Disclosure: Kansas Tourism sponsored this post. However, all opinions and photographs are my own.
For a good reason, Humboldt is getting the attention of travelers and tourism publications. The southeast Kansas town of fewer than 2,000 people attracts people to the area for its reimagined attractions. Whether visiting for a day trip or staying overnight in one-of-a-kind lodging, you may want to never leave.
Locals teamed up several years ago to brainstorm new ways to renovate the downtown district, a theme extending throughout town. A Bolder Humboldt and the greater community are reviving the town one business at a time, and the result is just plain cool.
Buzz is building about The Bailey (824 Bridge St.). I had the opportunity to enjoy a preview stay at the Airbnb hotel before it officially opens to the public. Located in a downtown historic building over Idle Hour Books (coming soon!) and Perrenoud’s Cocktail Bar (reopening soon!), the accommodations are unexpectedly modern and elegant. The five-room boutique-style hotel kept the historic building’s character while updating the amenities.
After a long day of exploring Humboldt, the plush king bed, free WiFi, and flatscreen TV make it a comfortable stay. My room included on-trend extras like a SMEG mini refrigerator and a spacious bathroom with a rain shower head.
The common area features a ping pong table, velvety soft couches, and a kitchenette counter stocked with grab-and-go snacks. A self-serve water and ice dispenser are available at one’s convenience.
PRO TIP: Free on-street parking is available on two sides of the building. The Bailey is accessible via a door facing Bridge Street during business hours, and a code is assigned to each guest to gain room entry. Guests must walk a tall staircase to second-floor rooms.
Imagine a place where you can glamp from the comfort of Scandinavian-inspired loft cabins with access to a pond, trailhead, and bike park. Welcome to BaseCamp Humboldt (1268 Hawaii Rd.). It’s a full-service campground designed for solo travelers, couples, or families who prefer to explore the outdoors at their pace before retiring to their peaceful cabin, complete with a small kitchen and bathroom.
At night, view the night sky from a hammock or seating around your cabin’s fire pit – wood provided! Outdoor cooks will appreciate the charcoal grill provided at each cabin. The highly-rated accommodations cabins are a hit with guests.
An Airbnb Superhost, guests can connect with nature on the pond in kayaks, paddle boards, or canoes. Do you want to traverse The Southwind Rail Trail or the bike challenge course on two wheels? An on-site bike shop is available for any necessary repairs.
PRO TIP: Lifejackets for boating adventures are available. Provided tables and chairs making enjoying views of the pond easy. Fishing equipment is not provided.
Neosho River Park
Overlooking the Neosho River is a tranquil place to listen to the waterfall and observe nature Neosho River Park. Plentiful trees offer shade to people who want to picnic or sit and relax. At the end of Rainbow Bridge is a staircase that leads to the water for fishermen looking to drop a line. When flowers bloom, the limestone walls overflow with vibrant flowers, shrubs, and plants, making for a picturesque view of the bridge.
PRO TIP: Neosho River Park requires a Kansas fishing license if you’re an angler.
Southwind Rail Trail
The Southwind Rail Trail is a crush-limestone 6.5-mile trail connecting Humboldt to Iola if you love to bike, run, or walk long distances. Cyclists can escape the feisty Kansas winds in shaded areas along the path. It also connects to the Prairie Spirit Trail, a 51-mile section in Iola. Enjoy southeast Kansas scenery from the trail 365 days a year from dawn to dusk. The trail is accessible by motorized wheelchairs.
PRO TIP: Riders can park near the trailhead’s spacious gravel lot. If you need to air up your tires or repair them, BaseCamp’s bike shop is near the trailhead pictured below.
Humboldt Golf Club
Remember to pack a set of golf clubs to play Humboldt Golf Club‘s (300-548 Franklin St.) 9-hole course. Maintained by volunteers, the course costs $10 to play and is open to the community and visitors.
PRO TIP: Park in the gravel lot near Hole 1. The course operates on the honors system, so drop $10 into the box before starting play.
