The Sunflower State, known for its sweeping plains and warm hospitality, has plenty to offer those who venture into its borders. In this Kansas travel guide, we’ll dive into the best things to do, places to visit, and travel tips for an unforgettable journey through this Midwestern gem.
Kansas is an excellent destination for outdoor adventurers, with plenty of opportunities to explore scenic landscapes and wildlife. From camping in the state’s vast prairies to hiking and biking along its picturesque trails, there are plenty of ways to take in Mother Nature’s beauty here. In addition, Kansas is home to iconic landmarks such as Monument Rocks, Boot Hill Cemetery, and the Kansas State Capitol.
Best Things to Do in Kansas
1. Explore the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Spanning over 10,000 acres, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve offers a rare glimpse into the ecosystem that once covered the Great Plains. Here, you’ll find an astonishing variety of plants and wildlife, with over 500 species of native flora and numerous species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
The preserve is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, offering scenic trails for hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and nature photography. Visit the historic Spring Hill Ranch and limestone barn to taste the region’s cultural heritage. Don’t miss the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills event, where a live orchestra performs amidst the stunning backdrop of the rolling prairie.
2. Discover the World’s Largest Collection of Wizard of Oz Memorabilia
Dorothy’s home state is proud of its connection to L. Frank Baum’s iconic tale, and you can visit the Oz Museum in Wamego to explore the world’s largest Wizard of Oz memorabilia collection.
With over 2,000 artifacts, the exhibition center houses original movie props, costumes, and rare book editions. After exploring this cultural institution, walk down the Yellow Brick Road and enjoy a tasty treat at Toto’s Tacoz, a Wizard of Oz-themed Mexican restaurant.
3. Marvel at the Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark
Also known as the Chalk Pyramids, Monument Rocks are an impressive set of limestone formations rising majestically from the middle of the Kansas prairie. These geological wonders were formed millions of years ago and provided a striking contrast to the surrounding landscape.
Accessible by dirt roads, the site is a location perfect for photography enthusiasts and those seeking a serene escape into nature. Remember to practice leave-no-trace principles and respect this fragile environment.
4. Tour the Cosmosphere
Embark on an out-of-this-world adventure at the Cosmosphere, a world-class space museum and STEM education center in Hutchinson. This cultural institution houses the most extensive collection of US and Russian space artifacts outside the Smithsonian, including the Apollo 13 command module and a moon rock.
This cultural institution also features interactive exhibits, educational films, and lectures. Enjoy immersive planetarium shows, hands-on exhibits, and a range of educational programs for all ages. Visit the gift shop for souvenirs and space-themed merchandise.
5. Experience Old West History in Dodge City
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the Wild West at Dodge City, a town deeply rooted in the past and lore. Walk down the historic Front Street, visit the Boot Hill Museum, and catch a reenactment of a gunfight at the Long Branch Saloon.
The exhibition center offers plenty of interactive exhibits, educational programming, fun for families, and a replica of the old town. Don’t miss the annual Wild West Fest in the summertime for a true taste of life in Dodge City. Complete your visit by stopping at the Santa Fe Trail Tracks, where remnants of the historic trail are still visible.
6. Venture Underground at Strataca
Discover a unique underground world at Strataca, a salt mine museum located 650 feet beneath the Earth’s surface in Hutchinson. Learn about the history and geology of salt mining, and take a guided tour through the vast network of underground chambers. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the Underground Vaults and Storage, where priceless film reels, historical documents, and artifacts are preserved in a climate-controlled environment.
7. Experience the Wild West at Old Cowtown Museum
Step back and experience life in the 19th-century Wild West at the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. This living history museum features over 50 historic and recreated buildings, costumed interpreters, and interactive exhibits. Witness blacksmithing demonstrations, ride a vintage carousel, and even participate in a gunfight reenactment, creating an engaging and absorbing activity.
8. Wander the Gardens at Botanica Wichita
Find a tranquil escape at Botanica Wichita, a 17-acre botanical garden showcasing over 4,000 species of plants. The gardens are divided into themed areas, including butterfly, rose, and sensory gardens. Take a leisurely walk through the picturesque grounds, attend one of the many special events, or participate in a gardening workshop.
9. Celebrate Aviation History at the Kansas Aviation Museum
Located in a beautifully restored 1930s art deco building, the Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita pays tribute to the state’s rich aviation history. Home to an extensive collection of aircraft and artifacts, the exhibition center offers interactive exhibits, educational programs, and even a chance to climb into the cockpit of a real plane. Don’t miss the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, honoring the pioneers and heroes of the state’s aviation industry.
10. Explore the Unique Rock City
Head to Minneapolis, Kansas, to visit Rock City, a small park that boasts over 200 massive sandstone concretions. These mysterious, spherical rock formations range from 10 to 20 feet in diameter and are a natural wonder that will leave you in awe. Wander through the park, snap photos, and enjoy a picnic amidst this geological marvel.
Where to stay in Kansas
Kansas offers a range of accommodations for all budgets and preferences. Here are the top accommodations to consider during your visit:
- The Oread – Lawrence
- Ambassador Hotel Wichita – Wichita
- Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview – Wichita
- Cedar Crest Lodge – Pleasanton
- Grand Central Hotel – Cottonwood Falls
- The Raphael Hotel – Kansas City
- Courtland Hotel & Spa – Fort Scott
- Prairie Band Casino & Resort – Mayetta
- Aloft Leawood-Overland Park – Leawood
- The Eldridge – Lawrence
How to Get Around in Kansas
When traveling through Kansas, you’ll find that the most convenient way to explore is by car. Renting a vehicle will allow you to discover the state’s attractions quickly. Visit RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars for your trip.
Travel Tips Kansas
Kansas is a place of vast landscapes and friendly communities, and with a little preparation, you can make the most of your visit. Here are five travel tips to ensure a memorable experience:
Pack for the Weather
Kansas is known for its unpredictable weather, with hot summers, cold winters, and everything in between. Be prepared by packing layers and checking the forecast before you go. Don’t forget a rain jacket and a hat for sun protection.
Embrace the Local Cuisine
Kansas has a rich culinary heritage, from mouthwatering barbecue to hearty comfort food. Don’t miss the chance to try regional specialties like Kansas City-style BBQ, chicken-fried steak, and bierocks, a delicious pastry filled with ground beef and cabbage.
Visit Small Towns and Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions
While Kansas has its share of popular attractions, some of the most rewarding experiences can be found in smaller communities and lesser-known destinations. Explore historic downtowns, local festivals, and hidden gems for a unique perspective on the state’s culture.
Take Advantage of Free Attractions
Kansas offers numerous free attractions for visitors, from museums and galleries to parks and scenic drives. Some notable free sites include the Kansas State Capitol, the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, and the Kansas Aviation Museum.
Invest in Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can provide peace of mind during your Kansas adventure, covering unforeseen circumstances like medical emergencies or trip cancellations. Visit VisitorsCoverage.com to explore a range of options for your needs.
With these tips, you’ll be ready to make the most of your Kansas journey. So hit the open road, and discover the charm, history, and natural beauty of the Sunflower State.