19 Weekend Getaways, Family Road Trips & Day Trips from Kansas City
If you’re looking for short road trips or fun day trips from Kansas City, there’s great spots all over. We know you don’t want to drive too far. But, there are great family weekend getaways nearby!
Just a short 3 (ish) hour road trip with the family.
Whether you want to explore the outdoors, find mini vacation spots, or just find things to do in new cities, there’s places for everyone to go. We hope your family enjoys these fun day trip ideas for kids!
Family Road Trips!
We are big fans of getting out of town for a few days…but where to go? How far can kids realistically ride in a car for? Kids can make it 3 or 4 hours and then the questions start and the movies get old.
…so, we gathered 19 fun day trips near Kansas City, all about a 3 hour drive from KC. These vacation ideas are perfect for a weekend getaway near Kansas City, so check out these road trip vacation spots near you:
If you can’t get out of KC, check out Cave Springs in Raytown, our favorite playgrounds (& have a picnic), have a Downtown KC Staycation Guide or explore the Best Things to Do in Kansas City with kids. But if you’re looking for fun day trips from KC…or better yet a weekend adventure, this is for you!
Branson Family Vacation | Ha Ha Tonka State Park | Tanganyika Wildlife Park | Wichita, KS | Topeka | Eureka Springs, AR | NW Arkansas | Des Moines Roadtrip | Roaring River State Park | Omaha, NE | St. Louis, MO | Joplin, MO | Amana Colonies | Rock City | Eagles Bluff Conservation Area | Canoe, Float, or Paddle the Niangua River | Columbia, MO
Day Trips from Kansas City
Get your family out of town…even if it’s just for a weekend trip!
(3 hours or less)
Branson, and the Lake of the Ozarks area, is one of the best day trips from Kansas City, so start planning a fun weekend getaway. The Ha Ha Tonka State Park is also not far from Branson, MO. Be sure to read below about the park, so you can stop by!
Things to do in Branson, MO:
There are so many things to do in Branson it is mind blowing; shopping at outlets, dining, amusement parks, go-karts, bumper cars & boats, duck rides, museums, & everything in between! You could spend a day or two at Silver Dollar City alone. You can grab a coupon book for the outlets too!
There is also Lake of the Ozarks & Table Rock Lake nearby so you can cool off too. Visit Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which has fantastic camping, fishing, & great swimming areas! The park is situated on one of the largest lakes in the country, so you are sure to get a beautiful view. Find more things to do in Branson now!
Best Food in Branson, MO:
On your drive down, stop at Lambert’s, “home of the throwed rolls” in Ozark, MO. It is home cooking at it’s finest…while they throw rolls at you to eat! Cakes & Cream is one of our family’s favorites. It is a 50’s diner with more desserts than you could imagine. You can get many old classics there.
For the best shakes & homemade pies in town, stop at Billy Bob’s Dairyland. They feature tasty treats as well as yummy burgers & other diner food. (They also have amazing service…)
1491 State Road D, Camdenton, MO 65020
(2 hours, 41 minutes)
You can make this it’s own weekend getaway or stop by while you are in the Lake of the Ozarks area. Plus, the drive on the day trip from Kansas City is beautiful! Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located in the Lake of the Ozarks area. You can definitely make it one of the best weekend trips from Kansas City in Ozarks.
Things to do:
There are lakes, trails, and you can head over to Branson for fun too! You can rent boats & jet skis at local marinas and swim till your hands turn pruney! If you like hiking or the outdoors in general, this state park is the place for you… One of the highlights is a turn of the century castle built high on a bluff and more than 15 miles of walking trails. These trails lead to sinkholes, natural bridges, caves and of course to the lake itself! Just head down for the day and pack a lunch for a picnic or decide to make a camping trip out of it!
1515 High St, Baldwin City, KS 66006
(1 hour, 5 minutes) This spot is one of the quick day trips from Kansas City to Baldwin City – your kids can definitely make this drive! Plus, doesn’t everyone love riding trains?
Things to do in Baldwin, KS:
There are special train events like the Polar Express Train or Peanuts-themed train ride. Check the train schedule & buy tickets online to plan your weekend getaway or day trip with your kids. Find other fun activities for your family like the Douglas State Fishing Lake, Black Jack Battlefield, & the Old Castle Museum.
Best Food in Baldwin City:
While there are not too many restaurants to choose from, the Homestead Kitchen & Bakery makes a delicious stop on your day trip to Baldwin City. They also have family homestead dinner deals for only $19.
Lebanon, MO & surrounding areas (many camp sites & rentals)
(about 3 hours)
Things to Do on the Niangua River:
Your family can canoe, kayak, float in inner tubes, or raft down the Niangua River! This fun road trip near Lake of the Ozarks is great if your family loves the outdoors or are looking for an adventure.
