Close to the bank of the Missouri River, Lansing is a small city on the northwestern edge of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Lansing has had a maximum security prison, now the Lansing Correctional Facility, within its limits since 1859, and this is the state’s largest and oldest prison.
You can find out about this facility, and its connection to the local coal mining industry, at the Lansing Historical Museum, housed in an historic railroad depot from 1887.
A slew of big KC area attractions, like the Kansas Speedway, are just minutes from Lansing, as is Leavenworth, home to an historic army post, associated with the Buffalo Soldiers and frontier life in the 19th century.
1. Angel Falls Trail
Something that would be easy to miss from the road in Lansing is a gorgeous little waterfall, cloaked in tranquil woodland along Sevenmile Creek.
Accessible via a paved trail, Angel Falls Trail is not a formidable natural landmark, but rather a spot of rare natural beauty that is especially pretty in fall when the deciduous woodland around it starts to turn.
The waterfall is around waist height and is most impressive after sustained rainfall or if there’s been snowfall in winter and it’s melting. In summer the flow ebbs to little more than a trickle, but this is still a lovely place to escape to for a few minutes.
In October the trail is taken over by the annual Fall Festival, with craft vendors and children’s entertainment.
2. Village West
In the early 2000s a giant entertainment, dining and retail development sprouted around ten minutes southeast of Lansing.
On 1,500 acres, Village West was a $1.2 billion project, at the core of which was the Kansas Speedway.
This 1.5-mile, 48,000-capacity tri-oval is a NASCAR facility, staging NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events throughout the season.
Also at Village West is Children’s Mercy Park, which is the impressive home of Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, as well as Legends Field, used by the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Association of Professional Baseball, and Kansas City NWSL.
For shopping there’s the Legends Outlets Kansas City, and just next to the speedway is the Hollywood Casino, with scores of slots and a lineup of high-stakes table games.
3. Lansing Historical Museum
Next to the Fire District No.1 Fire Station, on the former front lawn of the state penitentiary is the relocated Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Train depot (1887).
This compact building was moved to the site in 1992 to house the Lansing Historical Museum. The three main strands represented in the exhibits are Trains and Trolleys, the Coal Mines and the Kansas State Prison.
You’ll learn about the proliferation of railroads immediately after the Civil War, powering the nation’s westward expansion, as well as the tight relationship between coal mining and Kansas State Prison.
There are also profiles of well-known criminals at the state penitentiary, like Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were the subject of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966).
4. C.W. Parker Carousel Museum
In the early 1910s, the carousel builder Charles Wallace Parker (1864-1932) relocated his carousel manufacturing company to nearby Leavenworth from Abilene, Texas.
Paying homage to this amusement pioneer, the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum opened in the city in 2005.
The main attraction is the 1913 Carousel, which is in complete working order and is the 118th production of this particular model.
There are 31 beautiful, hand-carved wooden features, with four ponies, two rabbits, a sleigh ride and a teacup, while the music comes from the Artizan Style X-A-1 Band Organ.
Also at the museum is a later carousel built by Parker’s son and a much earlier, “Primitive Carousel”, thought to have been built in the 1850s.
5. Fort Leavenworth
Built in 1827, the second-oldest active United States Army base west of Washington, D.C., is around 15 minutes north of Lansing, and is an obligatory visit if you’re in the area.
Fort Leavenworth helped oversee the westward expansion of the United States in the 19th century, so it is just the place to learn about life on the frontier.
Once you’ve obtained a visitor pass, which is worth doing in advance, head for the Frontier Museum, documenting the period from 1827 to 1917 with one of the best collections of 19th-century military artifacts in the country, including a whole fleet of original horse-drawn wagons.
You can also set off on the Historical Wayside Tour, made up of 22 wayside points of interest found across the fort, with audio recordings you can access on a smartphone.
6. Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park
In the 1860s, Fort Leavenworth became the base for African-American soldiers of the United States Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment, one of six all-black regiments formed in the wake of the Civil War.
These regiments became known as Buffalo Soldiers, a name bestowed to them by the Native American tribes they fought against. In 1992 a memorial, initiated by General Colin Powell, was dedicated in memory of the 9th and 10th Regiments.
Set on Lake Merritt, the park has a variety of things to see, including the imposing horseback Buffalo Soldier Monument, the Walkway of Firsts and the Circle of Firsts, including busts of Colin Powell and General Roscoe Robinson Jr., the first African-American Army four-star general in the army.
7. Kenneth W. Bernard Community Park
In the southwest of the city, this new park has been developed in the last few years, and phase one was complete at the time of writing.
