Walking Downtown OP


Article by Julie Burton

Photography by Julie Burton

The sweet spot will be here soon. You know the sweet spot. It's the perfect weather in Kansas City. Cooler air, warm sunshine, and the city explodes in color. You can’t help but go outdoors.

And you should go outdoors because as pop culture says, “winter is coming.”

There’s one neighborhood that’s becoming the jewel of KC. Take a walk through Downtown Overland Park and see why this old neighborhood is exploding its own colors.

Saturdays are the most popular days in Downtown Overland Park. If you decide to walk around Downtown OP on a Saturday, the biggest attraction is the Overland Park Farmers Market. The location has moved its original location at 80th and Marty to the parking lot at the Matt Ross Community Center so that the market can operate with social distancing.

Downtown Overland Park has shopping (bring a mask!), and restaurants (bring a mask there, too!) and little charms you'll find when taking it in on foot. The best part? Downtown Overland Park is filled with small business owners. There are very few “chain” stores or restaurants.

Pick your starting point, wear good shoes, and keep an eye out for these landmarks in the heart of Overland Park.

The Rio Theatre

80th and Floyd

The Historic Overland Theater was built in 1946. At the time, the sidewalks along 80th Street were made of wood. The price of tickets was 20 cents for children and 50 cents for adults.

What’s amazing about this old theatre is it still looks the same as it did in 1946. There have been some renovations through the years but the original appearance remains intact.

In 1988, the city purchased the building to ensure its history was preserved. The name was changed to The Rio Theatre in 2000. It operates as a vintage single-screen theater showing independent films and documentaries. The theatre is temporarily closed but exterior of the building is a good example of Art Deco design, featuring glass block, porthole windows, geometric tile, curved walls, tubular steel decoration, and mirrored columns.

The Santa Fe Trail marker

80th and Santa Fe Drive

The historic Santa Fe and Oregon-California Trails are one of the most historic places in Johnson County. There is little physical evidence of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who crossed the area but monuments and signs still mark these historic routes.

In 1902, the Kansas Daughters of the American Revolution began a campaign to place markers along the Santa Fe Trail in the state of Kansas. It was the first state to begin a campaign to mark the Santa Fe Trail. The Daughters used red granite boulders of varying sizes for the markers. By 1906, the Daughters raised enough money for 86 markers to be place through Kansas.  

One of those markers sits in the center of Downtown Overland Park. This marker is the first of five Santa Fe markers placed in Johnson County, Kansas.

Strang Carriage House

Thompson Park

William B. Strang, Jr. is the founder of Overland Park. He purchased 600 acres of land in 1905 and developed the Strang Railroad Line, an electric interurban railroad, which become the center hub of Overland Park. The Strang Railroad railroad provided convenient travel between downtown Kansas City and the suburbs. There is a bronze statue of Strang near 80th and Foster Street.

The Carriage House was built to house carriages, automobiles, and a residence for Strang's personal driver. After Strang Line Railroad discontinued service in 1940, the Carriage House sat vacant for several decades until the city bought the property in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the building was renovated to serve as the office for the Overland Park Historical Society. The building has original external features, including most of the original clay tile roof. All the large exterior doors are original. The windows have been replaced, but still match the original appearance.

Another note about this area of Downtown Overland Park -- Thompson Park was once an airfield.

Your IG photo feed's dream

Various buildings

We live in an era where (almost) everyone has a camera in their hands. Our lives are documented all over the Internet. And, for some, it’s a fun-filled life with beautiful filters. Murals, doors, old buildings are in hot demand and Downtown Overland Park is a good little nook for selfie-takers.

Strang Hall

80th and Marty

Think chef-driven food court but it's anything but a food court-food court. Strang Hall has a little something for everyone with its four kitchens: Anousone (southeast Asian), Fenix (tacos reborn), Norcini (craft pizza and sandwiches) and Solstice (seasonally fresh). The Strang Bar features cocktails, wine, and beer from around the world. The bar is open to the outdoors and this spot is what may grab your attention on your walk through Downtown Overland Park.

The Strang Hall lawn is loaded with yard games, artificial turf, plenty of seating and a tower of stairs for kids to climb. Strang Hall is new in 2020 and it's in the center of the Edison District, a space 100,000 square feet for offices.

While you’re bellied up to the bar after a long walk, don’t forget to drink a toast to William B. Strang, Jr. Downtown Overland Park wouldn't exist without him.

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