Explore Indoors: Clay’s Must-Visit Museums

It may still technically be fall, but it’s definitely starting to feel like winter out there! With a chill working its way into the air, now’s a great time to explore Clay’s many (mostly indoors) museums and historic sites!


Clay County Museum and Archives—Liberty  

Home to three floors full of local historical relics, this museum is great for those interested in Clay County’s past!


Liberty Jail Historic Site—Liberty 

See where LDS leader Joseph Smith was held from 1838-1839.


Jesse James Bank Museum—Liberty 

Site of the first successful daylight bank robbery during peacetime in the United States, tour the original bank robbed by Jesse James and his gang in 1866.


Jesse James Birthplace Museum—Kearney 

Tour the home where infamous Jesse James and his brother Frank were born and raised! Home the largest collection of James family artifacts; this is the perfect stop for history buffs!


Kearney Historic Museum—Kearney 

Dive into the history of Kearney, Missouri by exploring its local museum!


Watkins Woolen Mill—Kearney 


The only 19th century textile mill still housing its original machinery, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site lets visitors get a glimpse back into the 1870s.


Hall of Waters—Excelsior Springs 

Built in 1934, the Hall of Waters is the place to visit in Excelsior Springs for a look back into the city’s mineral water past.


Excelsior Springs Museum and Archives—Excelsior Springs  

Learn more about Excelsior Springs’ storied past at the local museum!


Atkins Johnson Farm and Museum—Gladstone 

This historic home offers a glimpse back into Gladstone in the 19th century.


TWA Museum—Kansas City 

Learn about TWA’s role in early commercial flight at this truly unique museum experience.


Shoal Creek Living History Museum—Kansas City 

Found on 80 scenic acres within Hodge Park, visitors get to explore a village of authentic 19th century buildings.

Family-friendly & Spooky Halloween Events!

Kid’s Friendly Halloween Events


  1. Great Pumpkin Fest – Worlds of Fun until October 28th

Don’t miss your chance to enjoy Worlds of Fun’s ultimate fall festival during its last weekend! From 12:00-5:00 experience family-friendly Halloween-themed events throughout Planet Snoopy!


  1. Kid’s Safe Halloween – Shoal Creek Living History Museum October 27th

Trick-or-treat like never before through Shoal Creek’s historic village. The event is scheduled from 12:00 to 3:00—make sure to wear a costume and bring your treat bag!


  1. Spooky Fun in Neverland – Macken Park October 27th

Kids will love this spooky Peter Pan themed Halloween celebration! From 11:00 to 3:00, enjoy adventure, bounce houses, pumpkin painting, a hayride, and more!


  1. Smithville’s Haunted Campground – Smith’s Fork Park October 27th

From 4:00-6:30, enjoy this kid-friendly Halloween event at Smith’s Fork Campground! Featuring trunk or treating, a costume contest, scare-crow building (straw provided, bring your own clothes to stuff), and more!


  1. Bill Payne Halloween – Downtown Excelsior Springs October 31st

From 4:00-6:00, enjoy trick-or-treating through Excelsior Springs’ historic downtown! After, promptly at 6:00, the Bill Payne Costume Contest will begin.


Scary Halloween Events


  1. Halloween Haunt – Worlds of Fun until October 27th

Tonight and tomorrow night are your last two chances to experience the thrills of Halloween Haunt! This event is not recommended for children under 14, Halloween Haunt becomes frightening after 6:30. Halloween Haunt is from 6:00-12:00 pm and 11:00 am-1:00 am tomorrow.


  1. Smithville’s Haunted Campground – Smith’s Fork Park October 27th

Smithville’s Haunted Campground event gets scary from 6:30-8:30!


  1. “Haunting” Historical Figures of Clay County – Clay County Museum October 27th

From 6:00-8:00 pm enjoy cider, donuts, and guided tours with ghostly former residents of Clay County! The event is hosted by the Clay County Museum and costs $5 per person!

Local Treats for this Halloween!

Halloween is just around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to think about one of the things that makes this season great—candy! Luckily Clay has some delicious options for locally made chocolates, candies, and desserts that you’ll want to fall for this spooky season.

