Day Trips from Kansas City Hero
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15 Charming Day Trips from Kansas City

Kansas City: two cities, divided by a two rivers, a state border, and a geographic barrier. On the eastern side, Kansas City, Missouri is located in the Midwest, while western Kansas City, Kansas is located in the Great Plains. These cities have a lot to offer – you certainly won’t run out of things to do in Kansas City if you’re planning a trip! However, you might want to explore beyond Kansas City, and that’s where a great day trip comes in.

In this post, you’ll discover 15 of the best day trips from Kansas City – both cities, actually! While I use Kansas City, Kansas as my starting point for travel times and distances, you’ll see that there’s a variety of fascinating day trip destinations in every direction. Best of all, every destination on this list is two hours or less in driving time from Kansas City.

Please note that any destinations marked with a * are actually located in Missouri – and thus not officially in the Great Plains. However, I wanted to include them so that you could appreciate and be inspired by the variety of day trips from Kansas City.

In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ (Kaw / Kansa), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Kaskaskia, peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

1. Atchison

Day Trips from Kansas City - Atchison - Tyler Silvest via Flickr
Photo credit: Tyler Silvest via Flickr
  • Distance from Kansas City: 51 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 60 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer 

Atchison is first on our list of the best day trips from Kansas City. This lovely town is best knowns as the birthplace of famed aviator Amelia Earhart (the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.) As such, the main attractions of the town are devoted to the female aviator, like Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace Museum, the Amelia Earhart Earthwork hillside portrait, and the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, held each year in July. 

But Atchison has more to offer than Earhart-themed attractions: Rail buffs can visit the Atchison Rail Museum and (this is a good one) ride aboard the Atchison and Western Miniature Railroad! While history buffs have plenty of options like the Muchnic Art Gallery. If ghost hunting is your thing, Sallie house is one of the most haunted houses in America, and it is in Atchison. Do you dare?

2. Carthage*

Day Trips from Kansas City - Carthage Missouri
  • Distance from Kansas City: 145 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring/Autumn

Another of the Kansas City day trips that make for an excellent getaway is actually in Missouri.

Originally established in 1842, Carthage had to be completely reconstructed after the American Civil War, which has given the town its historic charm that attracts history lovers from all over the country. Today, Carthage is home to over 600 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Historic Carthage Square and the Jasper County Courthouse. Besides its packed history, Carthage is also known for being home to the first concrete portions of the state’s interstate highway system, which was incorporated into the iconic Route 66 in 1926. 

Thanks to its beautiful autumnal foliage, Carthage has been dubbed “America’s Maple Leaf City.” So, if you enjoy painting-like landscapes, you know when to go.

3. Dunlap

Day Trips from Kansas City - Dunlap - Patrick Emerson via Flickr
Photo credit: Patrick Emerson via Flickr
  • Distance from Kansas City: 120 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 2 hours
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring

Back in the early 20th Century, Dunlap was a thriving town in Kansas known for being the prime relocation spot of Exodusters — recently freed slaves fleeing to Kansas in search of a better life following the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. By 1910, Dunlap was already home to only 333, but the big hit came during the Great Depression when most residents and businesses flocked to other states in search of better opportunities. 

Today, only 80 people live in Dunlap, which doesn’t make Dunlap a ghost town per se. However, the town’s surroundings do look like one. Visitors can explore the remains of a weather-beaten Baptist church and a well-kept, half-acre cemetery, Lower Big John School. Lower Big John School

4. Excelsior Springs*

Kansas City Day Trips - Excelsior Springs - Nicolas Henderson via Flickr
Photo credit: Nicolas Henderson via Flickr
  • Distance from Kansas City: 31 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 40 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer/Autumn 

Another of the best day trips from Kansas City taking you to Missouri is Excelsior Springs. For those looking for a relaxing getaway, search no more. 

Just shy of downtown Kansas City is Excelsior Springs, a tight-knit community that boasts the spectacular Elms Hotel and Spa. This astounding spa has an equally interesting history. Housed in a building dating back to 1888, the Elms Hotel and Spa has welcomed famous customers like Harry S. Truman and Al Capone.

The spa has a plethora of wellness options treatments that will pamper you from head to toe. From facials to massages and hydrotherapy to pedicures, Elms Hotel and Spa has it all. 

Foodies are welcomed, too, as Excelsior Springs has an interesting offer of family-owned restaurants within the city’s downtown district and several local vineyards and breweries.

