A Guest Post by the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
The charm of any heritage area is the special places, history and people that make it a unique place to explore. Winter is an especially charming time of year in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. Keep an eye out this winter for one-of-a-kind opportunities found throughout the heritage area to celebrate the season in true frontier style in Johnson County, Kansas.
Dashing through the snow…
Where can you glide back in time in a two-horse open sled? Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm, of course. When the weather conditions are right, the staff at Mahaffie hitches up the horses and provides horse-drawn sled rides. Keep a watch on their Facebook page for sled ride announcements.
Can’t wait for the snow?
There’s always plenty to do at Mahaffie–snow or no snow. Located at 1200 Kansas City Road in Olathe, Mahaffie is the last remaining stagecoach stop open to the public on the Santa Fe Trail. Stop in for an all-ages, hands-on experiences focusing on 1860s farming, frontier life and stagecoach travel. Be sure to mark your calendar for Mahaffie’s upcoming events!
Celebrate like it’s 1864…
If Mahaffie’s December 6th Christmas Open House is already on your calendar, why not pair it with the Kansas City WildLands 14th Annual Red Cedar Christmas Tree Event. You can help restore native prairie and decorate your house like it’s 1864.
Early pioneers commonly used eastern red cedars as Christmas trees. These days, however, red cedars are considered an invasive species that threatens the health of our native grasslands. In the past, naturally occurring prairie wildfires kept the species in check, but modern fire suppression practices have allowed cedars to spread.
Join Kansas City WildLands on December 6 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM at Mildale Farm, 35250 W 199th Street, Edgerton to select your own tree. Bring a handsaw to harvest your tree the old-fashioned way and a rope to tie it to your vehicle. Volunteers will be on hand to provide assistance. There will even be hayrides, a bonfire, hot cider and cookies. Kansas City WildLands suggests a minimum $15 donation per tree, with proceeds benefiting natural community restoration throughout the Greater Kansas City region. You can find out all the details here.
While you’re in the southwestern corner of the county, stop by the Lanesfield Historic School, visit the Gardner Museum, and stand at the Gardner Junction, where the Santa Fe Trail split from the Oregon/California Trails.
Hike without a handsaw?
There is something special about walking in the woods during the winter. To me it always feels slightly warmer and loads more magical than the strolling down the sidewalk. To find your perfect hike, check out Johnson County Parks & Recreation’s Hiking and Biking Trail Guide. Shawnee Mission Park has more than nine miles of beautiful trails on its own!
Warm up and indulge…
After all that cold weather and tree cutting, you’ll need to warm up and indulge a little. Maybe Laura and Mary Ingalls were delighted by a peppermint candy stick in their Christmas stocking in Little House on the Prairie, but these days, there are hundreds of places on the prairie that you can get a sweet delight. Here are some of our friends’ favorite places for a steaming cuppa or a sweet treat.
Our friends at Explore Merriam highly recommend indulging in handmade Povitica for your sweet tooth! Slice it, dice it, share it or keep the entire 2.5 pound loaf to yourself, but hurry to Merriam’s Strawberry Hill Povitica to enjoy one of Food Network’s “50 best edible gifts in America”. It’s pronounced poh-va-teet-sa! No matter how you say it, Povitica is a luscious loaf of handmade, hand-rolled goodness made with grandma’s original, old-world recipe, still baked in local ovens. With over a dozen flavors to choose from, it’s the perfect appetizing gift this holiday season, for yourself or a loved one. Stop in at 7226 West Frontage Road in Merriam for free samples and free hot coffee or visit www.povitica.com to order a loaf to be delivered to your doorstep!
Bonus: If you’re in Merriam on December 6-7, Strawberry Hill invites you to attend their Croatian Christmas; an open house event. Saturday’s lineup will feature the Kansas City Hrvatski Običaj along with a special visit from Santa. Sunday features the Sugar Creek Tamburitzans with a special 2-hour visit from KU’s Big J. Hope you can make it.
Then…the City of Merriam invites you to stay for the annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting and Sundown with Santa event on Saturday, December 6 starting at 5:30 in downtown Merriam at the Merriam Marketplace. With plenty of nearby shops and restaurants, Merriam makes a great place to get that holiday shopping started (or finished) after your visit with Santa!
While you’re in Johnson County, don’t miss…
- Ooh and ahh at Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. Enjoy the 30+ minute holiday light show, choreographed to music. Monday – Thursday, 5 pm – 10 pm and Friday – Sunday, 5 pm – 11 pm. Learn more from the Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau!
- Take a stroll through Merriam’s history at the Merriam Historic Plaza.
- Check out the award winning Monticello Historical Driving/Biking Tour. Stay toasty and warm in your car or pick a mild day to bike to historic treasures in Johnson County. Pick a tour brochure up at the Monticello Historical Station.
- Ever wonder where Johnson County got its name? Learn that and much much more at the Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site. Established in 1830, the Shawnee Indian Mission is a National Historic Landmark that tells the pre-statehood story of Kansas.
- Celebrate like it’s 1954 at the Johnson County Museum! Explore the county’s transformation from a Permanent Indian Territory to its suburban boom.
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