Disclosure: Kansas I-70 Association sponsored this post. However, all opinions and photographs are my own.
I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love Shawnee, Kansas. No matter what you’re looking for in a city, they’ve got it. Voted one of the “Best Small Cities in America,” you definitely want to experience it.
My travel itinerary was long, but I was determined to hit as many places on it as I could. Shopping downtown? Check. A tour of a historic theatre? Check. Drinking wine in a castle? Don’t mind if I do.
With excitement building, I drove to my hotel to get settled and prepare for a day of exploration. I was only going to be in Shawnee one full day and I wanted to make the most of it.
COURTYARD KANSAS CITY SHAWNEE
Courtyard Kansas City Shawnee (17250 Midland Dr.) is an ideal place to stay when looking for pleasant accommodations near the action. It’s located minutes from downtown Shawnee, the Kansas City Power and Light District, and Legends Outlets.
As a Marriott Bonvoy rewards member, I appreciate the hotel chain for its clean, comfortable rooms that often feel like they were made just for business travelers.
The king guest room has enough room for you to lounge in the sitting area and watch TV when you’re winding down from a busy day. A desk, free Wi-Fi, microwave, and small refrigerator provide all the amenities one needs when staying away from home.
This hotel offers guests breakfast choices in the morning at The Bistro, which also serves dinner and cocktails in the evening. On-site fitness facilities and an indoor pool make it easy for guests wanting to get in a workout.
Looking for a change of scenery? The indoor and outdoor lounge spaces offer guests comfortable couches while the lobby’s work center makes it easy to catch up on emails.
PEGAH’S FAMILY RESTAURANT
Breakfast – the more important meal of the day and one that I never miss. I was anticipating the arrival of a friend to meet at Pegah’s Family Restaurant (11119 Johnson Dr.). Situated in the heart of the historic downtown district, the popular eatery has served diners homemade cooking since 1987.
Breakfast burritos, flavorful skillets, and stacked pancakes – oh my! When everything looks delicious, what should I order? I opted for the corned beef hash, eggs, and hashbrowns. It was an indulgence worth every bite. My friend enjoyed the fruit and yogurt bowl, which looked divine.
No matter what you order at Pegah’s, you’ll be thankful for the fresh ingredients and oversized portions. Plan accordingly. The restaurant is also known for delectable pies and once you see them, you’ll want to order dessert. Cruise by the refrigerator case in the front of the restaurant before asking for your check. You’ll thank me later.
To view the restaurant’s menu and location hours, visit the website. As they say, “comfort is just a spoonful away!”
If you’ve followed my travel posts, you know how much I appreciate supporting local businesses. Downtown Shawnee is a walkable district that makes it easy to spend your dollar locals since a majority of the stores, restaurants, and breweries are locally owned and operated.
Pro Tip: Leave your car parked at Pegah’s and you’re never more than a 10-minute walk from it no matter where you walk in downtown Shawnee.
The first place that catches your eye when you drive into downtown Shawnee is the brightly painted Aztec Theatre (11119 Johnson Dr.). The Spanish Mission-style theater was built in 1927 and eventually closed in 1974. But that’s hardly the end of its story.
Thanks to the vision and hard work of three partners, the Aztec Theatre is fully restored and open to the public. It hosts live acts from bands to comedians and open-mic performances to special events. Looking at it from the street, it’s an eye-catching showpiece with a massive marque.
Inside, every detail of the building’s design from the tin tile ceiling to the illuminated flooring screams Art Deco design. The theatre’s lighting is worthy of an Academy Award. Neon lights and backlit sconces give it a retro vibe.
I loved the thoughtful design details added during the renovations. Make sure you stand in the lobby and look down. A surprise awaits.
During live shows Thursday-Saturday, a food truck is often parked outside in front of the theatre. To view the upcoming line-up of food trucks, check the schedule.
Patrons can enjoy full bar service in the lobby during concerts Friday-Sunday. Never miss an upcoming show by bookmarking the event calendar. The day of my visit, the Aztec Theatre was celebrating a sold-out show, Four Fried Chickens and a Coke.
I had the pleasure of getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the theatre’s balcony and green room, a space used by touring musicians. Before and after performances, band members can kick back and relax in the upstairs lounge. Do you recognize any of the signatures below scribbled across the wall?
For more event information or to see the theatre’s latest announcements, follow them on Facebook.
OLD SHAWNEE PIZZA
The residents in town hold Old Shawnee Pizza (6000 Roger Rd.) in high regard. After a few bites into my pizza, it was clear why they rave about it.
