Have you ever heard of Kirksville, Missouri? Unless you’re a student (or potential student!) at Truman State or A.T. Still University, you probably haven’t. Kirksville is a small university town in northeastern Missouri. Located only three hours from Kansas City, St. Louis, and Des Moines, and six hours from Chicago, Kirksville is a popular collegiate destination for potential students in the Midwest.
While many students look to Truman due to its prestige—we’re the only highly selective liberal arts university in the state, and the consistently ranked in the top ten public colleges by Washington Monthly. Beyond the prestige, potential (and current) college students should take into consideration the wealth of activities to do in Kirksville when deciding where to go to college.
Whether you’ll be in Kirksville just for a weekend college tour, or a full four years for an undergraduate degree this post will help you identify the major things to do in town. Here’s a quick guide to all of the fun activities that you can do in Kirksville, whether you’re a student or just passing through.
Why Visit Kirksville
Kirksville is home to three universities, a vibrant arts community, and is well known in the region for its outstanding outdoor recreation spaces. Many visitors from out of town arrive in Kirksville while attending college tours with their family. While others often travel to Kirksville from more local destinations for shopping, and cultural festivities.
Getting to Kirksville
Like I mentioned, Kirksville is a three-hour drive from several major Midwestern cities. Situated on Highway 63, Kirksville is accessible by car whether you’re coming from southern Missouri, or if you’re coming from Iowa in the north.
Kirksville also has its own airport that is only a few miles out of the city limits. The airport has daily flights arriving and departing from St. Louis.
The nearest Amtrak station is in La Plata, which has daily trains from Kansas City and Chicago. There are a variety of taxi services that will take you to and from the train station and Kirksville.
Things to Do in Kirksville
As a college student who has lived in Kirksville for three years now, the most common complaint that I hear from students is that there’s nothing to do in Kirksville. However, that simply isn’t true! Check out these activities to do this weekend, or on your visit to town.
- Thousand Hills—Thousand Hills State Park is the largest state park in Kirksville. Located north of downtown, Thousand Hills is the primary recreation area for the city. There are three hiking trails, ranging from half-hour long hikes to full-day adventures. Paddleboats, canoes, and motorboats are available for rent for use on the lake. During the warmer months, it is common for university students to take to the lake in between classes and study sessions.
- Tour the Campus—Truman State’s campus is truly stunning. In the spring and summer months, the campus is covered in gorgeous gardens and plants. A must stop location is at the Sunken Gardens. Located behind the Kirk Memorial building, the Sunken Gardens is an oasis for students who need a study break. The tall shrubs block out the hustle and bustle of everyday campus life, and the benches add a nice element for relaxation.
- Attend a talk at Truman—Truman professors are obviously experts in their fields, and often give talks about their upcoming research. Check out Truman’s activities calendar to see if any of the talks interest you! If you’re a potential student at Truman, consider attending a talk lead by a professor in your major. It’ll give you a feel for the style of the major, and also allow you to see if you’d be a good fit personality wise with others in the same field of study.
- Visit the medicinal garden—AT. Still University is world renowned for its scholarship in osteopathic medicine, and they have a garden and museum with a collection of books, photographs, and papers, which document osteopathic traditions globally.
- Winery at Jackson Stables—Nestled between Thousand Hills State Park and Big Creek Conservation Area, the Winery at Jackson Stables is the go-to place to enjoy a fine selection of wines and dinner. The Winery is home to an event space that can be used for weddings and community events like fundraisers and art and wine nights.
- Big Creek Conservation Area—With over 1,000 acres, Big Creek Conservation Area is a great location for hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.
- Lost Branch Blueberry Farm—About 10 minutes outside of downtown Kirksville, off of Highway 6, is the largest blueberry farm in Northeastern Missouri. The farm is family owned and operated, which means that visitors are able to pick their own blueberries––great for a family or friend outing! They provide buckets and bags for you, so just show up and get ready to pick some berries! The farm is only open during the summer months so make sure that they’re open before you head out!
Festivals and Events
- Red Barn Arts Festival—Red Barn Arts Festival is one of the leading attractions that Kirksville offers. The Festival is a community-wide event with over one hundred vendors, who sell food, art, and other merchandise. Since 1974, Red Barn has been a major community event for the city. Individuals travel from all over the Midwest to buy and sell art, visit, and participate in the activities put on by Red Barn.
- Community Roots Festival—Sponsored by local restaurant Take Root Café, the Community Roots Festival stresses the importance of local food production and sustainability to the Kirksville community. This festival is divided into two parts. Farmers and exhibitors come to the town square to sell locally made produce, food, and beverages.
- Homecoming—Truman State’s Homecoming week is a large week-long event that culminates on a Saturday with a parade, tailgate, and football game. Students and alumni take to the streets to support their college, and then tailgate in the parking lots.
- Farmers Market—When driving to Kirksville tourists will immediately notice all of the farmland in Northeastern Missouri. During the spring and summer months (May through October), farmers bring their produce to the town square to sell. The prices are ultra cheap, and make eating healthy in Kirksville a possibility for us all.
Things to Eat
- Diner 54—Located in the south end of town, Diner 54 is Kirksville’s favorite diner. Diner 54 has a huge menu, so everyone is sure to find something that they’ll love.
- Bonzai—While landlocked Missouri may not be your first thought for really good sushi, Bonzai’s sushi is a Kirksville cult classic. Bonzai is bustling in the evenings with college students catching up over great food. My favorite roll is the avocado cucumber!
- La Pachanga—Everyone in Kirksville has a favorite sushi restaurant, and mine is La Pachanga. The service is always good, the prices are great for being in a college town, and they offer dollar margaritas every day! What more could you want?
- Maxwell’s—If you’re looking for more of an upscale dining experience in Kirksville, Maxwell’s is the place for you. The establishment is known around town for its burgers and sandwiches, as well as their discounted margaritas on Thursdays!
- Take Root Café—The popularity of health food restaurants is on the rise, and several years ago Take Root Café opened in Kirksville to fill this niche. Take Root Café offers a seasonally changing menu, with items that are sourced from local farmers. This is a great stop for vegans, vegetarians, and those with food allergies as Take Root can easily alter the menu for you!
While Kirksville has plenty of things to do itself, it never hurts to explore something else on your way in or out of town. Depending on where you’re going to or coming from, you should consider stopping at one of these locations on your way in or out of town.
- Walt Disney Museum—Located about forty minutes away from Kirksville is Marceline, Missouri, which is known for its intense football rivalry with the neighboring town of Brookfield and being Walt Disney’s hometown.
- Pershing Boyhood Home—Located in Laclede, right off of Highway 36 (a great stop for those on their way to Kansas City) is General Pershing’s Boyhood Home. Visitors can tour his home and his primary school at this site.
- Visiting Amish communities—Right outside of Kirksville in the surrounding communities is a lively Amish community. The Amish have multiple storefront locations where you can buy freshly picked produce, canned foods, and other Amish treats like candies and specialty baked goods. My favorite store is.
- American Gothic House—If you’re coming from the north, be sure to stop at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa. It’s not as accessible from major highways as the other sites on this list, but it is worth seeing—especially if you are an art fiend.
- Long Branch State Park—If you didn’t get enough outdoor recreation time in Kirksville, be sure to stop by Long Branch State Park on your way out of town in Macon. The lake has a beach, opportunities for camping, boating, and fishing.