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Get Outdoors and Explore

Exploring Nature in Kansas City

A view of the sunset in the Flint Hills of Kansas just outside of Alma, Kansas

Fall is a special time in the Midwest. From fiery autumn sunsets in the Flint Hills of Kansas, to golden fields of sunflowers, to crisp red apples begging to be picked … you can enjoy the best of autumn with these local ideas!

Tall Grasses of Kansas

Autumn in Kansas means beautiful tall prairie grasses glistening in the sun. Visit the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Kansas where the motto is “Tall in the Fall”—the grasses reach their maximum heights in September and October. The preserve is home to nearly 11,000 acres of wide open spaces where tall grass, wildflowers, wildlife and bison live. The scenic vistas overlook a historic ranch and one-room school with limestone buildings. Visitors are invited to hike or bike ride through the prairie. This national preserve is considered the jewel of the Kansas Flint Hills. Plan your visit with tips at NPS.gov/tapr/planyourvisit/index.htm.

Orchards and Overlooks in Weston, MO

Weston is a favorite fall day trip destination. We love visiting the Weston Orchard & Vineyard (OrchardWeston.com) for fall apple and pumpkin picking. The farm offers hayrides, jumping pillows, a zipline and beautiful views of the rolling hills of Weston. In addition to the orchard, Weston visitors enjoy exploring historic Main Street, home to many quaint boutiques and restaurants. The Weston Bend State Park nearby features paved trails for biking or hiking and is also a great place for a fall family campout. The trails lead to an overlook with views of the Missouri River, or you can head to the old Tobacco Barn where you’ll see a bit of local history.

Early Autumn Sunflowers

Take a signature fall family photo at a local sunflower field. Two of Kansas’ most loved sunflower farms are Grinter’s Farm (24154 Stillwell Rd., Lawrence) and Berry Hill UPick Farm Sunflowers (5950 Southeast Croco Rd., Berryton, KS). Both farms update fans with their blooming status on Facebook. If you visit Grinter’s in Lawrence, spend some time at Prairie Park Nature Center. Enjoy hands-on nature exhibits for kids and scenic nature trails. Berryton’s is near Topeka, where kids love visiting the Kansas Discovery Center, one of the best hands-on children’s museums in the region, and the Topeka zoo, where feeding giraffes is a favorite activity.

Hand Picked Vegetables, Apples and Pumpkins

Johnson’s Farm (JohnsonFarms.net) in Belton is one of our favorite local pumpkin patches and family farms. In the fall, families enjoy picking apples and fresh vegetables, in addition to visiting the pumpkin patch. The farm features beautiful multicolored sunflowers, a wide range of fall produce you can pick from the garden (including peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, squash, zucchini and more) and their famous mums. Johnson’s Farm is a fantastic fall destination for all your landscaping and produce needs, in addition to being one of the most fun pumpkin patches in the area.

Fresh Apple Cider

The Louisburg Cider Mill (LouisburgCiderMill.com) is the quintessential fall destination. Apple cider is processed at the mill, where visitors are invited to watch the process firsthand. (A glass viewing area protects the cider press.) Watching the making of cider donuts is another mouthwatering experience. The mill is also home to a country store that sells a variety of tasty treats and decorative items. Adjacent to the mill and store you’ll find the family farm and pumpkin patch where visitors enjoy hayrides and fall family fun.

Try a New Trail

Kansas City boasts many beautiful trails for fall hiking. A few of our favorites:

  • Parkville Nature Sanctuary (100-198 E. 12 th St., Parkville). This wooded trail leads to a beautiful waterfall.
  • Black Hoof Park (9053 Monticello Rd., Lenexa). This paved trail goes around Lenexa Lake and over the beautiful Lenexa Lake Dam with it’s beautiful cascading layers of water. The scenic trail winds through woods and around the lake.
  • Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit (1501 NE Legacy Park Dr., Lee’s Summit). The park features paved trails through woods and around a pond.
  • Indian Creek Trail. The 26-mile trail heads are at Blue River Greenway Trail just south of East Bannister Road (Kansas City, MO) and Hampton Park at South Warwick Street. (Olathe). The paved trail is one of the most popular walking and biking trails in the metro. It crosses creeks, urban areas, and goes through wooded terrain.
  • Berkley Riverfront Park (1892 River Front Dr., Kansas City, MO). Enjoy amazing views of Downtown Kansas City, as well as the architecture of the downtown bridges and the mighty Missouri River. You may rent bikes on this trail.
  • Shawnee Mission Park (7900 Renner Rd., Shawnee). The park is home to a variety of nature trails. You can explore woods, prairie and the lake on foot or on a bike.
  • Blue River Greenway Trail (East Red Bridge Road & Blue River Road). The paved trail is ideal for walking, biking and even wheelchairs. Explorers will find love locks on the Old Red Bridge, historic ruins, the Alex George Lake and, of course, the Little Blue River.
  • Burr Oak Woods Nature Center Trails (1401 NW Park Rd., Blue Springs). You’ll find paved and unpaved trails for walking and hiking. The main trail around the center also features the Discover Nature Classroom for kids.
  • Carl Chinnery Trail at Unity Village (1901 NW Blue Pkwy., Unity Village, MO). This 2.6-mile gravel trail features a natural bridge and leads to Unity Lake and Little Cedar Creek.
  • Jerry Smith Conservation Area Trail (139 th & Prospect Avenue, Kansas City, MO). The beautiful trail (fairly even but mostly gravel, not smooth for wheels) goes through the prairies of Missouri.
  • Loose Park (5200 Wornall Rd., Kansas City, MO). The park, rightfully dubbed the Jewel of Kansas City, is home to a spectacular rose garden, lovely duck pond and beautiful paved trails for a stroll through the city’s prettiest urban park.
  • Longview Lake Trails (9898 Longview Rd., Kansas City, MO). If you park at Shelter 14 (near the marina), you can rent bikes from BikeKC. The view around the lake is beautiful, and the kids enjoy going through the tunnel and in the woods.
  • Rock Island Trail. There are two official trailheads: 98 th Street (12600 E. 98 th St., Kansas City, MO) and Hartman Park (700 SW Pryor Rd., Lee’s Summit). The trail is fairly smooth and covered in chat gravel, making it ideal for walking and biking. A favorite spot on the trail is the Vale Tunnel (a former railroad tunnel) that is closest to the 98th Street trailhead.

