Eat, Play, Stay: Shawnee

As the metropolitan mecca of a mostly rural state, Kansas City has a cosmopolitan vibe and attractions aplenty.  But if you’re planning a trip to the area, don’t overlook one of the best reasons to visit the big city – to connect with the wilderness.

While seeking nature in the midst of the largest metro area in the region may not seem the most obvious venture, the Kansas City area boasts some of the best maintained and most loved parks and trails in the state.

One of our Top 10 picks are the hiking and mountain-biking trails at Shawnee Mission Park.  You can spend all morning riding hard through miles of woodland trails in the 1,600 acre park, and also enjoy a 120-acre lake with fishing, a swimming beach, and canoes / paddle boats for rent at the marina.  The trails are exceeding popular (and rightfully so), so it’s worth trying to visit outside of peak weekends.  Reserve a shelter and bring a picnic lunch, or even better get cleaned up and head to the nearby Hereford House in Shawnee for one of the best steaks in the city.  IMG_2014

While you can go just about anywhere in Kansas City for good BBQ, if you are craving a top-end steak the Hereford House (17244 Midland Dr) is our undisputed choice.

After a full day on the trails, there’s nothing better to sate your hunger than the K.C. strip or massive ribeye.  This venerable establishment pays close attention to detail; the steaks are Sterling Silver grade, hand-cut in house and grilled to tender perfection over live coals.

There’s plenty to see and do throughout the area, so if you’re making an overnight trip, why spend your valuable time traversing the extensive highways of K.C. when you can stay right in Shawnee?

IMG_2012One of the closest (and best) hotels just north of the park is the Courtyard by Marriott (17250 Midland Dr, rooms from $119).

The setting doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of the city, and the rooms are spacious, well-appointed, and quite clean.  There’s a small pool if you feel like a swim, and one of our favorite features was the outdoor seating area and fire-pit.

Shawnee is a great place to enjoy the amenities and dining of the city, and also log some miles on a top-quality trail network. Let us know what you think and check out more of our “Eat, Stay, Play” series for tips on the best places to enjoy top trails, outstanding local cuisine, and overnight accommodations throughout the state.

Paola Inn & Suites

About 20-30 minutes south of Kansas City and 15 minutes southeast of Hillsdale State Park and its miles of horse and walking trails and about 40 minutes northwest from La Cygne Lake with its winding horse trails is the city of Paola.

Tired from hiking for hours and occasionally getting lost in the winding trails of Hillsdale Lake (won’t be a problem for you with the guidebook!), I pulled into the Paola Inn & Suites, and to my surprise, I got a Jacuzzi Suite room. It means exactly what you think it does from the name – it features a large spa bathtub. For someone who’s been on the trail all day, it’s about as good as it gets.

Jacuzzi Suite

Jacuzzi Suite

That’s not the only option for rooms. They have standard double queen rooms up to king suites with a separate living area with a fold out couch, seems like the best option for families or groups traveling together. They also have handicap accessible options with walk-in showers and handrails in the bathrooms.

Paola has a couple of bed and breakfasts, but this is the one full service hotel. All the 39 rooms (not just the ones with giant bathtubs) in the 3-story hotel have a microwave, mini-refrigerators, an iron and ironing board, and free WiFi. And in the morning, there’s a full, free! continental breakfast spread. During the summer, you can enjoy a dip in the pool outside, and if the trails nearby weren’t enough of a workout, there’s an exercise room at the hotel.

It’s on the east side of town, just off the Highway 169/7. It’s listed as two-star, and I stayed in some not so nice two-star hotels over the summer working on the book, but this is definitely one of the good ones! It’s clean, the beds are comfortable, and the staff seemed genuinely happy to help.

If you go:
Rooms from $107

1600 Hedge Lane Court
Paola, KS 66071
913-294-3700 or 877-402-3700

DoubleTree by Hilton in Overland Park, Kansas

From the Olathe Prairie Center with its open vistas over the plains to the rocky mountain biking loops through the trees of Shawnee Mission Park, Kansas City, KS is full of trails. And during my time on the trails in the Kansas City area, I stayed a night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Overland Park.

5 pillows and a cookie? Not a bad night’s stay

“Here’s your chocolate chip cookie,” said the front desk agent as she finished checking me in.

“Thank you,” I replied in wonderment, taking the warm, paper wrapped cookie. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been welcomed at a hotel with a cookie. I very nearly dropped that cookie when I opened the door to my room. Room? No, that’s not the right word. Suite. Thanks to the Overland Park Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, I got hooked up at the DoubleTree.

Hello beautiful!

The corner room had a separate living area with a couch, easy chair, and small dining area, and a flat screen TV that swiveled so it could be viewed from the couch or the bed.

All of those are nice (as was the mini fridge and the comfortable bed with white linens so you know without a doubt that they’re clean), but it is the little details that stand out and make a hotel more than just a bed for the night. It’s always the little things. Here, it was the separate sections in the wastebaskets for recyclables and trash (love that! Every hotel should have those!) and the Wolfgang Puck coffee maker.

Beyond the room, there was a pool, whirlpool, sauna, and workout room. OK, a lot of hotels have those. But how many hotels have a racquetball court on the premises?

Racquetball – who would have guessed?

Tucked away behind the pool area, two men were working up a sweat in the little room. I silently applauded them for their efforts, and then headed back to my room to lounge around, watching TV from the bed then getting up to watch it from the couch as I took notes on the trails of the day (Olathe Prairie Center – mowed loop options with pleasant picnic area in the middle. Shawnee Mission Park – popular with local bikers and well-maintained and signed).

And wanting to get the full experience of the hotel, and not wanting to put on shoes, I called for room service from the Trofi Restaurant. Pricey, yes, as room service and hotel food tends to be, but it was delivered quickly and was yummy.

With its location near Corporate Woods and its loads of meeting and convention space, it’s popular with business travelers, and for anyone who needs a last minute gift from a trip, there is a small gift shop in the lobby.

So if it comes down to this hotel vs. another similarly priced hotel in the same area, remember, this one will give you a free cookie.

If you go:
From $115
10100 College Boulevard
Overland Park, Kansas, 66210-1462
TEL: 1-913-451-6100 FAX: 1-913-451-0386