15 Best Things to Do in Gardner

Gardner is located in the Kansas City metropolitan region, at the southwest edge. It is surrounded by farmland and prairie.

Travelers traversed this country on difficult and long wagon rides during much of the westward expansion of the 19th century.

You can find the spot where the Oregon Trail and California Trails split from the Santa Fe Trail just outside Gardner. This site is now a small park on the side of the road with a great story.

You’ll find all the attractions in the KC region within easy reach. However, this area of Johnson County is home to many charming rural attractions, including wineries and berry farms. The County Fair takes place every July/August.

1. Celebration Park and Sports Complex

Baseball

The Celebration Park, which covers 83 acres, is located on Gardner’s northwest shoulder. It serves as a place for community events, sport, passive recreation, and outdoor fun for kids.

The park has a lot of amenities, including jogging/walking trails, a 10-acre lake and three shelters/picnic areas. There are also concessions, baseball fields, soccer pitches, concessions, and large passive areas for family activities.

2. Gardner Junction Park

Gardner Junction Park

This unassuming park along the U.S. 56 was dedicated in 2008. It can be found just west from Gardner.

Gardner Junction Park is a place that the Oregon and California Trails separated from the Santa Fe Trail, despite its low-key surroundings.

Beginning in the 1820s, and continuing for decades thereafter, migrants arrived at this point every spring. They continued southwest towards Santa Fe Trail or turned northwest if heading towards Oregon or California.

Although the actual junction is now lost, there are several interpretive boards and a historical marker under the shelter that explain the important history of the area.

In a natural landscape of wildflowers and native grasses, this is a good place to reflect on the journey these settlers made.

3. Gardner Historical Museum

Gardner Historical Museum

The Gardner Historical Society was established in 2002. It immediately purchased the historic home at 204 W. Main Street and turned it into a museum.

Herman B. Foster built the house in 1893. Foster, co-proprietor at Bigelow-Foster Mercantile downtown was the architect of the house. It is Folk Victorian in design, with many embellishments that reflect the wealth of its owner.

You will find high ceilings, large windows, elaborate door and window moldings and art glass in the front and back doors.

For a glimpse into the upscale domestic life in Gardner around the turn of this century, check the opening hours. You can also find the archives, offices, and meeting rooms of the society in the 1950s Bray House.

4. Groundhouse Coffee

Coffee

Gardner’s small, charming downtown district is located at the intersection of Main Street & Elm Street.

Gardner’s Masonic Temple, which was built in 1907, is one of the most impressive buildings at the corner of the crossroads.

Groundhouse Coffee has called this home since 2011, and it is a welcoming coffee shop that doubles as a community centre.

Enjoy the historic details of this coffee while you sip a cup of locally made tea or one-roasted coffee.

Pastries are made in-house, and crepes have many fans. It’s a great place to meet people or use the Wi-Fi to do some work in a quiet area. In the past few years, the company also opened a drive-thru second location.

5. Gardner Aquatic Center

Splash Pad

Cornerstone Park is just a few blocks from downtown Gardner. This aquatic center offers a wonderful place for children to enjoy summer fun.

The facility is open from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-August. It is staffed with Red Cross-certified, professional lifeguards.

This large pool has zero depth entry and an extensive in-water play area. The pool also features a lazy river, three water slides, climbing nets, and a separate toddler pool.

Concessions are more than you would expect at a public pool and accept credit cards.

6. Lanesfield School

Lanesfield School

You’ll find Lanesfield’s last building five minutes from Gardner, off U.S Route 56. This is a fitting choice for a schoolhouse as it was once a typical rural American landmark.

Lanesfield was founded by James Lane (1814-1866), an abolitionist Union General. It was located on the Santa Fe Trail. At its peak, it had a hotel and three churches, as well as several residences.

The school was built from native limestone and opened in 1869. It educated generations of children until its closing in 1963.

The site has a visitor center that is open every Saturday, but you can also visit the site year-round to view the interpretive panels that tell the story of James Lane’s rise and fall.

7. Prairie Center

Prairie Center

This 300-acre preserve is located north of Gardner and showcases the magnificent tallgrass prairie that is native to Kansas. The Prairie Center has trails that run through remnant and restored grassland with grasses reaching eight feet high in the middle of summer.

The property also includes creek-side riparian forest and a series ponds that have wetland habitats. Controlled burns are used to produce an important event in the natural cycle of the prairie around springtime.

