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|Kara Pound • 2/09/18|
The Short Version: A short, 15-minute drive from Kansas City brings you to Overland Park, one of the largest cities in heartland USA, boasting nearly 200,000 residents. With a thriving restaurant scene (led by award-winning barbecue!), vintage movie theaters, modern art museums, lush gardens, and one-of-a-kind annual events, Overland Park is the perfect romantic destination for couples. As Collin Young, Digital Marketing Manager for Visit Overland Park, told us, the city may have grown tremendously, but it still retains its small-town feel. At Overland Park, daters can experience the charm and welcoming community for which the Midwest is famous while enjoying the excitement that comes with a vibrant downtown and modern cultural scene.
From dozens of trendy boutiques and outdoor adventures soaked in nature to casual cafés and luxury dining destinations, Overland Park is the perfect place to visit for a romantic couple’s getaway. The city boasts a history more than a century-old beginning when, in 1905, railroad entrepreneur William B. Strang Jr. platted subdivisions along a Kansas military road, naming one of them Overland Park.
William’s vision was to build a park-like community that embodied strong commerce, quality education, vibrant neighborhoods, convenient transportation, and accommodating recreational facilities. Overland Park was officially incorporated in 1960 and has since grown into a first-class city with a lively downtown and plenty of great activities for residents and visitors alike.
“There’s a lot of energy in the city and pride from its residents,” said Collin Young, Visit Overland Park’s Digital Marketing Manager. “Instead of going to Kansas City for things to do, which used to be the case, people are staying here. We’re really starting to grow. It’s a cool time to be a part of Overland Park.”
Visitors from across the country are realizing this as well. The city combines the welcoming community and rustic charm for which the Midwest is famous with a vibrant downtown and thriving cultural scene that make for fun, date-friendly adventures.
The natural beauty of the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, with its more than 300 acres featuring 13 gardens and 1,700 species of plants, makes it the ideal locale for a first date or vacation stroll with your sweetheart. The park has trails that traverse rocky bluffs and bottomland paths and year-round fauna, including birds, dragonflies, deer, and other wildlife.
“It’s like a big city park with trees, flowers, walking paths, and trails,” Collin said. “It’s a nature getaway that’s particularly nice during the warmer months when you can get outside and have a picnic or simply go for a walk. If you’re looking for a really active date, we have some nice bike trails throughout the city.”
The Indian Creek Hike and Bike Trail is almost 17 miles long with a 10-mile portion in Overland Park that starts at Foxhill South Park and follows Indian Creek south and west to Forest Creek Park. The trail is generally level and flat with some steep grade in various short sections.
Another spot in the city perfect for adventures is Deer Creek Golf Club. This 18-hole championship course stretches through densely wooded areas and brings winding creeks into play. Recognized for its beauty and challenge, Deer Creek is also one of the area’s top wedding destinations with stunning panoramic views of the golf course from the Sunset Room and Seasons Room or views of the lake from the Lakeview Room.
From off-the-beaten path eateries to upscale dining options, Overland Park’s abundance of eclectic cafés, bistros, and bars means you and your significant other will never run out of places to enjoy the perfect date.
“Our restaurant scene is growing,” Collin said. “From steakhouses to BBQ, we have dozens of longtime favorites and new culinary creations to offer.”
True to its Midwest roots, Overland Park’s BBQ scene is virtually unrivaled. Among the city’s iconic eateries is the famous Jack Stack Barbecue.
“It’s one of the best places in town,” Collin said. “They’ve got a location in Kansas City and now one in Overland Park. It’s award-winning barbecue that’s won awards. It’s a nice restaurant that you would definitely want to go to for a date.”
Another top spot is the Doughnut Lounge on Santa Fe Drive in the downtown area. This locally owned artisan doughnut, coffee, and cocktail lounge is a favorite with the locals. Don’t leave town without trying the Cherry Pie Doughnut stuffed with black walnut and cherry compote and topped with cream cheese icing and a caramel drizzle.
Other notable breakfast stops include Pilgrim Coffee and McLain’s Market, as well as lunch and dinner locales such as Louie’s Wine Dive (order a wine board!), Ricco’s Italian Bistro, and The Brass Onion’s low country fare-inspired comfort food.
You could visit Overland Park dozens of times and never run out of things to do or places to go. The city’s thriving arts and culture scene means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to create lasting memories with your better half.
“We have a delightful free modern art museum here that’s part of the Johnson County Community College,” Collin said of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art on College Boulevard. “It’s free to anyone who wants to visit and has exhibits and touring exhibits as well as a permanent collection with nearly 400 works of art.”
Another must-visit locale in Overland Park is the New Theatre Restaurant, a nationally acclaimed dinner theater that’s been welcoming Broadway-style musicals and comedies for more than 25 seasons.
“They have traveling plays and musicals come through every month or so,” Collin said. “It’s a great place to see live theater.”
Perhaps you prefer a romantic outing in the dark. Overland Park has two vintage-style independent movie theaters including Rio Theatre on West 80th Street and Glenwood Arts Theatre on West 95th Street. The theaters also host private functions and are home to the annual Latin American Film Festival and Kansas International Film Festival.
“The Johnson County Community College also has a theater on their campus that puts on a lot of community events,” Collin said of the Carlsen Center Polsky Theatre and Yardley Hall. “They bring in larger symphonies and musical acts that are popular with locals and visitors to the area.”
Whether you’re in the honeymoon phase of your relationship or have been together for decades, Overland Park delivers when it comes to a romantic couple’s destination filled with everything from local brews to live music and dancing. Check out the city’s annual festivals, including the Overland Park Fall Festival.
“The fall is the biggest time for different events in our city,” Collin said. “The Botanical Brewfest takes place at Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. A lot of the local breweries and distilleries come together for a day and set up tents while people walk around trying different beer and spirits.”
Another popular event is Stems: A Garden Soiree at the Botanical Gardens, an annual fundraiser with art, music, fireworks, food and wine that to supports the gardens and city art installations. It’s touted as a “not-to-be-forgotten date night” and held at the peak of summer beauty, so make sure to add this happening to your must-do list when planning your Overland Park vacation.
The town that started with the railway is today a bustling city on the outskirts of Kansas City that brims with outdoor activities, food, culture, and a bright future.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of areas like downtown,” Collin said. “We have quite a few projects in the works for the city including an expansion of our entertainment district within the next few years. We’re looking to make this a place where people can come to town for big events and spend time walking around downtown before heading to dinner and their hotel. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Overland Park.”