Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Visit Shawnee. All opinions and photos are my own except for one photo.
Shawnee, Kansas, promises weekend visitors plenty of fun things to see and do in a community less than a 20-minute drive from the Kansas City metro. “Good Starts Here” is the phrase Shawnee uses to describe itself. After a return visit, I wholeheartedly agree.
FOOD & DRINK SPOTS
Start the day with a lavender latté and a warm cheddar scone amongst the beautiful flowers at Family Tree Nursery Kansas City’s Cafe Equinox. Free guest Wi-Fi and lots of good day vibes – a plant lovers’ dream.
PRO TIP: Enjoy breakfast on the patio and then shop the popular garden center for various plants, flowers, and gift items. Kids will appreciate watching fish at the koi pond.
McLain’s Market (5833 Nieman Rd.) is where you go when craving fresh, made-to-go salads, sandwiches, and soups for lunch. (They also serve delicious coffee and delectable breakfast pastries!) The sun shone on this day, and I wanted to eat outdoors.
I purchased a quinoa and kale salad with berries and took it to a shady spot at Shawnee Mission Park to enjoy it. The birds chirped, and schoolchildren played at the nearby playground.
PRO TIP: McLain’s Market has plenty of seating if you’d rather dine in.
Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant
If traveling with kids, you must dine at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant (13803 W. 63rd St.). Since the 1950s, patrons have watched toy trains overhead deliver food to each table. I loved the experience of using the table’s telephone to call in my order, listening for the “choo choo” sound, and watching the train lower the food to my table.
Since I already ate lunch, I opted not to order their famous old-fashioned hamburger and instead chose homemade onion rings and a cup of vanilla ice cream. I watched as model trains passed overhead as I relished in the nostalgia of a long-standing restaurant tradition.
PRO TIP: The Shawnee location serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Popular meals include the Big R, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, and Oreo Sundae.
Blind Box BBQ
Blind Box BBQ (13214 W. 62nd Ter.) serves Kansas City barbecue with a modern twist. Like bbq restaurants in the region, the smoked meats are served with sweet and savory sauces. What makes Blind Box BBQ’s menu unique is they elevate traditional bbq meals using uncommon ingredients. Prime Blend Burger is served with onion jam and brie cheese. The Smoked Chicken Philly comes with whipped cream cheese.
I recommend ordering a bbq meat dinner with your choice of two side dishes. Elote corn on the cob (Mexican street corn) and bourbon baked beans are melt-in-your-mouth good. I hope to return for the Sunday Brunch, a buffet, plus endless mimosas or Bloody Marys.
PRO TIP: Ask for a sampling of sauces. I loved the Barenuckle Traditional KC Style and Southpaw Carolina Style sauces. Available by the bottle for $6.
With 12 beers on tap, Pathlight Brewing (112000 W. 75th St.) serves beers to loyal customers seven days a week. They’ve received awards for their sours, but you’ll find a variety of beers on the menu, from Belgian Style Ale to West Coast Lager. I recommend asking for short pours of Wick Hazy IPP and Stay K Tropical Hazy IPA. Surprisingly, they stock about two dozen whiskeys available as well.
It’s a comfortable space to sit back with friends and play a board game while listening to music. Known for their F1 Racing watch parties, they also host Music Bingo on Thursdays and food trucks every Friday and Saturday.
PRO TIP: Everything on tap can be purchased in cans from the refrigerated case.
Friction Beer Company
Good things are happening in downtown Shawnee. Owners Brent Anderson and Nathan Ryerson are opening Friction Beer Company (11018 Johnson Dr.) to patrons who appreciate listening to excellent music and sipping on beers named after song lyrics. Brent gave me a behind-the-scenes tour, which included a 10-barrel system production facility and taproom designed with a music lovers aesthetic.
Their mission is to make beer for every kind of drinker, where people can gather with friends or family in the taproom or the upstairs patio. You can expect lagers, stouts, and IPA variations on tap. You never know; you may find a barrel-aged beer on tap one day.
PRO TIP: Snap a photo in front of the cassette wall. Sit in a booth to see how many songs you remember on the wall.
