Three Charming Towns North of the River

One of the things I like most about living in Kansas City is the variety of places and activities that families can experience. There is always something going on, it doesn’t matter the season. If you are looking for an indoor place, a nature encounter, local wine, or even local restaurants, Kansas City has it all.

Within approximately a 30-minute drive of the Kansas City metro area, there are three small cities north of the river with a lot of charm and lots of family fun, perfect for a day trip or even a weekend getaway. Our family lives in the Northland, and we have explored some of the great places these cities have to offer, and we want to share them with you.


Let’s start with Kearney, this city is known in American history and folklore by being the birthplace of Jesse James. His grave, and what was his house, have many visitors all year long. But there is so much more in Kearney for families to enjoy.

One of my favorite pumpkin patches is located here, at The Fun Farm. This place has 300 acres of outdoor fun. It has multiple playgrounds, a petting zoo, carrousel, giant slide, and the list goes on.

More than just a place to visit, this is what I would call an experience, there is so much to do and see that you can easily spend all day here. Throughout the year it also has a few festivals. Our family favorite is the fall festival, come pick a pumpkin in the patch, get lost in the corn maze, play in the corn pit, and taste delicious seasonal treats.

Recently, our family also went to the strawberry festival, and we had the best time. We picked a bunch of delicious strawberries, and then went off to enjoy the rest of the activities. That day, I tried a strawberry doughnut that was amazing, one of the best doughnuts I have had, so make sure you try one when you are there.

When spring arrives, the farm has its tulip festival, and then in late August is time for the Blooms, Butterflies and Bubbles festival. 

Before going, here are some mom tips, check the website for hours and availability of crops. Buy your ticket in advance to save some money, dress comfy, take your sunblock, water, and enjoy.

East of Kearney is Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site. Start your visit at the site visitors center and museum, where you can see and learn a little more about this landmark.

Then, take the guided tour of the Watkins Woolen Mill and the Watkins house. This tour will take you back in time as you explore and learn about how this family lived and conducted business in the 19th century. The guided tours are available for a small fee, and hours can change with seasons, check the website, or call in advance. 

Excelsior SpringsGirl in blue sundress, standing in field.

Excelsior Springs is another gem of the area that we have been visiting more lately. This city got its name because of the variety of mineral water springs that were thought to have healing powers. 

A staple of Excelsior Springs is the Elms Hotel and Spa, it is a stunning property with history dating to 1888. Even if you are not staying you can still visit the grounds, learn about the property’s early years, or have a great lunch or dinner. 

Another popular place is the Wabash BBQ, we visited it not too long ago and we enjoyed it very much. The restaurant’s specialties are smoked meats, and the award-winning ribs and chicken. This restaurant is in the historic Wabash passenger waiting room of the old train depot. The food is great, the atmosphere is casual and friendly, the full rack of ribs can feed a family of four, and it has a kids menu. 

Four Horses And A Dog Vineyard and Winery is another recent discovery of our family. This vineyard is a great place to taste wine and enjoy beautiful scenery. On weekends, it has live music, weather permitting, and it is kid friendly. It specializes in in semi-dry to dry wines, but it also has sweet offerings, and for the non-wine drinkers, like my husband, the winery also serves beer. 

WestonCreek at park in Weston, Mo., north of the river.

Weston is another favorite in our house, and we visit it often. One of my favorite things to do in Weston is to attend the well-known Applefest. This is a two-day festival during the month of October. A parade, food vendors, and kid-friendly activities are some of the many things you can enjoy at this fall festival.

One thing you cannot miss when going to Applefest, is the famous apple dumplings, sold by one of the local churches. Add a scoop of ice-cream to your dumpling, and will you enjoy one amazing dessert.

The Holladay Distillery is another fun experience in Weston. The history of this distillery dates to 1856 when the Holladay brothers founded it. When you tour the property, you can see the giant bond houses to age the whiskey, learn the process of making it, and taste the products. The distillery is on beautiful grounds, which are perfect to sit and enjoy a drink. Book your tour ahead, and take into consideration that it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays, and the tour lasts approximately 90 minutes.

You can choose to explore one city at a time or, since the proximity between them is relatively short, you can start in one place and finish at another. My recommendation is to start your day early, plan and visit as many places as you can, and always come back. It is amazing to travel around the nation and the world, but there is something special about exploring your own city and state. 

Yani Vazquez Cruz
Hola! My name is Yani Vazquez-Cruz I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I moved to Kansas City 10 years ago and now I live in the Northland with my husband Jerry and my 6 year old daughter, Isabella. I have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and I received my undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Puerto Rico. Currently I work for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Membership Services. My family and I love to travel and explore new places. Other things I enjoy are coffee, reading, baking, puzzles, Legos and writing. But there’s nothing I enjoy more than being Isabella’s momma and snuggling with her any opportunity I get.