All Around Town: The great outdoors

Nathan Zoschke

Enjoy the fall weather at three great local parks

Complaining about the weather is a Kansas City tradition. It’s far more popular than the Royals’ home opener and Plaza lighting ceremony combined.

Cursed with extreme heat and humidity in the summer and extreme cold and knee-deep snow in the winter, Kansas City’s weather is certainly polarizing.

The temperate weather of the fall is a treat, and I will take advantage of the weather as much as I can while it is still enjoyable, provided that I don’t run out of Claritin.

The abundance of parks and outdoor attractions in Kansas City helps offset the atrocious weather.

This week’s All Around Town features three recommendations on how to spend a pleasant, not-too-hot, not-too-cold September day.

A relaxing day at Loose Park

5100 Wornall Road

Sixty-five years before Loose Park was Loose Park, it was the site of the Battle of Westport during the Civil War, a Union victory that involved 30,000 troops and claimed 1,500 lives on each side.

Today, an original Civil War cannon can be found at the southern edge of Loose Park along West 55th Street. A large pond, 1.5-acre rose garden, a pool fountain and multiple statues are signature features.

An abundance of mature shade trees are perfect for a fall picnic, and their placement in the middle of the 75-acre park provides much-needed privacy away from the hustle and bustle of college and city life.

Other features include 2.5 miles of trails, tennis courts, a garden center and Japanese tea room, available by reservation.

Sightseeing at Penn Valley Park

Pershing Road and Main Street

Penn Valley Park is best known for the Liberty Memorial, a 20-story monument to the veterans of World War I that overlooks Union Station and downtown. From the base of the memorial, visitors have a clear panoramic shot of the skyline, and from the top of the memorial, which illuminates with a symbolic gas flame at night, one has an unobstructed bird’s-eye view of most of the city.

The National World War I museum, the only one in the U.S., is located inside the memorial. Among the museum’s original artifacts is an extensive collection of weapons, artillery, uniforms, photographs, gas masks, tanks and other military vehicles. A live-scale reconstructed trench system, modeled after the trenches in which the majority of WWI was fought, gives visitors an interactive view into one of the grizzliest wars ever endured. Interactive displays and touch-screens throughout the museum add a contemporary feel to the museum’s nearly 100-year-old collection.

Hours are Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes tickets for two consecutive day visits, allowing access to all galleries, special exhibits and an elevator ride to the top of Liberty Memorial.

Also worth visiting are “The Scout” and the “Pioneer Mother Memorial,” two statues celebrating America’s past that overlook the downtown skyline. “The Hiker” statue commemorates the Spanish-American war, and the Firefighter’s Fountain, near Broadway Boulevard and West 31st Street, remembers Kansas City’s fallen firefighters.

Other features at Penn Valley Park include an off-leash dog park, skate park and the Just Off Broadway Theatre, at 3051 Central St., which was recently renovated and reopened for the 2011-12 season.

Hiking and jogging at Riverfront Park

2nd and Main streets

A pedestrian bridge at 2nd and Main streets in the River Market leads to an observation deck overlooking the Missouri River and a pedestrian trail that connects to the much larger Berkley Riverfront Park.

As one ventures east along the trail, one will find a handful of concrete remains from former levees and bridges. And as one ventures farther east toward the Heart of America Bridge, one will encounter a series of observation platforms overlooking the river, a spring 2010 addition. The brick and concrete remains of the past have been left for visitors to enjoy.

Riverfront Park feels strikingly different from the other parks on this list. The Missouri River, train tracks, prairie grass and industrial infrastructure paint a beautiful, rugged landscape.

The recent upgrades are part of the Riverfront Heritage Trail project, which will connect 10 miles of biking and jogging trails along Kansas City’s riverfront upon completion.

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