As a Northlander, I’m proud of where I live and seek out opportunities to celebrate our wonderful communities.
But while working on the first update of the book Day Trips from Kansas City™ in a decade, I faced a conundrum. Is Parkville really a day trip from Kansas City? Is Liberty? Or Smithville?
The first Day Trips from Kansas City™ was created in 1980 by the late Shifra Stein. A single mom, Shifra didn’t have the resources to take her son on vacation, so each weekend, she pulled out a map of the two-state area. Drawing a big circle within a two-hour drive of their midtown home, he chose a place to explore.
That was the birth of Day Trips from Kansas City.™
When I met Shifra in 1995, she thought Day Trips needed some fresh energy, so asked me to update it as a ghostwriter. We had just finished the 15th edition when Shifra died in May 2008.
A few years later, I timidly updated Day Trips on my own but had full confidence that Shifra would return from the grave if she didn’t like my edits.
This, the 17th edition, is the first time I made any significant changes. I cut and re-arranged. I added Plattsburg, Gallatin and Hamilton. And LeCompton and Humbolt Kansas. And Warsaw and Osceola.
But I did not cut Parkville. Or Weston. Or Smithville. Or Liberty. I hope you agree with my choices and enjoy this preview. Day Trips from Kansas City™ is available now for preorder on Amazon and in local stores by June 1. Grab a copy and explore.
From Rocheport, MO
Lookout Farm: 13601 W. Highway BB; (573) 821-6699; lavenderlookout.com
One of just a handful of lavender farms in Missouri, this one comes with five varieties of lavender. Operated by sisters Kelly and Kimi, they encourage you to plan your visit in June because that's when the lavender is in bloom. Located on a bluff overlooking the lavender fields, this is a spectacular setting for Mother Nature to show off her good stuff. It's a great place for family or engagement photos.
From California, MO
Finke Opera House: 315 High St.; (573) 690-9363; finketheatre.com
Built in 1885, the Finke is one of several such buildings in Missouri designed by J.B. Leff, a well-known St. Louis architect of the time. Like most old buildings in small towns, it went from elaborate opera and vaudeville performances to movie theater and then decay as it was boarded up in the early 1980s. But locals banded together to save many of California's old buildings. Now the 275-seat theatre is once again filled with an enthusiastic audience for community theatre, musical performances and special events.
From Knob Noster, MO
The Silos at Prairie Vale Farm: 29300 MO-127; (573) 280-3947; thesilosatprairievale.com
Located just south and halfway between Knob Noster and Sedalia is an opportunity to spend the night in a grain silo. Wendy and Doug Needy own Prairie Vale Farm, which is home to a wide variety of farm animals, eight grain silos and four teenage daughters who were frustrated because each didn't have their own room. So they turned one of the grain silos into a bedroom for her, complete with a kitchen, bath and air conditioning. After the daughters went to college, Doug and Wendy converted another grain silo to a somewhat ritzier experience, added fire rings, yard games and a hammock outside, and opened this unusual bed and breakfast.
From Council Grove, KS
Alexander Artworks: 923 W. Main St.; (620) 767-5153; a2wks.com
From delicate stained glass to rugged steel signs and life-size silhouettes, Bob and Christy Alexander are bringing a fresh approach to creativity and entrepreneurship to central Kansas. In addition to creating some cool items for sale in their retail shop, they also teach stained glass and metal art classes. If you're looking for the best cup of coffee in Council Grove, word is it’s available inside the Watts Coffee Co.
From Cottonwood Falls, KS
Chef Stan's Place or The Little Restaurant on the Prairie: 225 Church St.; Strong City; (213) 400-4559
Located in an old one-room schoolhouse/church, built in 1905, Chef Stan Lerner has turned this very simple location into the most adorable little restaurant. He's known for his Mediterranean-style quiche, soups and salads, but he also has a pulled chicken sandwich and egg salad sandwich served on prairie bread that's quite interesting. Ask about the history of magic cookie bars. And try the lemon tarts. You’ll thank me.