Kids today might take for granted the relative ease at which we can travel. They haven’t known a world without interstate highways, rest stops, fast food drive thru windows, airports, jets, and rolling luggage. A visit to Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe, Kansas puts into perspective how much travel has changed since the 19th century. The Mahaffie Farm was one of the stagecoach stops along the Santa Fe Trail. In fact, it is the last remaining stop on that route still open to the public and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Start your visit in the Heritage Center where you can watch a 10-minute orientation film. View exhibits to learn more about Olathe and Johnson County, the Mahaffie family, their farm, and how they were contracted to provide meals for stagecoach travelers. Learn about what travel was like before the railroads were built.
Then take a self-guided tour around the property. Activities vary seasonally, but if you visit on Wed. – Sun. during the summer, you will be able to experience a good variety. During the peak season, you will encounter 4-6 costumed interpreters demonstrating various activities throughout the property. Visit the basement of the stone farmhouse to see where meals were served to travelers. The Mahaffie family and their hired helpers prepared and served as many as 50-100 meals a day.
If you tour before a mealtime, you just might get put to work helping to prepare a meal. If you show up after a meal, you might have to wash dishes.
You can also tour the first and second floors of the farmhouse. The first floor might have activities such as children’s games or a sewing or knitting demonstration. On the second floor you can view the bedrooms of the Mahaffie family. Then head outside to visit the blacksmith shop where you can watch the blacksmith work. He might even have an activity that your kids could participate in for a small extra fee.
Then visit the farm animals that include goats, chicken, oxen, and horses. This year they’ll be adding a milk cow.
And, of course, you’ll want to see the stagecoaches.
How does this compare to a minivan?
It costs an extra $2 to take ride in a stagecoach, but since admission is only $3 for adults and $2 for kids, this activity won’t empty your pocketbook. And if your kids are anything like mine, you know they are going to HAVE to ride it once they see it. Rides are typically scheduled during the bottom of the hour (10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., etc.) during their open hours.
Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site is run by the city of Olathe, Kansas, which is a suburb of Kansas City. The admission fees are very reasonable: $3 for adults and $2 for children. In the summer they are open Wednesday – Sunday. On Thursday evenings in June and July they often have free admission and special activities from 5-8 p.m. Mahaffie is closed during the winter except for special events. Many special events are scheduled throughout the year. Check the event schedule on their website for details. Special event admission fees are a little higher, but include more programming and activities.
After your kids learn more about stagecoach travel, the next time they ask “Are we there yet?” on a road trip, you can remind them how much longer the trip would take if they were riding in a stagecoach in the 19th century. Happy travels!