Kristina Light loves fall most of all and looks forward to apples, pumpkins and trail time with her daughters.

Fall is a special time in the Midwest. From fiery autumn sunsets in the Flint Hills of Kansas, to golden fields of sunflowers, to crisp red apples begging to be picked … you can enjoy the best of autumn with these local ideas!

Kc star outdoors

Travel along the totally free 2.2-mile KC Streetcar line to discover some of Downtown KC’s most vibrant districts. The route includes 16 stops throughout the Crossroads Arts District, Power & Light District and River Market, each as interesting and diverse as the last.

Boulevard Brewing Company

Pilsen Photo Co-op

This 40-minute tour, free on Wednesdays, explores the unique history, brewing process and business approach to Kansas City’s favorite beer. The tour ends in the brewery’s tasting room, where visitors can sample a select variety of Boulevard brews.

Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center

Named in honor of local political and social activist Bruce R. Watkins, the center recognizes the vast contributions African-Americans made to the cultural development of Kansas City. Exhibits, displays, classes and stage performances provide an entertaining and educational experience for visitors.

Children’s Peace Pavilion

Located in Independence, MO, this hands-on museum is an interactive way to teach children the concepts of peace. More than 25 child-centered learning activities encourage children to implement conflict resolution, communication and stewardship skills into their everyday lives.

The City Market

Located in Kansas City’s historic River Market, this farmers’ market is the largest in the region with an annual attendance topping more than 1.3 million people. The River Market also boasts a wide variety of unique gift shops and restaurants.

Crown Center

A Downtown favorite, this entertainment district offers something for everyone. Experience great dining, restaurants and attractions, or simply relax outside while watching the beautiful fountains. For a budget-friendly option, check out the free outdoor movies and live music during the summer or the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in December.

Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead

This family-friendly attraction is a great place to see and feed an array of barnyard and local animals. The farmstead, designed to model a traditional Kansas family farm, features hundreds of animals, a fishing pond and pony rides. Admission is free from 2 p.m. to close, Monday through Thursday, and every day for children under 2.

Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Money Museum

The Money Museum’s interactive exhibits teach visitors about the Federal Reserve’s role within the economy. Visitors can also see the region’s largest cash vault, lift a 27-pound gold bar and view President Harry S. Truman’s extensive coin collection. Bonus: all visitors leave with a bag of shredded currency.

First Fridays

Pilsen Photo Co-op

The Crossroads Art District comes alive the first Friday of each month as thousands gather for the art crawl that has quickly become a local and regional favorite. Live entertainment and a wide variety of sidewalk vendors and food trucks make First Fridays a vibrant display of Kansas City culture.

Fountains

Kansas City takes pride in being nicknamed the City of Fountains—and for good reason. More than 200 majestic fountains adorn the city, from quaint neighborhoods to major town landmarks. Be sure the visit the newly renovated J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain located at the Country Club Plaza for a look at one of the most popular fountains in the area.

Frontier Army Museum

This collection of historical artifacts pays tribute to the Frontier Army’s role in the exploration and expansion of the nation from 1804 to 1916. The museum also celebrates Fort Leavenworth’s history from 1827 to the present. The collection includes unique artifacts such as a 1790 prairie schooner and a JN4D aircraft, the type used by General Pershing in a 1917 conflict.

Hallmark Visitors Center

Located in Crown Center, the Hallmark Visitors Center honors the story of one of the world’s largest greeting card companies and one of Kansas City’s most celebrated businesses. The interactive exhibit allows visitors to follow Hallmark’s 100-year journey as well as observe different greeting card trends throughout the years. Visitors can even create their own star-shaped bow as a keepsake.

Haskell Indian Nations University Cultural Center & Museum

The Haskell Indian Nations University Cultural Center champions the achievements of the university, which first opened in 1884 as a boarding school in Lawrence, KS. The collection not only celebrates the history of Native education but the vast tribal history of the land as well.

