7 Must Visit Areas Near Fort Leavenworth

Fort Leavenworth was my first duty station after commissioning, and the overwhelming response I got from people was one of sympathy.  “Oh, I’m so sorry” was the general response from everyone. I was dreading moving to Leavenworth when I finished BOLC. Thankfully, the sympathy and pity was misplaced. Turns out, there is plenty to do in the area for everyone. Fort Leavenworth is actually pretty great. It’s less than a thirty-minute drive from Kansas City, and it is not nearly as deserted as people think or claim. There are several areas that cater to all kinds of activities outside of the Fort. Downtown Leavenworth, Lansing, and Legends are all areas worth looking into, but the focus of this article is east of the Fort, across the river.

Zona Rosa

Zona Rosa is the “catch all” of shopping. It is an outlet mall twenty minutes from Leavenworth. It has a generous mix of event spaces, bars, restaurants, and shopping centers to satisfy a wide range of needs. Zona Rosa is very popular for Hail and Farewell locations outside of the Fort.  During the warmer months, Zona Rosa is a good place to see Farmer’s Markets, street fairs, and festivals geared towards families.

Right and Up Tip: Its new appeal to the younger and single crowd is a series of new apartment complexes anywhere from a mile out to in the center of the shopping center. The apartments come with a loyalty program for tenants that give them up to 20% off most restaurants and stores.

The Plaza

Designed to mirror Seville, the Country Club Plaza of Kansas City is an upscale version of Zona Rosa. Four miles from Downtown Kansas City, the Plaza is nestled in high-income neighborhoods collectively called the Country Club District. The Plaza is great for a few reasons. It has the more upscale stores you may not find in Zona Rosa, it is closer to Downtown Kansas City, it offers quick access to the popular museums, and it offers its own take on the history of Kansas City. Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains, and the Plaza offers a concentrated collection of beautiful fountains and sculptures with well-established, scenic walking routes throughout the entire area.

Westport

Photo by  Scutter

Photo by Scutter

A historic section of Kansas City, Westport is one of Kansas City’s most popular entertainment areas for night life. Geared towards a younger crowd, Westport offers several sprawling blocks of specialty bars. Irish Pubs, night clubs, dueling piano bars, arcade bars geared towards 90s nostalgia, and a variety of “hipster” locales as well.  During the day, Westport offers a variety of markets and festivals, such as beer tasting festivals and St. Patrick’s day festivities.

Right and Up Tip: If you plan to go to Westport in the evening, get there early and do dinner before you go out, as both pedestrian traffic and parking after 8 or 9 pm is a nightmare.

Power and Light

Power and Light is broken up into two different areas: Power and Light District and Power and Light (P&L). Power and Light District is an area of downtown Kansas City surrounded by hotels, restaurants, office buildings, and shopping. The District has large-scale events such as KC Comicon twice a year. P&L, on the other hand, is a closed off space of bars, night clubs, and restaurants. Famous for its various cheap/free concerts with big name artists (Blink 182, Luke Bryan, etc.), Power and Light is a great place to go for every type of night owl. However, there are downsides. Close parking is $15 and up, and there is a cover charge to get into Power and Light as well as cover charges at most of the bars and night clubs. Thankfully, most security guards at the main entrance and at the bars will waive the cover charge fees when they see military IDs, but that is not guaranteed. You can sink close to $50 before your first drink.

Right and Up Tip: Much like Westport, arriving early and doing dinner in the area will help as Power and Light normally does not start charging cover until 8 or 9pm.

18th and Vine

Though a smaller and less trafficked district, 18th and Vine is well worth your while. Either to tour yourself your first time in Leavenworth, or to take your visiting family and friends, 18th and Vine is a unique part of Kansas City’s history. The main attractions in the area are the Soul Food joints, and the African American museums. The Negro League Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum are both small, but history rich museums that you can do in a day. The Jazz museum also has an active Jazz club attached with regular performances published a few weeks in advance. 18th and Vine also houses several restoration groups, performances houses, the Black Archives of Mid-America, and the Black Chamber of Commerce with different levels of public access available.

Downtown KC

Photo by  Lane Pearman

Photo by Lane Pearman

Downtown KC covers all manner of areas, and encompasses several of the other areas already discussed. Most notably not already discussed though, are Kansas City’s Museums. Kansas boasts the nation’s only public WWI museum. The Nelson Atkins Art museum is a very popular tourist attraction. It offers yoga on the lawn Saturday Mornings, and often participates in Kansas City’s famous monthly First Friday events. The Kemper is another, smaller art museum focused on modern art. Unique to the Kemper, it houses its art in three separate buildings several blocks away from each other throughout Kansas City.

Right and Up Tip: Though a far drive, Leavenworth is situated between two Presidential Libraries dedicated to Dwight D. Eisenhower (KS), and Harry S. Truman (MO).

Weston

Photo by  J L

Photo by J L

A 15-minute drive from Leavenworth, Weston offers a glimpse at Midwest American heritage. Antebellum homes converted into Bed and Breakfasts, tobacco barns, historic distilleries and breweries, and shopping and dining offer a lot of appeal in this smaller historic Missouri town. Weston is a great place to go for winter sport enthusiasts with skiing and snowboarding available at good prices. A popular attraction in Weston at any time of year, O’Malley’s Pub and the attached Weston Brewing Company draw a mixed crowd. Weston also offers a variety of specialty wine, spirits, and tobacco stores for more sophisticated needs.

So get out there and explore the areas near you! Fort Leavenworth is a great post and the areas surrounding it make it that much better.

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about the author

A Texas native, Sarah graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2015 and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, KS. She is a certified CrossFit coach and former dancer. She is a food and book enthusiast excited for every new duty station.