a rotating food truck. Status: Open.

Calamity Mae’s. A farm-to-table restaurant with a fire-driven menu, Calamity Mae’s will feature a cocktail program from Laura Wagner and food by Rye Leawood sous chef Miles Kim. Status: Aiming to open in late 2022/early 2023.

Sticks Golf Lounge opened in March in downtown Humboldt. Sticks features three golf-simulation driving bays, lots of big-screen TVs and a full bar. © Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS Sticks Golf Lounge opened in March in downtown Humboldt. Sticks features three golf-simulation driving bays, lots of big-screen TVs and a full bar.

Where to drink

Octagon City Coffee. Named after a failed intentional community attempted in the area in the 1850s, this airy coffee shop bills itself as “the best coffee south of Lawrence.” It carries Messenger coffee beans, serves bubble tea, and is attached to Humboldt Mercantile, a gift shop where customers can browse the wares of local and regional makers. Status: Open.

Perrenoud’s Cocktail Bar. Little expense was spared in the creation of this urbane lounge, from the Italian terrazzo bar tops to the cherry paneling behind the bar to the lush deep-green banquettes. The cocktail menu is a mix of classics and more experimental, ingredient-driven drinks. “But we also want to be a place where you feel comfortable ordering a Budweiser or a nonalcoholic drink,” says general manager Laura Wagner. Status: “Hoping to be open for Water Wars,” says Cloutier. That’s Aug. 13.

Octagon City Coffee Co. and The Frame Shop were two of the first businesses in the A Better Humboldt portfolio of projects. © Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS Octagon City Coffee Co. and The Frame Shop were two of the first businesses in the A Better Humboldt portfolio of projects.

The Hitching Post. A “sophisticated honky-tonk” with Hank and Patsy on the turntable, a stage in the corner for the occasional weekend performance and a rolling ladder behind the bar to reach the bottles of high-end whiskey. Status: Open very soon. “Maybe the last weekend of August, or Labor Day weekend,” says Cloutier.

Union Works Brewing Company. This 25-barrel brewery will double as a restaurant, with wood-fired pizza at the heart of the menu. Tablecloth dining up front, a brewery bar in the back and a beer garden outside. Status: Aiming to open in late 2022.

Where to shop

Idle Hour Books. This small, curated bookshop can be found in the lobby of the Bailey for now, but the plan is to eventually move it around the corner into a former church that’s being renovated. Status: Opening in September.

Roots. Locally owned plant shop. Status: Open.

Jae & Co. Mother-daughter shop selling women’s clothing and housewares. Status: Open.

What to do

Neosho Valley Woodworks. Pat Haire maintains an 1880s-era lineshaft woodworking shop in the old Odd Fellows Hall on the square. It’s an active woodshop but also a kind of museum; poke your head in, and Haire’ll be happy to show off all the old tools he’s restored and put to use. Status: Open.

Josh Works, left, lifts a neon sign onto his Frost Bite Shave Ice food truck. Dylan Steinmetz, right, of Element Ten in Kansas City, will install. Works has developed several projects in Humboldt, Kansas, including the Life is Fine Plaza, a gathering spot on the town square that’ll soon be Frost Bite’s permanent home. © Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS Josh Works, left, lifts a neon sign onto his Frost Bite Shave Ice food truck. Dylan Steinmetz, right, of Element Ten in Kansas City, will install. Works has developed several projects in Humboldt, Kansas, including the Life is Fine Plaza, a gathering spot on the town square that’ll soon be Frost Bite’s permanent home.

Sticks Golf Lounge. Too hot out to hit the links? Sticks, opened by Chase Butcher and his father-in-law, Craig Newman, in March, offers three golf simulator bays. “You bring in your golf clubs and can pick from over 100,000 different courses — Pebble Beach, courses in Scotland, whatever,” says Butcher. It’s a bar, too, with a bunch of big screens tuned to sports. Status: Open Friday and Saturday for now, with plans to expand to six days a week.

Terry and Janis Jolin of Overland Park fish and sip on rum and cokes at Base Camp, three modern cabins opened in 2020 as part of A Bolder Humboldt’s push to revitalize the town. © Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS Terry and Janis Jolin of Overland Park fish and sip on rum and cokes at Base Camp, three modern cabins opened in 2020 as part of A Bolder Humboldt’s push to revitalize the town.

Revival Music Hall. This 250-capacity concert venue in a former First Presbyterian church is perhaps A Bolder Humboldt’s most ambitious project. “We’ll be booking regional bands and national touring artists,” says Damaris Kunkler, the community engagement director for A Bolder Humboldt (and a songwriter herself). “We’re excited to bring a lot of different genres of music here.” Though it’s no longer functional, they’re keeping the old church organ as a facade and putting seating up in the choir balcony. The basement green room features three bedrooms, two showers and a full kitchen — a blessing for tired musicians passing through town.

Status: “I will cry if it’s not ready by the end of the year,” Kunkler says. In the meantime, they’re hosting the blues-and-roots-centric Middle of Everywhere Festival over Labor Day weekend.

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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