Paulo and Bill
I found a fabulous, locally-owned restaurant for Happy Hour, Paulo and Bill (16501 Midland Dr.). A glass of chardonnay paired nicely with spinach dip and house-made chips. The welcoming staff greeted regular guests who sat at bar tables chatting about the day’s events.
Not only does the restaurant serve discounted drinks and starter appetizers Monday-Friday from 3 pm-6 pm, but the bistro-style eatery is known for its Italian pasta dishes and surf-n-turf selections.
PRO TIP: Check their website for wine dinner event dates requiring a reservation.
Nick & Jake’s
Nick & Jake’s (22220 Midland Dr.) is not a typical sports bar. It serves upscale, made-from-scratch menu options. Imagine dining on Grilled Bourbon Salmon, Pear Pollo Pecan Salad, or Jambalaya while watching the game from a comfortable booth.
In search of a comforting meal, I ordered a meatloaf dinner smothered in brown gravy served with classic vegetable side dishes. I glanced around the bar area and noted that most meals were sizable and arrived beautifully plated.
PRO TIP: Prefer small plate dining and drinks? Arrive Monday-Friday from 3 pm – 6 pm for $1 off beer and wine by the glass to accompany menu items like Tomato Bruschetta or Blackened Shrimp Mac-n-Cheese.
District Pour House + Kitchen
District Pour House + Kitchen (11101 Johnson Dr.) is one of the newest additions to downtown Shawnee’s dining scene. Located in the old Shawnee State Bank from 1911, the restaurant’s kitchen prepares signature flatbreads, appetizing salads, and dinner entrees you won’t find elsewhere. Duck Risotto for dinner? Beer Short Rib Ravioli? Yes, please.
We ordered the Hazelnut Shrimp Salad and Classic Flatbread at lunchtime, which were sizable for mid-day portions. I loved the intense flavor of bacon and pepperoni, but I would order it without the spicy peppers next time.
PRO TIP: Ask about the house-made infused spirits on display behind the bar. From Brown Sugar Pecan Bourbon to Marshmallow Vodka, District Pour House + Kitchen is thinking outside the box.
Drastic Measures (5817 Nieman Rd.) is a James Beard-nominated swanky cocktail bar that serves photo-worthy cocktails you won’t find elsewhere. If it can be done better, Drastic Measures is doing it differently, and they are unapologetic about their mission.
I sat down with one of the co-owners to learn about the business, which he considers a “glorified lemonade stand.” The bar consistently provides upscale drinks in a laid-back, accepting atmosphere.
PRO TIP: Sanders’ second business, Wild Child, opened next door in late 2023. It caters to patrons in search of no and low-ABV libations. Expect small bites plates, and “real big vibes.”
Flying Cow Gelato
Flying Cow Gelato (11210 Johnson Dr.) delivers when you crave something sweet. The bonus? Gelato delivers the rich flavor of ice cream, but it’s less fattening.
Since its recent opening downtown, the gelato has been in high demand. The employees make it fresh daily in flavors like Birthday Cake, Pistachio, Root Beer Float, and Italian-style Stracciatella made with chocolate shavings (my favorite!). Fun Fact: Gelato was invented in Italy and translates to “ice cream.”
PRO TIP: Choose a seat on the shaded patio to enjoy your dessert treat amongst beautiful flowers with a view of downtown.
PLACES TO PLAY OUTDOORS
Mid-America Sports Complex
Visiting Shawnee during a good weather weekend? Visit Mid-America Sports Complex (20000 Johnson Dr.) to catch a youth baseball or softball game. The 70-acre facility is a hub of family-fun activity. During my visit, I watched a baseball game from the stands at no cost.
Recently renovated, the ballpark is also home to the Fan Zone concession stand, yard games to play between innings, and Instagram-worthy backdrops. Oversized baseballs and a letter written by a player catch one’s eye at the ballpark’s entrance.
PRO TIP: Traveling with little kids? Walk them to Mini America to play whiffle ball on an artificial turf field.
Shawnee Mission Beach Volleyball
Does this look like California? Think again! Enjoy summer by experiencing Shawnee Mission Mission Beach Volleyball as a player or spectator. For over 20 years, sandy beaches and tropical drinks have attracted adults looking to have fun in the sun.