There are many fun campgrounds, cabins, & hotels in the area, so it will definitely make a fun weekend trip. Explore the many campsites & rentals available like the Floating R or NRO, which has free camping options available. One-Eyed Willy’s offers adorable cabins, canoes, camping & great fishing spots too!
Food on the Niangua River:
Depending on where you start your float trip, you can stop at The Gravel Bar & Grill at the Sand Springs Resort. This restaurant is right off the river, so you can walk from your canoe. It has basic American food, offering something for everyone in your family. They also offer lodging at the resort, so if you are looking for a place to stay and rent your canoes, this might be the spot!
Wichita, Kansas Day Trip
(3 hours, 20 minutes)
Things to do in Wichita, KS:
Wichita is home to the Museum of World Treasures, which has an extensive World War II collection as well as shrunken heads, dinosaurs, ancient Egyptians, and everything in between.
The Exploration Place, a science education center, is also filled with fun kids activities and things to do. Your kids will explore a variety of hands-on activities & exhibits…think of it as the Science City of Wichita. Check out the Exploration Place calendar of events to see what’s happening while you are there.
There is also the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Botanical Gardens of Wichita, and the Cowtown Museum, which has FREE admission on Sundays from noon to 5 pm. (promotion runs through October 2018) Also be sure to visit the Keeper of the Plain statue!
Wichita also has its’ own amusement park, All Star Adventures! There are go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, slides, kiddie copters, a driving range, and other fun family activities. You can find other fun things to do with kids in Wichita easily too! If you are looking for other fun things to do near Wichita, KS check out the Wildlife Park below!
Best Food in Wichita, KS:
If you’re looking for yummy places to eat be sure to check out Dempsey’s Biscuit Co or Piatto for delicious pizzas. Also be sure to check out the world’s largest mural painted by a single artist – Horizontes.
1000 S. Hawkins Lane, Goddard, KS 67052
(3 hours, 8 minutes)
Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a great day trip from KC. Not sure if it would be a day trip, since it is 3 hours, but could be a great weekend getaway in Kansas! It is a family-owned zoo with one of the largest animal collections in the state. There are over 40 exhibits, including several interactive stations for your kids to learn.
This is definitely a trip stop to add to your list. Tanganyika is the only place in the US where you can interact with ring-tail lemurs in their island habitat and feed Indian rhinos and pygmy hippos. From most of the reviews that I read, it is a great place for younger kids—more animals in a smaller area to save their little legs (and grandparents too!)
(45 minutes to an hour)
Even though Topeka is our state capital, most people haven’t explored it even though it is one of the best day trips from KC! With Topeka less than an hour from most places in KC, it is a cheap getaway from Kansas City.
Things to do in Topeka, KS:
You can even climb to the TOP of the state capitol building, which we definitely recommend during your day trip. Tour reservations are not needed for groups of 10 or smaller. The spiral staircase winds right up the middle of the capitol dome, so don’t look down!
Best Food in Topeka, KS:
Bobo’s Diner is a Topeka classic – handmade onion rings, fries & burgers! They were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, so you know it’s delicious. You can also check out Porubsky Grocery and Meats for delicious chili. It’s been a family-owned classic in Topeka since 1947. If Mexican is your fam’s jam, El Centenario makes homemade dishes every day. You can’t go wrong with anything on your list.
(2.5 hours – 3 hours)
While Des Moines isn’t the most attractive city to visit, there are tons of things to do with kids in Des Moines. Plus, the drive is manageable for a weekend trip or getaway.
Things to Do in Des Moines, IA:
There are fun kids activities here that make learning fun! There are also areas with tons of room to play, like Pappajohn Sculpture Park or the Des Moines Botanical Gardens. The sculpture park is a great place for kids to play while enjoying the artwork…plus it’s free! You can also enjoy some yummy ice cream at Black Cat Ice Cream, just across the street from the sculpture park.
Don’t miss Iowa’s wildest adventure at Blank Park Zoo or find fun things to do outside like Gray’s Lake Park, the Living History Farms, or the Iowa State Fairgrounds (if you can make the trip during the Iowa State Fair). There’s also the State Capitol Building you can tour and the downtown Des Moines farmer’s market – rated the 2nd best farmer’s market in America.
(3 hours and 50 minutes) Eureka Springs prides itself on its fabulous festivals. I personally love the St. Patrick’s day celebration and have participated many times, but there are several more throughout the summer—just check to make sure they would be fun for the kids! It is the perfect place for a day or weekend trip from Kansas City!
Things to Do in Eureka Springs, AR:
The city itself is nestled in the Arkansas hills and has great hiking & outdoor adventures. Check out Lake Leatherwood for hiking, fishing, canoeing & more outdoor activities. Downtown Eureka Springs is also a great stop; filled shopping, restaurants & historic character. There are tons of eccentric shops and art galleries to explore too. You can always find good music in many areas of the city, especially during Blues Weekend.