Classy Chocolate—Liberty, Missouri

Nestled in the Historic Square of Downtown Liberty, Classy Chocolate is the perfect place to stop when you have a sweet tooth. Offering a wide variety of handmade goodies, Classy Chocolate has a selection of desserts—cookies, chocolate covered strawberries, dipped pretzels, and so much more!

Nellie’s Sweet Shoppe—Smithville, Missouri

Found in Downtown Smithville, Nellie’s Sweet Shoppe offers a variety of handmade goodies you’ll want to try. From an array of deliciously made chocolates to every flavor of fudge you can imagine—Nellie’s Sweet Shoppe offers just about any dessert delectable you can think of. There’s also an ice cream parlor in the shop, so grab a couple scoops while you’re there!

Cupcakes Unlimited—Kansas City, Missouri 

For unique handmade desserts, stop by Cupcakes Unlimited in Kansas City and peruse their tasty array of cupcake flavors. This is the local stop for beautifully decorated and delicious cupcake masterpieces—buy them by the cake or in dozens! Along with cupcakes, Cupcakes Unlimited offers cake balls, milkshakes, decorated sugar cookies, and cupcake sundaes (which are as delicious as they sound).

The Top 5 Fall Foliage Hikes in Clay

Fall has arrived and with it the trees in Clay have started to change colors. From reds and browns, yellows and pale greens, and even a splash of purple here and there—a seasonal must in Clay is taking the time to step into nature and enjoy the forests of autumn.


There are a ton of hiking and walking options in Clay, but here’s a short list of five of some of the best tree-filled trails where you’re sure to see an array of fall colors!


And remember, fall is an ever-changing season, so to really see everything this time of the year has to offer, we suggest you visit all five during October and early November!

1. Happy Rock Park, Kansas City 

1 mile loop – easy difficulty – paved – pet friendly 


Perfect for hiking, biking, and trail running, Happy Rock Park Trail is a great place to find beautiful fall scenes. Dogs are allowed on the trails, so take your four-legged friends out for a stroll with you—just remember to keep them on a leash.

2. Maple Woods Nature Preserve, Gladstone


1 mile loop – moderate difficulty – unpaved – pet friendly 


This trail is unpaved and does experience some fairly steep hills and elevation changes. The woods get so thick in places on this trail that you’ll forget you’re smack-dab in the middle of a residential area.

3. Eagle’s View Trail, Smithville Lake

1.5 miles – easy difficulty – paved and unpaved – pet friendly 


Add a lake view to your scenic fall walk and you’ve got one pretty picture! Eagle’s View Trail loops alongside Smithville Lake, cutting through some of the area’s wooded areas before circling back. Though fall may still be a little too early for them, make sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles while you’re here—they like perching in trees along the waterline.

4. Stocksdale Park, Liberty 

2.8 mile loop – moderate difficulty – unpaved – pet friendly 


This trail is pretty well hidden within Stocksdale Park! It’s a beautiful and immersive hike, but it’s important to remember that the trail is one very long loop. A quick tip for hikers: there are few markers on this trail, so sometimes it’s a bit tough to navigate, but it’s well worth the challenge! If you have GPS on your phone, consider keeping your battery charged up enough to check every once in a while!

5. Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, Liberty 

Multiple trails – moderate difficulty – paved and unpaved – pet friendly 


The nature sanctuary’s trails are perfect for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike! Along with the stunning fall foliage, you’ll see native wildflowers, and grasslands. There are numerous trails at the sanctuary, so try to grab one of the park’s brochures before you head out so you have a map of their trail system on hand!

Exploring the Stories, Haunted History of Clay County

Spooky history and paranormal adventures

By Diana Lambdin Meyer


Conjuring up my best Cowardly Lion, I closed my eyes and whispered over and over, “I do believe in ghosts, I do believe in ghosts.”


The thing is, I don’t really believe in ghosts, but if I did, there would surely be no better place to find them than during a Paranormal Investigation Tour of the abandoned buildings of the former Odd Fellows Complex, now known as the Belvoir Winery, in Liberty. It’s also now home to The Inn at Belvoir Winery, which serves both as a luxurious place to stay and an elegant setting for events.


I was told a positive attitude toward ghosts increases their willingness to appear, thus my Cowardly Lion incantation. At any rate, I love exploring history, and I’m always up for a good story.


