Travelogue: The Well-Tended Powell Gardens

In an area where snakes keep hikers out of tall grass, you need to be selective about how you experience the outdoors. At Powell Gardens, nature and convenience come together into the perfect year-round destination. Unlike most parks that are simply walking trails in the wilderness, Powell Gardens is a well-maintained series of experiences that are very inclusive to both young and old.

Let’s start with the elderly. The estate, while large, is not so extensive that you cannot walk it in an afternoon. Everything is convenient to the volunteer center, which was built in the 1990s but looks brand new. Trolleys will take you to all the destinations, and they have wheelchairs available with easily walked pathways free from bumps. You can even take an elevator to the top of their silo to look out on the entire property. When I visited, we had my elderly aunt along, and this transformed our visit from what might have been a real challenge to open and carefree exploration. I’ve never seen a site so well designed for the handicapped or infirm.

Powell Gardens also goes the distance to appeal to children, with a children’s “fun food farm” and barn, and even a fountain spray area where kids in swim suits can race in circles. Their list of activities is extensive. Annual events include an Easter Bunny & Easter Egg Hunt, Mother’s Day Brunch and Concert, and a Halloween nighttime event with carved and lit pumpkins. They have a packed schedule of family-friendly activities, adult education courses, concerts, and culinary events, and that’s before I get to mention the seasonal hummingbird and butterfly exhibits. The weekend we attended they also had on display a series of animal sculpture titled “Gardens Gone Wild”.

Powell Gardens also features a breathtaking chapel overlooking a lake with a small woods walk, which is the site for regular weddings and other events. To me, the place seemed less like a nature preserve with extensive but unmaintained fields, and more a perfectly cultivated activity center built into 915-acres of landscaping. The signage is extensive, clear labels for unusual plant (they have more than 6,000 species). You cannot really get lost at Powell Gardens, but it’s big enough to have quiet moments to find yourself, even on a busy day.

Powell Gardens is highly recommended for those traveling to the Kansas City area. See