You can also marvel at the wildflowers of summer, such as Mead’s Milkweed, Illinois bundleflower, and sensitive Brier. These flowers have leaves that are soft to the touch.

In warmer months, you will see a lot of butterflies, as well as a variety of reptiles, mammals, and birds.

8. Kill Creek Streamway Park

Cycling

There is an ongoing effort to create trails in Johnson County near the many creeks that run through the area.

Kill Creek is one of them. It flows northwards through the southwestern KC region, joining the Kansas River at De Soto.

If all goes according to plan, there will be an unbroken route from Gardner to the river junction. There are currently nine miles of paved trails, divided into two sections.

The closest access point to Kill Creek Park is located at 31430 W. 143rd Street. This allows you to take a bike or walk through the woods and grassland, which will take you into Kill Creek Park. De Soto’s northern section includes a 16-acre off leash dog park.

9. Gardner Lake

Fishing

This water body is located north of Gardner, near the New Century Aircenter.

Gardner Lake is located outside of the city’s limits, but the city owns it. It also maintains the shoreline as well as some structures built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.

The lake was a good or fair source of crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish at the most recent survey.

The lake’s northern end has a boat ramp. It is located on a recreational area of 3.5 acres. There are three shelters available if you want to just enjoy the view. This is a no-wake lake and requires both state fishing and boating permits.

10. Fourth of July Celebration

4th of July Celebration Fireworks

Gardner’s Independence Day celebration is always a delight. The city hosts a variety of entertainment in Celebration Park, followed by a spectacular fireworks display.

Country music live is a big part of the entertainment. In recent years, stars such as Dylan Scott and Coffey have performed here.

There’s plenty of family fun at the park before the live shows start, including facepainting, inflatables, carnival games, and a photobooth. You can also find food trucks selling Korean street food, barbecue, Italian specialties, and shaved-ice.

11. Gieringers Family Orchard & Berry Farm

Picking Strawberries

You can find this family-owned orchard just west of Gardner. It is open for U-Pick, pre-picked fruit and other activities, from May through October.

The yields of crops and harvest seasons can change according to the year. However, U-pick strawberries are available in May and blueberries in July. You can also visit for blackberries in June and July. Peaches in August and September. Apples in October and September. Pumpkins in September and October.

You can always find pre-picked seasonal fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market if you are short on time.

The pumpkin patch can be combined with other attractions such as corn mazes and picturesque sunflower fields, a jumppad, a hay hill, a children’s play area, food trucks, and many more in fall.

12. Johnson County Fair

You can walk to the Johnson County Fairgrounds from downtown Gardner. They have been hosting the Johnson County since 1939.

The history of the community’s agricultural celebrations dates back to the 1860s. For decades, Olathe and Gardner hosted rival fairs.

The fair will be held in late July/early august and features a full schedule of 4-H contests and shows at the Livestock Pavilion and Rabbit & Poultry Barn, as well as the main arena.

A parade is held downtown. There are also carnivals and exciting nightly events like demolition derbies or flat track races.

13. TimberRidge Adventure Center

TimberRidge Adventure Center

The nearby TimberRidge Adventure Center is managed by Johnson County Park and Recreation District. It can be used for team building and for group excursions for friends and family.

Activities are available by advanced registration. They allow individuals and groups to work together, communicate better, and challenge themselves.

The centerpiece is a ropes course with 28 elements and five elements high, including a 300-foot zipline and climbing tower.

The course can be complemented with a variety of outdoor activities such as paddling, archery, fishing, and canoeing.

14. KC Wine Co

Vineyard

Kansas City has a rich winemaking heritage that dates back to the mid-19th Century. It has been revived over the past few decades. The atmosphere at KC Wine CO is casual and friendly, just a few blocks from Gardner.

Varietal wines such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Moscato, CayugaWhite, Seyval Blanc and Merlot, along with blends and popular wine drinks, can be enjoyed.

Summer is a great time to enjoy food trucks, as well as a series of annual events such an Easter egg hunt and sunflower fest, pumpkin patch, winter wonderland, and a host of other activities.

15. Movies in the Park

Movies in the Park

Cornerstone Park is the perfect place for outdoor fun during the summer months. Movies in the Park is a long-standing favorite, and it’s organized by the Gardner Parks and Recreation Department.

A series of family-friendly movies are shown on Fridays at 9:00pm and take place in May, June and July.

This event is free and you can bring a picnic, blanket, or lawn chair.

Sometimes, the Movies in the Park series coincides during Gardner’s summer concerts so you can enjoy some live music before you settle down to watch a movie.