Above: Thousand Hills State Park’s interpretive shelter. Missouri State Parks
Below: Sample the fare in Kirksville’s Town Square. Monarch Viceroy
While Kirksville and its surrounding area are known for its hunting and fishing, the town offers much more in the way of a weekend getaway.
HISTORY AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Many visitors come to Kirksville to tour Truman State University, which – for 19 consecutive years – has been ranked the No. 1 public university in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report. The campus centers around The Quad, with its beautiful tree-lined sidewalks leading to brick school buildings reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting.
One of the newest additions to the school is the Del and Norma Robison Planetarium that opened in October 2014. The 60-seat, 1,800-square-foot theater hosts many events open to the public.
Kirksville is also the birthplace of osteopathic medicine and A.T. Still University (ATSU).
In 1892, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still established the first school devoted to osteopathic medicine. Today, ATSU’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine draws students from all over the United States and abroad. The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine includes two historical buildings: Still’s birthplace log cabin and the original two-room classroom building of the osteopathic college. Exhibits include photographs, documents, and osteopathic artifacts.
History of another sort also is represented in Kirksville.
The Battle of Kirksville Confederate grave marker stands in Forest Llewellyn Cemetery. The battle, which took place in 1862, helped to secure northern Missouri for the Union. The monument marks the spot where 200 Confederate soldiers were buried in mass graves.
THE TOWN SQUARE
The Adair County Courthouse, a three-story Romanesque building that was completed in 1899, commands the square in the middle of town. Locally owned stores, boutiques, and restaurants surround the square and invite people to come in and browse or sit and have a bite to eat.
One such eatery is Sweet Expressions Coffee House (107 W. Washington), which offers lattes and cappuccinos of all flavors, plus dishes like goji berry chicken salad, the Wyoming Wrap, and the When Pigs Fly sandwich.
The To Die For Bakery and Café (106 E. Washington) features homemade soups, sandwiches, and such. Other restaurants on or close to the square are Baker’s Smokehouse (112 N. Franklin) with Texas brisket, burnt ends, and other smoked meats; Maxwell’s Supper Club (215 W. Washington), with its signature lobster macaroni and cheese dish; the Wooden Nickel (114 S. Elson St.), with its filled pastas and barbecue pork ribs; and the Dukum Inn Bar and Grille (111 S. Elson St.), known for its cheeseburgers.
Foodies also will want to check out the Farmers’ Market that’s held every Saturday morning during summer. Shoppers will find fresh produce plus homemade jams, jellies, and other original items by local sellers.
Also off the square is the Kirksville Arts Association, where the Arts Center Gallery hosts month-long exhibits featuring local and regional artists.
Just outside of town are two wineries: the West Winery at Jackson Stables (22694 Rainbow Basin Trail) and Jacob’s Winery and Vineyard (26078 Eagle Lane). Both offer decks to sit and enjoy local wine and cheeses.
On the outskirts
Stop at the Northeast Regional Office of the Missouri Department of Conservation to hike among the trees or around the pond and wetlands. See different species of birds darting around the large feeder. The center, located on the southern edge of Kirksville off U.S. Highway 63, features interactive exhibits, taxidermy mounts, and a large aquarium stocked with Missouri fish.
On Highway 63 north lies Countryside Market that’s operated by area Mennonites. It offers a little bit of everything including meats, produce, homemade jams and jellies, varieties of grains, kitchenware and ornate wall clocks, plus sturdy hardwood furniture.
Thousand Hills State Park, off state Highway 157, is just two miles west of Kirksville. The park features 3,215 acres with a 703-acre lake. Hiking and mountain biking trails wind through forests, and the lake offers fishing, a swimming beach, and boating.
Archaeologists believe the area was once part of an ancient ceremonial ground used by the Native Americans who inhabited Missouri as many as 1,500 years ago. Ancient petroglyphs can be found at an interpretation center that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to many campsites throughout the park, seven duplex cabins are available to rent with fully equipped kitchens and other amenities. The restaurant at the marina offers a lovely view of the lake to enjoy while dining on steaks, sandwiches, salads, and many other tempting dishes.
Take state Route 6 about nine miles west of Kirksville and you’ll find Novinger, an historical coal-mining town. It boasted 53 mine shafts during the early 1900s. Today, the Novinger Coal Miner’s Museum (804 Corrigan Ave.) – with its replica of a mine train and tunnel, plus papers, books, and artifacts from that era – tell the town’s story. A reconstructed log cabin and the original city jail built in 1916 are located close to the museum.
Events add to activities
The All American Red, White, and Blue Independence Day Festival features a parade, pancake breakfast, pie contest and, of course, fireworks.
The Northeast Missouri Fair (NEMO), July 18 to 23, features entertainment, livestock shows, exhibits, a carnival, demo derby, bull ride, truck and tractor pull, and everything else that make up a regional fair.
The Red Barn Arts & Crafts Festival on Oct. 1 will welcome artisans from around the country to downtown Kirksville. With more than 100 booths, crowds can enjoy arts, food, and entertainment all day.
Held in an historical round barn built in 1913, Round Barn Blues will be held Sept. 24, and will feature local and regional blues musicians.
WHERE TO STAY
Enjoy Victorian comfort at the Brashear Bed and Breakfast, a 1905 Colonial house with three suites featuring mini-fridges and microwaves. It’s located near the square, and pets are allowed. The AAA-rated Days Inn, located at the intersection of state Routes 6 and 63, features an indoor pool, whirlpool, restaurant, and complimentary breakfast buffet. It’s one of six hotels in town.
For an unusual, secluded overnight stay, the Pure Air Cabin is inside a two-story fully furnished one-bedroom grain bin. Located 18 miles from Kirksville, the cabin sits on 83 acres with picturesque views of the surrounding countryside.
With its diverse activities and attractions, visitors to Kirksville will find a cure for weekend boredom.
Linda Jarrett is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.