Ernie Miller Nature Center

Bring your hiking gear out to Olathe for outdoor adventures at Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center, the perfect way to spend a day in Kansas City’s beautiful, natural environment. Explore educational exhibits, bird-watch with friends, trail-blaze through the environment and so much more.

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope is a free art studio that combines the creative genius of Hallmark with the magic of imagination to create a space for kids to express themselves. Independent art sessions allow children of all ages to create with bows, cardboard, melted crayons and more.

Kauffman Memorial Garden

A two-acre garden in the heart of the Kansas City, this garden is a part of the Kauffman Legacy Park. Kauffman Memorial boasts thousands of plants and several beautiful water features. Be sure to check out the secluded Secret Garden behind the conservatory.

Kansas City Public Library

Pilsen Photo Co-op

The historic Central branch of the Kansas City Public Library is a beloved treasure in town. Visitors can enjoy movies in the old bank’s vault, see a variety of exhibits, attend special events or simply settle in with a good read in the city’s largest collection of books. Be sure to snap a picture at the famous Community Bookshelf feature that runs along the south wall of the parking garage.

Lakeside Nature Center

Lakeside Nature Center, located in Swope Park, allows visitors to explore local wildlife and contribute to community conservation projects. The Nature Center is also one of Missouri’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Special events include nature story time, guided hikes and educational programs.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

A leader among modern art museums in the nation, Kemper Museum has tripled since its opening in 1994. The museum offers a growing permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, as well as free public programs. For a contemporary take on dining, be sure to check out Café Sabastienne.

21c Museum Hotel

Experience history and contemporary inside 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City. What was once the oldest hotel operating west of the Mississippi has been restored to house the nation’s largest, multi-venue contemporary art museum, complete with boutique hotel and The Savoy at 21c restaurant. Browse the halls of restored mosaic floors and plaster pillars while viewing curated exhibitions and site specific works, like the hotel’s signature Sky Blue penguins. As always, the galleries are free of charge and open to the public.

Legends Outlets

Take a break from shopping and discover where this popular entertainment district received its name. Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the tribute to more than 80 legendary Kansans from athletes such as Maurice Green and Tom Watson to pioneers such as Amelia Earhart and Russell Stover.

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Stroll through this 300-acre nature sanctuary in Overland Park for a wilderness retreat featuring eight natural ecosystems. Paved or woodchip pathway, the Arboretum is a picturesque example of Kansas City’s beauty. Free on Tuesdays and every day for visitors 5 years old and younger.

Legler Barn Museum

Originally built in 1864 along the Santa Fe Trail at the corner of 95 th & Quivira in Lenexa, KS, this stone barn now resides in Sar-Ko-Par Trail Park as a testament to Lenexa’s history. The Legler Barn Museum features many artifacts from the early prairie days to the expansion of Lenexa in the 20 th century.

Liberty Jail Historic Site

Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Liberty Jail Historic Site is a reconstruction of the original Clay County Jail on the same site of its initial location in Liberty, MO. The exhibit focuses on the LDS Church’s role in the social and religious history of the area.

Explore Union Station

While not every attraction inside Union Station is free to enjoy, simply exploring the historic halls of this architectural wonder is a joy unto itself.

Ride the KC Streetcar to its terminus and journey through this iconic piece of Kansas City culture.

Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary

Located in Liberty, the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary includes educational programs, live animal exhibits as well as multiple hiking trails. Try geocaching for an adventurous game during the hike.

Midwest Genealogy Center

From research databases to appointments with genealogists, head to Independence’s Midwest Genealogy Center to discover your family’s history at this free, essential public resource.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Home to more than 40,000 pieces of art, from ancient Chinese ceramics to modern art in the Bloch Building, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a world-class treasure located right in the heart of Kansas City. The ever-expanding collection makes The Nelson-Atkins unique each time visitors explore. Be sure to enjoy the shuttlecocks at the Sculpture Park on the south lawn.

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

A beautiful complement to the Johnson County Community College campus, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art is the largest contemporary art museum in the four-state region. The Nerman collection includes a combination of international, national and regional artwork.

Penguin Park

This Northland favorite is the perfect place to let children explore their wild side. The park features both a 26-foot kangaroo slide and 23-foot playable penguin that are perfect for an afternoon adventure in the park.

Public Cuppings at The Roasterie

Free public cuppings (coffee tastings) are held the first and third Thursday every month at The Roasterie Factory Cafe. Sample a wide variety of coffees from all across the world while dedicated staff guide you through your experience. RSVPs are required (maximum of eight people per cupping).

Shoal Creek Living History Museum

Nestled in Hodge Park, this 80-acre museum reflects life in a typical 19 th century village. The village includes 17 authentic log cabins and homes. Be sure to visit during special events, as the village comes to life with reenactors.

Popular Annual Events

Many of Kansas City’s most popular annual events are also free to attend. Whether in town for vacation or a local in search of something fun, check Visit KC’s calendar of events to find your next memorable adventure.

Budget-friendly free fun for Kansas City locals and visitors of all ages.