Kansas City may not be the first place you think of when you are looking for fun, outdoor activities. The Plaza tops most lists of "what to do while in KC." And sure, there are cool shops on The Plaza; and you can get just about anywhere worthwhile on foot or horse-drawn carriage. But you are different. You are looking for real outdoor things to do. So, if you find yourself headed to Kansas City, and you love the outdoors and beer; here are the 5 must-do's for your next trip.
Iconic. Monumental. Fun. If you are a racecar fan of any type, you can immerse yourself with the many activities available at the Kansas Speedway. The Richard Petty Experience should be the starting point for folks that want to feel the roar of a racecar from the inside! If you love swimming, the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park, affords you not only a great place to stay, but loads of choices. Their website provides descriptions as well as customer reviews. Your choices for food and entertainment are nearly limitless. Stop at Cabela’s, for their museum quality outdoor displays.
Bring: Earplugs, swimsuit.
Outdoor exposure: 2 out of 5 stars. You certainly are outside; but still far from nature.
There are three climbing gyms around Kansas City: Ibex in Blue Springs, Monster Mountain in Overland Park, and The Cave in Midtown. All of their websites have rules, hours, and release forms that you can download to make your visit a little more efficient. All three gyms offer gear rental, so don’t worry if you didn’t pack your shoes. Ibex is the complete package: Top-rope, lead-climbing, and a separate bouldering area are all available. Monster Mountain is a top-rope gym with bouldering problems sharing the same space. The Cave is only a bouldering gym.
Bring: Psyche, Climb On! Brand skin care crème.
Outdoor exposure: 3 out of 5 stars. Doing an outdoor thing, but you are indoors.
Want to climb outside while you are in Kansas City? Cliff Drive and Swope Park are your destinations. With a recent resurgence in The Kansas City Climbing Club, many new routes have been bolted at Cliff Drive including some 5.7 and 5.8 routes all the way up to 5.12. Pack your ropes, draws, harness and shoes. If you end up heading to Swope anytime between spring and fall, DEET is a must. The must-try problem is the Last Rhino. Ticks are bad; but the limestone boulders are worth it. Most have flat top-outs with clear landings.
Bring: DEET, climbing shoes, rope, draws, harness, water.
Outdoor exposure: 5 out of 5 stars. You may want to throw in some tweezers in your daypack as going home with an attached tick is a bummer. But, you are in the thick of nature!
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson boasts a gigantic grassy field, full of outdoor art, with plenty of room to frolic and picnic. Check their website for current exhibits.
Bring: Camera, curiosity, gratitude.
Outdoor exposure: 4 out of 5 stars. There are not many activities better than a relaxing picnic in a grassy field surrounded by art.
Boulevard Brewery Tour and Tasting
You may have to call weeks or months in advance to ensure that you have a spot for this very popular tour. You may get lucky with a last minute call to the Brewery, but your chances are better the earlier you call in advance. If you love art, linger in the hallways. There, you get to see the drafts, ideaboards, and brainstorms for the beer labels and marketing ideas past and present. The end of the tour rewards you with the tasting bar. Boulevard Brewery’s best brews are available and you might even get to sample some experimental brews that they may be fine-tuning.
Bring: Thirst, comfy shoes.
Outdoor exposure: 0 out of 5 stars. But hey, there's beer.
Take an outing with the Olathe Gem Club or trek out on your own. The Kansas River is rich in artifacts. Arrow heads from many different tribes can be found. One strategy to incorporate is to take a few steps and squat down. Children are the best at locating artifacts and treasures so you may want to incorporate this simple strategy: take a few steps and squat down. Treasure
hunting on the banks of the Kansas River can be a peaceful, meditative, relaxing activity. And you may come away with arrowheads, spearheads, fossils, or just beautiful rocks. One of the long-time members of the club says, “Any where you can find a gravel bar on the Kaw River is a fun place to rockhound.” Google maps is a good place to start your Kaw River adventure. Fun Fact: The Kansas River is also called the Kaw River. Consider DEET or another type of bug spray for this treasure hunting outing.
Bring: Comfy shoes, DEET, water, sunscreen, small canvas bag for your treasures.
Outdoor exposure: 6 out of 5 stars. You are a self-directed explorer on the Kansas River! This may be the most memorable trip to Kansas City you have ever taken.
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