Whether you’ve lived in the Kansas City area all your life, just a short time, or somewhere in-between, you really can’t help but fall in love with it. Everything really could ever want is here… big city amenities, an exciting nightlife scene, highly livable suburbs, major league sports, arts, and culture… this list goes on.
But even in a city that offers so much, sometimes you just have to get outta town. They say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. So, getting away, even for just a quick day can be a healthy way to get a short change of scenery while getting to come home to KC. When you get that urge to hit the road, stretch your legs, and see the sights, consider these five ‘close-to-home’ destinations.
Jamesport is only about 90 miles from Kansas City, but it feels more like 150 years. Jamesport is home to the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, and its inhabitants live their lives largely like they are in the 1850s.
While they root their lifestyle in a simpler and less advanced time, the Jamesport Amish welcome visitors from all walks of modern life with open arms. They open their home-based shops to visitors and sell the finest old-world wares, from baskets and furniture to basked and dry goods.
Topeka is the capital city of Kanas, the seat of Shawnee County, and a worthwhile day trip. It’s a little cliche to say it has something for everyone, but it really does. From history buffs and outdoors enthusiasts to shopanistas and lovers of art and culture, Topeka offers an eclectic blend of attractions and activities to satisfy a variety of tastes.
This first thing that springs to mind when you think of Lawrence, KS is probably the University of Kansas, and with good reason. It’s a highly respected college with a basketball pedigree second to none. But, all that makes Lawrence such a special city isn’t just defined by what’s on the court or on the campus. There’s so much more to see and do in Lawrence and at just a short 40 miles away, a day trip to this bustling little college town is a must-do.
It’s hard to believe so much fun, culture, excitement, and deliciousness is packed into the 34 square miles that bound Lawrence and you’ve really got to see it to believe it! Really, an entire blog (or 2 or 3 or more) could be dedicated to Lawrence day trips, but until then, here are a few of the main things you must experience.
Massachusetts or Mass Street, as it is known to locals, is the ‘main street’ in Lawrence, and it is almost as storied and beloved as Jayhawks hoops… almost. Lined with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, parks and live music venues, Mass Street isn’t just the city’s main artery, it is its heartbeat.
KU Natural History Museum
As a major component of the KU Biodiversity Institute, the Natural History Museums exists to serve the study of “the life of the planet for the benefit of Earth and its inhabitants”. It boasts four floors of exhibits and covers animal life on Earth from parasites and microbes to dinosaurs, including a massive natural history diorama that dates back to the 1893 World’s Fair.
Lawrence is known as a hotbed of sorts for supernatural activity. In the two main characters in the TV show Supernatural, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester are from Lawrence. Several locales around Lawrence have reportedly experienced spiritual activity and are often included among must-see site for ghost groupies and self-proclaimed paranormal enthusiasts.
Eldridge Hotel The spirit of Col. Shalor Eldridge has been felt and reported many times over the years in the hotel. After rebuilding the hotel twice after it was burnt down on two separate occasions, it’s clear he had a strong attachment to it during his life and simply couldn’t abandon it in the afterlife. They say room 506 holds particularly strong connections to the Colonel. It houses the hotel’s original cornerstone which many believe is actually a portal to the spirit world. If you visit, look for a picture on the front desk which may or may not show a spectral being in the elevator.
Stull Cemetary While not in Lawrence itself, it is close enough to include, especially as a short side trip while exploring supernatural sites in the area. Located in the small, nearly forgotten town of Stull, KS, the city’s cemetery is the site of reports about not just otherworldly encounters, but downright demonic ones. Mixed among anecdotes shared by frightened visitors to the old cemetery are reports that this place of eternal rest is no mere graveyard but in fact one of the seven gates to Hell. Old stories that have been told as far back as the 1850s say the Devil appears at the cemetery twice a year. Once on Halloween and once on the Spring Equinox.
This is one of the closer day trip destinations on this list. Louisburg may not be over-saturated with things to do, but for this small city that covers just over six square miles of land, it’s about quality, not quantity. The first thing people think of about Louisburg is the Louisburg Cider Mill. The Mill exudes the charm of eras gone-by, and evokes the feelings of a turn-of-the-century farmstead. But in truth, it only came into existence a little over 40 years ago, in the Spring of 1977.
What started as a small family business created to produce and sell apple cider has grown into a regional attraction that attracts visitors year-round from across the Midwest. The Louisburg Cider Mill hosts events almost every month of the year, but the biggest is hands down, Ciderfest. If you really want to get to a feel for what this cider mill means to the region, make plans to attend this annual event. There’s plenty to see, do, try, and eat, but no visit would be complete without visiting their country store to enjoy a hot cider and a cider donut.
If you’re looking for something a little more exotic in the heart of rural Kansas, look no further than Cedar Cove big cat sanctuary. You don’t have to go to a big zoo to see some of nature’s most majestic animals. Cedar Cove offers an intimate look at and an in-depth education about endangered large cats, including tigers, lions, leopards, pumas, panthers, and more.
We saved Weston for last because it seems to be a consensus top pick for Best Day trip:
Voted #1 Best Day Trip 15 years running! - Ingram’s Magazine Voted Best Day Trip - The Pitch Voted Favorite Day Trip - Visit KC Visitors Choice Award Voted Best Day Trip & Beautiful Town- Rural Missouri Magazine
Whether you want to raise up a glass or ski down a hill, you’ll find a fun activity that’s perfect for you in Weston. Visiting Weston is like being served up a heaping slice of American heritage. It’s colloquially known as ‘the town that time forgot’, but don’t let that evoke images of abandoned buildings, shuttered homes and tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street. It means that while this historic town - which was once a stopover point for Lewis and Clark’s exploration party - has grown into a bustling destination city, it keeps much of the charm and tradition of its 1850s origin.
The best way to discover all the unique charm and impressive attractions Weston offers is to take the short 40-minute drive north and experience it for yourself, but here is a - by no means, exhaustive - list of things worth checking out.