Imagine: a small-town riverfront escape just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of a thriving Midwestern city. That’s what you’ll find in little Parkville, Missouri. This historic town rebuilt and reinvented itself after the devastating Flood of 1993, and bounced back stronger and more charming than ever! Parkville’s historic buildings, enviable river views, and adorable downtown are all more than enough reason to make the quick 30-minute trek from Kansas City. Here are just a few of the reasons why we think you should plan a trip to this special spot.
Wander Along The River
Parkville is much like many Missouri towns in that life here has always revolved around the river in one way or another. In this case, it’s the mighty Missouri that rolls on by, and it helped put Parkville on the map back in the day. Steamboats routinely cruised past town, stopping to drop off supplies for residents and pick up items to be shipped to other ports.
Today, English Landing Park — with its riverfront trail — is an excellent place to get your steps in and really get a feel for Parkville. On the scenic packed-gravel trail, which runs a total of 3 miles and was once river bottomland, you’ll meander along the waters that shaped this special place. The park also has a stage where concerts are performed in the summer, and as you might imagine, many walk-runs are also held here.
Get Back To Nature At Parkville’s Sanctuary
Another terrific place to explore and enjoy the great outdoors is Parkville’s Nature Sanctuary. This wildlife preserve and educational site was developed and is maintained by the city with the assistance of a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers. The 115-acre nature area is accessible via nearly 3 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails. The most popular of these is the Old Kate Trail. At nearly a mile long, the easy loop circles a forested stream valley and will take you by waterfalls, the Riss Lake Dam, and a boardwalk. Keep your eye out for songbirds, deer, small mammals, frogs, turtles, snakes, colorful insects, and many different species of butterfly. This is a great place to check out, and if you’re traveling with younger people, it’s perfect for kids!
There are many places to sit and rest along the trails if you want to take a break or simply a meditative pause. There’s a restroom at the sanctuary entrance, with potable water access to fill up bottles. While this is a delightful place to spend part — or even all — of your day, do take note: four-legged friends are not allowed in an effort to maintain the natural balance of the sanctuary.
Stroll The Campus
Despite its smaller size and feel, Parkville is home to its own college campus! Park University, a private liberal arts school, was founded in 1875 and now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees to more than 15,000 students at 39 campus centers across the United States. Its historic flagship campus has remained in Parkville and is a delight to explore. Mackay Hall is the campus stand-out. Construction on the administrative building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began in 1886. Park students quarried the stone from the school’s land, carried it to the site, and helped to build the structure as a means of earning their tuition (talk about work-study!).
Norrington Center, first built as a Carnegie Library in 1905, has seen additions and renovations throughout the years, and it houses the university’s library as well as an academic commons area. It’s the oldest Carnegie Library building still remaining on a college campus in the state of Missouri. And the grand Gothic-style Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel often hosts concerts and other special events.
Shop The Downtown District
Parkville’s downtown, along and just off of Main Street, is packed with charming shops, galleries, and boutiques, and it’s the perfect place to get your retail therapy fix!
The Cathy Kline Art Gallery, housed in a historic train depot, features works from a wide array of artists working in a whole host of mediums. J. Quinn Boutique stocks on-trend closet staples along with jewelry, bath and body goods, and other accessories; Farm House Collection has everything anyone could want to give their home a cozy, comfortable feel. From candles poured in-house to home decor, tableware, and kitchen accessories, this is a great place for foodies and home chefs alike. Wines by Jennifer, located in a quaint 1903 home, offers visitors tastings of vintages from around the world. You can also enjoy a glass of wine here and purchase a bottle (or a few!) to take home.
If you’re in need of a caffeine pick-me-up while shopping, pop into Parkville Coffee. This adorable little spot serves up coffee drinks, smoothies, and light bites, and even has a book nook upstairs!
Go Treasure Hunting!
Parkville is also well-known for its antique stores and the unique finds inside! Start your treasure hunt near the river at the Parkville Antique Mall, where more than 40 different dealers offer everything from furniture to home goods, trinkets, jewelry, and art. You’re bound to find the perfect piece for your home or wardrobe at this two-story antique showroom. To satisfy both your sweet tooth and quest for a vintage victory, Old Town Sweets and Antiques has you covered. The shop offers cookies, candies, and ice cream, along with items and gifts from years past. And if you’re a fan of timepieces, Cool Vintage Watches (as its name implies!) is the place to go. From Omega to Rolex, there are incredible wristwatches here, along with a great curation of antique pocket watches.
Tour An Underground Distillery
Most of us enjoy an adult beverage from time to time. If you’re a craft cocktail aficionado, you’ll want to stop off at S.D. Strong Distilling. Strong’s, founded a decade ago, touts itself as the world’s only distillery in a cave, which is located 65 feet under Parkville. Making spirits in a cave, where temperatures and conditions stay cool and constant, provides distinctive tastes that are imbued in the award-winning whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and gin all produced here. Tours can be booked on the distillery website. There’s also an on-site store where you can purchase a few bottles to stock your home bar!
Peruse The Produce At The Farmers Market
No matter if you’re looking to snag a special treat for a picnic basket or a handcrafted sweet treat to take home with you, the Parkville Farmers Market will have you covered! For years, area farmers and artisans have brought their goods to town, and the market is a beloved destination and tradition for the locals. You’ll find picked-at-their-peak fruits, veggies, and greens, along with locally-farmed meats, eggs, and honey. Debit and credit cards are accepted, and the market is held near English Landing Park Saturday mornings April to October and Wednesday afternoons June through September. If the market’s going during your visit, you won’t regret a stop here!
Snap A Selfie
Make sure to commemorate your visit to Parkville with a stop down its “Photo Opp Alley.” Located downtown on Main Street, just north of the railroad tracks, the alley is filled with colorful murals painted by local artists. You’re guaranteed to find the perfect backdrop for a selfie or two; Photo Opp Alley is a favorite with locals and visitors alike!
You’ll likely work up an appetite during your visit to Parkville, and fortunately, there are some fantastic options for eats right along Main Street. Cafe des Amis is as romantic and French as its name suggests. The bistro is well-known for both its traditional and modern French dishes, extensive wine list, decadent desserts, and welcoming ambiance. It’s open for both lunch and dinner. For some of the best pizza in the Kansas City area, stop off at Stone Canyon Pizza. The menu here also features salads, sandwiches and pasta.
And if you’re so taken by charming Parkville that you’d like to make it an overnight visit, consider staying at the Main Street Inn, a historic mansion turned bed and breakfast that’s also located right downtown. You’ll be treated to a gorgeous suite and a fabulous three-course breakfast in the morning!