KC Destinations Trips: History Edition

by Sarah Ruhlman

Whether you’ve just moved to Kansas City or have lived here your whole life, there’s always something new to do. KC Destinations can help you. It’s an organization made up of cities in the Kansas City Metro region that encourages people to travel beyond the usual city attractions and visit smaller communities. I got the chance to discover some hidden treasures around Kansas City using their new passport program.

The KC Trips Digital Passport Program gives you a chance to earn virtual stamps by visiting hidden gems around the area. I went to each location, answered quick multiple-choice questions on our phones, and earned badges. After collecting five badges for each trip, we received a prize! The adventure began with the Kansas City History Trip, which spans from Leavenworth to Gardner.

C.W. Parker Carousel Museum

Have you ever wanted to ride a 106-year-old carousel? Because you totally can! The C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth is home to three historically registered carousels: The Liberty Carousel, Primitive Carousel, and 1913 Carousel. This non-profit organization opened in 2005 and is run by volunteers and supported by donations from the community. After riding the carousel, I also saw several vintage pianos and organs that the museum has. If you’re looking for a unique trip in KC, definitely visit this Carousel Museum!

website|320 S. Esplanade, Leavenworth, KS 66048

National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame

The next stop was The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame. It was chartered in 1960 by Dwight D. Eisenhower and was founded to show the significance of American agriculture in both history and present day. You can explore several buildings including the Agriculture Hall of Fame, the Museum of Farming, the National Farmer’s Memorial, and Farm Town U.S.A.

In the main building, I found a gallery with artifacts like President Harry S. Truman’s plow, a horse-drawn mail wagon, and a 1903 dart truck. It was fun getting to explore Farm Town U.S.A. which has an old blacksmith shop, schoolroom, and other things you’d find in a historical KC town. This museum had so much to see!

website |630 Hall of Fame Drive, Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012

Lansing Historical Museum

I got a little taste of Lansing at the Lansing Historical Museum. The museum was created after restoring the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe depot built in Lansing in 1887. As I walked through the museum I saw artifacts from the Santa Fe Railroad, Kansas State Penitentiary, and local schools. In the West Room, the exhibits change throughout the year so there’s always something new to see. This was a great museum to learn about Lansing’s rich history- and it’s free!

website | 115 East Kansas Avenue, Lansing, Kansas 66043

Gardner Junction Park

Gardner Junction Park was the next stop on my tour. This park is the site of three historic trails in Kansas: the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. We couldn’t help but notice there were also a ton of wildflowers and native grasses that made this place beautiful.

These plants will be sure to transport you to the prairies of the 1800s. As I walked around the park, I browsed information panels that talked about the things to see and major points of interest along the National Historic Trails. It was great to see the history, people, and the importance of Kansas City.

website | 32505 W 183rd St, Gardner, KS 66030

Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point

Lewis and Clark Park is a great place to take a break from the city. Sitting in the park, I could see the Kansas City, Missouri skyline. It’s pretty cool to stand in the same spot as famous explorers. I got to spend my whole day hiking, biking and enjoying the fresh air. At this lovely park, you can also fish along the Missouri River.

website | One River City Drive, Kansas City, KS 66101

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm

If you are looking for a fun, family-friendly day trip, Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm should be at the top of your list. As I wandered around, I noticed there were so many things to do that were fun, interactive, and educational. The staff is so nice and was ready to answer any questions I had. The blacksmith was at work, showing us everything he did, and even taught us how to brand a cow (a wooden cow that is).

Over in the barn, there was lots of livestock, including: horses, goats, pigs, cattle, and chickens! And since I asked nicely, the staff even brought a chicken out for me to pet! At Mahaffie’s, there are two stagecoaches (one vintage and one replica) that are pulled by the horses.

website | 1200 East Kansas City Road, Olathe, KS 66061

Lenexa Historical Museum at Legler Barn & Park

I also got a taste of Lenexa from walking around the Legler Barn and Park. The Lenexa Historical Society made it their mission to keep this barn intact for a place to gather artifacts and continue research on the life of early Lenexa life. The limestone barn is full of artifacts and often have reenactors of 1800’s Kansans.

After touring the barn I went outside and saw a beautiful park with an amazing atmosphere. Sar-Ko-Par Park has a lovely gazebo and a large statue in the middle of the pond with a stone walkway peeking out of the water. I truly enjoyed learning a little about Lenexa at this museum and park.

website | 14907 West 87th Street Parkway, Lenexa, Kansas

Merriam Historic Plaza

As I entered the city of Merriam, I was greeted by a beautiful building with an amazing fountain display. This site is the Merriam Historic Plaza and Visitors Bureau, where I got to learn all about the beginnings of Merriam. I also enjoyed walking through the twelve history stations, each one with trivia and facts about the city and its people.

The fountain was gorgeous, and it featured a mother bear and her two cubs catching fish and playing in the water. For a taste of Merriam, visit the Historic Plaza.

website | 6304 E. Frontage Road, Merriam, KS 66202

Shawnee Town

Step back in time at Shawnee Town! Here, I got a total look into what it was like when Old Shawnee was the only Shawnee. I explored a barber shop, typewriter repair store, funeral home, and an old grocery store featuring brands we know today in vintage, original packaging.

My favorite part of Shawnee was a beautiful tiny garden. With nameplates for every plant, it was perfect for my plant-loving self. This cute little area is close to Family Tree Nursery and would be a great side outing for the whole family.  

website | 11501 W 57th Street, Shawnee, KS 66203

TWA Museum

If you’ve ever had a dream of being a pilot, The Trans World Airlines Museum is for you! This building and hangar are dedicated to all things airplanes: from seats, to uniforms, to scale models. I also got to fly a plane in a simulator (I didn’t do too well) and learn all about the history of Trans World Airlines.

This KC museum is also home to several rooms that are decorated with actual airport seats, vintage maps, and real cockpits. Make sure to ask a volunteer to give you a tour of the special rooms at TWA Museum – they’re the best part!

website | 10 Richards Rd #110, Kansas City, MO 64116


After traveling through time during my KC History Trip I couldn’t feel more connected to the Kansas community. It was pretty great riding the 106-year-old carousel, looking at livestock at the Mahaffie Farm and enjoying peaceful walks down trails at Lewis and Clark Park and Grand Junction Park.

People of all ages will enjoy going on what feels like a treasure hunt and a history lesson all wrapped into one. The KC Destination Trips are the perfect summer experience!

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