Kansas has been written about in books and glorified in movies. Bands have taken her name and ruby slippers have been clicked to take ginger haired mavens home. But what is Kansas really made of?
For me, Kansas was always a means to an end. Endless prairies would take me flatly across the state until finally as I got farther West, the land would start to change to hills, promising to then bring mountains as I neared the Rockies of Colorado.
Yet, there is something to this state besides the miles of wheat and corn you will encounter on its boundless roadsides. Behind all of those prairies there is a story. A story of exploration and settlement and what drove thousands to its free land in the 19th century.
There’s impressive cities and beautiful gardens, the awe of nature and the intrigue of discovery. Kansas is pretty cool in some unexpected ways that you just have to experience for yourself.
So, let’s go and explore what this “Sunflower State” adds to our beautiful country as we find what is interesting and beautiful in Kansas.
For almost 170 years Topeka has been one of the top places to visit in Kansas due to its history, beauty and interesting places. From its unique culture, to its exciting nightlife, to its world class shopping, Topeka has a vibe that is easy to love.
Start your visit at the Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site and refresh your history on one of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement. Then, you can browse through the many antique and specialty shops in the NOTO area.
Try out Wheatfield Village for one of there amazing restaurants as you top off the night with a frosty beverage or nightcap. However, my favorite place, hands down was the Celtic Fox, an Irish pub with some fun music and an ambiance that makes you feel like you’re in Dublin. Topeka has everything you need to begin your exploration of Kansas.
2. Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
The Kansas Cosmosphere is unlike any other space museum in the world. Featuring exhibits of historic proportions, space has never been so interesting.
See the story of how our knowledge of space has evolved as is told through the exhibits and galleries that you will find throughout the museum. From early V-2 Rockets to artifacts from the Cold War like Sputnik, there is so much to see and learn about at this world class museum.
The Cosmophere and Space Center also has interactive shows for the kids, an amazing planetarium and a two-story domed theater for IMAX presentations.
This is a great stop for the kids and continues to be my favorite space museum in America. So, be sure not to miss this unique place to see in Kansas.
3. Botanica: The Wichita Gardens
Wichita has a lot going for it and one of those things is the Wichita Gardens located in Northwest Wichita. If you are visiting Old Town Wichita or the Museums on the River, place this on your itinerary for a relaxing stop in nature and beauty.
Nestled on 17-acres in thriving downtown Wichita, this is a popular place for exploration or that special event that has been planned. With 24 gorgeous gardens, displays, exhibits and collections you could spend an entire afternoon immersed in the sights and sounds of what only a slice of heaven like The Wichita Gardens can bring.
Enjoy the Chinese Friendship Garden, the Butterfly House or the Shakespeare Garden as you explore the grounds. The kids will absolutely love the Downing Children’s Garden and its Rainbow Trail. They will love playing in Granny Jean’s Treehouse as you relax in the shade.
Making this a part of your travels is a must for that dose of Kansas beauty that you may not know existed as you trek across the intriguing state of Kansas.
Holding the title of the largest city in Kansas, Wichita is a treasure in a mirage of prairies and grasslands spread across Kansas.
“Cow Town” as it is also referred to was originally the destination for cattle drives from Texas. Today, people come from all over the state to enjoy art, entertainment and fantastic restaurants.
Start your tour of the city at Exploration Place, Kansas’ premier science and technology museum. As one of the hubs of aviation, Wichita is the home of the Kansas Aviation Center where you can see historical planes and other exhibits of aviation that will amaze you.
The restaurant scene in Wichita is outstanding. You can’t experience this town without having a food combination that put it on the map. Chili and cinnamon rolls you say? It is a thing and as weird as it sounds, it is divine! If you are wanting something a little more refined, try the Anchor for some fantastic seafood or The Monarch for a taste of a Kansas ranch and some mouthwatering steak.
Lay your head down at the Hotel at Old Town and get a slice of Kansas history along with a luxurious place to sleep, before you do it all over again tomorrow.
5. Monument Rocks
To get a taste of Monument Valley or Arches National Park in Utah, make sure you put Monument Rocks on your list of great places to see in Kansas.
Don’t let the six miles of gravel roads turn you off. Once you get to the rocks it will all be worth it. Make sure you take your good camera for those “instaworthy” pics that you are searching for.
This 80-million year old sea bed will be as captivating as it is mesmerizing. Keep your eyes on the lookout for ancient fossils that are constantly revealing themselves due to ongoing erosion.
Mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, twenty foot long fish and six foot clams have all been found at this gem in the prairie. So, stop by and make a point to see what treasure you can find in the sandstone.
6. Deep Creek Waterfall
When driving across rural Kansas, take a reprieve from the road and stop by one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kansas. This natural waterfall is rare in this prairie state and is a sight for you and your crew to see.
By entering Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area you can find a limestone ledge that reveals a gorgeous and unique site in Kansas. Once you arrive, be prepared to traverse the river for that photo opportunity you will be looking for of this four-foot tall and sixty-foot wide beauty.
But on a hot day this will be a welcomed and refreshing endeavor. Take a picnic and rest in sound of the brilliant cascade as you chomp on your ham sandwich.
7. Boot Hill Museum
Hollywood glorified Dodge City as one of the the hubs for the Old West with gun fights and cowboy gangs. These gunfights necessitated a cemetery that has gone down in the annuls of time one of the most famous.
Today, you can visit the old cemetery and the museum that tells the story of Dodge City, the saloons and the famous fights they produced. Walk along the boardwalk and visit an old town that will transport you back to a time where lawlessness prevailed and a man took matters into his own hands by the butt of his barrel. The grave markers that still remain tell the story of the rough old west that so many endured.
The museum is amazing and features over 60,000 relics, documents and photographs that create a better understanding of what it was like to be a pioneer in those days. So, take a couple of hours off of the road and see one of the most unique things to see in Kansas as you tour this famous haunt.
8. Fort Larned National Historic Site
As early Americans began moving westward, it was necessary to set up protection from the understandably disgruntled Native Americans who were only trying to defend their land. In an attempt to “keep the peace” a fort was constructed along the famous Santa Fe Trail so that travelers and the rail line workers could safely pass from Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Originally sod and adobe buildings, these were replaced by stone and timber and remain today for all to see. Walk among some of these buildings such as the officer’s quarters, barracks, hospital, bakery, meat house, and a building which is where the blacksmith, carpenter, and saddler shops were located.
Visiting this cool place to go in Kansas will teach you about the harshness of the West in times of transition and what it took to try to keep the peace among all that were involved.
9. Evel Knievel Museum
What’s better then stopping at a vintage Harley Davidson shop and gawking at their collection of hotrods? Well, attach a museum dedicated to the bravest daredevil of all time and you have one of the best places to visit in Kansas.
In the eleven years that Evel Knievel performed his death defying acts such as jumping his motorcycle across the Caesar’s Palace fountain and fourteen Greyhound buses. Some were successful and others he sustained injuries, which over a lifetime amounted to 433 broken bones, a fact that landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records.
So, come see the memorabilia of his time that will put you at the heart of his most dangerous stunts. Try the virtual reality jump and get your picture with the life size statue. This is definitely an Instagram-worthy stop!
10. Kansas City
Where do barbecue, jazz music and rodeos intersect to bring you an amazing town that is uniquely fantastic? Kansas City has museums, art and the history that bring you a world class city. Take a few days and see what great places to see in Kansas it has.
Kansas City is full of fantastic places to see art of creative minds, including museums and public works. Why not start your tour with all the murals and sculptures there are to see in the city. Take a selfie among one of the fourteen art installations throughout the city.
Then take the street car line to the River Market and experience this 150-year old riverfront neighborhood that has an incredible farmer’s market and just about any cuisine you desire.
Last but not least, take a trip to 18th and Vine for a sample of the true sounds of Jazz. Have a cocktail at one of Kansas City’s live music clubs and see where real jazz got its start.
Kansas City is great for a day or a week, but whatever you do, bring your appetite and your camera for some great eats and even better shots for keepsakes of the memories made in this exuberant, fun-loving town.
11. Oz Museum
Let’s face it. Dorothy and her cast of friends put Kansas on the map when Judy Garland was featured in the 1939 film. Since then, it has been a cult classic that people hold as a great slice of Americana.
Just off of Highway 70, East of St. George you will find one of the best places to go in Kansas. You can spend your time pouring over the over 2,000 artifacts that are on display. You will see over 100 years worth of collectibles, exhibits and history. From the first edition book by author L. Frank Baum, to Dorothy hand jeweled 3,500 Swarovski crystals, ruby slippers, there’s so much to see here!
Walking through brought back so many memories when I would watch the classic movie weekly and then pretend I was Dorothy. Get in touch with the kid in you and visit this quintessential Kansas icon.
Did we miss any of your favorite places to visit in Kansas?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more to our list!