Often called the Gateway to the Prairie, Manhattan, Kansas is a scenic city that offers a little bit of everything from a clear, beautiful state lake to the sprawling Kansas State University campus. Manhattan is located just 90 miles from Kansas City. Be greeted by the Flint Hills as you drive in from Interstate 70 and turn on one of the roads that take you through Pillsbury Crossing, originally a crossing for pioneers. Want to experience the city’s multiple restaurants, shops, and bars? Visit the Aggieville District, the oldest shopping district in Kansas. Many of the buildings in the town are also created from the same native stone that lines the bluffs.

Iowa, nicknamed the Hawkeye State, is a state bordered by rivers; Missouri and Big Sioux in the west and the Mississippi in the east. At 200 miles from top to bottom and 310 miles from side to side, Iowa is a state that can be easily explored in segments. While there are plenty of cornfields and pastures throughout the state, a variety of natural landmarks expose the vibrant wildlife within the state. Explore the lakes, historic landmarks, dramatic bluffs along the Mississippi River, and other natural wonders available in the Iowa parks system.

Missouri is known as the “show-me” state and with good cause. Parks in Missouri consists of award-winning trails that take you through wooded forests, grasslands, and deep underground through deep underground caves. The list of Missouri attractions, such as historic national sites, also makes for a great weekend getaway. Take a tour through the Ozarks and or follow the Missouri River Water Trail. What’s on your bucket list?

The Missouri Ozarks offer more than just a history lesson— bubbling springs, lush forests, high cliffs, caves, and rivers traverse the St. Francois Mountains.

Want to plan a weekend trip? The Ozarks are a great getaway from either St. Louis or Kansas City. The only real difference is the starting point. One would begin at Lake of the Ozarks (closer to Kansas City) while the other would begin at the Onondaga Cave State Park. You could theoretically do the itinerary in one day, but it would 16 hours round trip. I would recommend either camping out under the stars or finding a hotel/motel room in one of the small towns nearby.

Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Park and State Historic Site is both a museum and a nature park. The historic site has been preserved to give you a sense of what life was like in the 1870s. The 100-acre park itself offers a bike trail, campgrounds, swimming beach, trails, and a lake area where you can sit and enjoy the clean waters of Watkins Mill Lake. You can also view the abundant wildlife, such as deer and wild turkeys, and see a variety of bird species, some that are only native to northwestern Missouri.

Although the springs are no longer accessible and the water craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s have long passed, Excelsior Springs, Missouri still retains many of the original architecture and charm of its historic past. Located about 28 miles outside of Kansas City (30 minutes in good traffic), the town still has a variety of cultural and historical attractions. You can also walk on a self-guided tour of the mineral wells that used to dot the landscape during the early part of the 20th century.

When people think of the Kansas countryside, they often picture scenes from Little House on the Prairie or other shows where people roam through pastures of tall grass and wildflowers dotting the landscape. The Flint Hills of Kansas is a region that typifies this image. Drive about two hours northwest of Topeka and start your tour of the historic junctions that dot the Flint Hills region.

Here’s your bucket list trail from north Kansas to Wichita following the highlights of the Flint Hills. The first group will start on Rte. 243, stay primarily on KS 177 until you hit I35.