20 Best Day Trips from Kansas City
Kansas City is Missouri’s largest city, known nationwide for its rich jazz music heritage and world-famous barbecue. While attractions such as the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art offer plenty of urban entertainment for visitors and residents alike, the Missouri River Valley’s varied landscape is home to many other attractions away from the crowds of the city. These 20 towns and attractions make the perfect day-trip getaway from Kansas City, showcasing famous historic sites, unique art collections, and a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor exploration. Photo: pop_gino/Fotolia
Atchison is best known as the birthplace of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and is home to Earhart-themed attractions such as Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace Museum, the spectacular Amelia Earhart Earthwork hillside portrait, and the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, held each year in July. Transportation enthusiasts will enjoy the Atchison Rail Museum and rides aboard the Atchison and Western Miniature Railroad, while culture and history buffs will love the Muchnic Art Gallery, the Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum, and the Lewis and Clark Pavilion, constructed at Riverfront Park for the bicentennial anniversary of the explorers’ journey. Outdoor activities abound during the summer months, including opportunities for swimming, sports, and hiking at Jackson Park and Warnock Lake.
Contact: 200 S 10th St, Atchison, KS 66002, Phone: 800-234-1854
Photo: Atchison Kansas FB Page
Carthage, Missouri was originally established in 1842 and completely reconstructed following the American Civil War, featuring more than 600 buildings today that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Historic Carthage Square and the Jasper County Courthouse. The city is best known for housing one of the first concrete portions of the state’s interstate highway system, which was incorporated into the famous Route 66 in 1926. Notable attractions along the route include the Carthage Civil War Museum, the Powers Museum, the 66 Drive-In Theater, and Kiddieland, the largest nonprofit children’s amusement park in the country. The city is also home to the Precious Moments Chapels, which features gardens highlighting bronze statues of the collectible line’s angels.
Contact: 212 Main Street, Carthage, MS 39051, Phone: 601-267-8322
»Dalton Gang Hideout
Dalton Gang Hideout was the former Meade, Kansas home of Eva Whipple, the sister of the infamous outlaw group the Dalton Gang, who notoriously operated as train robbers in the early 1890s. Following Whipple’s evacuation of the home in 1892, new residents of the house discovered a hidden tunnel that is believed to have been used to hide the gang members. Since 1940, the home has been operated as a tourist attraction, offering tours of the home and the reconstructed three-foot stone passageway tunnel that travels from the property’s main house to its nearby stable. A museum is maintained within the property’s barn, and personal items and period newspaper articles are showcased throughout the restored home.
Contact: 502 S Pearlette Street, Meade, Kansas 67864, Phone: 620-873-2731
Photo: Dalton Gang Hideout
Excelsior Springs is located approximately a half hour outside of Kansas City and offers a wide variety of cultural and tourist attractions related to its history as a 19th-century spa resort town, including the historic Elms Hotel and the Art Deco-style Hall of Waters, constructed in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration, which features a mineral water pool, hydrotherapy baths, and the world’s longest water bar. A number of quaint shops and eclectic family-owned restaurants are located within the city’s downtown district, and several local vineyards and breweries offer opportunities for tastings and tours. The Excelsior Springs Golf Club is the host to several major annual golfing tournaments, including the Gregg Williams Tiger Golf Classic and the Hickory Stick Golf Tournament, and the Mineral Water Bowl brings NCAA Division II football teams to the area for an annual championship match. Other nearby attractions include Watkins Mill State Park and the Worlds of Fun amusement park.
Contact: 201 E Broadway Ave, Excelsior Springs, MO 64024, Phone: 816-637-2811
Photo: Downtown Excelsior Springs, Missouri FB Page
Florida, Missouri has been uninhabited since the mid-20th century, but it is best known as the birthplace site of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, internationally renowned by his pen name, Mark Twain. The village is located along the man-made Mark Twain Lake reservoir, which was constructed in the 1960s, and is the site of the Mark Twain Birthplace Historic Site, which is operated by Missouri State Parks as a historic tourist attraction and living history museum. The site preserves the author’s two-room cabin birthplace, which contains exhibits displaying important artifacts such as a handwritten manuscript of his masterwork The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, along with first editions of his other works. A public reading room and research library are also offered for visitor study.