Did I eat the entire pizza? You know it. To be honest, it was a personal pan pizza, but I didn’t leave behind a crumb. I ordered the Tuscany Chicken Pizza made with white sauce. The thin crust was crispy just the way I like it.
Old Shawnee Pizza has a long history of serving slices. They got their start making pies and selling them out of a house in 1969. Since then, they’ve had their pizza recognized in Pizza Magazine, the industry’s authority on pies.
Customers also visit the quaint restaurant for sandwiches and salads. The house salad was made with pepperoni, more pizza cheese, bacon bits, and came with a squeeze bottle of green garlic dressing that was so good.
Between shopping downtown and touring breweries, Old Shawnee Pizza makes for an excellent lunch stop. Seat yourself and a friendly server will be right with you. If you’re unsure what specialty pizza to order, ask about the Famous Crab Rangoon Pizza.
One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday is to shop at locally-owned stores. Whatever you’re in search of, you’ll find it in downtown Shawnee.
THE DOLL CRADLE
A family-owned and operated business. The Doll Cradle (10910 Johnson Dr.) is where you go if you’re shopping for a gift for a young girl. The shop is stocked with dolls of every size and style for the little princesses in your life. Perhaps you’re in search of doll clothes or accessories? They have what you’re looking for and then some. The shop also serves as a doll hospital if you need a family keepsake restored.
Check the store’s hours or make an appointment to see the doll doctor by viewing the Facebook page.
Make sure you have a sense of humor before entering ShananiGans (11006 Johnson Dr.). The store is stocked with inventory sure to make you laugh. From drinking glasses and comical socks to greeting cards and t-shirts, nearly everything in the store has a funny saying written on it. Make your way to the rear of the store to discover a massive amount of Kansas City Chiefs fans’ apparel.
Think of your favorite TV show. They have a hoodie or hat with your favorite actor on it. I mean, who doesn’t need a candle that reads, “Besties: Smells like petty gossip and a lot of venting. So drink up buttercup. ‘Cuz we’re not doing this sober.”? Ha!
Check out the store’s hours and latest inventory here.
With an afternoon of shopping behind you, it’s time to enjoy a pint of beer…or two…or a flight. I won’t judge you.
Transport Brewery (1113 Johnson Dr.) was opened in 2019 after two friends decided they wanted to share a beer with the community they loved. Once they settled on the location, a historic building, they went to work renovating the space. A labor of love, they added a tasting room and designed a converted alleyway with couches for extra lounge space.
It’s a cool space – ask about the hidden cellar.
During my private tour, I learned that the owners always wanted to serve a variety of beer. Nearly a dozen taps line the wall behind the bar consisting of flagship beers and collaborations with other breweries. I enjoyed a flight featuring five beers ranging in flavors and ABV strengths. Top Traveler, a New Zealand IPA, took the award for the best beer in the line-up.
To view their current beer menu, click this link.
I noticed a chalkboard near the bar with tally marks scribbled on it. Each mark represented a beer bought for an active military service person or veteran. You can buy them a beer to be redeemed later.
To check the brewery’s hours and view the upcoming food truck schedule, head over to their website for details.
SERVAES BREWING COMPANY
Pronounced like “service,” Servaes Brewing Company (109201 Johnson Dr.) attracts craft beer drinkers who hunt down non-traditional flavors like Purple Sweet Potato Pineapple, Like Butterflies Banana Cream Pie, or JOCO Loco Cucumber Lime Gose. They’re not afraid to push the envelope.
Individual tasters are $3, but a flight of tasters is the way to go. Most patrons seemed to agree as nearly everyone had a board at their table and a flight card. A continuous rotation of beer keeps regulars coming back for more.
Saevaes Brewing Company is the first Kansas brewery owned and operated by a female head brewer. They earned my respect for the process, unapologetic beer flavors, and inviting tasting room.
Open Tuesday-Sunday, the brewery hosts pop-up shop events, trivia nights, and the like. Visit on Wednesday nights to build a mixed four-pack or to enjoy a $5 full pour during Music Bingo. Check the website for a complete listing of events and the brewery’s hours.
WANDERING VINE AT THE CASTLE
What could feel more magical than drinking fine wine inside a castle? Visit Wandering Vine at the Castle (12401 Johnson Dr.) to enjoy a delicious chef-prepared meal and a wine flight. Open Wednesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner, the castle welcomes locals and tourists who are seeking a sophisticated dining experience.
The building has been a number of businesses over the years but has always remained a memorable landmark on the edge of downtown Shawnee. Today, it’s owned by Kansas City residents who have enlisted the expertise of an executive chef and sommelier to celebrate food and drink. One step inside the castle and you are transported to an exceptionally beautiful setting.
