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Americans taking their first tentative steps away from home have different post-pandemic thresholds for adventure. While some travelers have their sights set on faraway destinations and are fearlessly boarding flights, many are seeking summer vacations that are closer to home. Whether you’re seeking adventures in your backyard, day trips from Kansas City, or road trip destinations a bit beyond that, these options have you covered.
Like the first buttercup and lavender crocuses peeking up from snow-covered fields in the spring, Americans are slowly emerging from months of stay-at-home orders imposed from coast to coast to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. And while they’re itching to cure their cabin fever, most Americans want to protect their loved ones from catching or spreading the virus.
So this summer, American vacationers are embracing:
- Day trips and destinations closer to home,
- RV rentals and road trips instead of flying,
- Tent camping and glamping or cabin and vacation home rentals over packed resorts and high density hotels, and
- Visits to national parks and other outdoor activities that accommodate social distancing.
If you plan to explore your own backyard, take day trips from Kansas City, or venture a little farther from the Barbeque Capital of the World, here are a few suggestions to seed your summer plans.
Walk on the Wild Side at the Kansas City Zoo
Visit lions and tigers and bears, oh my, at the newly reopened Kansas City Zoo. In order to follow national and local guidelines that encourage physical distancing and reduce high-touch areas, guests must reserve an entry time and follow one-way paths when they visit.
Take Time to Smell the Roses
About 30 minutes east of Kansas City, Powell Gardens recently reopened allowing visitors to see (and smell) what’s in bloom. Explore the 970-acre botanical garden to enjoy outdoor activities near Kansas City. On the Kansas side of the state line, the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens will reopen to members on June 10th.
Pro Tip: Whether it’s the zoo or one of Kansas City’s beautiful botanical gardens, be sure to pack plenty of your own water since fountains are considered high-touch and are currently unavailable.
Explore with a Walking Tour or Scavenger Hunt
Whether it’s close to home or far away, I love exploring with an interactive scavenger hunt. They are a fun way to get an overview of the history, culture, and landmarks of our destination, and my kids don’t even notice that they’re learning something! Explore the Crossroads Arts District and learn about the shell-shaped Kauffman Performing Arts Center and bell-topped Webster House or meander along Brush Creek taking in sculptures and keeping an eye out for a massive bronze spider.
History buffs will enjoy one of several historic walking tours available in Independence. The town’s most popular son, Harry S. Truman, loved a good walk, so start with the Truman Walking Tour that includes the Truman family home, the courthouse where he served as presiding judge, and other notable landmarks in the 33rd president’s life. Other walking/driving tours in the area include Civil War and African American historic sites.
Hike, Bike, or Watch for Wildlife in Kansas City’s Green Spaces
The Paris of the Plains is full of green spaces ready for hiking, biking, or wildlife viewing adventures. Travel across town to check out a new trail or park for a change of scenery.
Parks in the Northland
Day Trips from Kansas City
If you want to expand your travels beyond the Kansas City metropolitan area, here are a few recommendations that still have you back in your own bed at bedtime.
Visit a Midwestern College Town
They’re typically much quieter and less crowded in June and July when the college kids are home, and this year the local businesses can really use your support since most college students returned home two to three months early.
Staying in the Kansas City states of Kansas and Missouri, there are several day trips from Kansas City that feature college towns. Heading west of the metro area, visit Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, or travel a bit farther to Manhattan to explore Kansas State University. On the Missouri side, the University of Missouri in Columbia is about two hours east of Kansas City.
Pro Tip: If you are headed west to Lawrence or Manhattan, make a pit stop at Cause Coffee. This 100% volunteer-run coffee house in De Soto is dedicated to making a difference in the local and global community.
If you’ve decided to ground your air travel this summer, you can still soar high with record-breaking aviator Amelia Earhart. Visit her birthplace and childhood home overlooking the Missouri River in Atchison, about an hour north of Kansas City. From the International Forest of Friendship to riverfront parks, you’ll find plenty of places to get outdoors and further explore her hometown.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Perhaps best known for hosting our beloved Kansas City Chiefs during training camp each year, St. Joseph is about an hour due north of Kansas City. Spend a day touring the town that was the starting point of the Pony Express, the birthplace of hip hop star Eminem, and the death place of American outlaw Jesse James.
Also north of Kansas City, Weston is known for its wineries and distilleries. If you didn’t spend enough time day-drinking during quarantine, you can sip wine at the Pirtle Winery tasting room or the Weston Wine Company. If spirits are more your style, stop by the Holladay Distillery. And because nothing pairs with wine quite like cheese, wrap up your day in Weston at Green Dirt Farm.