A thunderstorm had just moved through, shrouding the dilapidated buildings with an unearthly mist as about 15 of us, flashlights in hand, left the warm, well-lit, fully renovated administration building to trudge into the unknown.


The Odd Fellows, a benevolent organization, operated an orphanage, hospital and old folks home here starting in 1900. During WWII, German POWs were housed in some of the buildings. Another was rented out by the state as an insane asylum.


By the early 1990s, the facility closed permanently. Vandals, along with Missouri weather and Mother Nature, have done their damage. Most windows are broken, and staircases have collapsed on themselves. Dust and debris cover abandoned wheelchairs.


Disconnected light bulbs swing by frayed wires from sagging ceilings. Trees and vines grow through windows and doorways. For those in search of a scary, unnerving place, it just doesn’t get any better than this.


Our first stop was a former underground storage facility and storm shelter. Through their frequent visits, Keith Ross and his team at Paranormal Research Investigators have become acquainted with the spirit of a child they call Matthew who often plays there.


Members of our group held K-II Electronic Magnetic Sensors, little devices that look like a TV remote control but have a variety of colored lights that flash when a ghost is nearby. Other devices help translate the energy of the spirits into words that we mere mortals might understand.


“Matthew, will you come out and play?” called one of the investigators.


The controls began to light up and noise blurted from the audio equipment. Matthew was in the room and, if the sounds were to be believed, he brought a friend named Mark.


After about 45 minutes, Matthew and his playmate moved on and the lights no longer flashed. We went on to the former nursing home to see if we could locate Dorothy, an elderly woman who often complains that she hasn’t received her medicine in days.


The investigation continued until 2 a.m. with visits to several other buildings, including the morgue. When it was all over, my friend Linda and I agreed that we loved learning about the history of the old buildings and appreciated the company of enthusiastic, engaging people.


Even after the investigation, neither of us believes in ghosts, but we do believe in trying new things, keeping an open mind and always having a good time.


In that sense, we accomplished our mission.


The Elms Hotel


I thought about the blinking lights of that TV remote-like device a few months later when I had the opportunity to spend the night at the historic Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, one of the most haunted places in Missouri. With the original hotel dating to 1888, a lot of people have come and gone from the Elms over the years, not all of them by their own forces.


The ghost sightings here are legendary, so I was delighted to join a group of guests in the lobby at 9 p.m. Jay Fanning, an Elms employee since 2006, is a true believer in the unexplained things he has seen and enthusiastically leads the nightly tours.


My room was on the fourth floor, and I learned that is where some of the oddest things occur. Rooms 422 and 425, in particular, have seen a lot of activity. The housekeeping staff and numerous guests report that the TVs turn off and on by themselves, even after a major renovation in 2012 that replaced much of the wiring and all of the TVs.


During the various renovations, the walls in the grand ballroom have moved and changed many times. Jay has personally witnessed a young woman dressed in an Elms’ staff uniform walking through a wall in the dining room at exactly the point where a doorway once was.


But what really sends chills up his spine is downstairs in the beautiful spa and lap pool. Back in the 1920s, in the days of Prohibition and Al Capone’s visit to the Elms, this area was a speak-easy. During an illegal card game, a man was shot and killed here. On more than one occasion, when no one else is in the area, Jay has clearly heard a woman screaming, perhaps an echo from when she witnessed the card players’ untimely death.


The Hall of Waters


One of the most beautiful buildings in Clay County, is the historic Hall of Waters, a WPA project of the Great Depression that opened in 1938. Once one of the most celebrated medicinal spas in the Midwest and home to the world’s longest water bar, the Hall of Waters functioned as a spa until 2006.


I had the opportunity to celebrate a significant birthday in that spa. I mentioned to a friend how wonderful the old building was and she didn’t hesitate to tell me that it’s haunted. She said she frequently hears a child crying “mommy” when she is the only

person in th

e spa.


Others say they have heard Native American chanting and felt something touch their arms and shoulders.

It was still relaxing to me! A few years after my birthday spa day, Keith Ross’ company began offering haunted ghost tours on weekends.