The centerpiece at Kenneth W. Bernard Community Park is a veterans memorial, and this is accompanied by expansive turf fields, a playground, a fishing pond, soccer fields, an outdoor shelter and walking trails.
The park is named for Kenneth Bernard, a 20+ year army veteran and mayor of Lansing from 1983 to 1991 and then from 1993 to 2013.
8. Chapel of the Veterans
The Kansas Sampler Foundation has declared this building one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture.
The Chapel of the Veterans is less than five minutes from downtown Lansing on the grounds of what was the Western Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, established in the early 1880s for Civil War veterans.
The chapel came a little later, in 1893, and is unique for being able to host Catholic and Protestant services at the same time.
Built from brick with rustic limestone trim, the Chapel of the Veterans has a Gothic Revival design, and is celebrated for its three gargoyles and the splendid, two-story windows on the east and west sides of the nave.
9. Lakeside Speedway
There’s high-speed action on a smaller scale, a little closer to Lansing at this high-banked, 4/10-mile dirt track on the edge of Kansas City.
Dating back to 1955, Lakeside Speedway is a more intimate circuit, hosting weekly Friday night racing for USRA Modifieds, Sprint Cars, Factory Stocks, Grand Nationals and USRA B-Mods and SLMR Late Models, to name a few categories.
The season begins in late April and the curtain comes down at the end of October, with fireworks around July 4 and monster truck events that youngsters will love. Things get pretty loud here, so it’s not a bad idea to bring ear protection.
10. Falcon Lakes Golf Club
One of the top public golf courses in the KC area is a matter minutes south of Lansing in Basehor. Falcon Lakes was landscaped in the early 2000s by noted architect Jay Norrish.
What you get is a links-style layout with generous zoysia fairways and rolling bent-grass greens.
There’s a choice of perfectly maintained tee boxes on every hole to suit players of all standards, and lots of water stations around the track, which makes a big difference in the summer.
To go with the course you’ve got a newly updated driving range, open all year and with 23 hitting stations.
11. Wyandotte County Lake Park
A majestic natural spot within a short drive of Lansing is Wyandotte County Lake, a 400-acre reservoir constructed in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The lake is at the center of a 1,500-acre park, with gently sloping hillsides cloaked with oak-hickory woodlands and sycamores at the water’s edge.
With a permit, available from the marina, you can visit for fishing, boating or kayaking, with rentals available on site.
The lake is ringed by a looping drive, with little detours for picnic shelters, viewpoints, boat ramps, trailheads and facilities like an archery range.
In the spring and fall the park is a haven for migratory bird species like northern pintails, northern shovelers, blue-winged teals, green-winged teal, common mergansers, hooded mergansers and buffleheads.
12. City Park
This park is on the east side of Lansing, by Sevenmile Creek, and is mainly known for its baseball facilities, with a number of fields for youth ball.
If you bring your children to a little league game there’s a restroom and concessions here in summer.
Away from these diamonds City Park is a typical neighborhood park, home to a small but up-to-date playground, turf fields, picnic tables and a well looked-after walking trail.
13. Wyandotte County Fair
The fairgrounds for Wyandotte County border Lansing to the south, which puts the top summer fair in the Kansas City region at your fingertips in July.
This is a five-day event, with 4-H competitions and exhibits at the core, presenting skills in a wide range of categories. Kids will have a great time seeing all the animals, as well as making friends at the petting zoo.
Of course, to go with the 4-H events there’s a big schedule of live entertainment, a carnival, a rodeo, a hot rod & vintage car show, dozens of market vendors, magic shows and comforting fair food that everyone knows and loves.
14. Independence Days Celebration
Bernard Park is the gathering place for Lansing’s annual Independence Days festival, with plenty happening from noon until after dark.
All day long there will be food vendors, amusement rides and activities for children in the park. The live music kicks off around 6pm and lasts into the evening, with some well-known names on the bill.
Then the whole event comes to a head with a jaw-dropping show around 9:45pm, combining lights, music and fireworks, so remember to bring your lawn chairs.
15. Fall Festival
Another much-anticipated annual event in Lansing is the Fall Festival, normally held on the second Saturday in October along the Angel Falls Trail, by the parking lot of St. Francis de Sales Church, at 900 Ida St.
This is a day-long treat for people of all ages, especially wee ones. For kids there’s a petting zoo, inflatables and a pumpkin crafting station.
Lining the trail all the way to the falls are arts and crafts vendors, and you’ve also got a choice of food and drink vendors, as well as a roster of live musicians.