Contact: 37352 Shrine Road, Florida, MO 65283, Phone: 573-565-3449
Photo: Missouri State Parks
Hermann, Missouri offers a taste of 19th-century German life within the Missouri River Valley, offering a wide variety of historic and cultural attractions for visitors. The city’s surrounding Hermann American Viticultural Area, designated in 1893, was one of the first recognized viticultural districts in America and is home today to seven wineries, which bottle approximately one-third of the wine produced in Missouri. A number of public special events are held annually along the 20-mile Hermann Wine Trail, including a Valentine’s Chocolate Wine Trail event and a summer Berries and Barbecue Wine Trail bash. A number of historic sites are preserved within the city, including the Deutschheim State Historic Site, the Historic Hermann Museum, and the Gasconade County Courthouse, the only American courthouse constructed through private funding. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the city’s many biking, hiking, and zipline trails, including the 240-mile Katy Trail State Park, which embarks across the Missouri River from the city’s downtown.
Contact: 150 Market Street, Hermann MO 65041, Phone: 573-486-2744
Independence is Missouri’s fifth-largest city, commonly known as the “Queen City of the Trails” for its sites connected to departure points for the famed Oregon, Santa Fe, and California Trails in the 19th century. Today, visitors can explore historic sites such as the National Frontier Trails Museum, the renowned Bingham Waggoner Estate, and the Missouri Mormon Walking Trail and Visitor Center, which preserves areas connected to Mormon pioneer settlements and westward travel, including the 1831 Temple Lot. As the hometown of United States President Harry Truman, the city is also home to the Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Truman National Historic Site, which preserves the president’s former home. Family-friendly attractions include the Adventure Oasis Water Park, while outdoor sites include the 86-acre George Owens Nature Park.
Contact: 112 W Lexington, Independence, MO 64050, Phone: 816-325-7890
Lake Jacomo spans 970 acres within Jackson County, Missouri, named as a portmanteau of its county’s first two letters from each word. The lake, which is located within Fleming Park, is one of the region’s top outdoor recreational areas, offering a marina providing boat rental, bait and tackle sales, and concessions. Three boat ramps provide access for largemouth and striped bass, catfish, bluegill, crappie, and walleye fishing, along with leisurely pontoon boating and sailboating. Several sailboat regattas are held at the lake each year, and a number of campground areas are offered for overnight stay. Hiking trails are also offered throughout the recreational area, including the 1.5-mile Rock Ledges Nature Trail and the 1.2-mile Pa-Huska Nature Trail.
Contact: 7401 West Park Road, Blue Springs, MO 64015, Phone: 816-795-8888
Photo: Tommy Brison/Fotolia
Lawrence, Kansas is the state’s sixth-largest city and serves as the county seat of Douglas County, offering a wide variety of historic and cultural sites for visitors to explore. The hip college town is the home of the University of Kansas and is nationally-renowned for its live music scene, which brings international recording artists and upcoming bands to venues such as The Granada, The Bottleneck, and Replay Lounge. Cultural attractions include the Watkins Museum of History, the Spencer Art Museum, and the indigenous-focused Haskell Cultural Center, while historic attractions on the university campus include museums connected to Senator Robert Dole and the city’s basketball legacy. For outdoor fun, Clinton Lake State Park offers a marina, sports fields, picnic areas, and overnight campgrounds.
Contact: PO Box 526 Lawrence, Kansas 66044, Phone: 785-856-5282
Leavenworth, Kansas was the state’s first incorporated city when the state was formed in 1854, popularly known as the “First City of Kansas.” Located half an hour from Kansas City along the western bank of the Missouri River, the city is most famously the site of the 1827 Fort Leavenworth, an important military site connected to the settlement of the American West and the history of African-American refugees prior to the American Civil War. Major cultural attractions include the city’s restored C.W. Parker Carousel and the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum, which highlights the contributions of African-American pioneers in the region. The city’s 28-block historic district also offers a wide variety of eclectic locally-owned shops and restaurants.
