AQS QuiltWeek, Paducah 2024 & the American Midwest
AQS QuiltWeek, Paducah 2024 & the American Midwest
One of the world's UNESCO Creative Cities, the Kentucky city of Paducah is known across the world for its rich traditions in quilting and fibre arts.
This tour programme is filled with textile treats, including two days at the inspirational AQS Quilt Week Paducah - celebrating its 40th anniversary - and guided visits to two internationally renowned Quilt Museums.
And with stays in Kansas City and St Louis, there's plenty of time to soak up the history, culture and unique atmosphere of the American Midwest too!
What we love
- The quilts! See glorious quilted artworks at AQS QuiltWeek Paducah and two extraordinary quilt museums
- The cities! Discover the delights of Kansas City, Paducah, and St Louis
- The landscape! Marvel at the vast expanses of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve
- The Culture! From a celebration of the Wizard of Oz to a 100 year-old theatre and a Kansas ranch town
- The ease! Our holiday is meticulously curated and includes an Tour Manager and private coach transfers
Experiences you will treasure
- Discovering quilts galore at the inspirational AQS Quilt Week, Paducah
- Visiting the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah, famed for its rich quilting and fibre arts
- Exploring Kansas City, an ethnic and culturally diverse city infused with flavours, traditions and languages
- Immersing yourself in America’s extraordinary quilting history at two internationally acclaimed museums
- Celebrating all things Wizard of Oz at the Oz Museum
- Visiting a true Kansas ranch town
- Shopping for textile supplies in Hamilton, known as 'quilt town USA'
- Experiencing the vast expanses of the Tall Grass National Prairie Preserve
- Exploring the vibrant city of St Louis, home to world-class attractions and an arts and culture scene that's second to none
What people say
"The thing that makes this tour so special is that it's off the tourist track - you have a sense of being in the real America."
Steve Harnell, ECT Tour Manager
How much is it?
A Deeper Dive
Founded in 1991 by quilting enthusiasts Bill and Meredith Schroeder to celebrate the work of today’s quilters, the National Quilt Museum contains more than 650 quilts made in, or after, 1980, making it one of the best collections of contemporary quilts in the world.
To find out more about this must-visit quilting treasure box, read our interview with the Museum's CEO Matt Collinsworth here
A designated UNESCO City of Culture, Paducah’s significant American heritage can be traced to the city's strategic location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Here are some ideas of places to see if you're not going to the quilt show.
The Floodwalls Murals: Separating the historic downtown district and the river's edge, the floodwalls are adorned with 50 multi-coloured murals depicting a bright picture of Paducah's storied past.
William Clark Market House Museum: Made to resemble a 19th-century drugstore, this museum tells the history of Paducah from 1905.
River Discovery Centre: This hands-on museum highlights the heritage and importance of the surrounding Four Rivers Basin, including the water’s role in the Civil War.
Paducah Railroad Museum: Diving into the rich locomotive history that helped define the city, exhibits include a Train Simulator that allows visitors to feel what it's like to guide a train down the tracks.
Lloyd Tilghman & Civil War Museum: Housed in an 1852 Greek Revival home once belonging to General Lloyd Tilghman of the CSA, this quaint, historic residence contains many artifacts and displays describing Kentucky's role in the Civil War. Antique firearms, soldier uniforms, original correspondence, and a look into the life of a decorated Civil War General all provide an immersive visit into the past.
Historic Downtown: The beating heart of this creative city, this area is home to numerous galleries, museums, independent shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants. The landmark at the heart of it all is the 1905 Market House, formerly an open-air venue for meat and produce vendors. Local producers are now featured at the Farmers Market, but Market House Square carries this history forward with ten restaurants, coffee shops and dessert boutiques.
Kansas City is packed with character, culture, and culinary charm. Here are some suggestion for things to see and do.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art houses more than 40,000 magnificent works from centuries-old Japanese art to contemporary photography and a giant Shuttlecocks installation by the artist Claes Oldenburg . Another highlight is the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park, which spans 22 acres. Admission is free but you do need to reserve tickets ahead of time. ( https://cart.nelson-atkins.org/account/login?ReturnURL=%2Fevents%2Fadmission )
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is housed inside a striking pyramid-shaped building a short walk from the Nelson-Atkins. Presenting ground breaking exhibitions that support contemporary communities, artists and ideas, a visit here is sure to spark inspiration and prompt discussion. The world-class Café Sebastienne is a great place for a meal too. Admission is free.
Downtown in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District is the American Jazz Museum where you can learn about the birth of jazz in Kansas City through interactive exhibits, including listening stations and custom mixing boards. Among the historic artifacts from the height of jazz's popularity are collections of photographs, sheet music, and posters. It shares a building with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which tells the story of baseball’s rich African-American history through multimedia displays, collections of photographs, artifacts, and film exhibits. Don’t miss the field of 13 bronze sculptures.