Best Food in Eureka Springs:
Parkside Pretzel & Snack Bar has everything pretzel – pretzel dogs, pretzel churros…use your imagination! Their reviews are stellar & also feature some healthy options. Eureka Springs Funnel Cake Factory also needs to be on your list. If you’re looking for more dinner food, check out the Rockin’ Pig Saloon for yummy ribs & burgers, or Emilio’s Italian Home Cooking. This delicious Italian spot is located inside an old house, with a more upscale feel.
Plan on staying the night in either The Crescent or The Basin Park Hotel. Both have their share of ghost stories, but their true draw is how they pull you into the vintage feel of the city. I have stayed at both but I don’t think got an ounce of sleep because the lights were always on and I was constantly checking under the bed!
Rogers, Fayetville, Springdale
(3 hours, 15 minutes) If your family loves the outdoors, this is a great weekend getaway with your kids!
Things to Do in NW Arkansas:
There are tons of great family things to do in Northwest Arkansas…not to mention the scenery! You can camp along the river, swim in the clear water, & have quality family time on your family’s vacation. Don;t forget to try canoeing while you are on the river!
There is the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Charlie & Willie George Park which features a fun spray park for the kids cool off & TONS of great hiking. There are also unique things to do in NW Arkansas like, exploring the Dickson Street Bookshop or taking in a local museum. You can visit the Museum of Native American History, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art or the Museum of Discovery– a fantastic kids activity!
Best Food in NW Arkansas:
You also need to eat. So, be sure to check out Crepes Paulette – where you can watch your food be cooked – or The Farmer’s Table Cafe to try food created all from local Arkansas farmers. You can also take a little drive to try Kyya Chocolate – unique chocolate that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the Shady River Getaway Cabins will take you right back to summer camp when you were a kid!
12716 Farm Road 2239, Cassville, MO 65625
(3 hours, 17 minutes)
I grew up in Southwest Missouri, so I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the Roaring River. The Roaring River State Park is a great day trip or weekend trip from Kansas City.
Things to Do in Roaring River:
There is so much nature to explore – it could fill your entire weekend! Trout fishing is obviously its biggest draw but there are great things to do and see for the whole family. The park is one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation and stocked each night. There are also 7 trails that lead through the hills, including Deer Leap trail that overlooks the fish hatchery. There are options to camp as well, including renting a cabin for the weekend.
(2 hours, 40 minutes)
Omaha, Nebraska is even shorter than a 3 hour trip from Kansas City. Close enough that you can handle the drive but far enough away that it feels like a getaway…
Things to Do in Omaha, NE:
Take advantage of this fun & inexpensive city with these things to do with kids. There is the famous Henry Doorly Zoo, the Wildlife Safari Park, Aerospace Museum, The Omaha Children’s Museum, Rose Theater, & tons of free things to do throughout the year. Admission to the Joslyn Art Museum is always free!
There are also beautiful state parks like The Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, which features a suspended ropes course in the trees. There is also a pool, wave pool, splash park, horse riding, mini golf & disc golf, Venture Climb rock climbing & other unique activities. This park has more to do than almost any we have seen…
Best Food in Omaha:
You can also find tons of great restaurants like Mayne Street Market, Yoshitomo (if your fam likes sushi), Bob’s Donuts (for some creative, delicious donuts) or Big Green Q for delicious food AND ice cream!
Check online to find tons of fun things to do online on our partner site.
(3 to 3 and a half hours)
Depending on where you are road tripping from in Kansas City, St. Louis isn’t that far. There are too many things to do with kids in St. Louis for just one day, so make a weekend road trip out of the day trip!
Things to Do in St. Louis:
You can explore the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Bird Museum, World Aquarium (the perfect place for kids), Magic House Children’s Museum, and many other kids activities. Take a stroll through the Missouri Botanical Gardens, which feature a beautiful Japanese garden. Or, check out Forest Park, which is larger than New York’s Central Park!
Check out our St. Louis Road Trip guide for more ideas of things to do in St. Louis. You could fill an entire weekend trip with these ideas!
Best Food in St. Louis:
If you check out the arch in the morning, be sure to try brunch at The Cinder House!
Crown Candy is definitely worth a visit. This is a century-old Soda Fountain restaurant that is a St. Louis classic. You will feel like you stepped back in time to 1913 as soon as you step in their doors. After you try their candy, ice cream & delicious food…it’s game over. Their hearty BLT is stacked to the brim (overflowing really…) with yummy bacon! There are also delicious donut shops like World’s Fair Donuts & O’Fashion Donuts.
(2 hours, 30 minutes) There are tons of fun things to do in Joplin during your day trip from KC!
