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Today I’m welcoming Danie from The Color Gold. Danie goes to college in Kirksville, MO, and is sharing a bit about her favorite hiking, dining, and events in her adopted home town. Thinking Kirksville might be the college town for you? Read on!
Tucked away in Missouri’s northwest corner, near the border of both Iowa and Illinois, is the city of Kirksville. Kirksville is home two universities––Truman State and A.T. Still University. At about three hours north of both Kansas City and St. Louis, Kirksville is typically off the beaten path for most Midwestern tourists. Most of the visitors to Kirksville are families going on college visits to either of the universities, and those coming from smaller towns in the region for shopping and outdoor recreation. Here are some of my favorite things to do and see in Kirksville, MO.
Thousand Hills State Park
The major outdoor space for recreation in Kirksville, Missouri is Thousand Hills State Park where there is over three thousand acres of land available for use. Entrance into the Thousand Hills is free, so you can spend the day for little to no cost. Thousand Hills boasts three great hiking trails, which welcome hikers of all skill levels. My favorite of the three trails is Red Bud Trail. It’s about one and a quarter miles in length, and traverses rough terrain alongside the lake itself. It’s a nice forty or so minute hike to acclimate you to the stunning lake, and the surrounding landscape.
If hiking isn’t for you, don’t worry! The lake offers plenty of options for water sports! At the marina, tourists can rent canoes, paddle boards, and kayaks to take out on the lake. I love renting a canoe with a group of friends and exploring some of the seventeen miles of shoreline at Thousand Hills. Just be wary of the wake from the motorboats, as they can easily topple over your canoe! Kirksville is notorious for being oh so very windy all year around. So if you’re in town and it’s a particularly windy day you may want to consider renting a fishing boat or pontoon from the marina instead. Motor boat rental is a great option for those who want to spend their time fishing the lake.
After exploring the lake, be sure to check out the ancient petroglyphs on your way out of the park! The petroglyphs themselves are placed inside an enclosed structure to prevent them from being damaged by weather any further. Visitors can make an appointment at the marina to get inside of the building, otherwise you are able to see the petroglyphs just fine from the windows. Dating from 1100-1600AD, the petroglyph carvings detail footprints, crosses, suns, arrows, and birds. The petroglyphs are a great glimpse into who used to live in the area before modern times, and connects visitors to the culture of the Native Americans.
The Town of Kirksville, Missouri
Kirksville is a quaint town that still has several ‘mom and pop’ stores, and local one-of-a-kind restaurants. During the summer months, Kirksville hosts a weekly farmers market. The market is located on the town square from 7AM to noon on Saturdays. This is a great way to see all kinds of fresh produce that local farmers have grown over the week, and also help support farmers from the area.
Some great restaurants can also be found near the town square, like Maxwell’s and Bonzai Steak Teriyaki and Sushi. Maxwell’s is located in a historic car dealership, and offers the best burgers in town. They also have a big drink menu, which looks even better during their happy hour from 3-6 on Tuesday-Friday. Besides burgers, Maxwell’s offers salads and sides, like onion rings (my favorite), chips, and jalapeño poppers. Bonzai, on the other hand, specializes in sushi and other Japanese fare, like teppanyaki and rice dishes.
While on the square, be sure to stop in Hidden Treasures, Kirksville’s local thrift store. Hidden Treasures sells quite a variety of different things, including clothing, soaps, books, and other knickknacks like glass. Be sure to pick up a book in their Vintage Book Shop, which has over seven thousand differing titles.
Kirksville, MO Events
Throughout the year there are several festivals and events in Kirksville. The most popular of these is known as Red Barn Arts Festival. The festival is a juried art show, with over one hundred participants, and over ten thousand visitors annually. Visit Kirksville during Red Barn, and you’ll be able to buy art from local artisans. One year I bought a black and white mug from a local artist, and I love it so much.
If you’re in Kirksville during the summer come out to our BBQ competition, our annual fair, or visit our summer concert series. The concert series runs every Friday (June through August) evening on the square and features local musicians.
Resources for Visiting Kirksville, Missouri
Whether you’re heading to Kirksville for a college visit, a weekend getaway, or some outdoor recreation, here are some resources to help you plan your trip.
Getting to Kirksville – The nearest international airport 133 miles away in Des Moines, Iowa. Kirksville is 160 miles from Kansas City and 200 miles from St. Louis. There is an Amtrak station just south of Kirksville.
Where to stay in Kirksville – Because Kirksville is a college town, there are several hotels to choose from, starting at $52 per night. We have the best luck finding hotel deals on Trivago – check Kirksville hotel prices here. Airbnb is another decent choice for Kirksville lodging. We found three rentals downtown and two out by Thousand Hills state Park, starting at just $45 per night. Sign up for Airbnb here and receive a $40 travel credit toward your first stay.
Attractions in Kirksville – Visit Kirksville is a great resource for dining, shopping, attractions, and events. They also generously provided us with some of the above photos.
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Danie is a college student majoring in art history at a small liberal arts school in northeastern Missouri. In her free time, she likes to spend time outdoors and traveling the globe. Danie’s most recent adventures took her to London for a semester learning abroad. You can find Danie on The Color Gold and Instagram.