Stir-crazy yet? After nearly three months of social distancing, that’s to be expected. And yet, things aren’t exactly back to normal. Never fear, we’re here to help with four great day trips that are a one-hour drive from Kansas City. We picked spots that are safely spacious but which offer excitement, fresh air and much-needed changes of scenery. Get out there, but remember to use common sense and follow CDC guidelines.
Things are still a little crazy out there right now—you may find that public facilities you’d expect to rely on in places like parks are closed or unsafe. Be self-reliant by bringing essentials with you.
- Bottled water
- Toilet paper and trowel
- Hand sanitizer or soap, extra water and paper towels
- Granola bars or other snacks
- Bug repellent
The best hiking in the KC area is up in Weston
To stand on a rocky Missouri bluff while experiencing breathtaking views of rolling green hills, you need to take the quick trip up to Weston.
Weston Bend State Park has a few walking trails, but West Ridge Trail is the best: A large portion of the trail abuts the Missouri River and gives hikers sweeping views of the flowing water and the other side of the state line. West Ridge’s two-and-a-half-mile loop is moderately difficult with a few steep elevation changes, but the trail itself is pretty smooth. Still, it’s smart to be on the lookout for exposed roots, rocks and mini mudslides after a rainfall.
West Ridge easily connects to Harpst Trail and Paved Bicycle Loop. If you take the long loop through all three trails, it’ll take you about two-and-a-half hours. There’s a lookout point a few feet from the West Ridge Trailhead—we recommend saving this for the end of your hike as a reward for your efforts. The scenic overlook, a planked deck tapered around a tree, gives panoramic views of the state line river and Fort Leavenworth’s imperial-looking clocktower. —Nicole Bradley
GO: From I-29 north, take the Tracy exit to 273 west and follow signs for Weston Bend State Park. Follow the park road to the last parking lot, where you will find the trailhead.
While you’re there: Visit O’Malley’s Pub. The historic bar sits six stories below the limestone bones of the old Weston Brewing company, which dates back to the mid-1800s.
Retrace the footsteps of an iconic American freedom fighter in Osawatomie
After a mob executed an abolitionist minister, John Brown vowed to “consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.” He achieved that through martyrdom following his failed plot to raid a Virginia armory and free African Americans held in bondage across the South. But Brown first took up arms in defense of black personhood while living in a small cabin in the rural Kansas town of Osawatomie. There, the man who would become an icon of freedom engaged in battles during the “Bleeding Kansas” era, starting with his bold leadership in bringing frontier justice to some of the thugs responsible for the sacking of the peaceful abolitionist settlement of Lawrence. Of all Brown’s heroics, the most impressive may be the skirmish documented on the signs at the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie, where he led a severely outnumbered group of freedom fighters to a draw against a militia led by Missouri slaver John W. Reid. —Martin Cizmar
GO: From I-35 south, take the exit for Route 169 in Olathe and follow south for 30 miles to Osawatomie.
Walk through the earliest era of KC at Missouri Town 1855
While you’re there: Right outside the park you’ll find Jazzy B’s Diner, which has both traditional KC ’cue and sea-food. We like the funky blue cheese potato salad and a saucy brisket sandwich.
At Fleming Park in eastern Jackson County, you can glimpse KC life in another era. That starts on the way into Missouri Town 1855, where the buffalo roam, and continues inside the thirty acres set aside for the park. In these idyllic pastures, you’ll find antebellum homes and barns moved here for preservation, along with a working blacksmith shop firing a coal furnace and a dry goods store stocked with period products, some of which are for sale. When the park is open, expect to find reenactors dressed in period garb playfully encouraging you to vote in a mock election or giving a brief history of the Missouri mule. —Martin Cizmar
GO: Head east on I-70 or I-45 to I-470, then take exit 10A for Colbern Road. Follow signs to the park.
Get nationally recognized bread in charming downtown Lawrence
1900 Barker is a tiny bakery and coffee shop owned and operated by the Petrehn brothers—Taylor, the baker, and Reagan, the coffee guy. It’s just five years old and has been nominated for James Beard Awards the past three years, making it the only Lawrence establishment to have ever garnered a nomination for the prestigious national food awards.
From the outside, there’s not much to call your attention. The small white building was once home to a laundromat. The unremarkable exterior belies the wonders within. Before you pass through the glass door at 1900 Barker, a tempt-ing scent will reach you—a subtly sweet yeasty aroma that somehow smells the way a warm hug feels. Inside, it’s a sight to behold. There’s a glass pastry case filled with impossibly golden, many-layered croissants, pretty galettes finished with fresh fruit and perfect mini quiches. Behind the counter, racks and racks are stacked with an endless supply of naturally leavened bread, including long baguettes, oval olive and rosemary loaves, chunky hunks of cranberry almond, dark squares of Danish rye and round wheels of seeded multigrain sourdough. If you’d like your pick of the daily offerings, get to the shop early and be prepared for a short wait. It’s well worth it. —Natalie Gallagher
GO: Head west on I-70 to Lawrence and follow signs for downtown. From Massachusetts Avenue, go two blocks east on 19th Street to 1900 Barker.