I enjoyed sitting back and sipping on a margarita as the first day of co-ed summer league volleyball commenced with the announcer’s call, “It’s volleyball o’clock!” Children built sand castles on the sidelines. Team members gave high-fives between sets.
Indoors, the air conditioning was inviting. I watched professional volleyball on TV as 1950s music hits played from the speaker.
PRO TIP: The indoor scenery is worth a look. Brass labels on the wooden bar showcase league teams like Sand Crabs 24-0 and Diggin It 24-0 that swept past league play.
Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center
Opening day at Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center (13805 Johnson Dr.) is popular. Lines form around the building to gain entrance to the city’s swimming pool featuring towering slides, AquaClimb, diving boards, and an 8-lane lap pool. A lazy river, Bubble Bench, and interactive pool features entertain families during summer making it a go-to spot.
PRO TIP: If you want to relax poolside, claim a reclining chair or escape to a shaded party cabana.
A family-friendly destination at the Jim Allen Aquatic Center (5800 King Ave.), Splash Cove is conveniently located near downtown attractions. It is the place to spend a summer afternoon with children. The Mini Wave Pool, a 125-foot full-body slide, and an interactive playground featuring animal characters keep it fun.
PRO TIP: Rent a party cabana for poolside privacy.
Shawnee Mission Park
Biking, swimming, fishing, disc golfing, kayaking, and more are just some of the many reasons to visit Shawnee Mission Park (79th and Renner Rd.). The impressive park consists of over 1,600 acres and a 120-acre lake.
On any given day, visitors can access outdoor activities designed for adventurers of all ages. I observed fishermen hoping to catch bass and catfish from kayaks.Land-based activities include equestrian, hiking, and biking trails, which appeared well-groomed and easy to navigate. I saw dog parents watching four-legged friends at the 44-acre off-leash area. Families ate lunch while admiring stunning lake views at picnic shelters.
PRO TIP: Purchase tickets to a Theater in the Park live musical production. Bringing the kids? Research the theater’s Movies in the Park schedule.
ARTWORK TO ADMIRE
I love visiting a library, especially to view its art galleries. At Shawnee Library (13811 Johnson Dr.), I discovered a gallery of artwork depicting African-American themes. Stop by the library to view rotating artwork.
PRO TIP: Do your kids love to read? Drive to Shawnee Town Museum with the kids for Reading to the Rooster, a free event for kids every Wednesday in June.
Pay tribute to those who died during World War II at Veterans Park (13605 Johnson Dr.). Located across the parking lot from the aquatic center, it’s a beautifully landscaped area to view Hands Of Freedom, a tribute dedicated in 1992 to military veterans.
PRO TIP: Park hours are 6 am-10 pm. Attend a the memorial’s special tribute event on Veterans Day.
Wild Bill Hickok Statue – Trail Scout Park
A 13-foot-tall sculpture of Wild Bill Hickok (Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nieman Road) is an awe-inspiring feature at Trail Scout Park. Artist Maretta Kennedy worked with bronze to create “Trail Scout.” Hickok was a figure in Shawnee history in the 1850s.
PRO TIP: Parking nearby is free. Take the sidewalk to the sculpture and read the interpretive displays.
Pioneer Crossing Park
The history of wagon trains passing through the area is depicted by a sculpture at Pioneer Crossing Park (10401 Shawnee Mission Parkway). Created by artist Charles Goslin, it is a life-size beautiful landmark surrounded by native grasses and trees.
PRO TIP: View a nearby bronze statue of wagonmaster Richard Williams. He built a house in the area between 1857-1860.
Herman Laird Park
Stop by Herman Laird Park (1600 Johnson Dr.) to view “Talking Time,” a bronze sculpture that pays tribute to Chief. Charles Bluejacket. He was a Shawnee tribal chief, minister, farmer, and military captain who came to the area from Ohio.
PRO TIP: The park is an excellent place for kids to play on equipment and swings. It is located within walking distance of Shawnee Town 1929.
Parade of Hearts
One of the best ways to bring attention to a destination? By adding public art like Parade of Hearts: A Heartland Celebration. The five-foot 3-D hearts are placed in Kansas City and surrounding towns to unite the community and celebrate diversity. The heart, located in downtown Shawnee, features hundreds of padlocks.