Shoal Creek Living History Museum


More than a dozen buildings from Clay County, dating to the 1820s, have been relocated to the Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Hodge Park, just west of Liberty. It’s reasonable to assume that several spirits made the move with their former residences.


That’s why, once or twice each fall, Kansas City Parks and Recreation offers occasional paranormal tours in the evening hours after the park  has closed for the day.


I’ve just texted my friend Linda to see if she wants to join me. Sounds like a good time in the making.


Journey through history at popular haunts throughout Clay County

Splash into fun with Clay!

Enjoy the summer at some of Clay’s swimming destinations and water parks!


Hours and admission fees vary depending on the location, so make sure to visit them online to learn more!


1. Oceans of Fun Water Park (Worlds of Fun)
Splash into fun with this park’s many water attractions, from extreme slides to the relaxing lazy river—there are plenty of fun ways to cool off at Oceans of Fun!

2. Smithville Lake
With two swim beaches, Camp Branch Beach and Little Platte Beach, Smithville Lake is the perfect place to plan a lake day in Clay!

3. Gladstone Community Center
With a public indoor and outdoor pool, the Gladstone Community Center offers plenty of fun ways to cool off during the summer!

4. Excelsior Springs Community Center
The swimming facility at Excelsior Springs Community Center offers a zero-entry family pool, a 3 story water slide, a three-lane swimming pool, and more!

5. North Kansas City YMCA
The YMCA’s indoor swimming facility offers a three-lane swimming pool and a kid’s swimming pool complete with a playground!

Summer With Clay!

Exciting summer events and activities are right around the corner in Clay! Here are just a few of the of the summer events you can look forward to in the upcoming months!

May 18th: Popcorn in the Park—Stocksdale Park, Liberty

Enjoy the first of this summer’s Popcorn in the Park tonight with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle! This movie night is free, Liberty Parks and Recreation will provide popcorn and water; guests are encouraged to bring their own snacks, chairs, and blankets! Learn more at: historicdowntownliberty.org/events1/ 


Spring-Summer: Linden Square Events—Gladstone

There are tons of events planned for Linden Square this summer! From Culture Festivals to outdoor concerts, there’s plenty to do! Check out their full schedule at: lindensquare.info

June 1-2: Summertime Bluesfest—Oak Grove Park, Gladstone

Coming up at the

beginning of next month, the Gladstone Summertime Bluesfest is a local blues festival you won’t want to miss! Learn more at: gladstonechamber.com/bluesfest

June 8-9: Arts in the Park—Macken Park, North Kansas City

Enjoy this showcase of fine artists and makers, live music, food trucks, entertainers, and street performers in the beautiful Macken Park! Learn more at: nkc.org/departments/parks_and_recreation/arts_in_the_park/

June 16th: Wine Festival—Excelsior Springs

The 12th Annual Wine Festival in Excelsior Springs is the perfect opportunity to savor delicious Missouri wines while strolling along scenic Lover’s Lane in East Valley Park. Learn more at: visitexcelsior.com/index.php/annual-events/wine-festival/

June 16th: Movies in the Park – Lions Park, Downtown Kearney

Enjoy a free movie night in Downtown Kearney! The fun kicks off with Zootopia on June 16th! Learn more at: kearneyfirehouse.org/events

Saturdays in August: Hot Summer Nights – Downtown Smithville

Enjoy delicious food and family friendly entertainment in Historic Downtown Smithville! Learn more at: smithvillechamber.org/pview.aspx?id=1457&catID=4


Happy National Bike Month!


Did you know May is National Bike Month?

With it finally starting to feel like spring outside, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy the trails around Clay County!

Here’s a list of the top six places to ride your bike in Clay:

  1. Bonebender Trail System, Smithville Lake: This system consists of Bonebender Trail (6.0 miles) and Campground Trail (2.9 miles). Both trails are paved and meander through the scenic Camp Branch Beach and Campground.
  2. Watkins Woolen Mill, Kearney: Looping around the Williams Creek Lake, this 3.75 mile trail is paved and meanders through scenic park views.
  3. Jesse James Park, Kearney: Enjoy a scenic bike ride along this 1.5 mile trail though scenic Jesse James Park!
  4. Happy Rock Park, Gladstone: Happy Rock Park’s 1.3 mile paved fitness trail is perfect for a ride through the park!
  5. Downtown Excelsior Springs Trail System, Excelsior Springs: Approximately 2 miles long, this system winds through five parks in Excelsior Springs: Paul Craig Park, Fishing River Linear Park, Isley Park Woods, East Valley Park and Siloam Mountain Park.
  6. Wheel Park, North Kansas City: Home to a half mile paved circuit dedicated to bicyclists and roller skaters! 


