Here's how to spend an entire weekend without ever going inside in Kansas CityThe mark of a great city is when you can spend time in it without having to spend a ton of money or a ton of time doing things you can do anywhere else. Ok, there are a lot of other factors as well, but being able to enjoy just existing in a city and seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling everything that makes it unique are the true ways to take a visit and turn it into an experience. To up the ante and do it in the city's natural outdoor space is the ultimate test, and having lived in Kansas City for the vast majority of my life, I have executed various iterations of this challenge. While it is impossible to do everything there is to do here in one weekend, this is one of the best versions of getting back to nature that Kansas City has to offer, even if the "nature" part of it involves a few beer gardens and other assorted detours in the concrete jungle.
If we're going to start things off right on Saturday morning, we need fuel for the temple that is our body. I've tried to keep this challenge as pure as possible, so the "entire weekend outside" thing means traveling by bike or by foot only. Walking everywhere might be tough, unless you start out in one of the many entertainment districts, but I live in the 'burbs, so I'll be riding my bike. Luckily, KC is easy to navigate on two wheels, so finding a coffee shop/bakery is first on the agenda, and there is no better combination of the two than Heirloom Bakery and Hearth in the Brookside/Waldo neighborhood. I wish I could eat at Heirloom everyday, but then I would probably weigh 300 pounds but be on a constant caffeine buzz. Heirloom is one of the best bakeries in town, with homemade pop-tarts, build your own breakfast biscuits, homemade salted oatmeal cream pies and a lot more rotating breads, pastries and breakfast items. Their coffee comes from Thou Mayest, a locally owned and operated coffee roaster and cafe. You'll have to go inside to order unless the line stretches out to the parking lot (it's worth it though) but grab your coffee and head out to the communal seating on the patio to watch the people who stream in on the weekends. Luckily, being on a bike means not having to deal with the only downside to Heirloom: the parking. It's a nightmare, but locking a bike to a post isn't. The back to nature quest continues.
Afternoon: The journey continues
After a leisurely breakfast, I like to stretch my legs a bit and burn off some of the calories I just packed on. It would be easy to stop in at Loose Park to take a nap or walk through the famous rose garden, but getting in some miles is a good way to spend time, see the city and make my way toward downtown and the lunch leg of the tour. Heading north to the River Market area, Berkley Riverfront Park is one of the best spots to take in the view of the Missouri River while also learning a little about the history of the railroad and city builders of the 1800s, if that's your kind of thing. The true spot is in a different park though. Kaw Point Park extends out to the point that intersects the Kansas, or Kaw, and Missouri Rivers. You can look left at the Missouri, or right at the Kansas. It sounds kind of dorky, but once you are there, it is a powerful thing to behold, plus it has one of the best views of downtown Kansas City there is.
Heading for sunset
Rolling back after a long afternoon, I love to hit up some killer bbq like Smoking Guns, which is north of the river, or you can cross the bridge back into downtown and pick up something downtown. Almost every place has a patio, so the outside rule is still in effect. Stop in the Crossroads at Up Down for a beer and some giant stacking tower or connect four on the massive patio as sunset approaches, then turn on the head and tail light because it is time to go to the best sunset spot in Kansas City, the bench on the hill under the Roxy Payne sculpture (it's a giant stainless steel tree so it's kind of hard to miss) that overlooks the lawn at the Nelson Atkins Museum. I like to stop at Harry's in Westport for a Horsefeather cocktail, that's ginger beer and rye whiskey if you are unfortunate enough to have never had one, and then it's time to head home to my fire pit and a few more hours of outside time under the stars. This is the part where I should lie and say I put the hammock up and slept outside too, and I have done it before, but sometimes a warm bed is the answer after a long day.
Sunday morning and the night in the bed, I mean hammock, is just what I need for a recharge. After lots of miles and lots of sun, today is a good day to take the car and just keep the windows and sunroof open for the spirit of the all outside thing. McClain's Market is the perfect place for an outdoor breakfast, with pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and breakfast bowls. Later on, the best game in town can be found at Children's Mercy Park, home of the MLS's Sporting Kansas City soccer team. The stadium is state of the art, the team is a perennial playoff and cup contender, and there is stuff to do for everyone, soccer fan or not. On the way home from the victory, stop at Shawnee Mission Park, put on your brave pants, and climb the rickety, but still open so I'm at least pretending it's safe, observation tower for the perfect view to cap the Kansas City weekend of everything outdoors.
Drew is a lifelong (almost) Kansas City dweller who has explored this city from top to bottom. His love of being outside, being outside in Kansas City, and all that this place has to offer means he is always ready for the next local adventure.