Contact: 100 N 5th St #104, Leavenworth, KS 66048, Phone: 913-758-2948
Lecompton, Kansas was the territorial capital of the state between 1855 and 1861, known for its role in the pre-Civil War sociopolitical climate and the growing resistance to African-American slavery. Today, the town has been revitalized as a popular day-trip tourist site, voted as one of the state’s best small towns in 2016 by the readers of Kansas! magazine. The city’s downtown region is home to two museums, including the preserved Constitution Hall, a National Historic Landmark, and the Territorial Capital Museum, which showcases Civil War-era artifacts. After exploring historic sites as part of the city’s walking tour, visitors can shop at the Claymama’s art boutique or have lunch at the homestyle Aunt Netter’s Cafe.
Contact: 640 E. Woodson, Lecompton, KS 66050, Phone: 785-887-6148
Photo: Historic Lecompton
Louisburg, Kansas was established during the American Revolution and is known as a major site of African-American racial justice and equality struggles throughout the 20th century. The small town is home to a large number of family-friendly attractions, including the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Sanctuary, which houses Siberian and Bengal tigers, and the Powell Observatory, which hosts public astronomical observation events. It is the home of Louisburg College, the United States’ oldest private two-year college, established in 1857, and more than 100 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Louisburg Cider Mill also offers an annual fall festival, featuring a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and street fair.
Contact: 215 S Broadway Street, Louisburg, KS 66053, Phone: 913-837-5371
Photo: Mayor Travis Thompson
Lucas is a small farming community that has become known as the “Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas” for attractions such as the unique Garden of Eden log cabin and sculpture garden, constructed by Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor in 1907 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nearby, Miller’s Park showcases miniature replicas of mountains, businesses, and churches constructed by Roy and Clara Miller in the mid-20th century, while Bowl Plaza showcases a flashy public restroom designed by local professional artists that was named the second-best public restroom in America in 2014. Other attractions include the Grassroots Art Center, which showcases exhibitions by self-taught artists, and the unique World’s Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Museum.
Contact: 305 E. 2nd, Lucas, KS 67648, Phone: 785-525-6395
Photo: Kansas Sampler Foundation
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»Missouri Town 1855
Missouri Town 1855 is located just east of the city of Independence within Fleming Park, which is also home to Lake Jacomo, Blue Springs Lake, and the Kemper Outdoor Education Center. The recreated 1850s farming village, which has been highlighted in publications such as KCParent magazine, serves as a living history museum and interpretive center, showcasing more than 25 restored and relocated historic buildings representing common prairie town structures such as blacksmith shops, mercantiles, and one-room schoolhouses. The 30-acre site is staffed with living history interpreters portraying pioneer town citizens, bringing the culture of the early American Midwest to life through a variety of demonstrations and historic reenactments.
Contact: 8010 E Park Road, Lee's Summit, MO 64064, Phone: 816-229-8980
Photo: Friends Of Missouri Town 1855
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»Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park is located 20 miles southwest of the city of Salina and is the smallest state park in the state of Missouri, clocking in at only five acres. Despite its size, the park offers a plethora of interesting sites, including the unique Dakota sandstone formations that give the park its name. Graffiti and engravings by indigenous people and pioneers can be seen on the mushroom-shaped rocks, some of which date back hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America. Picnic tables and restroom facilities are offered at the state park for visitors looking to make a day trip out of exploring the site.
Contact: 200 Horsethief Rd, Marquette, Kansas 67464, Phone: 785-546-2565
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Powell Gardens are Kansas City’s official botanical gardens, located approximately 45 minutes from the city center in nearby Kingsville. The 970-acre plot of land was originally developed by George E. Powell, Sr. in 1948 and has been historically used as a Boy Scout campsite, dairy farm, and agricultural resource center. Since 1988, the site has been cultivated into a garden facility showcasing more than 6,000 unique varieties of flowers and plants, including 225,000 plants highlighted within seasonal displays. Notable areas of the garden include its indoor conservatory, its dogwood walk, its island garden, and its Heartland Harvest Garden, the largest edible landscape in the country. Other attractions include the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel, a 4,700-square-foot wedding chapel designed by E. Fay Jones.
Contact: 1609 NW US Hwy 50, Kingsville, MO 64061, Phone: 816-697-2600
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Prairiefire is a shopping and entertainment complex located within Overland Park, approximately an hour and a half from downtown Kansas City. It is best known for its Museum at Prairiefire, which has partnered with the American Museum of Natural History in New York to bring world-class science and nature exhibits to the region. Seven restaurants are offered on site, including the upscale Vinotopia Restaurant and Wine Bar, the casual Rock and Brews, and the coffee and dessert bar Decadent. Shops include national chains such as REI: Recreational Equipment and unique local art galleries and boutique stores, while entertainment options include a Cinetopia Theaters movie cinema and the Pinstripes bowling alley and bistro.