Get ready to celebrate with Clay as Independence Day swiftly approaches!

There’s tons of red, white, and blue fun to be had throughout Clay. See where you can celebrate this year in our 2017 list of July 4th Fireworks and Festivals in Clay County.

  1. Liberty 4th Fest (July 3rd):

    Head to the Fountain Bluffs Sports Complex on Monday, July 3rd, for early Independence Day celebrations! From 5:30 to 8:30 you can enjoy free family fun activities. Enjoy inflatables, face painting, caricatures, and more! You can also try your hand at fishing in the park’s stocked ponds — fishing is completely free and includes poles and bait! A beer garden and food trucks will be available from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. From 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm live music will be performed by American Floyd, a Pink Floyd cover band. The fireworks display will begin at 10:00 pm!

    More Info on Liberty’s 4th Fest

  2. Gladstone Independence Day Celebration (July 4th from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm):

    Gladstone’s annual Independence Day Celebration will be held at Oak Grove Park. Enjoy live music performed by the Tony Gates Ensemble, followed by a concert by the North Star Community Band. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and snacks and enjoy this exciting event with family and friends! The fireworks display will begin at dusk.

    More Info on Gladstone’s Independence Day Celebration

  3. Celebration America at Worlds of Fun (July 1st-4th)

    Celebrate Independence Day with rides, slides, and coasters with Worlds of Fun’s four day celebration. The theme park will put on a fireworks display at 10:00 pm every night, Saturday through Sunday!

    More Info on Worlds of Fun’s Celebration America

  4. Smithville Lake Fireworks (July 4th at 9:00 pm)

    Enjoy a 4th of July fireworks display over scenic Smithville Lake! The fireworks will be set off at the north end of Smithville Lake Dam. You can enjoy the show from the marina, by boat, or at Smith’s Fork Park. The fireworks display will begin right after dusk.

  5. Kearney Fireworks featuring Switch (July 8th from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm)

    This Independence Day celebration has been rescheduled from July 3rd, and you give you the perfect chance for extra patriotic fun! This event, located at the Kearney Amphitheatre, is full of summer fun! Enjoy a live concert by Switch, a Kansas City rock bank, starting at 7:30 pm. More summer fun, including free inflatable attractions for kids, will be available. The fireworks display will begin at 9:30 pm.

    More Info on Kearney’s Fireworks Celebration

We hope everyone has safe and fun celebrations this 4th of July. Share your Clay celebrations with us by tagging your photos #ClayMOments!

Come Out and Play at “Make Music-Liberty” on June 21, 2017!

Save this date! Make Music Day is June 21, so tune your instruments and get ready to make a joyful noise with us!

You’re invited to take part in the festivities to help show off our local talent and join the public celebration. The event is open to all ages, all genres of music, and all levels of musical ability, so whether you’re in a band, a solo artist, a child, a senior, a saxophonist or a drummer, there’s a spot for you to perform!

Make Music-Liberty invites musicians and host locations such as restaurants or bars to register to participate in the one day event atwww.MakeMusicLiberty.org. Venues and performers can search for and select each other during the registration and “matching” process.

Originating in France in 1982 as the Fête de la Musique, Make Music Day is now an international event. On June 21, Liberty will join more than 800 cities worldwide, including 33 U.S. cities, as we mark the beginning of summer with Make Music-Liberty, a citywide festival of music. Throughout the day, you may hear music being performed on a sidewalk, a residential porch, in a parking lot, in one of Liberty’s city parks, at a public place of business, or wherever people feel like playing or listening, as the city comes together in a celebration of music and community.

Make Music-Liberty is sponsored and coordinated by the Liberty Arts Commission to encourage and support interest in the musical arts.

For more information about the event, go to www.MakeMusicLiberty.org or e-mail bill.s@MakeMusicLiberty.org.