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10 Best Day Trips from Kansas City

Kansas City has a ton of nearby adventures that make great day trips. If you’re looking for a quick trip for a day or overnight, there are lots of day trips from Kansas City. Whether you’re looking for cute small towns with adorable shops or outdoor adventures like paddling and epic hikes, here are 10 Best Day Trips from Kansas City for everyone! 

All of these day trips from Kansas City are less than two hours away, making them a quick drive for a fun mini trip. I divided them based on their distance from Kansas City, either 30-minutes, an hour or 2 hours away. If you’re looking for a quick getaway, these day trips from Kansas City are for you.

Best Day Trips from Kansas City, 2 girls in a canoe paddling on Finger Lakes State Park

Day Trips from Kansas City

Around half an hour from Kansas City

Weston, Missouri

Weston, Missouri is only half an hour north of Kansas City, Missouri near the Kansas City International Airport. Weston is a small town, but it has a lot of options for families, couples, friend trips, and outdoor lovers. Weston Bend State Park has paved and unpaved trails, an overlook with an expansive view of the Missouri River, tobacco barns, and some of the best fall foliage in the region. 

Weston Bend State Park overlook in the fall with a little boy

If your family likes u-pick farms, then Weston, Missouri is a great place to go. Weston Vineyard and Orchard has lots of u-pick options throughout the year as well as a pumpkin patch. Weston Red Barn Farm has free farm animals you can see much of the year as well as an annual pumpkin patch. 

Before heading out of town, grab a bite to eat at the Tin Kettle or O’Malley’s. For an added adventure, check out the hidden pub under O’Malley’s and feel like you’re grabbing a drink in the prohibition era. If you live in Kansas City, add Weston, Missouri to your day trip bucket list! Check out my complete guide of things to do in Weston, Missouri. If you’re looking for day trips from Kansas City, you can’t miss Weston!

Downtown Weston

Smithville Lake, Smithville, Missouri

At just under 40 minutes north of Kansas City, Smithville Lake is the perfect nearby getaway. You can rent a stand up paddleboard or kayak from Paradise Outfitters, play at the beach, fish, bike on the 24-miles of paved trails, birdwatch, or  rent a boat or jet skis  or take a hike. Your family will have no problem finding ways to enjoy lake life for the day. 

Before you head home, be sure to stop at Captain’s Corner for dinner. This cute, local restaurant has huge sandwiches and delicious burgers. Next, cross the road to Paradise Ice Cream Parlor. This ice cream shop will transport you back in time with its retro bar stools and decor. Plus there are cute photo opportunities outside, like a giant Adirondack chair and an ice cream bench!

Between the food and lake outdoor activities, your family will want to make this day trip an annual tradition! No day trips from Kansas City list would be complete without Smithville Lake!

A woman paddling at sunset on Smithville Lake

Excelsior Springs, Missouri 

Excelsior Springs, Missouri is half an hour north of Kansas City. This town grew in popularity in the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s due to its natural spring that was said to cure people of illness. Lots of sick people flocked to this town to seek this natural remedy. This boom allowed the town to build beautiful structures such as the Hall of Waters and the romantic Elms Hotel and Spa. Downtown Excelsior Springs has cute shops, a museum, and eateries.

People flocked to Excelsior Spring for healing, and many of them died. The Elms Hotel offers nightly paranormal tours and Excelsior Springs offers more extensive paranormal tours throughout the town. While Excelsior Springs is a great place to visit at any age, I think the paranormal aspects, the ambiance of the Elms, and downtown vibe makes it best suited for couples or a friend’s trip to add to your day trips from Kansas City list.

the front of the Elms Hotel

Olathe, Kansas

Whenever I tell people I think Olathe, Kansas is one of the coolest places in the metro they are usually surprised, but Olathe has a lot to offer.

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site, a living history museum, offers a fascinating glimpse into life in the 19th century, complete with stagecoach rides, blacksmith demonstrations, and hands-on activities for the whole family. Learn about Olathe’s role as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail and gain insight into the daily lives of early pioneers.

For nature enthusiasts, Olathe offers several parks and outdoor spaces perfect for a leisurely afternoon. Visit Ernie Miller Nature Center to explore hiking trails, discover local wildlife, and participate in educational programs and nature-themed events. (Don’t miss the geocache in the Nature Center.) There are multiple trails around the Nature Center of varying distances, making it a great place to hike for any skill level. 