Contact: 5661 W. 135th St, Overland Park, KS 66223, Phone: 913-647-5160
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»Somerset Wine Trail
Somerset Wine Trail is located approximately half an hour south of Overland Park and showcases four of the region’s award-winning wineries and vineyards. The Kansas and Missouri regions, which have historically been one of the nation’s leading wine-production regions, showcase a combined total of nearly 150 wineries, producing more than 110,000 gallons of wine annually. Each of the trail’s four wineries--Somerset Ridge, Night Hawk, Middle Creek, and White Wind Farm--offer tours and tastings for visitors year-round, along with bottles of dozens of varieties of wine available for sale. Many public special events are offered at the wineries throughout the year, including live music performances, cigar rolling demonstrations, and outdoor festivals.
Contact: 9001 W. 110th St. Suite 100, Overland Park, KS 66210, Phone: 913-491-0123
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St. Joseph is an easy half-hour drive from Kansas City, featuring a wide variety of historic sites, including a large number of 19th-century buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places showcasing impressive Victorian-era architecture. The city is infamously the site of the death of notorious outlaw Jesse James and served as the starting point for the legendary Pony Express. Visitors can learn about the city’s history and culture at 13 area museums such as the Pony Express Museum, the Jesse James Home Museum, or the Glore Psychiatric Museum. The 26-mile St. Joseph Parkway winds through the city, offering hiking and biking opportunities, and vast conservation area lands nearby offer opportunities for fishing and hunting. For sports lovers, the city is the site of the Kansas City Chiefs Summer Training Camp, located at Missouri Western State University.
Contact: 911 Frederick Ave, St. Joseph, MO 64501, Phone: 800-785-0360
Photo: Visit St. Joseph, Missouri
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Weston is located approximately 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City and has been voted one of the top regional day trips and overnight destinations by national and regional publications such as AAA Midwest Traveler, Ingram’s, and The Pitch. The city is famous for its historic farms, creameries, wineries, and breweries, including Green Dirt Farm, Weston Orchard and Vineyard, and the 1840s-era Weston Brewing Company, which was reopened in 2005. Farm, vineyard, and brewery tours abound, along with fresh, locally-produced dining options and beverage tastings. The city’s downtown area also offers a variety of shopping and dining options within historic buildings, along with a number of museums showcasing the region’s cultural and social history.
Contact: 526 Main Street, Weston, MO 64098, Phone: 816-640-2909
Photo: Weston MO Chamber of Commerce
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20 Best Day Trips from Kansas City
- Atchison, Photo: Atchison Kansas FB Page
- Carthage, Photo: Courtesy of PeekCC - Fotolia.com
- Dalton Gang Hideout, Photo: Dalton Gang Hideout
- Excelsior Springs, Photo: Downtown Excelsior Springs, Missouri FB Page
- Florida, Photo: Missouri State Parks
- Hermann, Photo: Courtesy of Leia - Fotolia.com
- Independence, MO, Photo: Courtesy of gnagel - Fotolia.com
- Lake Jacomo, Photo: Courtesy of Tommy Brison - Fotolia.com
- Lawrence, Photo: Courtesy of jzehnder - Fotolia.com
- Leavenworth, Photo: Courtesy of Jon - Fotolia.com
- Lecompton, Photo: Historic Lecompton
- Louisburg, Photo: Mayor Travis Thompson
- Lucas, Photo: Kansas Sampler Foundation
- Missouri Town 1855, Photo: Friends Of Missouri Town 1855
- Mushroom Rock State Park, Photo: Courtesy of pop_gino - Fotolia.com
- Powell Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of RukiMedia - Fotolia.com
- Prairiefire, Photo: Prairiefire
- Somerset Wine Trail, Photo: Courtesy of robynmac - Fotolia.com
- St. Joseph, Photo: Visit St. Joseph, Missouri
- Weston, Photo: Weston MO Chamber of Commerce
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of pop_gino - Fotolia.com
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