Kansas Holiday Planning Guide
Generally considered the geographical center of the country, Kansas is a state rich in history, having served as home to diverse Native American tribes for thousands of years before European settlement. Once called "Bleeding Kansas" because of violent clashes between abolitionists and pro-slavery settlers, Kansas now carries the nickname the "Sunflower State," earned because of its massive production of sunflowers, corn, wheat, and sorghum. In addition to agriculture, the state is also known as an aviation hub. Sightseeing is easy, as wide-open spaces dominate the western two-thirds of the state, which includes some of the only remaining native tallgrass prairie in the nation. Eastern Kansas contains rolling hills and most of the major cities, which draw tourism with their lively art, nightlife, and music scenes.
Places to Visit in KansasWichita
: With historical roots as an important trading post and modern significance as an aircraft manufacturing mega center, the state's biggest city is a popular Kansas destination due to its many theatres and museums. Hutchinson
: Famed as a salt mine haven, Hutchinson is home to plenty of parks, animal centers, historical railroads, a famed space museum, and natural beauty, plus a unique underground salt mine museum.Junction City
: Booming with history, Junction City attracts history buffs looking to fill their Kansas itinerary because of its many heritage sites and museums. The city also boasts one of the first radio stations in the state and bears connections to the Gold Rush. Topeka
: As the state's capital, riverside Topeka hosts plenty of outdoor Kansas attractions amid a busy metropolis dominated by political history, plus it’s home to the state's acclaimed history museum. Kansas City
: Often overlooked for its neighboring city that shares the same name, Kansas City (Kansas) is a wallflower packed with hidden gems. This humble network of neighborhoods brings unique attractions and community centers to the table. Overland Park
: This swanky city is home to Kansas' economic powerhouses and some of its most affluent communities; the blend of urban and suburban settings offers plenty of things to see in Kansas. Lawrence
: Brimming with a youthful exuberance, Lawrence boasts a strong art, music, and bar scene cultivated by the students at the university. Combined with its important historical heritage, Lawrence offers something for everyone.
Things to Do in Kansas
Popular Kansas tourist attractionsDeanna Rose Children's Farmstead
: Blending nature and history, Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead is a replica 20th-century farming community--complete with town buildings and houses--brought to life by the livestock that live there. Wagon rides, pony rides, and hiking trails ensure fun for the whole family. Strataca
: Take your curiosity underground at Strataca--Kansas Underground Salt Museum, where you can explore the history of the natural resource that brought such prosperity to the state. Sedgwick County Zoo
: Make friends with over 2,500 species of animals on your Kansas vacation with a trip to the Sedgwick County Zoo, dedicated to the preservation and breeding of rare and endangered animals from all over the world. Botanica: The Wichita Gardens
: Stroll through the scenic sidewalks of Botanica: The Wichita Gardens, where you'll find yourself surrounded by colorful displays of flowers and plants, butterflies, and picturesque water features. Kansas State Capitol Building
: Get at the heart of Kansas politics with a trip to the Kansas State Capitol building, the powerhouse that houses the state’s executive and legislative branches of government. Visitors on a Kansas holiday even have the chance to climb all the way to the top of the dome, which is higher than its Washington counterpart. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum
: Dedicated to the memory of one of the country's most memorable presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum takes visitors through the war hero’s childhood home, religious upbringing, and role in the strategic planning of World War II. Pay your respects in the garden, the Eisenhower family's final resting place. Massachusetts Street
: An important addition to a Kansas itinerary, Massachusetts Street is home to many historical businesses and buildings, most built in the 19th and 20th century and each with a story of its own. Schools, memorials, and a brewery are just some of the things to see. Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
: Brimming with hidden treasures, Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens offers a series of meticulously designed foliage-lined walking paths through a magical botanical garden. Tanganyika Wildlife Park
: Get a hands-on experience with a unique collection of animals at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, where visitors can feed and pet giraffes, rhinos, lemurs, rabbits, hippos, and goats. Lake Shawnee
: A picturesque retreat, Lake Shawnee is a quiet natural lake area enhanced by a landscaped garden, covered bridge, gazebos, and fountains. Birdwatchers will rejoice at the dense population of geese, ducks, muskrats, and Blue Heron that frequent the area.
Planning a Kansas Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Kansas with Kids
Kansas' low-crime rate, sunny skies, and long stretches of scenic prairie combined with its rich heritage make it an ideal destination for a family vacation with kids.
On a Kansas holiday kids have the opportunity to blend good, old-fashioned country fun and fresh air with educational experiences. The state as a whole has a very family-friendly appeal, which can largely be attributed to its few big claims-to-fame. Kansas was Walt Disney's home before heading to California, if you're visiting Kansas City
, you'll be able to see his studio. Kansas is also the birthplace of the McDonald's Happy Meal.
It's evident that family time is a priority in Kansas, which boasts more than 200 public fountains and parks where families can spend quality time outdoors together. Kansas is also brimming with many kid-friendly attractions, such as petting zoos, historical farmsteads, and kid-friendly museums. Check out the outdoor discovery centers that Topeka
has to offer.
If your Kansas itinerary includes Liberal
, be sure to check out Dorothy's fictional hometown and of course, the yellow brick road. Wichita
in particular is known for its children's museums and historical sites. Imaginations will soar at Museum of World Treasures
, where young visitors can get hands-on learning, come face-to-face with a dinosaur or mummy, and tour the Presidents' hall.
Kansas also boasts kid-friendly cuisine--BBQ and fried chicken--all around.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Kansas
Buckle up, because Kansas is a state best suited for a family road trip; here renting a car is the best way to travel around. Kansas state law requires that children use booster seats, so plan to rent or bring those. While public transportation is available, it's very limited even in the larger cities. You can travel between the cities by highway, but be sure to venture off to see the countryside too.
