Often mistaken for its more northern Nebraskan sister city, Kearney, Missouri, is a small suburban community just 15 minutes north of William Jewell College. Kearney is rich in history – being the famous birthplace of Old Western outlaw Jesse James – but offers many other eclectic small-town attributes that are lacking in so many places today.
One of the fastest growing cities in Missouri, Kearney boasts a small number of fast-food restaurants, local fare and activities. Most of the landscape is slightly rural – encompassing family-friendly neighborhoods – and the city is still growing, adding more commercial businesses and expanding activities for the young community as well.
Most people from Kearney in the older generation will describe it as the best and safest place to raise a family so close to Kansas City, but the younger generation still longs for some of the hustle and bustle that you can only get by coming to Liberty or Kansas City. You probably only know it exists if you played high school sports in the Northland, and even then, you probably didn’t think much about it. The city does have its small charms that make it a worthwhile place to visit.
Arguably, Kearney is strongly lacking in the art scene – with a relatively low-key downtown business environment – but some efforts have been made to increase youth involvement in arts and culture.
The Firehouse Community Center was built from the old Kearney Firehouse and now serves as a place for summer camps for kids, party rental for graduations, and supports the local Farmer’s Market. The Firehouse also is involved in helping senior citizens be active, learn and socialize – which is important in a growing community. This establishment is successful, and is a promising start to bringing more cultural involvement to the community.
Kearney shines in the history department, boasting the family home of Jesse James, including his final resting place in the cemetery located in the middle of town. The Jesse James Family Farm is located just outside of Kearney going east and is a really great place to learn more about Western history. The grounds are beautiful in the summer, and the original home from the 1800s harbors that musty old scent that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The Kearney Historic Museum also offers a lot of interesting facts about the city, including genealogy tracings for those with family in the area. In fact, Kearney families have a lot of ties in the area – including Jesse James’s father, Robert, being a founder of William Jewell.
Most of the food scene in Kearney is fast food commercial chains, but there are a few beautiful local gems worth the trip. If you like Mexican food, or you are a fan of Mi Hacienda in Liberty, Kearney’s La Fuente is the exact same restaurant. Owned by the same family, these restaurants offer tasty authentic Mexican food, and La Fuente is a popular place for kids to eat on early days out from school, like homecoming.
Small and quaint, Gino’s Italian Cuisine offers some of the best Italian in the area. They boast a wide menu of Sicilian and northern Italian favorites, and the food is fresh and prepared to order. I recommend the clam pasta or chicken spiedini.
Stable’s Local Kitchen and Patio has been a Kearney staple for years, offering classic American fare, and the food is always good. They have great burgers, wings and sandwiches – you really can’t go wrong.
Being so close to the Northland, there are few commercial attractions in Kearney, but the ones we have are pretty great.
The Fun Farm Pumpkin Patch is a giant, sprawling locale with fall activities. Renovated just last year to add more attractions, the Fun Farm has a giant merchandise barn with treats like fudge and caramel apples, pumpkin picking and a giant kids zone and
The Kearney Amphitheatre located in Jesse James Park is a great venue for concerts and summer fun. This summer’s concert list hasn’t been announced, but past concerts have included artists like Scotty McCreery and Jason Aldean. If country music is your thing, the tickets are fairly cheap and the park is a beautiful venue.
Kearney could be a boring, forgettable, small Missouri town, but its history and mission to keep improving the community make it a growing place for years to come. The people are kind, the environment is largely supportive and leaving it makes you appreciate the lessons you’ve learned living in such a small place.
Take a jog outside of Liberty and explore up north just a little bit. You might be surprised by what you find.