In eastern Kansas, one family has launched an effort to update a tiny town in big-thinking ways.
Base Camp campgrounds Humboldt Kansas
Credit: Zach Bauman

Scandinavian-inspired rental cabins perch around a large fishing pond at Base Camp in Humboldt, Kansas. Though it sits an easy driving distance from the Kansas City metro (as well as Wichita; Topeka; and Tulsa, Oklahoma), this town hasn't been a tourist draw historically. But Base Camp's amenities suggest otherwise. Midcentury furniture. Pendleton blankets. High-end finishes. Stocked firewood for custom-forged firepits. Someone around here is clearly making a play for your vacation attention.  

Meet Joe Works. He owns B&W Trailer Hitches, a local manufacturer, and is part of a group called A Bolder Humboldt that has made significant investments in reviving the town. Their guiding principle: "People in small towns deserve nice things too." The small but devoted team of entrepreneurs (including Works' daughter, Beth Works) has spent the last decade renovating the majority of the historic buildings on Humboldt's town square. Grants and a determined DIY mentality have supplemented individuals' contributions. So far, they've built Base Camp, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a confectionery and two clothing shops. Other plans include a five-room boutique hotel, two bars and a concert venue.

While many other small towns have struggled to survive, Humboldt has paved a path to thrive. Humble about his involvement, Works says simply, "I want Humboldt to be a nice place to live, for my children and my employees." If the rest of us get to reap the benefits, all the better.

Humboldt Mercantile
Credit: Courtesy of Humboldt Mercantile

10 a.m. Shop Local

Order a flat white or chai latte at Humboldt Mercantile and browse a curated selection of Kansas-made goods while the barista fixes your drink.

11 a.m. Tour a Woodshop

Book a tour or demo at Neosho Valley Woodworks, a functioning 19th-century woodshop with an elaborate system of belts, cranks and pulleys. It's both a museum and showroom for master carpenter Pat Haire's artwork and furniture.

Bijou Confectionary
Credit: Tonya Tomory

1 p.m. Fuel Up

A meal at H&H Grill won't break the bank, with items like burgers and burritos well under $10. Make sure to add a side of hand-cut fries. After lunch, satisfy a sweet craving with macarons or fudge at Bijou Confectionary.

2 p.m. Hit the Trail

Bike the Southwind Trail, a 6.5-mile Rails-to-Trails Conservancy project that connects Humboldt tot he 51-mile Prairie Spirit Trail. The path begins at Base Camp, where bikes are available for guests.

3:30 p.m. History Walk

Humboldt was sacked twice by Confederates in 1861, and a 12-site self-guided walking tour with etched stone markers tells the story. Find a full map at the northwest corner of City Square Park.

6 p.m. Dinner to Go

When a Kansas sunset or a starry night sky awaits, sometimes you just want to take dinner outside. Grab a pizza at Simple Simon's or check for the special of the day (maybe chili rellenos, tostadas, or spicy pork tamales) at Estrellita Mexican Restaurant.

Base Camp cabin
Credit: April Fleming

Overnight Camp Out

In addition to three sleek cabins, Base Camp is debuting a campground in 2022, with glamping as well as primitive campsites tucked into the property's forested acres.

More to Try

Snap a photo beside the  mural of the town's notable water tower, with the motto "Life is fine in Humboldt."