Kansas — Attractions
Few people realize just how much cool American history happened in Kansas. Most pioneers heading west passed through the state along the Santa Fe, Chisholm, or Oregon trails. Many stopped off at infamous gunslinger outposts like Dodge City, while abolitionists were busy freeing slaves via the underground railroad in Lawrence. Add to this heritage a dose of stunning prairie nature in places like Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve and you’ll find a lot more attractions than you bargained for in the Sunflower State.
Once a cow town along the Chisholm Trail, Wichita has evolved into a lively cultural hub with a great downtown. The Mid-America All-Indian Center & Museum is the best venue in the state to learn about Kansas’ rich Native American heritage. Art fans won’t want to pass up the recently renovated Wichita Art Museum, with its excellent collection of works by American artists. The city is also a major aeronautics hub showcasing the awesome Kansas Aviation Museum and other aerial attractions.
Address: Southcentral Kansas
Dickinson County Heritage Center
Near Abilene is one of the best places in America to experience what life on the prairie was like for settlers in the 19th century. It’s part museum, part preserved village, which makes it particularly popular with the kids. The exhibits range from those covering daily life and the importance of the Chisholm Trail, to the heritage of Native American culture in the area. A lovely CW Parker carousel dating to 1901 is also on the site and still running as a National Historic Landmark. The center holds workshops, demonstrations, and other fun events all year round to showcase how people survived on the prairie.
Address: Dickinson County Heritage Center, 412 S. Campbell, Abilene, KS 67410
Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve
Prairie once blanketed most of North America, but human development and farming has all but eradicated it in less than two centuries. This national park in the Flint Hills is where most of the remaining true tallgrass still remains. It’s an absolutely magical place of endless rolling grass and impossibly vast skies. Guided hikes are available or you can roam around on your own. This is one of America’s most impressive natural sites, not to be missed!
Address: Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve, US 50 and K-177, Strong City, KS 66869
One of Kansas’ liveliest cities is Lawrence, founded in 1854 by abolitionists and once a major stop for the underground railroad to free slaves. Today, its historic 19th-century downtown core is filled with art galleries, cool cafés, and boutiques. The Spencer Art Museum is a major highlight, showcasing the works of Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, and other American legends. The University of Kansas is also here, ensuring the city’s entertainment scene is young and creative.
Address: Eastern Kansas
Few towns were more notorious during the Wild West days of the 19th century than Dodge City. This is where Wyatt Earp and other gunslingers made their names when the city was an unruly frontier in the late 1800’s. The historic town has been well preserved to look much as it did in its heyday and the Boot Hill Museum, a perfect recreation of Dodge City’s infamous Front Street from 1876, is a highlight. This living museum has daily reenactments of gunfights, Native American exhibits, cool artifacts, and the famous Boot Hill Cemetery.
Address: Dodge City Visitors Center, 400 W Wyatt Earp Blvd, Dodge City, KS 67801
Kansas’ capital isn’t its largest city but it has some of its best attractions. Start with a mile-long ride through Gage Park on a miniature gauge train while listening to tales of the area’s history. You could easily spend half a day here riding the historic 1908 Herschell-Spillman carousel and breaking for lunch at Boss Hawg’s Barbecue, a regular chart topper among US barbecue joints. Then, explore the fascinating exhibits inside the award-winning Kansas Museum of History, which showcases the incredible history of the state’s infamous figures alongside the lives of its everyday people.
Address: Eastern Kansas
Old Cowtown Museum
One of the best living-history museums in the American Midwest is found just outside of Wichita. Old Cowtown contains 70 relocated historic structures that recreate a typical Kansas frontier town from the late 1800’s. The activities are endless, from a wagon ride through the prairie town to mock gunfights in the street. You can watch traditional craftspeople like blacksmiths at work, dress up in vintage clothes for a black and white photo, and drink homemade sarsaparilla in the old saloon. The area is tons of fun for kids, families, and anyone with an interest in the Wild West.
Address: Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd, Wichita, KS 67203