History buffs should head for the world-class collection of World War I memorabilia at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Don't miss the Liberty Memorial Tower, dedicated to those who served in the war, it also boasts a fantastic view of the city.
With 49 publicly operating fountains, it’s no wonder Kansas City is known as 'The City of Fountains.' Ranging from classical and modern to minimalist and ornate, they can be found in parks, plazas, and shopping areas. One of the best must be the elaborate fountain at Mill Creek Park near Country Club Plaza. Previously known as the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, this aquatic marvel – originally from Long Island, New York, and sculpted by Henri-Leon Greber in 1910 - it features four horsemen said to symbolize four of the world’s most famous rivers, including America’s own Mighty Mississippi.
Constructed in 1914, the city's Union Station is an architectural masterpiece. The Grand Hall boasts a 95-foot high ceiling, three £3,500 chandeliers, and a six-foot-wide clock. Trains do still run from here, but today it is best known as a destination that is home to travelling exhibitions, 3D movies, an interactive science centre, a planetarium and the KC Rail Experience. Harvey's Restaurant in the centre of the Grand Hall is a great place for brunch too.
Eating & Drinking
Tom's Town Distilling Co is one of the city's premier distilleries and offers a tasting tour as well as delicious pub grub. Treat yourself to a 'Tom Pendergast', a bourbon-and-mezcal mixed drink named after one of the city's political bosses in the early 20th century.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is so popular there are three across the city. All are great, but head for the original on 47th Street, housed in a former gas station. There will be a queue, but the food is worth the wait!
West 39th Street is the place to head for if you're looking for a wide selection of edible delights. Try Miami Ice for a frozen treat, pick up a classic New York-style bagel at Meshuggah Bagels or tuck into an authentic Kansas barbecue at Q39.
City Market - also known as River Market - has been a Kansas City staple since 1857 and is the place to find local produce, as well as lots of lively restaurants and cafés.
The Country Club Plaza is the city's premier shopping and dining destination. A city-within-a-city, this outdoor mall is packed with high-end retail establishments, restaurants, entertainment venues as well as more than 30 statues, and some beautiful fountains, murals, and tile mosaics.
Kansas City Zoo stretches over 202 acres. Highlights include the daily penguin feedings, the Sea Lion Splash, Polar Bear Passage, the Tropics Building (which houses otters, monkeys, and porcupines), Tiger Trail, and Stingray Bay. And no visit is complete without a ride on the African Sky Safari, a seven-minute ski lift that takes you over the zoo’s Africa section, featuring awe-inspiring animals like giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs.
If you need to escape the bustle of the city for a while, head for the Ernie Miller Nature Center. Nestled in the middle of a beautiful 116-acre park, it offers three miles of scenic hiking trails and is home to native birds and insects. There are also educational exhibits, and a gift shop.
One of the largest cities in Missouri, St Louis is known for being the gateway to westward exploration, the home of Blues music and its unique mix of midwest and southern culture. Here are some suggestions for things to see and do in your free time.
Many of St Louis’ leading cultural institutions can be found at Forest Park, a vast urban park which opened in 1876 and played host to the 1904 World’s Fair. We recommend:
St Louis Art Museum. Housed in a grand, beaux-arts palace, this museum’s collection contains more than 2,700 objects spanning 5,000 years of history and diverse global cultures. Highlights include work by Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Cezanne. The Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden is an outdoor gallery of 20th-century and contemporary sculpture placed among paths and more than 400 new trees. Admission is free.
Missouri History Museum presents a showcase of Missouri history from the Mississippian people right up to the present day. Discover the city’s baseball history, find out what life was like on the Mississippi River, and learn about the Civil Rights Movement. Admission is free
Music fans should head Downtown to the National Blues Museum which is dedicated to exploring the musical history and impact of the blues.
The vision of more than a dozen different architects and artisans in the early 19th century, The Cathedral Basilica of St Louis is a living work of art. Highlights include one of the largest collections of mosaics in the western world. Visitors can learn about the history of this breathtaking church in the museum and on guided tours of the Basilica. (Guided tours must be booked in advance through the Cathedral website.)
St Louis is home to the world's first steel-truss bridge. An engineering marvel, Eads Bridge was created by James Buchanan Eads who, despite never having built a bridge before, completed this one spanning the Mississippi River in just 65 days. It cost nearly $10 million. First dedicated on July 4th, 1874, almost a century later, Eads Bridge was named a National Historic Landmark.