Jae & Co.
Prepared to be wowed by Jae & Co.‘s (818 Bridge St.) selection of on-trend women’s apparel, shoes, and jewelry. You’re greeted by friendly staff as you walk inside the oversized wood doors. Whether it’s a Dolly Parton graphic tee or a complete outfit, they have what you need. New arrival inventory is located at the front of the store. They also carry extended sizes.
PRO TIP: Don’t see a size that you want? Ask them to check back stock. I got lucky, and they had the size I needed in fashionable sneakers. Shop online for mega deals here.
Next door, Wild Poppy (808 Bridge St.) carries clothing, shoes, and accessories for kids of all sizes. Parents will be pleased to find sizing from infant to toddler in a boutique setting. Like me, you’ll find yourself exclaiming, “Oh, how cute!” and “That is perfect,” as you peruse racks of kids’ wear. I mean, what toddler boy doesn’t need a shirt that reads “Mr. Steal Your Heart,” paired with bumped-toed sneakers, right?
PRO TIP: Expecting mothers can shop for threads online and have them shipped directly for free with a purchase of $150 or more.
If you can’t find it at Everything Fitz (107 S. 9th St.), it doesn’t exist. The massive two-story consignment clothing store is stocked floor to ceiling with clothing and home decor. The top floor includes a large selection of women’s jeans in all sizes and styles and racks of kids’ clothing. Downstairs, shoppers will appreciate well-organized displays featuring seasonal clothing for women and men, handbags, shoes, and new home decor items.
PRO TIP: Ask about their latest markdowns or clearance selection. The staff was eager to help me shop, and they showed off new arrivals.
Get ‘Em Tiger
A store that considers itself “the funniest thing to come to Humboldt, Kansas since cargo shorts,” the Midwest-centric shop Get ‘Em Tiger (105 S. 9th St.) stocks must-have gifts. The store was once known as Humboldt Mercantile but took on a new identity in 2023. The shelves are stocked with graphic tees with sassy messages, Kansas-themed merchandise, candles, soaps, games, puzzles, and a bunch of other stuff you don’t need but really want.
PRO TIP: Enter the store via Octagon City Coffee Co. and pay for your merchandise at their register.
Take a Tour
Neosho Valley Woodworks
One step inside Neosho Valley Woodworks (118 S. 8th St.), and you’ll think you’ve time-warped to the 19th century. Pat Haire, who operates the woodshop, is a master craftsman who uses only belt-driven machines to create furniture. The building, constructed in 1866, is a fitting setting to make his highly requested cabinets. The sawdust flies, the belts turn, and the machinery whirls as he makes each cut. You may find the former musician playing his guitar if he’s not working.
PRO TIP: To avoid interrupting the artist at work, schedule a guided tour by calling 719-293-4177.
Humboldt Historical Museum
The Humboldt Historical Museum (416 N. 2nd St.) preserves the town’s heritage inside a turn-of-the-century house containing displays of civil records, photos, and artifacts. Outside, a replica one-room schoolhouse represents the original Fairview School. Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit the museum, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The host’s off-season schedule didn’t allow for a private tour.
PRO TIP: Call 620-473-5055 to schedule a tour on weekends 1:30 pm-4:00 pm June through the 2nd week of October.
Civil War Markers Walking Tour
Exercise while learning about Humboldt’s connection to the Civil War by taking a walking tour of 12 historical markers. Made of stone and marble, each is a micro version of the larger Civil War Monument on the north side of City Square. Locate a map here.
PRO TIP: The town square is a great place to find several markers. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Sip & Savor
Octagon City Coffee Co.
At my first stop in Humboldt, Octagon City Coffee Co., I ordered a steaming hot matcha latté. While waiting, I listened to indie rock classics and read a copy of The Iola Register newspaper. As locals came and went, I heard a woman tell the barista, “You’re awesome,” when she predicted her order before she could say it.