A woman hiking at Ernie Miller Nature Center with a baby on her bike

If you’re in the mood for some outdoor recreation, check out Lake Olathe. This scenic lake features hiking trails, and fishing spots, as well as playgrounds and picnic areas. The marina rents out kayaks and paddleboards, has a swim beach, and a giant inflatable playground on the water. 

Lake Olathe has a beach, marina, nature playground, self-service kayak rentals, fishing, boating, and disc golf. The Lake Olathe Splash Pad is one of the coolest water areas in the metro and it is free to the public. There is a waterfall at the top of the hill, with a man-made creek winding through the park. The sprayground fountains are a fun place for the kids to play, but my kids always love the sandpit at the bottom of the hill the best. 

Kids swimming in front of a waterfall

Olathe has two of my favorite waterfalls in the Kansas City Metro: Cedar Lake Falls and Cedar Creek Falls. A trail is currently being built to connect these two falls, but until then they are both still a little tricky to find. You can find instructions on how to find them in my “6 Best Waterfalls in and Around Kansas City post. 

Before you head home, get dinner at Strips Chicken (delicious local fast food), Vader’s Bar and Grill, or Red Crow Brewing Company. All of these places have fantastic gluten free options as well. Olathe is one of my favorite day trips from Kansas City destinations.

A burger and fries from Red Crow Brewing Co in Olathe

About an hour from Kansas City

Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas is the perfect day trip destination for anyone looking for outdoor adventures, cute shops and eateries, and small town charm. Begin your trip exploring Massetchusets Street (or “Mass Street”) by grabbing a coffee and checking out outdoor equipment at Great Blue Heron Outdoors. Next, immerse yourself in the local shopping scene.

Head over to Brits and Au Marche for a fantastic array of gifts and European food items that are sure to delight. For families, The Toy Store is a must-visit. With a three-story layout packed with toys, games, and more, it’s a paradise for kids and adults alike. 

A little boy playing in an old time kitchen at the Watkins Museum in Lawrence, Kansas

Next explore the Watkins Museum, where you can explore fascinating exhibits and kids can play in the adorable playhouse on the third floor. For art enthusiasts, The Art Collective is a hidden gem, showcasing beautiful artworks and offering classes for those looking to unleash their creative side. Wrap up your time on Mass Street by eating at one of the amazing restaurants and exploring South. 

If you like outdoor adventures, be sure to check out Clinton Lake State Park. There are hiking and backpacking trails, a marina, cabins and camping. Or if birding is your thing, head over to Baker Wetlands. Explore the prairies, boardwalk, nature center, and observation spots. Any day trips from Kansas City list wouldn’t be complete without Lawrence, Kansas.

A girl looking at the sunset at Baker Wetlands in Lawrence, Kansas

Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path day trips from Kansas City, then head to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a 1.5-hour drive from KC north toward Omaha. From the 10-mile auto loop you can view hundreds of species of birds. It’s also a great spot to view nesting eagles in the winter. There are multiple places where you can get out and look at the birds.

One of the main attractions of Loess Bluffs is its impressive bird population, especially during peak migration seasons in the spring and fall. You can see the sky filled with up to 400,000 snow geese and 100,000 ducks as they make their annual journey. There are birds for viewing year around, not just peak migration seasons. During the winter months, the refuge becomes a prime spot for viewing nesting bald eagles, adding another layer of excitement to your visit.

Across the street from the autoloop, there is a Visitor’s Center and hiking trails. I recommend the 1-mile Loess Bluffs hike. It will take you along these low stooped hills called the Loess Hills. This geological phenomenon is created by silt and clay blowing across plains overtime. There are only two loess hills of this size in the world, Western Iowa and Northwestern Missouri and China. Did you expect these day trips from Kansas City to be so unique?

Two girls hiking at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge

Watkins C Ranch, Leavenworth, Kansas

Horseback riding and glamping less than an hour from Kansas City! 

Watkins C Ranch is a family-owned ranch outside of Leavenworth, Kansas. A one-hour trail ride takes you through scenic woods, pastures, and even past grazing cows. The ranch is beautiful year-around, but in the fall Leavenworth comes alive with stunning autumn colors. 

Accommodations at the ranch include charming glamping tents equipped with air mattresses or cots and adorned with cozy decor. While the facilities currently feature portapotties, there are plans in the works to introduce A-Frame houses with heating and cooling options next year. For those looking to elevate their experience, you can opt for additional meal services and have breakfast and dinner cooked for you during your stay.