Standing 630ft high, the city’s iconic Gateway Arch was designed by the famous Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen as a symbol of St Louis’ historic role as the ‘Gateway to the West’. Visitors can take a tram to the top (you need to book tickets in advance) and there is also an interesting museum. In 2015, to mark the arch’s 50th birthday, the surrounding area was transformed into a peaceful park where you can sit and take some time out admiring the view of the Mississippi River. Alternatively, take to the water aboard a 19th century paddle-wheel boat replica for a narrated cruise.
Founded in 1859, Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the US and a National Historic Landmark. Horticultural highlights include a Japanese strolling garden and one of the largest collections of rare and endangered flora in the world.
A fusion of sculpture and landscape architecture can be found at Citygarden, an urban oasis featuring modern and contemporary art, native plants and six rain gardens.
Eating & Drinking
Home of the ice cream cone, toasted ravioli, provel cheese, and gooey butter cake, St Louis is a treat for foodies. The city is packed with restaurants and cafes offering cuisine for all tastes, but here are three local highlights:
Pappy’s Smokehouse - the place for classic St. Louis-style BBQ, locals are known to queue up for over an hour.
Peacemaker Lobster & Crab – specialising is classic and creative fish dishes made from the highest-quality seafood, the walls of this restaurant are lined with photographs of the fishermen who catch the food that ends up on your plate. The house speciality is the 'Peacemaker Poorboy', a fried oyster sandwich invented in the 1800s.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard – a 4th-generation family business, classics include the 'Muddy Mississippi’, a blend of peanut butter, crisps and vanilla custard, and the ‘Fox Treat’, a concrete sundae with hot fudge, raspberries, and macadamia nuts. (A 'concrete', by the way, is a frozen custard treat that is so thick and creamy, it can be served upside down…)
Missouri Star Quilt Company & Quilt Town USA
Mention Hamilton, Missouri to a keen quilter today and the chances are that their eyes will light up; ‘Quilt Town USA’, is a bucket-list destination, home to numerous quilting stores and a fascinating museum. But only 15 years ago, this small, midwestern town was down on its luck. Forgotten and left behind, the main street was blighted by abandoned buildings and empty shops.
The agent of change was the Missouri Star Quilt Company, founded by the Doan family in 2008 after the banking crises cost them most of their savings and threatened to take the house too. "Me and my sister were looking at it and said, 'We've got to put something together, so that mom can make a little extra cash,' " explains Alan Doan. They took out a loan and set their mother, Jenny Doan, up with a business sewing other people’s quilts together. When her customers kept asking for fabric, Alan built a website to sell it.
Back then, pre-cut fabric was a relatively new product and initially, business was slow, so Alan suggested Jenny started doing tutorials on You Tube. Jenny agreed and, despite never having been on You Tube, proved a natural. Sales exploded and today, the Missouri Star Quilt Company is the biggest quilting channel on You Tube with hundreds of quilting tutorials and half a million subscribers.
"I never in a million years anticipated becoming a quilting “sewlebrity”, Jenny says. “It’s been life changing to share so much of myself with people around the world. I didn’t realize that making quilts would mean so much to so many, but after receiving thousands of personal letters and meeting such kind people wherever I go, I see that it gives people hope. It changes lives and it touches hearts. People are happier when they create and I’m grateful to help them do that every single day.”
The Missouri Star Quilt Company’s success has also revitalised the town. The Doans have bought up numerous old buildings and turned them into fabric stores. There are 12 to date, each one dedicated to a particular type of fabric from batiks and florals to seasonals and solids. There is also a Sewing Centre for quilting retreats, and a ‘Man’s Land’ full of comfy chairs and televisions where weary shoppers can take a break. The thousands of quilt fans who flock to the town each year also inspired the opening of the Missouri Quilt Museum.
Missouri Quilt Museum
Opened in autumn 2019, the Missouri Quilt Museum’s founding mission is to ‘depict the history of quilting and sewing in North America by offering visual and interactive opportunities that educate and engage visitors in experiences that encourage an active interest in quilting and sewing.’
Located in a 100-year-old former schoolhouse, it boasts 30,000 square feet of exhibition space and is home to around 300 quilts made by both local artists and top designers from around the world. Highlights include a selection of quilts on loan from the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, a collection of 50 miniature quilts – some as small as ¼ of inch – made by award-winning miniature quilt artist Pat Kuhns, and a Crazy Quilt from 1891. Made from old clothes and ribbons by Mary Thomas as a Christmas present for her granddaughter Mary Seeley, then passed on to Mary’s young son Frank when he was sent off to a TB sanatorium, it is a beautiful example of the family histories that quilts hold.
And, as the museum’s website states, it’s not just about quilts. There are also exhibits of antique sewing machines, vintage buttons, antique toy sewing machines, thimbles, and the world’s largest spool of thread. Measuring 22 feet tall and containing more than one million yards of AURIFIL thread, it sits on the southwest corner of the property. Visitors are invited to bring their own thread and add it to the spool.
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