From baptism to the beach, water has an undeniable pull on the human spirit. It soothes our souls, beckons us to play, and invites us to cleanse, refresh, and renew. In 1880, the siren song of water led to the settlement of Excelsior Springs. Nestled in a verdant valley about thirty miles northeast of Kansas City, it sprang up, seemingly overnight, around the world’s most diverse groupings of mineral waters with as many as forty springs at one point.

Siloam Spring is the oldest and most unique with its reddish ferro-manganese flow being the only source of such water in the United States. The Hall of Waters was built over the spring, and now the only access to it is in the Hall’s basement.

The mystery of the reddish waters deepened when people started claiming the water helped heal their various ailments. When word got out, settlers, tourists, and opportunists flooded the area. From the late 1800s to the 1950s, the town boomed as a health center.

In 1963, an expose refuted claims that the waters offered cures. The town suddenly faced national criticism and the mineral water business dried up.

Though you cannot currently bathe in or drink the healing waters of Excelsior Springs, you can still visit many attractions that herald the town’s holistic history.

Stay at the Inn on Crescent Lake. Overlooking its beautiful namesake, it is an expansive brick Georgian Colonial mansion. With its white columns out front, the grand home sets a pretty stage for some R&R. Innkeepers Mike and Monica Hunter welcome guests for their stay in one of the ten plush guest rooms. While there, play in the pool, relax in the hot tub, or take a spin around the lake in a paddleboat.

The Elms Hotel and Spa, a destination hotel frequented by the likes of Harry S. Truman and Al Capone over the years, is the perfect place for some pampering. Although the town’s famed mineral water isn’t used, the full-service spa is one of the largest in the Midwest and features a variety of treatments that will leave you feeling luxurious.

For a more rustic retreat, you’ll find camping about ten minutes from town at Watkins Mill State Park near Lawson. While enjoying the beautiful park grounds, visit the historic steam-engine-powered woolen and textile mill and go fishing at Williams Creek Lake.

Dine at the Broadway Bar and Grill in the Hall of Waters district; opt to dine alfresco on the patio overlooking the Fishing River Linear Park. Stop by Dubious Claims Brewery to get a taste of the town’s wellness-centered past by way of delightfully dubbed craft beers like Bathhouse Blueberry Wheat, Relief IPA, and Therapy Kölsch.

Visit the Hall of Waters Visitor Center. This art deco architectural wonder still houses the longest mineral water bar in the world. The 39th annual Waterfest will be held August 28–29 in downtown Excelsior Springs to celebrate the city’s well-spring of history. At the festival, the whole family can enjoy live entertainment, a parade, arts and crafts, and historic trolley tours of the town.

You can also stop by Superior Spring and see the only fully intact mineral spring pagoda structure left in town. The current stone walkway and deck were built in 1912 to extend out to the spring. The historic waters and modern wonders of Excelsior Springs are still intriguing us. Come on in—the water’s fine.