A vibrant community known for its charming downtown, university, and plentiful parks, Parkville, Missouri, is a hidden gem located about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Kansas City. Although platted in 1844, Parkville’s historic roots go even further back to the Lewis and Clark era. These vestiges can be found around town and at the English Landing/Platte Landing Park. For those seeking a day trip out of Kansas City, the small town has a large riverfront park, an underground commercial district, and two wooded nature sanctuaries.
Heading south from NW River Park Drive (MO-9), you’ll pass the beautiful English Landing Park walking the trail on the left and Park University and the Sullivan Nature Sanctuary on the right. As the road comes to an end, you’ll find yourself in downtown historic Parkville. An eclectic variety of businesses and shops line the downtown area, from art boutiques to antique stores. PopCulture Gourmet Popcorn (6325 Lewis St Suite 101, Parkville, MO 64152) is a hit with locals around Kansas City, who drive in all the way from Olathe and Lee’s Summit to get popcorn. Looking for something to do that’s a little different but offer’s scenic views of downtown? Play the Parkville Mini Golf, an old 18-hole course with a full-service ice cream bar. Since it sits up on the bluffs, it has a great view of the river (7 W 1st St, Parkville, MO 64152).
For a city of around 6,000 people, Parkville has a lot of parks. You can find five parks and two nature sanctuaries where you can relax, explore, and enjoy. These parks include:
- English Landing Park — a 68-acre park with walking trail
- Platte Landing Park — a 140-acre park with trails, dog park, and boat ramp
- Adams Park — Small corner park with picnic area and playground area
- Pocket Park — Small tiered garden in the historic district with benches and small stage area
- Watkins Park — City park with basketball goal and a small walking trail
- Parkville Nature Sanctuary — 115-acre natural outdoor area
- Sullivan Nature Sanctuary — 7.63-acre nature sanctuary
My favorite two parks were the Parkville Nature Sanctuary and English Landing/Platte Landing Park. Why? They’re huge and take full advantage of the natural beauty in the area. Also, at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, the city noise is muted.
A 115-acre natural outdoor area with three miles of hiking trails, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is an excellent place to escape the bustle of the city or the stresses of college life. Many consider the trails the best hiking trails in Kansas City, with easy to moderate trails. The trails are well-marked and a few take a little bit of a journey through the woods and up into the hills. Take the Old Katy Trail up to the waterfall or alongside Lewis Spring. Butterfly Pass, which goes by an old root cellar, takes you through foliage and plants specifically designed to attract butterflies. Parking is plentiful. A public restroom is available next to the parking lot.
As you drive into Parkville, a long walking and riding trail that stretches alongside the Missouri River is the first sign of the city. The 68-acre park has three miles of walking trails, picnic areas, a sand volleyball court, a disc golf course, and a large playground area. During the summer months, the Farmer’s Market is right beside the park, so it makes it convenient to stop in, grab some food, and then go for a stroll along the park on early weekend mornings. After crossing the giant bridge in the park, you’ll find the adjacent Platte Landing Park. The 140-acre park includes two additional miles of trails, an off-leash dog park, and a new boat ramp. If you want to just and watch the river go by, there are plenty of shade trees and benches near the water’s edge. Historical markers noting the Lewis and Clark expedition to the area are in the park near the water’s edge.
Founded in 1875, Park University is a private, nonprofit university that can be seen on the bluffs overlooking English Landing Park and the Missouri River. At 800 acres, the university’s most distinctive building is Mackay Hall, built using limestone from the campus grounds. The three-story building was constructed in 1883 and finished in 1893. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is near the Parkville Presbyterian Church, also made out of the native limestone. The rest of the campus is also and nestled in the hills.
8500 NW River Park Dr, Parkville, MO 64152 or look for President Mackenzie Underground Entrance/Exit
Imaging working or going to a nursing lab in an underground cave. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the town and Park University is the Parkville Commercial Underground. The university hired a local mining company to drill into the hill and created business space both for rent and for campus activities. The Parkville University Campus has more than 385,000 square feet of commercial space that are underground. As you drive into the underground, you’ll see office entrances built into the underground walls. It’s like a “commercial” cavern tool, in a cool way. Tenants include a data center, part of the Parkville School District, a whiskey distillery, and distribution centers. Another part of the underground is known as the Academic Underground, with stores, faculty offices, and the nursing program all held in a cave. Whoever said a university campus had to be boring?
Finding the commercial underground can be tricky. Turn right from the highway into Park University. When you enter Park University, curve to the right and then keep going straight back toward what looks like a parking lot and a line of trees. Before you get there, you’ll see a road that swoops down into a tunnel along with a sign that says ENTRANCE. That’s where you drive into the commercial underground. It’s before the parking lot (looks like it goes under it). It can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to look.
Have you visited Parkville? What’s your favorite place to visit? Have you ventured into the Parkville Nature Sanctuary?