If you’d like to learn more about Watkins C Ranch or other unique places in Kansas, check out Kansas Hidden Gems

two girls riding on horses near Leavenworth, Kansas

About two hours away from Kansas City

Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City, Nebraska

If you’re looking for a relaxing and unique family fun destination, Arbor Day Farm is the perfect place! The Tree Adventure is a series of treehouses connected by nets. It is such a cool and unique place for kids to play! My kids loved chasing each other, exploring, the view from the look out and the slides. When you go to the Tree Adventure, there are also other fun activities like an outdoor play area where kids can connect with nature, a zip line, and scavenger hunt.

A girl running in the treetop village at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City

If you’d like to stay for longer than a day, you can stay at the relaxing Arbor Day Lodge. The hotel is beautiful with tall ceilings, wooden pillars, a great swimming pool, and it is adorned with nature quotes, which I loved!

Be sure to stop at Timbers for what feels like an upscale dining experience that is family friendly.  We were completely blown away by how good everything was. My husband got a steak, and I got shrimp risotto (gluten free!). Our kids munched on pizza and burgers. Or if you’re looking for something a little faster and more casual, Porter’s is next to the Tree Adventure and offers BBQ and homemade apple pie. This is one of my kids’ favorite day trips from Kansas City.

Treehouses at the Treetop Village at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City

Columbia, Missouri

Columbia, Missouri is one of my favorite places to escape for outdoor adventure. Each of these parks could be a day trip, or you could plan to do them all and stay for a weekend. At Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, you’ll discover the iconic rock formations and natural wonders that give the park its name. Wander along scenic trails that lead you through caves, across bridges, and beneath towering limestone bluffs.

Don’t miss the famous Rock Bridge, a natural rock formation that arches over a serene stream, offering a picture-perfect spot for photos or the Devil’s Icebox, a cool (literally and figuratively) cave. In the back of the Devil’s Icebox, you’ll find Connor’s Cave, an interesting place to explore, but bring a flashlight and a helmet. 

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park rock bridge

Next, head to Pinnacles Youth Park, a hidden gem known for its rugged terrain and stunning views. Challenge yourself with a hike up to the highest point in Boone County, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. The park’s unique rock formations are unlike anything else I have seen in Missouri, but note that this trail has steep drops, places where you have to scramble across rocks, and isn’t marked well. I don’t recommend this trail for families with kids 10 and under. 

Finger Lakes Missouri State Park is a picturesque park featuring a series of old mines that have been filled in with water to create a series of small lakes. This is the perfect spot for fishing, boating, and swimming. Whether you’re looking to hike, fish, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery, Finger Lakes Missouri State Park offers a peaceful retreat to end your day on a high note. If you’re looking for day trips from Kansas City for outdoor lovers, then Columbia is it!

Devils Icebox at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Indian Cave State Park, Nebraska

Did you know there is a prehistoric cave with petroglyphs just 2 hours from Kansas City and 1.5 hours from Omaha? Indian Cave State Park is a hidden gem nestled along the Missouri River in southeastern Nebraska is one of my favorite day trips from Kansas City. Spanning over 3,000 acres, this picturesque park offers a blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and cultural history. 

The park’s name is derived from the Native American petroglyphs and artifacts that have been discovered within its limestone caves and cliffs, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the region’s ancient past. Unfortunately, the cave has been vandalized, and now you can only view a few of the petroglyphs that are higher up. The path to the cave is short and accessible.

The Indian Cave at Indian Cave State Park

Indian Cave State Park has over 22 miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through dense woodlands, rugged cliffs, and scenic overlooks, offering breathtaking views of the Missouri River valley below. Additionally, the park’s proximity to the river provides opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife watching. Visitors can also enjoy picnicking, and even horseback riding within the park’s boundaries. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves change. 

There are designated backpacking areas within the park where you can hike in and camp. There is also a great camping area. If you’d like to learn more about Indian Cave State Park’s camping amenities or other campgrounds near Kansas City, check out the 10 Best Places to Camp near Kansas City.  If you’re looking for day trips from Kansas City for hikers or history lovers, then Indian Cave State Park should be your next stop.

Two women hiking at Indian Cave State Park up a hill

Plan a trip from Kansas City

There are a lot of great places nearby that make wonderful day trips from Kansas City. Local trips are a great way to explore without breaking the bank or having to take vacation time. I hope this inspires you to get out and explore these day trips from Kansas City! Which day trips from Kansas City will you do first?

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One Comment

  1. These are all great places with so much variety. I would love to visit Arbor Day farms.

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