PRO TIP: Use the interactive map to find more Parade of Hearts during your KC-area travels.
HISTORY TO DISCOVER
Shawnee Town 1929
Transport yourself back to when Shawnee was a farming community at Shawnee Town 1929 (11501 W. 57th St.). The living history museum is open for guided and self-guided tours from March to October, giving visitors insight into a typical day in Shawnee all those years ago.
I started my museum experience by watching a historical video in the visitor’s center before heading outdoors to tour authentic and replica buildings.
Industries that influenced the town’s economy are represented.
Walk inside Murphy Service Station to see where the town’s early residents shopped for gas, soda pop, and cigars. Take a moment to appreciate Dunbar School, a one-room schoolhouse with authentic artifacts. Appreciate the entrepreneurial achievements of business owners at Garrett Grocery Store, City Ice, and Fisher Chevrolet Dealership.
To fully understand how Shawnee was established, tour the inside of an 1878 farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, and chicken coop (live roosters and hens welcome you!). The reality of farmstead life becomes apparent when entering the Market Shed, where produce was washed and sorted for the market.
I found the botanical gardens, planted and maintained by K-State Research and Extension Center’s master gardeners, to be a highlight. The Typewriter Repair Shop was by far my favorite building for its authenticity.
Old Shawnee Days is an entertaining event that attracts thousands of visitors to Shawnee Town 1929 in June every year. Known for its carnival, music, concessions, and vendors, it is worth planning your trip around.
The museum’s annual Bloody Mary Party is a popular fundraiser that uses the working farm’s tomato crop. You will want to attend their celebrations. Check their Facebook page for upcoming adults-only and family-friendly events.
PRO TIP: End your museum tour back at the visitor’s center to shop for Kansas-themed gifts.
Shawnee began as a campsite name for Gum Springs and was named for the Shawnee Indians that located to the area. After the Civil War, farmers settled in the area to grow crops and sell produce to neighboring Kansas City residents. Today, the downtown area is a thriving business district with historic buildings.
I recommend accessing the online map before starting the walking tour at City Hall.
PRO TIP: Park via streetside parking or City Hall’s public lot.
STORES TO SHOP
Nigro’s Western Store NO. 2
Yeehaw! For over 50 years, Nigro’s Western Store No. 2 (10503 Shawnee Mission Parkway) has outfitted shoppers with the best denim and boots in Shawnee, Kansas. Celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Moses Brings Plenty have shopped its aisles.
Third-generation owned and operated, the Western store is a cowboy’s and cowgirl’s dream. Boots, belts, jewelry, jeans…they’ve got it all for concert season or any day of the year.
PRO TIP: Check the store’s Facebook page for the Look of the Week to inspire your shopping.
Family Tree Nursery
I’ve visited Family Tree Nursery (7036 Nieman Rd.) in springtime and before Christmas, and it’s just as magical every time. If you’re shopping for indoor or outdoor plants, home decor, or gardening supplies, I suggest stopping there before departing Shawnee for your home.
The botanical backdrops inspire photos, and Cafe Equinox is the ideal place to grab a nature-inspired latte or bag of whole-bean coffee to go.
PRO TIP: Walk to the rear of the greenhouse to find an area devoted to plants on sale.
HOTEL LODGING TO REST
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Kansas City Shawnee
I love a Marriott hotel. The modern amenities, clean rooms, and rewards points make it a worthwhile stay. Fairfield Inn & Suites (16550 Midland Dr.) is a short drive from many of the city’s top attractions.
My King Suite guest room was noteworthy for its bonus lounge space with a second television and desk area. If traveling with kids, the sofa bed pulls out to accommodate them. On-site amenities like a complimentary full breakfast, an indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center make the overnight stay extra comfortable.
PRO TIP: Should you forget to pack road trip snacks, stock up on your favorites at the 1st-floor convenience store.
What a whirlwind weekend you’re going to have in Shawnee! For more places to discover, my blog post Out & About in Shawnee written in 2021, includes bonus travel details such as Aztec Theater, breakfast eatery Pegah’s, and Wandering Vine at the Castle.