Things to Do in Joplin, MO:
You can visit a giant waterfall – Grand Falls, George Washington Carver National Monument, or walk around downtown Joplin. The Sunshine Lamp District is even named after Joplin’s booming mining days, so you’ll be trendy while walking through history!
Best Food in Joplin:
If hot dogs are your thing, you can’t miss Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs. The locals love this spot for its unique takes on hot dogs, so you don’t want to skip this spot! The Red Onion Cafe is located in a 100-year old building & highly rated across the board. They serve American food in a relaxed setting – be sure to try the Smoked Chicken Dip!
If you’re looking for a more laid-back meal, The Eagle Drive-In serves the best burgers in Joplin.
622 46th Avenue Amana, IA 52203
(4 hours, 29 minutes) While this is longer than the 3 hour trips from Kansas City, the Amana Colonies have something for everyone. Plus, if you are looking for a weekend trip, going further away from home may be fun!
Things to Do at Amana Colonies:
The colonies host events each weekend, from a dog speed racers competition to woodworking festivals, so there is always something to do. They celebrate a rich heritage in arts and crafts and taking visitors away from the hustle and bustle of busy life…check it out for your next weekend trip out of KC.
In fact, The Wurst Festival, a celebration of all things sausage, was named the Best New Event of 2015 by the Iowa Tourism Commission. There are many places to stay camping, bed and breakfasts, and hotels nearby.
Best Food in Amana Colonies:
If you like German-American food, try the Ox Yoke Inn for fresh, handmade food. The restaurant dates back to the 1940’s, so there are definitely delicious reasons it is still in business. Or, head to the Ronneburg Restaurant for another take on German cooking. Both restaurants are highly rated.
(2 hours, 10 minutes) Things to Do in Columbia, MO: At MU, you can visit the Museum of Art & Archaeology or the Francis Quadrangle, with giant pillars towering overhead. Or, check out the Columbia Art League in downtown Columbia. Besides visiting The University of Missouri, there are other fun things to do with kids like nature parks.
If your family likes the outdoors, there are many great parks & hiking trails like Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Finger Lakes State Park, Stephens Lake Park or Capen Park. Finger Lakes State Park is probably the most unique thing you can do, with trails for ATVs, motorbiking, & four wheelers. There is also a lake where you can go scuba diving, swimming, fishing & non-motorized boating. You can rent kayaks & canoes at the park, so all you have to bring is your family!
Also visit the Shelter Gardens, a 5-acre botanical garden that is perfect to take a stroll…
Best Food in Columbia, MO:
If you’re looking for healthy options, try the Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe, which is rated very highly. If you’re in the mood for good-old deliciousness, try Just Jeff’s Street Food. They supposedly have the best chili dogs in all of Columbia… Addison’s is also a yummy place to try. Their nachos are our favorite!
1051 Ivy Road Minneapolis, KS 67467
(2 hours, 49 minutes) About 20 miles away from Salina, there are giant spherical rocks, formed when Kansas was under an ocean. There are over 200 rocks you can explore! You have a couple options. 1. Rock City is the larger of the 2 attractions, with close to 200 rock formations, but costs $3. Mushroom Rock State Park, which is smaller, is free to the public. If your children love to run around or climb on things, this is a fun place to explore. Check out the website to see cool pictures of mushroom rocks!
Columbia, MO 65203
(2 hours, 6 minutes) If you’re looking to get away from the city…this is the place for you. There are miles and miles of nature to be explored – the perfect place for a nature weekend getaway. Plus, the shorter drives makes this one of our favorite day trips from Kansas City… There is the Katy Trail State Park, which provides trails to bike, hike, or even ride horses! You can also explore other regions of the conservation area with fishing, hiking trails, camping, bird watching & other fun outdoor activities.
124 Jungle Drive, Strafford, MO 65757
(2 hours, 49 minutes)
Looking for more unique day trips from Kansas City? How about a wildlife excursion…it’s a drive-thru animal safari in the middle of Kansas! There are over 450 animals for your family to come visit.
While there is not a ton to do, the Safari is definitely a unique experience that makes it worth the day trip drive from Kansas City.
Because Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, you can learn about her at the Amelia Earhart Museum, at her birthplace. Also visit the Santa Fe Depot or Atchison Rail Museum. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, hang out at Jackson Park or Lewis & Clark State Park.
Use these Tips for Traveling with Kids to pass the time faster and make your road trip more enjoyable. There’s fun car games & tips to keep your family safe.
Once you decide where to go, book your hotel online to make things easy – companies like Viator or Priceline make it easy and affordable. They have great prices so you can have an affordable family vacation! If you want to stay up to date, join the scoop to get it delivered right to your inbox!
What are some of your favorite places to visit near the metro? Let us know in the comments!
From our family to yours, iFamilyKC.