5. Independence*

  • Distance from Kansas City: 14 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 25 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer 

The 33rd president of the United States Harry S. Truman hailed from Independence, this little Missouri town located a short drive from Kansas City. However, aside from presidential attractions, Independence has its own charm well-worth exploring.

Naturally, there are many attractions related to Truman, such as the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Truman Home, Truman on the Independence Square, and the Truman Depot. 

But there’s more than that. You can step back in time and explore the history of the early Pioneers. There are different tours that take you to former settlements like the Missouri Mormon Walking Trail and Visitor Center. Oh, and you can’t miss Vaile Mansion, a gorgeous three-story Gothic-like residence built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile in 1881 that’s renowned as one of the best examples of Second Empire-style architecture in the U.S.

6. Lawrence

  • Distance from Kansas City: 61 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 60 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring

Home to the University of Kansas, Lawrence has a palpable younger spirit as a college town. Lawrence makes for a dream destination for music lovers. It is nationally renowned for its live music scene, which has drawn international recording artists and upcoming bands to venues such as The Granada, The Bottleneck, and Replay Lounge. 

There are plenty of cultural attractions as well, including the Watkins Museum of History, the Spencer Art Museum, and the Indigenous-focused Haskell Cultural Center. On the historic side, within the university campus are museums connected to Senator Robert Dole and the city’s basketball legacy, both worth visiting.

7. Leavenworth

Day Trips from Kansas City - Leavenworth
  • Distance from Kansas City: 31 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 40 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer

A short drive from Kansas City is Leavenworth, one of the best day trips from Kansas City for those who love beautiful architecture. Lawrence is home to the Carroll Mansion Museum, a historic house that will make your heart skip a bit. This 1880’s Victorian house features elaborate handcrafted woodwork throughout the house, beautiful stained glass windows, and elegant antiques from the Victorian era to the early 20th century. 

In this town, you can also find the earliest known American carousel. Today, the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum features a newly restored, operational 1913 C.W. Parker Carousel, but the oldest primitive carousel and a 1950s aluminum Paul Parker Carousel is still on display. You can take a ride on the carousel and a tour to learn the history for a small admission fee.

8. Lecompton

Kansas City Day Trips - Lecompton - Lane Pearman via Flickr
Photo credit: Lane Pearman via Flickr
  • Distance from Kansas City: 48 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 50 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Winter 

Lecompton used to be the territorial capital of Kansas between 1855 and 1861. The town was known for being the political birthplace of the American Civil War and its growing resistance to African-American slavery. Today, Lecompton is one of the most popular day trips in Kansas. It was even voted as one of the state’s best small towns in 2016 by the readers of Kansas! magazine.

The best way to absorb the town’s history is to tour its three museums: the preserved Constitution Hall, a National Historic Landmark, and the Territorial Capital Museum, which showcases Civil War-era artifacts. 

If you want the ins and outs of the town’s complex history, Lecompton hosts from January through March the “Bleeding Kansas Series”, a series of talks and dramatic interpretations on the violent and territorial civil war of Kansas and the nation. 

9. Louisburg

  • Distance from Kansas City: 44 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 40 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn 

Small but mighty could be the best way to describe Louisburg as this small town located in Kansas has something for everyone despite its small size. Louisburg was established following the Civil War and held an important place in the African-American racial justice and equality struggles throughout the 20th century. 

Today, this small town boasts a large number of family-friendly attractions, including the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Sanctuary, which houses Siberian and Bengal tigers. There’s also the Powell Observatory, which hosts public astronomical observation events with its enormous public telescope. Annually, the town hosts the Louisburg Cider Mill, a fall festival featuring a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and street fair.

During warmer days, visitors can spend the day at the aquatic center, which offers golfing as well as swimming, and there’s the city lake with a picturesque path to walk along.

10. Overland Park

  • Distance from Kansas City: 12 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 20 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer/Spring 

Only 12 miles south of the city, Overland Park is one of the best day trips from Kansas City. Besides being distance-convenient, Overland Park is a destination with wonderful attractions that appeal to all kinds of visitors.

If you’re an architecture buff at heart, head to the Museum at Prairie fire, an architecturally stunning museum, and entertainment complex. Other must-visit museums include the American Royal Museum, the Johnson County Museum, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.

Don’t miss Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead if you travel with kids, where you can get a glimpse of farm life at the; or explore nature at the Indian Creek Greenway and the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

11. Somerset Wine Trail

Day Trips from Kansas City - Somerset Wine Trail
  • Distance from Kansas City: 45 miles
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 45 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer

Yes, wine lovers, this Kansas City day trip is for you, with the Somerset Wine Trail as your go-to place. Somerset Wine Trail is located approximately half an hour south of Overland Park and features four of the region’s award-winning vineyards and wineries, including Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery.

