While Kansas City offers lots to do with a wide range of cultural attractions, parks and more, there are lots of great day trips within just a few hours to consider. You’ll find everything from fascinating Old West towns and exciting cities to magnificent caverns and beyond. Whether you plan to visit for a short time or you live in the area, be sure to put some of these on your list of places to experience.
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Fort Scott, Kansas
About a 90-minute drive south along the Frontier Military Historic Byway, Fort Scott is filled with impressive architecture that includes lots of Victorian-era homes. History buffs will enjoy strolling the historic downtown with its brick streets lined with antique stores, and visiting the Fort Scott National Historic Site. It hosts 20 buildings, some of which are original and others reconstructed, along with a number of interesting exhibits and a restored tallgrass prairie.
Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is less than three hours southwest and offers a wealth of fun things to do. Two of the highlights are the museums that provide an in-depth look at two of the forces that shaped history in the West: Native Americans and cowboys. Discover what life was like for the Plains Indians at the Mid-America All-Indian Center and get a glimpse of a 1870s cattle town at the Old Cowtown Museum. The entertainment district of Old Town Wichita is home to over 100 restaurants, bars and shops, and there is a wealth of music, theater and comedy venues too.
A little over 90 minutes west, Wamego offers lots of charms, popular with history lovers and film buffs. It’s home to the historic Columbian Theatre which opened back in 1895 as well as the state’s most popular city park, with its Dutch Mill, Historic Museum and Prairie Town Village. But the biggest draw here is its Oz Museum which houses one of the world’s largest private collections of “The Wizard of Oz” memorabilia. It features items and photos from the 1939 film along with earlier silent film versions of the book. Award-winning wines with names inspired by the musical at the nearby Oz Winery tasting room can even be enjoyed too.
Ha Ha Tonk State Park - Camdenton, Missouri
Ha Ha Tonk State Park can be reached in about two-and-a-half hours and hosts one of the few castle ruins in the entire country. The stone castle sits along the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks atop a bluff and was modeled after 16th-century European castles. It was completed in the 1920s and served as a hotel until it was destroyed by fire in 1942. The park offers plenty of other things to see and do, including 15 miles of hiking trails that lead to caves, sinkholes, natural bridges, and the castle, along with fishing, boating and swimming.
While Branson is 200 miles south, reached in about three hours and 20 minutes, it’s worth getting up early to make the drive for many to experience this “family-friendly Las Vegas” with its wide range of attractions and entertainment. Many come for its country music shows, but it offers just above everything here from Broadway, comedy and dance to acrobatics. There are lots of interesting museums and exhibits, and in the surrounding area, scenic natural vistas and outdoor activities abound.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Delve into American history by heading to St Joseph, less than an hour’s drive north. You’ll be able to see the very spot where the Pony Express began and the home where Jesse James once lived. The unassuming abode became nationally famous when Robert Ford shot and killed Jesse James within its walls and the hole where the bullet hit the wall can still be seen today. There are also around a dozen museums to explore and all sorts of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located a little over two hours from Kansas City, Abilene sits at the end of the historic Chisholm Trail, a popular trail for cattle drivers in the mid-19th century. Often noted among lists of the most beautiful small towns, this Old West town has a rich history that can be explored in the Old Town’s saloons, complete with dancers and gunfight reenactments. There are five museums located within a four-square block area to explore too, centered by the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. The Seelye Mansion, a 25-room Georgian-style mansion and the American Indian Art Center, showcasing fine works of art by artists from a number of different tribes are well worth a visit too.
Jefferson City, Missouri
About two hours and 20 minutes southeast, you can explore Missouri’s Capitol building in Jefferson City. It houses the Missouri State Museum which features exhibits of outstanding historical significance. Visitors can also take a guided tour where you can watch the artwork change as you walk past, and learn more about the state’s history and how the government works. Visit the Runge Nature Center to discover the region’s wildlife and forests, hike trails and watch for birds.
“Little Sweden USA” as Lindsborg is known due to the influx of Swedish settlers that arrived back in 1869, is located just under three hours west. For those with Swedish ancestry, it’s really a must as a great place to appreciate Swedish-American history. Learn more about it at the Old Mill Museum, experience Swedish culture and even sample Swedish cuisine, view Swedish art and experience Swedish culture. There are brightly painted Wild Dala horses, wooden horse sculptures carved and painted in traditional Swedish style, that are dotted throughout the town, popular spots for photoshoots.
The birthplace of Amelia Earhart is less than an hour away and hosts the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum which is set within a Gothic Revival cottage along the west bank of the Missouri River. It showcases memorabilia and artifacts focused on the aviation pioneer. Visitors can also take a trolley tour of the town’s many spectacular Victorian homes.
Fantastic Caverns - Springfield, Missouri
The only caves in North America where you can experience the passageways entirely on a ride through, at Fantastic Caverns you’ll hop on a tram pulled by a Jeep for a fascinating tour of this underground world carved by an ancient river centuries ago.