Take a romantic getaway to charming Clay County, MO

Celebrating the Years

A couple toasts their anniversary with a romantic getaway to Excelsior Springs, MO

By Lorry Myers

For the first time in my married life, I packed my husband’s suitcase. I had a plan for our anniversary and part of the plan was not to tell Randy anything. He wasn’t a huge fan of being at my mercy—in fact, he didn’t like it at all. But after 15 years together, I knew it would be worth it.

The last few anniversaries, we‘d celebrated in football bleachers or lawn chairs in a ballpark, vaguely remembering the importance of the day.  Now I was determined to plan something truly special, just for the two of us.

I sent the kids to grandma’s house and claimed the car keys, directing Randy to the passenger seat. Since I had packed his suitcase, the only clue my clueless husband had was the direction I was going. He kept guessing and I kept driving.

When we were close to our destination, I told Randy to close his eyes and, surprisingly, he did. A few turns and a couple minutes later, I announced: “OK, we’re here.”

Historic grandeur

Randy opened his eyes in front of The Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. I’d done my research and chosen Excelsior Springs for its relaxed, small-town atmosphere. And I’d selected the hotel based on its beauty and long, fascinating history. Randy and I both love historic hotels, and this one had a pretty intriguing history, so it was the perfect choice for our special getaway.

The Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri

For 125 years, this notable hotel has hosted future presidents, notorious gangsters and prominent sport stars. Plus, the town and The Elms were built around rare, natural mineral springs that are rumored to have healing powers. Over the years the hotel has been renovated but still retains its historic charm. The manicured drive and stone entryway made me feel like we had truly arrived to an unforgettable destination.

“This place is amazing!” Randy exclaimed, trying to take it all in. We roamed the lobby, intrigued by the photos that captured the hotel in different eras and the famous faces that had once been its guests. We explored the gardens and grounds and found the outdoor pool and giant hot tub.

My husband looked at me and grinned. “I should let you abduct me more often,” he said.

Once we settled in, we asked the desk clerk what there was to do nearby. She pointed us downtown, so we walked a few blocks and landed at antique stores, coffee shops and storefronts that beckoned us in.

Night on the town

There were artists painting in front of art studios and a blues band playing in the street. That night, it seemed like the town of Excelsior Springs knew exactly what we needed. It was a night of no decisions, we just held hands as we strolled along, enjoying the music and the night life and each other.

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Willow Spring Mercantile

No traffic, no hassles, no hurries, no worries.

That’s when we found Willow Spring Mercantile, a boutique with Missouri-made wines, craft beer, gourmet food and more.

We could hear music coming from the inside, and discovered that we were in luck. It was the second Friday of the month, when downtown Excelsior Springs heats up with music and nightlife. Willow Spring Mercantile stays open for dinner on second Fridays, so we grabbed a table and ordered their Hot Bacon Cheese Dip with crusty bread. We bought souvenirs for the kids in the fun gift shop and sampled Missouri wines and purchased a bottle to take home to the babysitter — my mom would love it.

We explored the stores and streets of Excelsior Springs, happy we left the car behind. Without turn signals and exit ramps, I had my husband’s full attention and I could tell he was enjoying my plan so far. After the short walk back to The Elms, it was time to sit in the hot tub and look at the stars.

A day of exploration

Hall of Waters Excelsior Springs, Mo

The next morning, we went back downtown to a little restaurant we had noticed the night before. Ray’s Diner is famous for its hamburgers and chili, but this morning we were there for the atmosphere and the eggs. Eating at the diner was like taking a step back in time. The red striped awning and checkered tile reminded me of going to diners for milkshakes when I was a little girl, and I immediately felt that no matter what we ordered, it was going to be good.

The eggs were perfectly scrambled, the pancakes were fluffy and the bacon is extra crispy—just the way I like it. We were set for a great day.

Leaving Ray’s Diner, we walked a short block to the Hall of Waters, a unique Art Deco building that was originally used as a bottling and distribution center for the local mineral water—that same water said to have healing powers. Today, the Hall of Waters houses the Visitor’s Center and Excelsior Springs City Offices. Walking into the historic structure, I was rendered speechless by the beauty of the massive emerald windows and the way the light filtered in, turning the building into a work of art.

In its heyday, the Hall of Waters offered 10 different mineral waters to the public via a water bar. We visited the bar, centered in a yellow and teal, oval-shaped room. Though it no longer sells mineral water, we were blown away by the amount of light pouring through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the beautiful tiles and chandeliers. We also took a peek at the Olympic-size swimming pool—though no longer filled with mineral water, it was easy to imagine scores of visitors diving in, eager to reap the restorative benefits that awaited them.

My plan all along was to take my husband to a place he would always remember, a place where we could enjoy spending time together, just the two of us. I think my plan was working.

Cherry on top

We returned to The Elms for the final part of my anniversary weekend plan. Randy works very hard, and I wanted to give him a special treat to show how much I appreciated his efforts for our family. I had arranged for us to have a couples massage at the Elm’s award-winning spa, hoping that it would pamper him like he deserved (the pampering I would receive was an added bonus). When I told him what was next on my hidden agenda, my husband kissed me like no one was watching.

The Elms Hotel and Spa Excelsior Springs, Missouri

I chose the Elms relaxation massage for us, a Swedish-style massage that we both thoroughly enjoyed, designed to increase circulation and melt away tension. Afterward, we headed to The Grotto, where we tried the self-service exfoliation bar, creating a smoothing custom blend for our faces, and then ended at the steam sauna. Feeling utterly relaxed, I glanced over at Randy and he looked like the man I married years ago. His face was relaxed with a genuine smile and he sighed happily as steam swirled gently around us. “I knew there was a reason I married you,” he said with a smile. “Thank you for planning this trip. You can pack my suitcase anytime.“

After dinner that night, we strolled the walking path outside The Elms, holding hands and smiling like we were young lovers. Around a small bend and just off the trail was a large tent illuminated by strings of lights and gleaming white tablecloths. Randy and I stood in the quiet beauty and watched as a bride and groom made their way to a wooden dance floor where the groom looked at his new bride like Randy still looks at me. The moon was rising over Excelsior Springs as we stood together and watched the young couple’s first dance. The night was full of promise as Randy turned to me and took my hand, just as he did all those years and kids ago, and I looked into his eyes and knew.

We were coming back.

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Produced in cooperation with the Missouri Division of Tourism.