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Kearney, Missouri - a town few have heard of, and even fewer would be able to place on a map, though, it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the state and a suburb of bustling Kansas City. It’s also the birthplace of famed outlaw Jesse James, which is celebrated with a festival every September. Most importantly, though, it’s a great place to go camping with an RV, especially if you choose a campsite at Watkins Mill State Park.
Sites at Watkins Mill Campground have electrical hookups, or none if that’s what you’d prefer. There are also showers, a dump station, laundry facilities, and drinking water, making this one of the easier places for RV camping in western Missouri. Some sites even have parking pads able to accommodate up to an 80-foot-long rental motorhome.
The state park is centered around Watkins Mill, a 19th-century wool mill, which has been preserved in near perfect condition since its closure near the turn of the century. A tour through the building reveals a massive steam engine along with all the milling equipment of the time. Next to the mill is a 100-acre lake that’s popular with swimmers. A great cycling path weaves its way through the park too - you can rent a set of wheels in some of Kansas City’s northern suburbs.
Book an RV in Clay County, Missouri, and there’s a good chance that you’ll spend much of your vacation enjoying the outdoors. There are just so many interesting places to appreciate nature near Watkins Mill Campground. One such place is Tryst Falls Park, which is much smaller than Watkins Mill but includes a picturesque little waterfall amidst its green space. If you need a place to walk the dog or go for a morning jog, this is a wonderful place to do it.
Thanks to Missouri’s designation as “the Gateway to the West,” quite a few railroads are crossing the state; many of them have been abandoned and converted to rail trails. One such gem is the nearly 270-mile-long Katy Trail, stretching from the town of Clinton (an hour's drive southeast of Kansas City) and St. Louis. It’s the longest continuous rail-trail in the country, making it a bucket list item for many cyclists.
If you’re down in Kansas City and looking for a good place to rest or go picnicking with the family, Loose Park is one of the best in town. The municipal park is centered on a beautiful lake that often fills with visiting waterfowl. There’s also a rose garden that’s a popular venue for community performances. A traditional Japanese garden sits nearby and is intended to be a symbol of cultural exchange between Kansas City and Kurashiki, Japan.
Kearney is no slouch when it comes to urban convinces, with a location on Interstate 35 that makes it popular with Kansas City tourists. Dining options are somewhat limited, but there are a couple of good bakeries, Italian restaurants, and pizza shops where you can get a bite to eat while camping at Watkins Mill Campground. There’s also a truck stop near the intersection of Highway 110 and 92 should you need to fuel up your RV rental or do some minor repairs.
The only must-see attraction in Kearney is the Jesse James Birthplace Museum. While many Old West tales tell a sanitized or sensationalized version of the outlaw’s life, this is a place where you can learn the honest truth about him. It features Jesse Jame’s original gravesite along with the world’s largest collection of James family artifacts. You can also take a tour with one of the museum’s knowledgable guides to pick up even more interesting facts about the infamous man’s life.
Having exhausted all the entertainment in Kearney, it’s time to head down to Kansas City. Foodies, particularly BBQ-loving foodies, will enjoy the wide selection of restaurants that KC has to offer. The city's BBQ joints cook all kinds of meat, like pork, beef, and turkey, but they love to spice it up with a dry rub and a tangy tomato-based sauce. Burnt ends, the charred tips of beef brisket, are a local specialty.
Sports fans will love to camp in an RV near Kansas City, where you can catch games from two major league teams: the Chiefs (NFL) and the Royals (MLB). Those events don’t come cheap, though, so you might save some money watching college matchups from the University of Missouri - Kansas City (go 'Roos!) or minor league games like the Kansas City T-Bones (baseball) or Mavericks (hockey).
If you’re looking for a little culture in KC, head over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Galleries at the Nelson are diverse, ranging from impressionism to Native American to ancient Egyptian works. Its most iconic exhibit is undoubtedly the oversized badminton shuttlecocks that grace its lawn.