What are the 'hidden gems' of Kansas City? This is what locals had to say
Want to discover something new in our region? Here are some of Kansas City's best-kept secrets, recommended by residents like you.
This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.
KCUR recently asked Kansas Citians to share their favorite hidden gems from around the area.
We received hundreds of responses from every corner of the metro’s 8,000 square miles, including recommendations for everything from your favorite coffee shops to meditation centers, barbecue joints to hiking trails, museums to comedy clubs.
One of the most highly recommended gems was the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site, which we revisited in a recent KCUR Adventure email.
Some of these recommendations will likely be featured in KCUR’s Ultimate Guide to Kansas City or in a future Adventure email, but here are a few more submissions that piqued our curiosity.
(And if you have your own suggestion for a hidden gem, tell us here!)
Stargaze at Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kansas
Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kansas, was another popular destination suggested to KCUR. It’s operated by the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, whose members built the observatory in 1984.
The observatory is about 25 miles south of Kansas City, since it’s easier to observe the cosmos away from city lights. ASKC offers programming May through October in Louisburg and invites the public to the society’s general meetings, the fourth Saturday of the month at 7 p.m., at UMKC’s Royall Hall. Events are all volunteer-run.
Royall Hall is also where ASKC houses the Warko Observatory, featured in KCUR’s guide to stargazing and observing the cosmos in Kansas City.
Tune into radio history at Ensor Farm and Museum in Olathe, Kansas
Down a country road in Olathe, Kansas, a 1890s farmhouse has an incongruous 90-foot radio tower installed in the front yard. That’s because of Marshall and Loretta Ensor, a brother and sister duo of dedicated amateur radio operators. Their home is now the Ensor Park and Museum, a National Historic Site.
It’s a testament to the do-it-yourself mentality of early Kansas farmers and the technological advances that followed World War I. Raised on a dairy farm at the turn of the century, the Ensors discovered radio as teenagers and became licensed radio operators.
Marshall taught at Olathe High School for nearly 50 years and retired in 1965. He was also a skilled craftsman and woodworker and the house contains many handcrafted works.
The museum is open for one-hour guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. during the months of May, June, September and October.
Visit the best vistas around Kansas City
Getting a full view of the skyline is definitely an item on the Kansas City bucket list. You can see the city from a whole new viewpoint with these reader-recommended observation points.
High on the hill at the northern end of Penn Valley Park, the tower at Liberty Memorial offers a prime, 360-degree view of Kansas City. Carved into the tower are four 40-foot statues, guardian spirits of peace and Kansas City. Tickets to go up in the tower are purchased through The National World War I Museum and Memorial.
Kansas City’s City Hall was one of the tallest buildings in the county when it was completed in 1937, and it remains the third tallest building in the city. From the observation deck on the 30th floor you have a sweeping view to the south.
Reserve tours by email for City Hall’s Observation Deck Monday, Tuesday and Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours are free and offered year round, but are dependent on weather and security.
Kaw Point is where the Kansas River meets the Missouri River. Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, Kansas, offers a view of the city as seen from the rivers that shaped it. It’s also a fantastic place to spot bald eagles in January and February.
Take a hike in Kansas City's many green spaces
Within the city limits and beyond, green spaces were lauded as essential components to the full Kansas City experience. Designed to be a “city within a park” by architect George Kessler, there are green spaces and trails threaded through Kansas City, from the sprawling Swope Park to tiny pocket parks beautifying urban corners. The likelihood of finding a beautiful and calming hidden gem somewhere near you is very high.
Cliff Drive is located in George E. Kessler Park in the historic Northeast, one of the earliest designated Scenic Byways. The road is closed to vehicular traffic, making it great for walking, jogging or biking. Along the way, there are exposed limestone bluffs (hence the name) and a picturesque man-made waterfall. Learn more about the history of Cliff Drive from the Kansas City Public Library.
Just 15 minutes northwest of downtown is the Parkville Nature Sanctuary. Visitors will find nearly three miles of hiking trails winding through the 115 acre woods. Dogs and other pets are not allowed in the sanctuary.
Powell Gardens is Kansas City’s botanical gardens, located in Kingsville, Missouri, about a 45-minute drive from downtown. You can visit a multitude of different landscapes within the boundaries of the gardens, which also includes beautiful structures and sculptures.
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