If you took a time machine back to 1990 Lenexa you’d find a lot of open fields where there are now dynamic city streets and residential neighborhoods.
Lenexa’s population has almost doubled in that time, and places like The District testify to the city’s sense of momentum.
Here, the Lenexa Public Market has become a culinary hotspot for the KC area, to go with an expanding selection of independent cafes and craft breweries.
The city has some of the best public parks, not just in the area, but the whole state, as well as annual events like the quirky Spinach Festival, that attract people from far and wide.
1. Lenexa Public Market
Lenexa’s newly developed city center has been dubbed, The District, with blocks of new buildings interwoven with green spaces.
Here, next to the Johnson County Library building, is the Lenexa Public Market. This culinary attraction is in the spirit of a modern food court, housing several small food and retail vendors.
The lineup changes frequently, but at the time of writing you could choose from pizza, Pakistani/Indian food, African specialties, gyozas, tamales, burgers and a bakery.
You can dine inside, or head out to the terrace which has fire pits and heaters. Lenexa Public Market has tons going on throughout the year, with more than 30 nights of live music, culinary classes, seasonal events and much more.
2. Black Hoof Park
With a name paying tribute to the Shawnee Native Americans who lived in the area in the 19th century, Black Hoof Park is the kind of public space any city would be proud of.
The showpiece is the gorgeous, 35-acre Lake Lenexa, which was completed in 2006. The dam and spillway are a work of art, with mesmerizing architectural features and an integrated viewing platform.
Elsewhere, the park has miles of trails leading into open and wooded areas, as well as two shelters and an exceptional natural play area for kids.
3. Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park
In just over 50 acres, Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park packs a variety of historical sites, sports facilities, family attractions and everyday amenities.
This is where you’ll find the Leger Barn (1864), which was relocated to the park in 1983 and can be visited on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
There are no fewer than five different shelters that can be rented at the park, as well as three playgrounds, with separate equipment for ages 2-5 and 5-12.
You’ve also got a skate park, roller hockey rink and a disc golf course, while the whole scene is magical in the holiday season when the Christmas lights are on. We’ll talk about the summer water park, Indian Trails Aquatic Center, later in this article.
4. Shawnee Mission Park
Managed by Johnson County, this park is on more than 1,650 acres in both Lenexa and Shawnee. According to many, Shawnee Mission Park is the best park in the state, with almost endless possibilities for outdoor recreation.
There’s a 140-acre lake at the heart of the park, primed for fishing, and with a marina and beach. On the south side the lake is also fronted by a 50-acre off-leash dog park.
Among the many other amenities are miles of trails (including mountain bike and equestrian trails), an 18-hole disc golf course, an archery range and a choice of playgrounds, one of which has been fitted with the latest inclusive equipment.
5. Spinach Festival
In the first half of the 20th century Lenexa was dominated by agriculture, to the point where the city was dubbed the “Spinach Capital of the World”.
That time is remembered with a one-of-a-kind event every September. At Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park, the Spinach Festival attracts thousands of visitors to Lenexa and is a day of light-hearted family fun.
On the agenda is food of course, but also live entertainment, history exhibits, arts and antique vendors, a variety of contests, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting and all kinds of activities for kids. There’s also a good chance you’ll bump into Popeye at some point.
6. Mill Creek Streamway Park
Mill Creek rises not far south of Lenexa in Olathe and flows northwards through a big slice of Johnson County on its way to the Kansas River at Nelson Island in Shawnee.
Much of the creek’s route is a verdant linear park, with more than 17 miles of paved trails for walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
There are three access points for the Mill Creek Streamway Park in Lenexa, at Shawnee Mission Park, 9803 W. 87th Lane and 18459 Prairie Star Parkway.
Making your way along the trail in Lenexa is pretty much a trip through the countryside, with very little development and no busy roads to cross.
7. Indian Trails Aquatic Center
In 2021 the city council approved a multimillion-dollar improvement project for this outdoor water park in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park.
The plan was for the work to take place outside the summer season, so this won’t affect opening times.
Still, when we compiled this list, Lenexa’s most popular pool featured zero-depth entry, eight 50-meter lanes, a diving board, two large water slides, an AquaClimb rock wall and a small splash pad for children.
You’ve also got concessions close at hand within Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park.
8. KC Classic Auto
The first of a couple of automotive attractions in this part of the metro area is a classic car dealership that has been in business for close to 40 years.
