Kansas Citians can easily go in all directions, 360 degrees, to find great places to vacation at low cost and within a short distance. Our family has done so frequently--especially when we used to camp with our children.
North: Omaha Zoo; eagles and geese at Swan Lake Refuge; St. Joseph historical sites; Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary at Denton, NB; the Strategic Air & Space Museum, and Indian Cave State Park--a favorite of my husband.
Southeast: The Ozark mountains with their beautiful fall-colored trees; Silver Dollar City; many great Branson shows; some of the nicest canoeing streams in the U.S., very large natural springs and fish hatcheries, and lots and lots of lakes and caves.
East: Small towns along the Missouri River; many hiking and biking trails; lakes and streams; and St. Louis and the Mississippi River.
West: Leavenworth and its historical Fort and frontier museum; KU's Natural History Museum--skip the fifth floor dedicated to the theory of evolution, but do see their collection of thousands of arrowheads, and don't miss their large panorama of animals and plants; the Flint Hills; and great fishing at several large Corps of Engineer impoundments.
This fall, our trip was to the southeast--to northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. I particularly enjoyed the fish hatchery and stream at Roaring River, the small state ferry across Norfolk Lake, seeing early morning canoers on the Buffalo River, finding a persimmon grove (see photo of large persimmons we picked and are eating daily), Blanchard Springs Caverns (discovered relatively recently, and well preserved and developed as a federal site), and an absolutely wonderful lunch buffet for $6.95 at Myrtie Mae's in Eureka Springs. Here are a few photos of our trip.