15 Best Day Trips from Kansas City

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Kansas City, spanning the border between Missouri and Kansas, is home to a hotchpotch of cultural activity owing to its deep-rooted jazz tradition, as well as having some fantastic barbecue-based cuisine and many excellent craft breweries.

The city sits at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, and was established as a city in March 1853. Its fountains are also a well-known attraction, with many popping up all over the city.

As with most major cities, it’s also got the usual suspects for entertainment: art galleries, museums, restaurants and bars – and of course, it also has some excellent day trip options for visitors.

Here are the best day trips from Kansas City:

1. Powell gardens

Powell gardensSource: Silvlandia / shutterstock
Powell gardens

Spanning for 915 acres and less than 45 minutes away from Kansas City’s downtown, Powell Gardens provide a splendid natural attraction for a day trip.

This botanical garden has many different sections to be explored, from the indoor conservatory, to the Rock and Waterfall garden, to the gorgeous surrounding hills and meadows.

The visitor education centre should also not be missed, not least because of its thoughtfully designed architecture, which is meant to blend in with the nature that surrounds it.

2. Lake Jacomo

Lake JacomoSource: TommyBrison / shutterstock
Lake Jacomo

The freshwater Lake Jacomo stretches for 970 acres and is located in Jackson County, where it is one of Parks and Recreation’s most popular attractions.

Interestingly, its name is a portmanteau of Jackson County, MO, utilising the first letter of each word.

The lake offers loads of water-based activities, including wind surfing, sailing, and various types of boating and fishing.

The fish available for catching include carp, striped bass, bluegill and crappie.

Popular Lake Jacomo events are its sailboat regattas, during which visitors get to watch a stream of colourful boats set out across the water.

3. Weston

Weston, MissouriSource: briantium / shutterstock

Around 30 minutes from downtown Kansas lies Weston, which provides a plethora of entertainment options for a day trip.

Green Dirt Farm is perhaps the most popular of these.

A small local business, Green Dirt Farm offers high quality products such as grass-fed lamb and sheep’s milk cheese, as well as Farm Table Dinners, which offer four courses of locally produced food.

Farm Table Dinners are intended to educate visitors about the link between our food and where it comes from.

After your farm visit, you might want to go and check out the local brewery or winery, for a drink to wash down your dinner.

4. Somerset Wine Trail

Somerset Ridge Vineyard And WinerySource: facebook.com
Somerset Ridge Vineyard And Winery

The Somerset Wine trail is composed of four award winning wineries: Somerset Ridge, White Wind Farm, Middle Creek and Night Hawk.

This region is arguably one of the fastest growing in terms of wine production in the US, and with good reason – all these wineries produce their own grapes and make their wines on-site.

Somerset Ridge is the oldest and largest winery in the area, and boasts over 20 acres and 20 wines to suit all tastes: dry, sweet and sparkling.

The Somerset Trail is an excellent place to learn about the process of wine making, tour a vineyard, and certainly sample a few of their best bottles.

5. Excelsior Springs

Elms Hotel, Excelsior SpringsSource: TexasExplorer98 / Flickr | CC BY
Elms Hotel, Excelsior Springs

Conveniently located close by to downtown Kansas City is Excelsior Springs, a compact community that plays host to the spectacular Elms Hotel and Spa.

The building where the spa is located dates back to 1888, and the spa has had plenty of famous customers in its time, including Harry S. Truman and Al Capone.

There are heaps of wellness options available, from facials to massages, and hydrotherapy to pedicures.

There’s also a salon on-site.

It’s the perfect option if you want a relaxing day away from city life.

6. Independence, MO

Home of President Harry S. Truman, Independence, MOSource: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock
Home Of President Harry S. Truman, Independence, MO

Noted for being the long-time home of the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, Independence is a very popular spot among visitors to Kansas City.

Another famous former resident was the actress Ginger Rogers.

In Independence you can tour the president’s former home, as well as the presidential library, where you’ll learn about his fascinating and influential life.

Aside from presidential attractions, Independence also has a gorgeous gothic mansion, plenty of local shops, and excellent options to stop at for lunch or dinner.

7. Missouri Town 1855

Missouri Town 1855Source: Bryan Herrman / Facebook
Missouri Town 1855

Just east of Independence sits the fascinating Missouri Town 1855, where a litany of actors recreate times gone by.

This living history museum features a whole host of scenes for your viewing pleasure, from 1850s houses, to a working blacksmith shop, to a mercantile.

The site sprawls across more than 30 acres and 25 buildings, many of which contain original furnishings and equipment.

8. Prairiefire

PrairiefireSource: EQRoy / shutterstock

A mere half an hour away from Kansas City lies Overland Park, where Prairiefire can be found.

Prairiefire is an entertainment complex, hosting museums, restaurants, bars, a cinema and a bowling alley.