Reservations are highly recommended, however, I stopped by the castle for a wine flight during the late afternoon between meal times and was served swiftly in the bar area. I chose Reds of the World, a flight that included three pours from Portugal, Washington, and Spain ($16). Premium wine flights are $26. I loved them all.
During my chat with the owner, I discovered that Wandering Vine at the Castle is known for collaborating with and serving wine from Grace Hill Winery, a vineyard only miles from my Wichita home. She gave me a tour of the castle that included a view of the wine cellar (available for private parties) and the dining room adorned with tasteful holiday decorations.
Additionally, the castle hosts numerous events during the year that pair wine tasting with thoughtfully crafted meals. For example, the New Year’s celebration includes a five-course meal perfect for couples wanting to welcome the year in style.
During other times of the year, they serve lunch until 4pm, small plates, dinner, and brunch on Sundays. Take a look at the menus here. Are you interested in experiencing Wandering Vine at the Castle? View the website and make a reservation here.
SHAWNEE TOWN 1929
To experience what it was like to live in a farm community and step back into time, a visit to Shawnee Town 1929 (11501 W. 57th St.) makes it a reality. The 1920s living history museum includes authentic exhibits and collections of artifacts. Life in Shawnee during the 1920s was vastly different than what you see today.
People lived to be in their mid-50s, the town’s speed limit was 12 mph, and a man’s suit cost $15. Experiencing the museum and the buildings at Shawnee town 1929 bring to life what it was like to live in the area. Clothes hang from the line to dry outdoors. The six-room farmhouse replica resembles one found in Kansas.
Whether you visit with family for the day, as a part of a school field trip, or simply want to watch a demo or take a class, Shawnee Town 1929 offers visitors an immersive experience unlike what they’ll find anywhere else in the region.
A self-guided tour is $3/adult, $1/child, Children age 5 and under can enter for free. Open March through October, Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-4:30pm, it should be at the top of your list of things to do in Shawnee. Preview your visit by taking a 360-degree video tour.
PIONEER CROSSING PARK
Drive to Pioneer Crossing Park and Statue (10406 Shawnee Mission Pkwy) to get a glimpse of artist Charles Glosin’s wagon train sculpture made from native limestone and bronze. The three-dimensional sculpture illustrates what it would have looked like to cross the prairie.
Stroll through the park between 6am and 10pm to explore the many historical markers like the one pictured above that tell the story of the Shawnee Indians and the settlers who first resided in the area. Considered one of the points of interest, Pioneer Crossing Park was built to celebrate the rich history and community spirit of the town of Shawnee.
FAMILY TREE NURSERY
I couldn’t resist stopping by Family Tree Nursery (7036 Nieman). A novice gardener and lover of holiday decor, I wanted to see what I was told was a magical display of Christmas trees. Since 1981, the garden center has supplied plants and garden tools to green thumbs. But during the holiday season, the interior of the store becomes a winter wonderland.
Themed trees adorn the showroom floor nestled closely to gift displays and baskets of holiday ornaments. Better still, Café Equinox serves a variety of drinks and locally-made pastries, so you can grab a coffee before you shop. (As of December 2021, the café was closed for renovations.)
Visiting Family Tree Nursery, especially during the holidays, is more than a shopping trip. It’s a destination that promises shoppers an experience like no other.
I look forward to returning to the store when they host the Fall Festival Event that includes live music, bites to eat, and activities for all ages. I think you’ll enjoy the visit any time of the year. View Family Tree Nursery’s hours and upcoming events schedule here.
With hours of fun exploration behind me, I was ready to wind down and enjoy a delicious dinner at Hereford House (17244 Midland Dr.). Luckily, it was located only steps from the front door of my hotel. Original to Kansas City, the restaurant serves hand-cut, dry-aged steaks grilled to perfection. In the mood for seafood, I selected the grilled salmon, mashed potatoes, and sautéed broccoli for dinner. Why not a steak?
The Hereford’s House steaks are beyond delicious. I’ve enjoyed them on more than one occasion while in Kansas City. Now, I can vouch for the grilled salmon flavored to perfection with a crispy crust. They have perfected surf and turf entrees.
Not one to skip dessert, I chose the crème brûlée from a star-studded line-up of classic favorites. As I devoured every bite, I reflected on my time in Shawnee.
The town touts the phrase “good starts here,” and now I understand why. From its incredible attractions to exquisite dining options, it is worthy of an overnight visit when in the Kansas City area. Shawnee deserves the accolades.
For more details about upcoming happenings in Shawnee, visit All in Shawnee’s blog page. To preview more retail shopping, read my post 8 Reasons Why Downtown Shawnee Should Be Your Shopping Spree Destination.