These seven delightful day trips are less than three hours away from Kansas City. Each of these destinations offers something special for everyone that visits. I have been to each of these cities, and on each visit, I find myself learning something new.
History buffs will appreciate everything that each of these communities offers. Amelia Earhart, for instance, is the star of the town in Atchison; if you find yourself enjoying all things that fly, you will love the story town’s story. America’s 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, lives on through the people in Abilene.
I hope you will plan a delightful trip from Kansas City and embrace the stories that each of these towns has to offer.
Note: I have been to several of these towns more than once, and some of my visits were hosted press trips. All opinions are my own.
Manhattan is a college town, as it is home to the well-known college Kansas State University. You will find purple and white everywhere you go in Manhattan, as the community loves their beloved Kansas State Wildcats. A fun spot to hang out in is Aggieville, the oldest shopping district in Kansas. This area is made up of six square blocks that include bars, restaurants, fun shops, and, of course, a donut shop. You will not want to miss out on a donut from Varsity Donuts. Alumni and current students all enjoy hanging out in Aggieville before and after athletic events. The downtown area, a few blocks from Aggieville, is also home to restaurants and charming shops.
Manhattan may be a college town, but it’s also home to the Flint Hills. The scenery in this area will lure you in. Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera. The wonder and beauty of these hills will connect you with nature while exploring a fun college town. A day trip to Manhattan would not be complete without a stroll around the campus. The energy and people will welcome you and share their pride in Manhattan with you.
Editor’s Note: Our own Roxie Yonkey has more on how to spend a weekend in the Little Apple.
Abilene is home to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. This presidential museum was renovated in 2019 and swept into the 21st century with interactive displays, touchscreens, and digitized historic video of the D-Day encounters. This museum is one of the most moving experiences of any presidential museum that I have visited. As I viewed the historic video of D-Day, I was surrounded by gentlemen that had served our country. It made me appreciate all that everyone had given on that day in history. The museum is handicap accessible, and wheelchairs are available at the museum entrance for visitors to use.
The Greyhound Hall of Fame is across the street from the presidential library in Abilene. You will be greeted by a greyhound or two. Have your picture taken with them and stroll through the museum and learn about greyhounds.
A visit to Abilene would not be complete without a stop at the Seelye Mansion. You will explore 25 rooms on the Seelye Mansion tour and end your tour in a bowling alley. Christmas is an exceptional time of year to visit, as the mansion is all decked out for the holidays.
In fact, any time of year is a great time of year to visit Abilene. I’ve written more about Abilene, Kansas, here, and it’s also featured in my list of the best small-town Fourth of July celebrations in the Midwest.
Atchison is a short 30-minute drive from Kansas City. Fall is an incredible time to make the drive to Atchison, as the road meanders near a grove of trees that goes on for miles. As soon as you arrive in town, stop at the visitor center and take a peek at the Atchison Rail Museum.
Atchison’s Sallie House is one of the most haunted houses in America. Paranormal activity has been documented by many that visit the house. I have visited and witnessed cell phones not working as well as two people taking photos of the same thing and seeing different things in the actual photo. If you dare, visit the Sallie House.
Amelia Earhart hails from Atchison. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace overlooks the Missouri River. The Amelia Earhart Festival is an annual event where the town celebrates Amelia for two full days. I had the opportunity of attending in 2019 and enjoyed a meal with Amelia Earhart’s niece. If there’s one thing I took away from this event, it was that Amelia continues to inspire youngsters. You can tour the birthplace and learn more about the mystery of Amelia’s disappearance.
Editor’s Note: Intrigued? Tim Trudell has more on mysterious Atchison, Kansas.
Concordia is a full three hours from Kansas City, yet well worth all of your time in the car to get to this historical town. Upon your arrival, I’d suggest stopping into the Cloud County Historical Museum. View the fun history inside, and admire the sculptured brick wall on the outside of the building.
The National Orphan Train Complex is a moving experience. As I sat in a chair watching a movie introducing visitors to the complex, I was taken back. My grandfather always said he arrived by train with a suitcase when he was a very young boy. I will be returning to Concordia to meet with the staff at the complex to see if they can help me and my family solve a mystery. Plan on spending a minimum of two hours on site, as there’s a lot of information to take in.
Another moving experience in Concordia is the POW Camp Concordia. I had never thought much about WWII POWs and what they endured. A guard tower is on the site, and the museum is open for scheduled tours with a knowledgeable tour guide. If you are curious about your ancestry and enjoy the history that comes to life through art throughout the town, you will enjoy Concordia, Kansas.
Marysville is one of those towns that offer a fun, memorable experience with black squirrels. In the town of Marysville, there are 34 five-foot fiberglass black squirrel sculptures scattered throughout the town. Have your cell phone on hand and take a few selfies during your visit. It took a while, but I did see one black squirrel from the porch of the house I was staying at in Marysville. There are not only Black Squirrels on Parade; there are also “live” black squirrels to be seen. Marysville made my list of the best outdoor art experiences in the Midwest.
A highlight of my visit to Marysville was a short drive on a gravel road south of town to Alcove Spring Historic Park. This historic park is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was discovered in 1846 when the Donner party was delayed by the high waters along the Blue River. A self-guided walking tour and interpretive exhibits can be found throughout the park. The walk to the spring is near 1/4 of a mile and an easy hike.
The Pony Express Home Station & Museum is downtown and is Marysville’s pride and joy, as Home Station No. 1 on the Pony Express Route. Marysville is a great place to experience history and nature.
A short drive from Kansas City is Independence. Discover the hometown of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, while exploring Independence.
The Truman experience awaits you through the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Truman Home, Truman on the Independence Square, and the Truman Depot. Independence is a great place to celebrate America and its 33rd president.
Take a trip back in time while exploring Independence with Pioneer Trails Adventures. You will board a covered wagon and learn about the early pioneer settlers, Wild Bill Hickok, Civil War generals, and more secrets about Harry S. Truman.
There is one thing that I do know: Independence will keep you hopping all day long. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in one of several parks that are throughout the town. Enjoy one of Independence’s many outdoor adventures.
Leavenworth is a short drive from Kansas City. The Carroll Mansion Museum is a favorite of mine. If you enjoy historic homes and the beautiful architecture that they offer, you will love this home. The 16 rooms and stained glass windows won me over.
The earliest known American carousel is in Leavenworth, Kansas, and today it is the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum that features a newly restored, operational 1913 C.W. Parker Carousel. The oldest primitive carousel in the United States and a 1950s aluminum Paul Parker Carousel is also on display. There is a small admission fee for a tour and to take a ride on the carousel. Plan to spend one to two hours learning all about the fun history of the carousel.
No matter which direction you travel from Kansas City, your day trip will be a fun one. Each of these seven destinations will keep you entertained and your belly full.