As a means of ensuring steady foot traffic, KC Classic Auto lists itself as a museum, only all of the vehicles you see are also for sale.
So what you get is a revolving exhibit of more than 50 beautiful cars, almost all in mint condition. Some of the picks when we wrote this article were a 1968 Corvette, a 1957 Thunderbird, a 1973 Mustang convertible, a 1973 LeMans and a 1957 BelAir.
9. Black Dog Coffeehouse
It’s easy to support a local business when it does what it does so well. And that’s the case with Black Dock Coffeehouse, a totally independent cafe treasured for its excellent coffee.
This is sourced from Kansas City’s own Messenger Coffee, while the baked goods are provided by Black Dog’s partner, Ibis Bakery, located just next door.
So these delectable breads and pastries only have to travel a few feet to your table. Inside, the coffeehouse has a modern but cozy feel, with lots of little nooks and a clientele that runs the gamut from office workers to families, artists and students.
10. Limitless Brewing
When we wrote this list, the highly popular Limitless Brewing was in the process of building a new brewery/taproom at 95th and Dice.
This modern facility will increase the brewing capacity and include an outdoor patio. Limitless Brewing has been an important part of Lenexa’s food and drink scene for more than half a decade, making a name for itself with hop-forward IPAs.
There were four IPAs on tap at the time of writing, as well as a Brown Ale, a Lager, two Stouts and a Märzen.
The taproom is intended as a kind of community center, while serving great beer, with live music on Sundays, trivia nights on Thursdays and food trucks from the KC area.
11. Lenexa Farmers’ Market
Taking place on Saturday mornings, May through October, Lenexa’s farmer’s market is truly a local affair. Nothing sold here is made, grown or raised more than 250 miles from Lenexa, or outside the state of Kansas.
The main Market day is Saturday, but there’s also a market on Tuesday mornings, June through August, as well as a once-monthly winter market.
For a taste of what to expect, there’s farm raised meat, seasonal fresh produce, tempting baked goods, nuts, eggs, plants, CBD products, natural cosmetics, pet treats, prepared food and much more.
12. The Great Lenexa BBQ Battle
At the end of June, Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park is the setting for the official Kansas State BBQ Championship.
This competition has a history going back to 1982 with 12 contestants and 12 judges, and gained official status just two years later.
At the last count there were close to 200 contestants and even more judges at this mouth-water two-day event.
Cookers show up from all over the country to vie for the title of Grand Champion, with prizes and ribbons awarded to high-ranking contestants in seven different categories.
Delicious BBQ is on sale throughout the event, and you’ll also get the chance to sample the entrants’ creations for free. And while food is the soul of the event, there’s also live music and plenty of activities to keep children entertained.
13. Kansas City Automotive Museum
There’s another car attraction close to Lenexa in Olathe. Newly opened, the Kansas City Automotive Museum has been the labor of love of a group of local car enthusiasts for several years.
This attraction pays tribute to KC’s contributions to the automotive world, from 1965 Le Mans winner Masten Gregory (1932-1985) to Ford’s long association with the city.
At present, the museum has 12,000 square feet of display space and 30 classic vehicles on show, from a large rotating collection. Keen an eye on the calendar, as there are regular car club meetings and special events all year.
14. Happy Valley Farm
Minutes west of Lenexa on K-10 is a family-run U-Pick farm growing berries including blueberries, blackberries, bush cherries, gooseberries and grapes.
You’ll find plenty of other reasons to drop by Happy Valley Farm, as the cute farmers’ market here stocks all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables, jam, nuts and apple cider and pumpkins in the fall.
There’s also honey on tap, sourced from the farm’s own hives. You can just bring a jar to fill up, and pound-for-pound this is the cheapest way to get hold of real high-quality honey.
15. Oak Park Mall
The largest mall in Kansas is on the east side of Lenexa, with close to 200 tenants and five department stores as anchors.
No surprise that Oak Park Mall is one of the best places to shop in the KC area, and unlike many malls is going stronger than ever. The airy and spacious food court is a big part of that, with options like Panda Express, Sarku Japan, Chipotle and Toro Poke.
Among the mall’s vast roster of stores there’s Nordstrom, JCPenney, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Dillard’s, Foot Locker, Forever 21, H&M, LEGO and Sephora.
Finally, something that you may not expect to find in a place like this is a beautiful double-decker carousel, set in the central court.