The state enjoys pleasant weather about eight months a year. Check weather updates, especially in spring and summer, which are prime thunderstorm seasons. If a rainy day strikes, opt to take the family to one of the many family-friendly museums for some indoor fun like Cosmosphere
, which highlights space travel.
A history lesson in the heart of Kansas City, Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead
showcases a working 20th-century farmstead. Or, take the family to Moon Marble Company
, where kids can watch artisans working with molten glass to form unique marbles in a variety of designs. Both attractions are geared towards kids and are bound to spark curiosity, topping the list of things to see in Kansas.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Kansas
Cuisine of Kansas
A Kansas trip is incomplete without chowing down on the state's most popular entree--BBQ. Specific to the Kansas City
area, the meat is cooked "slow pit" style and topped off with plenty of sauce. In second place is Kansas' fried chicken, a distinctive dish in southeast Kansas served up at one of the many "chicken houses." Wash either dish down with a refreshing beer, brewed at one of the many local breweries.
Shopping in Kansas
Shopping tops the list of things to do in Kansas, simply because there is so much variety. Well-known as a hotspot for antiques, Kansas is brimming with antique stores where die-hard collectors can eat their hearts out. Check out Leavenworth Antique Mall, an acclaimed destination for antique collectors.
Shopping tourism in Kansas also tends to include the state's wealth of homegrown products--namely foods, crafts, oak furniture, and more. Check out Nifty Nut House
for a unique shopping experience, where visitors can mix and match to create their own snack mix. You'll find a plethora of local products at your fingertips at Levi's Outlet Store at Legends at Village West
; everything from honey and coffee to wine and fresh produce.
If it's a brand name label you're after, look no further than the outlet malls and shopping megacenters bound to satisfy your retail therapy needs.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Kansas
History of Kansas
Originally inhabited by several Native American tribes, Kansas remained unexplored by Europeans until the 16th century. In the 19th century, while most of modern Kansas had been secured by the United States, the southwestern part of the state was still a part of Mexico until the Mexican-American War of 1848. Between 1812 to 1821, Kansas fell under Missouri Territory, and the Sante Fe Trail was established to move goods from Missouri into New Mexico. The prairies still reveal evidence of this important trading route today, as wagon ruts and swales vaguely outline the trail.
In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in Kansas. The Kansas-Nebraska law that passed in 1854 opened the Nebraska-Kansas border, encouraging further white settlement.
Missouri and Arkansas also encouraged migration to Kansas, in hopes of swaying voters in favor of slavery. But Americans who were against slavery also had roots here, and as the controversy escalated, the state earned the nickname "Bleeding Kansas." Of particular mention is the city of Lawrence
, founded by the same "Free-Staters," or "Jayhawkers."
Kansas maintained its slave-free position and was admitted to the United States on January 29, 1861. Following the Civil War, the state became a safe-haven for veterans and African Americans alike. In the 1870s Kansas entered its Wild West-era, overrun with cowboys-playing-lawmakers.
In 1881, Kansas responded to increasing pressure from religious groups--mainly Methodists and Protestants--by abolishing the sale of alcoholic beverages. This law was repealed in 1948, but strict and complex rules surrounding the sale of alcohol still exist today.
History buffs won't want to miss Museum of History
on a Kansas vacation, where you find the state's rich heritage captured in a well-designed sequence of rooms, exhibits, and activities at this highly-acclaimed museum.
Get in touch with your inner cowboy at Boot Hill Museum
and the neighboring Old West town, which take visitors on a journey through the living history of the American Wild West, including live re-enactments.
Landscape of Kansas
Kansas features generally flat, open plains that make way for expansive sunflower fields and acres of grain. In the eastern part of the state you'll find a more hilly terrain, including the Flint Hills region, which features some of the largest remaining virgin tallgrass prairie in the nation. The state is also crisscrossed by a network of rivers, yielding many scenic natural attractions to visit on a Kansas holiday.
Combine nature with educational learning at Konza Prairie Research Natural Area
, where you'll find a number of hiking trails differing in length that showcase the state’s natural wildflowers, sunflowers, and rolling meadows, and prairie landscape.
Emerging from the far-reaching plains, you’ll find stunning chalk rock formations at Monument Rocks
, formed by an ancient inland sea.
Holidays & Festivals in Kansas
The epitome of Kansas is captured in the Kansas State Fair, an annual event held in Hutchinson
in mid-September. As the state's biggest event of the year, the grandstand brings music concerts, demolition derbies, auto races, and truck and tractor pulls to the fair each evening of the 10-day event.
The state also celebrates the Amelia Earhart Festival in honor of the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The festival runs every summer in the town of Atchison. The Kansas Sampler Festival and Symphony in the Flint Hills are also celebrated annually, two great examples of the Kansas community.
Kansas Travel Tips
Climate of Kansas
Sunny Kansas is fortunate enough to boast three separate climates; hot and humid in the northeastern part of the state, hot and dry in western part of the state, and a hot, humid subtropical climate in the southeast. The winters are cool to cold with light snow, and Chinook winds sporadically warming up the western part of the state. In the spring and summer the state's seemingly constant sunshine adjourns only for severe weather. Thunderstorms and tornadoes aren't uncommon, but also be watchful of hail and flash flooding.
Transportation in Kansas
The best way to get around on a Kansas vacation is undeniably by car, as public transportation is limited at best even in the state's biggest cities. When traveling from city to city you'll want to take the highway, but be sure to venture off every once in awhile to appreciate the rural attractions and the beautiful scenery that comes with them.