Each of the trail’s four wineries–Somerset Ridge, NightHawk, and Middle Creek –offer tours and tastings for visitors year-round, along with bottles of dozens of varieties of wine available for sale. Many public special events are offered at the wineries throughout the year, including live music performances, cigar rolling demonstrations, and outdoor festivals.

On a different note is Cedar Cove Feline Sanctuary & Education Center, a non-profit organization devoted to endangered large cats. If you like spending time with furry ones, you’ll love this place.

12. St. Joseph*

  • Distance from Kansas City: 55 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 60 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Autumn

St. Joseph is all museumgoers’ top destination when searching for quick getaways from Kansas City. Like many other places on the list, St. Joseph also is in Missouri and is home to three unique museums. The Glore Psychiatric Museum, which shows the evolution of mental illness treatment at the State Lunatic Asylum No. 2; the Jesse James Home Museum, showcasing the legacy of the notorious famed outlaw; and The Pony Express National Historic Trail and Museum, showcasing the fastest mail service in the Old West.

St. Joseph also has a wide variety of historic sites, including a large number of 19th-century buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places (perfect for those who enjoy Victorian-era architecture.) St Joseph also has plenty of appeal for outdoor lovers, with over 26 miles of the parkway that winds through the city and offers hiking and biking opportunities as well as many open grassy spots to sit and unwind.

13. Topeka

Photo credit (L): Balaji via Flickr

  • Distance from Kansas City: 61 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 60 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Summer/Autumn

Topeka is the capital city of Kansas, so without a doubt, this city has a wide portfolio of things to do. Art lovers can head to North Topeka Arts District, a neat little area with bookstores, boutiques, art studios, and so much more to choose from. There’s the Mulvane Art Museum too, for a more guided experience. Oh, and Truckhenge! This comely of six cars jutting out of the ground. You’ll love Truckhenge if unique art is your thing. 

History buffs (and those who aren’t too) will have the chance to discover Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, one of the sites that played a key role in ending legal segregation. For those who enjoy a little bit of adrenaline, Topeka has the world’s largest collection of Evel Knievel memorabilia at the Evel Knievel Museum.

14. Wamego

Photo credits: Patrick Emerson via Flickr

  • Distance from Kansas City: 105
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring/Summer

Located around 105 miles west of Kansas City, Wamego is a charming small town with lots to offer visitors. Wamego’s main attraction is the Oz Museum, home to the largest private collection of “The Wizard of Oz” memorabilia in the world.

If wine is something that interests you no matter where you are, there’s the Oz Winery. This place elaborates wine inspired by the movie at the Oz Winery and offers tasting rooms where you can sample some wine. 

Other attractions here include the gorgeous Schonhoff Dutch Mill, which was built in 1870 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Wamego Historical Museum and Prairie Village, authentic buildings from the 1800s which trace the evolution of Wamego and Pottawatomie County from the first inhabitants to present ones.

If you’re a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz ”, visit Wamego in October when they celebrate the Ozome OztoberFest and bring to life one of America’s best-known fairy tales!

15. Weston*

Day Trips from Kansas City - Weston, MO
  • Distance from Kansas City: 33 miles 
  • Travel Time from Kansas City: 40 minutes 
  • Best Season to Visit: Spring/Summer

Located in Missouri, Weston has been voted one of the top regional day trips and overnight destinations by national and regional publications such as AAA Midwest Traveler, Ingram’s, and The Pitch. So, if you visit, you know you’re in for a treat. 

Located approximately 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City, Weston is popular for its historic farms, creameries, wineries, and breweries. Green Dirt Farm is perhaps the most popular of these entertainment options. This small local business offers high-quality products such as grass-fed lamb and sheep’s milk cheese. 

Another top thing to do in Weston is taking a tour of Holladay Distillery, the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi River on its original site. Inside, you can learn how the distillers use limestone spring water to craft vodka, bourbon, and the aging process involved.

If you love Irish pubs (who doesn’t, really?), grab a drink at O’Malley’s 1842 Pub, an Irish bar serving up great beer, with live music and tons of Celtic heritage. 

Which of these day trips from Kansas City are you inspired to take now? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

4 Comments

  • Edd Green

    The picture you show of a church for the St. Joseph section is so not in St. Joe. We do have beautiful churches, but not this one. I suggest you instead post a picture of the Pony Express Stables, Jesse James House, or the Remington Nature Center on the Missouri River.

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