The café is surprisingly modern, like a coffee shop you’d expect to see in a big city, but its small-town charm makes it a sure win. Stop by to refuel on caffeine or to shop its retail shelves stocked with KC-made Messenger Coffee bags or cold brew bottles.
PRO TIP: Read the cartoon on the wall.
Honeybee Bruncherie (822 S. Bridge St.) is a restaurant gem serving made-to-order freshly prepared brunch and lunch meals. A few locals recommended the tenderloin sandwich, which arrived with my choice of spinach salad on the side for an extra couple of dollars. I didn’t leave a morsel of food on the plate – it was delicious, along with the citrus green iced tea.
PRO TIP: Seat yourself but be prepared to bring your ticket to the counter’s register area to pay. In the mood to purchase honey? Check out the retail shelves.
Homemade macarons. Blocks of fudge. Soft cookies. Bulk candy. You’ll find all of it, plus nostalgia bottled sodas, available at Bijou Confectionary (810 S. Bridge St.). I recommend stopping by to select a sweet treat after having lunch next door at HoneyBee Bruncherie. Use a scoop and bag to stock up on bulk candy priced at $10/lb. My lemon macaroon was perfectly soft, and the no-bake cocoa cookie lasted only minutes.
PRO TIP: Upstairs, Bijou Apartment is a luxe, two-bedroom apartment available for a weekend getaway.
Red Beard BBQ
It’s not just a food truck, it’s a vibe. Red Beard BBQ (113 S. 9th St) is located at Life is Fine Plaza near City Square, where the locals pick up scrumptious barbecue meals. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu features loaded mac-n-cheese, pit potatoes stuffed with pulled pork, meaty sandwiches, and nachos. Outdoor seating on the patio makes for a delightful dining experience.
PRO TIP: The food truck serves heaping boxes of to-go barbecue meals that could easily feed two people (a good thing!), so plan accordingly.
The Hitching Post
Like a scene from a spaghetti western, The Hitching Post (820 Bridge St.) is a bar with a 1950s-era honky tonk style that focuses on old-school country music, beer, and whiskey. The vintage theme fits, considering its located in the oldest building in Humboldt, built in the 1880s. When the owner, Paul, took over the space, it was in rough shape. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work. From the stone to the studs, the building was completely refurbished.
A whiskey bar, the shelves are stocked deep with spirits at every price point. Craving Scotch? Prefer a beer or a cocktail? They’ve got it. While patrons sip on spirits, retro country classics play from vinyl by cowboys like Dwight Yoakam or Waylon Jennings.
Antique beer cans and retro beer signs decorate the bar. Framed black-and-white photos of cowboys and landscape scenes set the mood. The bathrooms’ custom wallpaper is worth a second glance. Cowboys use the Willie Nelson bathroom, and cowgirls powder their noses in the Dolly Parton bathroom.
PRO TIP: The bar is open a few nights a week (check the hours), and if you’re lucky, you might catch live music playing on stage. When the neon sign is buzzing over the door, come on in.
Other Places or Events Worth Checking Out
The town boasts popular events such as Movies on the Square and Water Wars festival and parade during the summer. Perfect your swing at Sticks Golf Lounge using indoor simulator bays with over 100,000 courses to practice on, and it has a bar in the back of the lounge. Frost Bite Shave Ice serves frozen treats downtown during the summer.
Humboldt Fitness Center (1301 N. 9th St.) is open 24/7 if you crave an early morning workout. The Walter Johnson Athletic Field pays homage to an MLB pitching legend who played for the Washington Senators for 20 years. Watch modified cars race at Humboldt Speedway during warm weather months.
Humboldt is a town in forward motion. Several businesses, including Cozy’s Grind House and Union Works Brewing Company, are in the works. An old church is under renovation to become a music venue, Revival Music Hall.
I was beyond pleased with my visit to Humboldt, which lived up to the hype I read in national publications. It’s a small town with bold ideas; you can feel positive energy everywhere. Humboldt is a must-visit destination in southeast Kansas and a town I’ll return to again.