Ready to escape this world? Try Humboldt, Kansas. Really.
I’m deviating slightly from regular food and drink programming this week because of, well, reality. I know more than a few of us who are yearning for escape from the relentless and exhausting fire hose of news and the understandable accompanying doomscrolling. We all need something peaceful and beautiful—a place where there are no “NPAs” or big red and blue touchscreens or counts or breathless tallies to catch up with. No matter what happens over the next few days and in the upcoming weeks, this need won’t go away.
I know a place.
There is something remarkable happening in tiny Humboldt, Kansas. Just a little over 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, Humboldt is like a lot of other rural Kansas towns, except that Humboldt is now undergoing a major transformation from typical Kansas small town to a town with more cool stuff going on than many of our dense urban neighborhoods.
In recent years, the Works family, a local family that owns a very successful trailer hitch manufacturing company, has been embarking on an unusual and exciting redevelopment of Humboldt’s downtown area. They have purchased several century-old buildings in the town square, and have been planning and working on an “experiment” that could very well lead to something of a renaissance for itty bitty Humboldt. Currently under construction: a music venue, a small boutique hotel, bars, and even a maker space. The town already boasts a solid coffee shop and mercantile, as well as a pretty great old-school fried chicken restaurant named Opie’s.
The next several months will be fascinating in Humboldt as the newer projects come to life.
For now though, Humboldt is well worth the trip just to visit a place called Base Camp, which is managed and operated by Stephanie Marchesi, formerly of the late, great Myers Hotel Bar in Tonganoxie. Marchesi and her partner, Kate Frick (the face of the Myers and the brains behind its great cocktails) moved down to Humboldt after the closure of the Myers this summer to join the Works’ experiment in Humboldt. At Base Camp, they are managing something entirely different from the Myers. Here, you’ll find rental cabins that feel much more out of Scandinavia than Kansas, a BMX course, a public green space with kayaking, hiking, and fishing and front-door access to the brand-new Southwind Rail Trail, part of the Rails to Trails bike project. Primitive camping spots with access to showers will also be available most likely next spring or summer.
Base Camp is a remarkable, lovely place, and it seems as though it will just be the beginning of cool things happening with Humboldt, as well as Marchesi and Frick. In the coming months, Frick will be opening Noon, a healthy grab-and-go eatery, and will be managing a cocktail bar in the aforementioned boutique hotel. Base Camp will be expanding, and hopefully will be able to host events, once the pandemic lifts.
So, if you need an escape, consider this little rural Kansas town. It’ll fill you with some hope and much-needed beauty. And if you’re really lucky, a cocktail or two. Or more.