Longer Road Trips from Kansas City
When you’re ready to spend the night away from home, these destinations are nice long weekend (or longer) road trips from Kansas City. Make getting there half the fun by adding in stops along the way, like roadside attractions, historical markers, and smaller towns between Kansas City and your final destination.
About five hours directly west of Kansas City along I-70, Hays is home to Fort Hays State University, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and a historic site that dates back to the Sunflower State’s frontier days.
Southwest of Kansas City, Wichita is the biggest city in the Sunflower State. When you visit the birthplace of Pizza Hut and the Air Capital of the World, about three hours from Kansas City, be sure to also check out the Sedgwick County Zoo, explore the Wichita botanical gardens, and watch the fire pits around the Keeper of the Plains light up as the sun goes down.
St. Louis, Missouri
About four hours east of Kansas City, St. Louis anchors Missouri’s eastern border with Illinois. Known for the 630-foot stainless steel Gateway Arch, St. Louis is second only to the nation’s capital when it comes to free attractions. Meet a Clydesdale and sample some beer at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery or enjoy a baseball game at Busch Stadium. (It’s okay if you wear a Royals t-shirt!)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
A great day trip from either Wichita, Oklahoma City, or Tulsa, Pawhuska is Pioneer Woman country. Visit Pawhuska to spend a delicious day eating, shopping, and exploring Ree Drummond’s stomping grounds.
Tulsa is Oklahoma’s second largest city. About four hours south of Kansas City, Tulsa is home to the Gathering Space, a 100-acre green space with gardens, trails, playgrounds, and boat rentals along the Arkansas River.
Although it’s known as the headquarters of the world’s biggest corporation, Bentonville is full of small town charm. Travel about three hours south of Kansas City to explore the works of art inside and sculpture gardens around the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Staying Safe on the Road After a Pandemic
Whether you choose to be a tourist in your hometown, take a day trip from Kansas City, or travel farther from the City of Fountains, consider these safety precautions.
Know Before You Go
Before you hit the road, be sure to check local advisories and contact attractions, parks, restaurants, and other stops on your itinerary. Travel restrictions, opening dates, and other policies in effect can vary by county, state, and city. Additionally, private businesses may have additional safeguards in place to protect their workers and customers.
Be Wise to Road Closures
AAA developed an interactive map that allows you to quickly identify travel restrictions and closures that might negatively impact your trip. You can also get up-to-date information on the number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the areas you plan to visit.
Ask About Cleaning Practices
For the past two months, we’ve been regularly washing our hands and sanitizing heavily trafficked areas to keep the coronavirus at bay. Before you hit the road, ask your accommodations about their cleaning practices.
If you plan to rent an RV, Outdoorsy is like Vrbo for recreational vehicles. Their website details the requirements RV and camper owners must follow between rentals. And, like many hotels, Hilton has a regularly updated page on their website that outlines the added steps they’re taking to keep guests safe.
Continue to be Vigilant
NOTE: This section is not medical advice, because I am not a healthcare professional. But these are the things I do to avoid getting sick when I travel, and I’ve linked my advice to authoritative sources and other helpful resources.
As you emerge from quarantine, continue to be vigilant. Be sure you have adequate masks on hand for each person in your party for the duration of your trip. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly, especially after you’ve opened doors, pushed elevator buttons, or handled money or credit cards.
Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and take your vitamins. When your body is well rested and running on premium fuel, it’s harder to be sidelined than when you’re worn down. Several recent articles have suggested a link between healthy levels of Vitamin D and a lower risk of COVID-19, so soak up some sun, swallow a supplement, and chow down on foods full of Vitamin D such as fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), dairy products (like milk, yogurt, and cheese), and egg yolks.
And, if you don’t feel well — especially if you are running a fever or have other coronavirus symptoms — stay at home!
What Are Your Plans to Ease Back into Travel?
Will you be traveling this summer? Where will you go? What will you do? What precautions are you taking to continue to prevent the spread of the coronavirus? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Ready to Go? Use These Helpful Links to Book Your Trip
- Find low fares and book your plane ticket with Skyscanner and Expedia.
- From hotels to private homes, find the perfect accommodation with Hotels.com or Vrbo.
- Don’t leave home without travel insurance from AXA.
- Need something else to plan your perfect trip? Visit my travel resources page for more trusted partners. Happy wandering!