Its partnership with New York’s American Museum of Natural History means that the museum has some world class exhibitions on offer, which go well with its many excellent dining options.

This modern attraction is certainly a relaxing place to spend the day, whether it’s intellectual stimulation you crave, or something more low-key.

9. Hermann

HermannSource: RellMade / shutterstock

The German-influenced town of Hermann is an intriguing place to visit for the day.

Established in 1837 by a group of Germans hailing from Philadelphia, Hermann sits pretty along the banks of the Missouri river.

There are many local shops to be explored along the streets, as well as restaurants whose wine might just be produced locally.

Why? It is surrounded by excellent wineries, such as Hermannhof, and as if that wasn’t enough, the wineries often host live music on their outdoor terraces.

A beautiful place to spend the day, without a doubt.

10. Lawrence

LawrenceSource: Janis Schwartz / shutterstock

Lawrence is a great place to go for a change of pace from the big city.

The county seat of Douglas County, it’s home to the University of Kansas, and is also a hotspot for cultural and historic sites.

These include as the Spencer Art Museum, the Watkins Museum of History and the Liberty Hall theatre.

Lawrence also has a surprisingly well-developed music scene, demonstrated by its winning mentions in the New York Times and Esquire.

There’s also opportunity to watch some excellent high-level sports, as the university teams are famous across the region.

Finally, the city’s largest park, South Park, often hosts events, including music festivals, and there’s the Clinton Lake nearby if you fancy a dip.

11. St Joseph

St Joseph, MissouriSource: APN Photography / shutterstock
St Joseph, Missouri

St Joseph used to be an outpost and frontier town on the way to the Wild West, but in modern history is also known for being the town where Eminem was born.

Arguably, though, it’s most famous for being the place where Jesse James met his end.

St Joseph also has plenty of appeal for outdoor lovers, with over 26 miles of parkway.

Hike or bike your way around the trails, explore the lagoon, and perhaps pack a picnic to devour at one of the many convenient picnic spots around the park.

If horse riding is something that interests you, you can also pay a visit to the Pony Express Museum, whose stables date back to 1860, or spend some time trotting around the area on a horse of your own.

12. Louisburg

Louisburg Cider MillSource: Rachael Martin / shutterstock
Louisburg Cider Mill

It may be small, but Louisburg certainly has a lot going for it.

There’s an excellent aquatic centre, which offers golfing as well as swimming, and there’s the city lake with a picturesque path skirting its edge.

You can also find a conservation site and sanctuary, which is even home to a Siberian tiger, and the Powell Observatory with an enormous public telescope.

The local cider mill is also a favourite for first-time visitors, especially during the autumn’s Cider Fest.

All in all, a great day out with options for everyone.

13. Carthage

Carthage, MissouriSource: TLF Images / shutterstock
Carthage, Missouri

An Old West and civil war history-lovers dream, Carthage was the location of many civil war battles, including the first and second battles of Carthage.

The place prospered post-civil war, and therefore has many beautiful buildings dotted around the area, constructed with local marble.

Located in Jasper County, Missouri, the city is also nicknamed ‘America’s Maple Leaf City’ because of its beautiful autumnal foliage.

There’s also a lake close by where you can swim.

14. Atchison

Atchison, KansasSource: Sharon Day / shutterstock
Birthplace of Amelia Earhart, Atchison, Kansas

Atchison is well worth a visit to learn about its most famous resident: bad-ass female explorer Amelia Earhart.

Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo, among many other impressive feats.

Around sixty miles outside of Kansas City, Atchison plays host to an excellent museum, The Amelia Earhart Birthplace, which is maintained by a group of female pilots.

There’s also the International Forest of friendship, which is an arboretum dedicated to people in aviation.

15. Leavenworth

Missouri river bridge at Leavenworth KansasSource: Jon M. Ripperger / shutterstock
Missouri river bridge at Leavenworth Kansas

Leavenworth was the first city to be incorporated into Kansas when it first emerged in 1854. There’s a lot on offer in this compact city, including a local brewery, artisanal crafts, an excellent shopping district with antiques on offer, and of course plenty of fine restaurants.

Make sure to pay a quick visit to Fort Leavenworth while you’re there, which houses the Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park and the Frontier Army museum, both of which provide an excellent history lesson.

The Richard Allen Cultural Centre is also worth a visit, as it is full of interesting pieces of history in the form of artefacts from the black pioneers.

15 Best Day Trips from Kansas City:

  • Powell gardens
  • Lake Jacomo
  • Weston
  • Somerset Wine Trail
  • Excelsior Springs
  • Independence, MO
  • Missouri Town 1855
  • Prairiefire
  • Hermann
  • Lawrence
  • St Joseph
  • Louisburg
  • Carthage
  • Atchison
  • Leavenworth